A Guide International Travel and Your U.S. Insurance Coverage

International travel is one of the most interesting experiences life has to offer. And although terrorism has been in the headlines recently, you are much more likely to be hit by lightning than die in a terrorist attack. In this article I talk about the real risks of international vacations, and the fact that your US insurance coverage may be of limited value overseas. If you are moving or considering buying property overseas, call me because the issues are more complicated.

So what can go wrong on your international vacation?

Your trip falls apart

Flights get cancelled, you get sick, you have jury duty, your boss makes you work, family emergency, whatever. If you have an itinerary that includes a lot of unreimbursable cash outlays, I can provide trip insurance that covers these losses. When I say “sweat the big stuff” this isn’t really big stuff, but some people find it comforting.

You get sick

Most US health plans cover emergencies only overseas, but you will need to pay up front and file a claim. Most plans do not cover routine items like stomach discomfort or poison ivy. Medicare covers nothing overseas.

One big item to consider is medical evacuation and repatriation… getting you back to the US fast if you are seriously ill. The cost for this service can exceed $100k. Some policies can be endorsed to include this protection, or you can buy it by the trip. This protection is worth considering, particularly if you are older, or have a medical condition and find yourself traveling to less developed countries.

You get robbed

Standard insurance does not cover valuable articles overseas, but premium insurance like Chubb or Pure does. No insurance covers cash losses. Travel insurance covers lost luggage to the extent your airline doesn’t.

You are smart to assume that every international airport and train station has pickpocket types lurking about looking for rich tourists. Dress low key, keep your valuables at home, keep your cash close (money belts are good), and stare down anybody that comes too close. But don’t forget to have fun!

Your car is stolen or damaged

Your auto insurance is generally good in the US and Canada, limited in Mexico and invalid in other countries. I drive in Canada but not in other foreign countries. I don’t recommend driving in Mexico for most people, but if you are very familiar and plan to drive, I can provide short term Mexican insurance. If you rent a car, collision insurance is available through your rental car company.

You get sued

Like collision, your US auto liability doesn’t work outside the US or Canada, so if you rent a car in other countries you get liability coverage from the rental company or sometimes your credit card. Your standard homeowner’s liability coverage doesn’t work outside the US, but premium carriers do provide worldwide coverage. Typically your umbrella will provide coverage overseas.

Bottom line

It gets expensive to insure against every risk factor, so I recommend sweating the big stuff first. Big stuff for me would be medical evacuation and liability for rental cars.

If you travel overseas frequently and have a lot to lose, you should consider a premium carrier like Chubb or Pure. They generally provide worldwide liability coverage and worldwide valuables protection. And by endorsement they can provide a wide range of additional protections including medical evacuation, excess medical expenses, trip delay, hijacking, kidnapping and more.

I’m not letting terrorists stop me from traveling; in fact I’m trying to talk my husband into the Caribbean or Italy soon. But when I go I’ll be low key, aware and conservative… and I’ll still have fun… guaranteed!

The tips provided in this month’s newsletter refer to international vacation trips to friendly developed countries. More sophisticated business travelers have different issues since they may need to travel to less friendly unstable countries and may present themselves as targets for kidnappers. Click here for a guide on managing risk in that type of situation…it has some good common sense tips and is interesting reading for the traveler who wants to be prepared for anything…even how to survive a ride with a suicidal hijacker!