If you're heading abroad on a birding trip, you're going to need travel insurance. In this post, you'll learn about the 3 best international travel insurance options for birders – plus 8 factors to consider.
Best International Travel Insurance for Birders: 3 Options
Travel insurance is a lot more complicated than it looks. Before you pack your bags in pursuit of the bizarre potoo and tawny frogmouth make sure that you understand what international travel insurance can and can't do for you while you're birdwatching abroad.
3 Best International Travel Insurance Options
A few notes about these companies. They all have some limitations – age, country of residence, destination countries, allowable activities (extreme sports) and coverage limits. And these can affect the cost of the premium. I'm including these three options so you can compare and get the best coverage for your trip.
- World Nomads: This is my personal favorite. I've been traveling with World Nomads since I was a kid. My parents favor them because the policy is easy to understand, coverage is solid, and the pricing is good. In fact, I'm traveling with World Nomads again in a couple of months – already have the policy purchased.
- Atlas Travel Insurance: This is a good option for comparison. Covers residents of more than 180 countries.
- SafetyWing: This is a popular option for longer term travelers (like digital nomads) but is a good option for shorter term travel as short as 5 days. Works on a subscription model and is renewable while you travel. Which is great for when you find amazing birds and aren't ready to come home yet.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is exactly what it sounds like: insurance that protects you while you're traveling. However, there are many ‘ifs and buts' that go into the average policy, so you'll need to do your homework about which one is right for you.
Do you need travel insurance?
Some people don't need travel insurance. If your credit card will reimburse you for a delayed flight, there's no need to shell out for travel insurance that will do the same thing. If your healthcare policy is valid in both the U.S. and areas like Puerto Rico and American Samoa, you can rest easy on your tropical vacation to see the toucan.
But what about other circumstances? When could travel insurance come in handy? Here are a few potential scenarios:
- You're taking an extended trip overseas where anything could happen. If you're worried about tropical storms, bad hostels, canceled tours, and crazy terrorist attacks, travel insurance can give you peace of mind as you go jet-setting around the globe.
- You're carrying expensive cargo. This is especially relevant to birdwatchers with top-of-the-line camera equipment; if there's any chance that your $10,000 Canon EF 800mm lens could get damaged by baggage handlers during your trip, you'll need travel insurance to cover it.
- You're a senior citizen on Medicare. There are a lot of byzantine rules about their international coverage, including a rule that they'll only pay for healthcare on a cruise ship if it's within six hours of a U.S. port. You might want travel insurance to make sure that you're fully covered regardless of distance.
When should you buy travel insurance?
Because it can cover you should you have to cancel before you even leave, it's a good idea to purchase travel insurance when you book your trip.
How to Choose Your Travel Insurance Policy: 8 Factors
You've decided that international travel insurance is right for you. What's the next step? What do you need to consider when looking at different policies? Here are eight important factors.
1. Medical coverage limit (including Emergency Evacuation)
There's a limit on how much that you can tap into travel insurance for medical reasons. For example, your policy might have a maximum payout of $50,000, or it might only cover certain expenses. You might be covered for an ambulance ride but not surgery in a foreign hospital.
One thing to consider is the cost of an emergency evacuation. In a worst case scenario where you need to be airlifted to a hospital or removed from a natural disaster zone, will your travel insurance cover that? Is it included in your normal policy, or will you need to purchase emergency evacuation coverage separately?
2. Possessions: Lost / Damaged / Stolen gear
As a birder, you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors, so it's critically important that your travel insurance covers the cost of your possessions. You never know when you'll drop your camera into a pond or lose your passport to a stiff wind. Your luggage, documents, and cameras are all worth insuring.
3. Preexisting Conditions Waiver
Some insurance companies will deny your claim if you cancel or interrupt your trip because of a preexisting condition. Others will cover you, but only if you meet three criteria:
- You applied for travel insurance within 14 – 21 days of booking your trip.
- You were in good health when you applied for insurance.
- Your insurance policy will cover the full cost of the trip.
If they're willing to cover you despite a preexisting condition, that's called a preexisting conditions waiver. Look for this phrase as you shop for international travel insurance.
4. Age limitations
If you've taken up birdwatching during your retirement, you should know that many travel insurance companies have age-related restrictions on their coverage.
Some of them will deny you outright if you're over a certain hill; others will charge you extra or place more limits on your policy that might not make it worth the cost.
5. Weather coverage
Weather coverage can be a very tricky thing in the world of travel insurance, so always read the terms and limits of your chosen policy.
Some of them might have rules about how long that you're expected to wait out a storm; some of them might not cover freak weather conditions or their consequences. For example, if you arrive at your destination and discover that a typhoon has blown away your hotel, your insurance might or might not reimburse you for the cost of new lodgings.
6. Trip Cancellation
Trip cancellation happens before you leave home. If you need to call the whole thing off, will your insurance cover all of those flights, hotels, rental cars, and tour groups? Will you receive a full refund or just a partial one?
7. Trip Interruption
Trip interruption is defined as a trip that you need to stop after you've already gotten started.
For example, if you're observing shoebills in Africa when you get the call that your house has burned down, going home will be defined as a “trip interruption” rather than a “trip cancellation” because your journey had already commenced.
It's a subtle but important distinction, so double-check that your travel insurance will cover this kind of situation.
8. Trip Delay
A trip delay is when your transportation is delayed through no fault of your own. The most common reason is a bumped flight, but some policies will also account for things like ferry malfunctions.
What isn't covered by (most) travel insurance?
Always read the fine print when it comes to what your travel insurance policy isn't willing to cover.
Some of the exceptions might surprise you:
- Medical check-ups
- Accidents or injuries resulting from extreme sports
- Luggage that was lost through your own carelessness
- Anything that happened while you were using drugs or alcohols
Travel Insurance for Birdwatching Abroad
Do you really need international travel insurance? It's up to you, but many people agree that it's worth the peace of mind when you venture overseas for a birdwatching trip.
You never know when a vulture will decide to fly right at your face, but travel insurance will cover you during most of life's curve balls!