Travel insurance when already traveling cover image of Chris calling for help hanging from canyon edge
Quick, buy some travel insurance! I can’t hold on much longer.

Big Deals and Little Deals

It’s no big deal if you’re already traveling and don’t have travel insurance. There’s an easy fix.

Just don’t delay because it is a big deal if you something bad and unexpected happens during your trip and you’re not insured.

Let’s go over what to look for in post-departure travel insurance and how to get a good deal.

Kim checking her phone sipping a green smoothie in Tulum, Mexico.
Kim quickly re-upping her travel insurance between smoothie sips in Mexico. (Ok, she’s almost certainly on Instagram. But she could have bought her travel insurance that easily.)

How to Get Travel Insurance When Already Traveling

In a Rush?

If you just want to get your travel insurance and get back to traveling, here’s our quick recommendation:

Go with SafetyWing.

SafetyWing is a startup that’s revolutionizing travel insurance. Their insurance costs only $37 for every four weeks (if you’re younger than 39 and not traveling to the US), is available to anyone from any home country in the world, and they don’t care if you’re already traveling.

Check it out.

A 4x4 rental car with a flat and broken tire in Etosha, Namibia
Credit card travel insurance often also comes with some rental car protection, which comes in handy in Namibia.

1. Check Your Credit Card Travel Insurance

Before hurrying to buy travel insurance, ask yourself:

Could you maybe already be covered by your credit card?

For example, Kim and my credit card provides 31 days of travel insurance so if we’re traveling for less than that, we don’t need to buy anything. And if we’re traveling for more than 31 days, we buy an insurance plan that starts the day our credit card expires.

Kim's parents being silly in Cartagena
Kim’s parents doing a happy dance in Cartagena, Colombia because they’re under 65 and can still easily find travel insurance.

2. Know What to Look For in Travel Insurance

Whether you’re already traveling or not, here are some key travel insurance buying tips we pulled from our in-depth post on the 8 Simple Steps to Find the Best Travel Insurance.

  • Are you required to have health insurance back home? Some travel insurers won’t cover you or will significantly cut back their coverage if you don’t have home country health insurance. And if you get badly injured, your travel insurer will likely bring you home for treatment. Once home, you’re on the hook for all medical expenses whether you have home country insurance or not.
  • What’s not covered? Travel insurance policies generally don’t cover pre-existing or on-going medical conditions, dangerous sports, and some high-risk countries.
  • Are you going to the United States? Travel insurers charge significantly more for travel in the US because of astronomical health care costs there. For instance, SafetyWing jumps from $37 to $68 per 4 weeks.
  • Do you still have to pay if something happens? Some travel insurance policies have an excess or a deductible, which is the amount you need to contribute if you make a claim.
  • How much do you really need? The biggest expense you risk incurring when traveling is emergency air evacuation. It can cost as much as $250,000 if you’re in the middle of nowhere and they need to bring you home.
  • Age matters? Yes. Once you hit 40 years old, travel insurance rates tend to go up, and once you’re over 65 years old (or 69 for SafetyWing) it can be very difficult and extremely expensive to get coverage.

To be safe in knowing all you need to know about travel insurance, read our 8 Steps to Finding the Best Travel Insurance.

Chris walking alone in the desert
Post-departure travel insurance is like someone selling water in the desert: generally less options and higher prices, but worth it all the same.

3. Understand the Difference Between Pre-Departure and Post-Departure Travel Insurance

Generally-speaking, here are the differences between post-departure travel insurance and travel insurance you buy before you leave:

  • Most travel insurance companies don’t offer post-departure travel insurance. They only sell pre-departure travel insurance. Call the insurer to confirm before buying any policy if you’re at all unsure.
  • More expensive. The few companies that will sell you travel insurance when you’re already traveling generally charge a premium because they deem you to be of a higher risk than someone who buys a policy before leaving.
  • Not fully refundable. You can usually get a refund on travel insurance policies you buy before you leave, but not on policies you buy when already traveling. SafetyWing does refund your remaining days but charges a $25 admin fee.
  • No trip cancellation insurance, which refunds pre-paid, non-refundable expenses if you have to cancel a trip. But some companies like SafetyWing do offer trip interruption insurance, which covers a flight to your home country if your home residence gets destroyed, there’s a death in the family (not a grandparent), or you get injured and your physician deems it medically necessary for treatment and recovery.
  • There’s a waiting period. For most travel insurance policies you buy when already traveling (but not SafteyWing), there’s generally a 48 to 72-hour waiting period between when you purchase and when you’re fully covered.
Street vendor pours Chris some chicha in Mexico City - Alr
If this 50-cent street-side chicha in Bogota had sent Chris to the hospital, he’d have been covered by his travel insurance.

4. Buy the Best-Value Plan You Can Find

Our #1 Pick For Travel Insurance if You’re Already Traveling:

SafetyWing

$US1.32/day (under 40-year-old of any nationality not traveling to the US)

Pros

  • Welcoming. Aside from very few exceptions (Cuba, Iran, and North Korea) everyone can buy it no matter their home country or where they’re traveling.
  • Flexible. Unlike other policies, which require you to buy insurance for your entire trip up front, you can buy four weeks (or less) and extend (or auto-renew) as needed.
  • Unlimited coverage period. Great for long-term digital nomads like us because, unlike most travel insurance policies, you can extend every year for as long as you need.
  • Travel coverage. Insurance includes trip interruption, travel delay, and checked luggage protection. Other low-cost travel insurance providers often don’t.
  • Kid included. One 14-day to 10-year-old child is covered for each adult without added cost.
  • No waiting period. You’re covered as soon as you pay.
  • It’s getting better. SafetyWing has announced plans to increase their limits, get rid of the deductible, and offer extreme sports add-ons. They also plan to release a comprehensive health care package.
Chris and Luisito in all their gear ready to go paragliding in Medellin
SafetyWing doesn’t cover paragliding, but many operators, including the company I went with in Medellin include insurance in their cost.

Cons

  • Not the cheapest (as long as you remember to buy before you leave). For example, the travel insurance plan we’re covered by as I write this in Spain is $1.12 a day, 15% cheaper than SafetyWing.
  • Low maximum limit. The industry insiders I interviewed off-the-record for my travel insurance post admit that multi-million-dollar maximums are just marketing, but that you should get a maximum of at least $500,000. SafetyWing’s maximum is only $250,000 (and only $100,000 for emergency evacuation), which may not full cover worst-case scenarios in far-off lands.
  • $250 deductible on non-urgent medical care. Many other companies have a $0 deductible, though you generally pay higher premiums for this benefit.
  • No US travel flexibility. Unlike some other excluding-US travel insurance plans, SafetyWing’s doesn’t cover non-Americans traveling through or on short layovers in the US. You have to get a new policy that includes the US to be insured (though a good credit card’s travel insurance should cover you).
  • Not customizable. SafetyWing keeps their insurance cheap by keeping it simple, but that also means you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want insurance on things they don’t cover like personal electronics, travel to Iran and North Korea, and some extreme sports.

Do your future self a favor and read the full policy (PDF).

Chris taking his bike onto the RENFE train in Valencia, Spain.
Cycling is covered by travel insurance, but I should still cover my noggin with a helmet.

Other Companies Offering Post-Departure Travel Insurance

These are the most popular alternatives to SafetyWing for buying travel insurance when you’re already traveling.

  • World Nomads. Starting from $US2.78/day. Super expensive, but they have a great reputation in the industry and among past customers and offer extensive coverage for activities and countries SafetyWing doesn’t.
  • Globelink. Starting from $US1.57/day for UK, EU and EEA residents only.
  • True Traveler. Starting from $US1.78/day for European residents. They offer a wide variety of add-ons, options, and packages.

Final Important Tip

Keep an insurance contact in your wallet.

If something happens during your trip, you, you, your companion, or anyone who’s caring for you will then know who to call to coordinate emergency travel arrangements, doctor referrals, or claims questions or other issues.

Better safe than sorry. Check our 8 Simple Steps to Find the Best Travel Insurance to be sure.

Hopefully It’s a Waste of Money!

Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, feedback, or tips of your own about buying travel insurance when already traveling.

Then enjoy your trip!

Hopefully whatever you end up spending on your travel insurance ends up being a “waste” because nothing goes wrong and you don’t need to make a claim.

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Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use special links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we'd recommend anyway. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to.

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