Are you looking for digital nomad travel insurance?
You’re in the right place! I’m a travel blogger and digital nomad who has been traveling the world full time since 2016, when I left my job as a corporate lawyer working on insurance issues.
To help out fellow digital nomads confused by all the travel and health insurance offerings out there, I put this quick guide to finding digital nomad insurance.
But I have some bad news:
The options for the best digital nomad travel insurance honestly aren’t great. There is only one company making a product specifically for digital nomads, but I cannot recommend them anymore because of how poorly they handled the recent coronavirus pandemic.
There is some good news though:
Some of the most important risks digital nomads face can be covered by digital nomad health insurance, for which there are thankfully good options!
In this article, I’ll cover:
- The difference between travel vs. health insurance from a digital nomad perspective.
- Where to find health insurance as a digital nomad.
- Options for travel insurance as a digital nomad.
- Coronavirus travel insurance issues for nomads to consider.
Ok, I know those aren’t the most exciting topics in the world. You probably have better things to do. So I’ll do my best to keep it straight and to the point, while also spicing things up so the post isn’t entirely unreadable 🙂
Ready to dive in? Let’s do it:
Disclosures: Nothing in this article should be interpreted as legal advice and I cannot choose insurance for you – consult your lawyer or licensed insurance agent. Also, note that if you buy insurance through links on this page, this independent travel blog may earn a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
The Difference Between Health and Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads
When you are looking for digital nomad insurance, there are two different types of insurance that come into play: travel insurance and health insurance.
So what’s the difference between the two?
Let’s start with health insurance:
Health Insurance Covers Routine & Emergency Healthcare While You Are Abroad
The general idea of health insurance is that it pays your medical expenses when you go to the hospital.
Health insurance is typically more expensive than travel insurance because it includes much more coverage for routine care. Depending on your plan, health insurance might cover things like:
- Prescribed medication
- Vaccinations & tests
- Medical checkups
- Cancer screenings & treatment
- Psychiatric care
- Dental treatment & optical care
- Emergency medical treatment & ambulances
Now, just because you have a healthcare cost like the above doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be 100% covered. You’ll need to carefully consider how each of the following come into play for your nomad healthcare plan:
- Deductibles – this is an amount you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket before any benefits kick in (example: a $500 deductible requires you pay your first $500 in total costs per year out-of-pocket)
- Co-Pays (or Excess) – these vary depending on the type of care, and are another out-of-pocket cost you need to pay first (e.g., a $50 co-pay for medication means you pay the first $50 for each claim, the insurer picks up the balance)
- Coverage Limits – these cap the insurer’s liability for costs at a certain level. Most policies have overall coverage limits and also specific limits for types of care.
- Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions – if you have a pre-existing condition, you’ll need to closely exam these to see what related care is and isn’t covered.
- Other Exclusions – depending on the policy, various things might also be excluded (e.g., many health policies exclude costs for cosmetic surgery)
That’s a basic rundown of the most important elements of digital nomad health insurance.
But what about travel insurance? Let check that out next:
Travel Insurance Covers Emergency Healthcare & a Variety of Travel-Related Risks Like Delay and Cancellation
Travel insurance is a very different product than health insurance. It’s really meant for your average tourist, who takes a vacation for a week or two to Mexico and is concerned about what happens if a hurricane hits or they get robbed or they get in a car wreck and need emergency medical care.
Depending on the policy, travel insurance typically covers things like:
- Travel Medical Coverage – This is usually for emergencies expenses like if you twist your ankle hiking in Georgia, catch the flu while in Nigeria, or come down with a case of dengue in Thailand. Notice the difference between emergency and routine care.
- Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage – If you have an accident in a remote place like a mountain or island, evacuation coverage can become important.
- Third Party Liability Coverage – If you get into an accident, you might have to pay someone else’s bills in addition to your own.
- Trip Cancellation & Interruption Coverage – This covers tourists whose plans are interrupted by a covered event (many tourists claimed under this during the March 2020 global travel shutdown).
- Coverage for Car, Bike, or Scooter Accidents – If you plan to rent a car or motorbike on your trip, having coverage becomes important.
- Lost and Stolen Items Protection – If your bags or electronics are stolen, this can come in handy. But be sure to check limits and exclusions for high-priced items like laptops and cameras.
The problem with travel insurance for digital nomads is that travel insurance as a product was really designed more for short trips (the vast majority of vacationers travel for two weeks or less).
For a week or two, many tourists find that the costs of travel insurance are worth the peace of mind it provides. But since many digital nomads travel full time, the cost for year-round coverage of this type can start to become price-prohibitive for many nomads.
Anyway, that’s a basic rundown of the difference between health insurance and travel insurance. Now let’s explore where digital nomads can find each type of coverage:
Where to Find Digital Nomad Health Insurance
Ok, so let’s say you’ve decided you need digital nomad health insurance. Perhaps you want to make sure you are covered for Covid-19. Perhaps you’re living the nomad life full time and just need regular medical care. Or perhaps you run a remote team and are looking to provide healthcare to your digital nomad start-up.
Let’s take a quick look at your options:
Option A: See if Your Home Country Healthcare Covers You Abroad
If you have health insurance in your home country the first thing you’ll want to do is call and see if you are covered for care while abroad.
Some government healthcare plans do provide international health care coverage, depending where you are going. For example, Australia’s system has a reciprocal agreement with 11 countries to provide care abroad.
Private plans also might cover you abroad, though it’s less common. My ACA / Obamacare plan only covers me within the USA, for example.
In any event, it’s worth a quick call to your insurer to check before looking at the next option:
Option B: Buy Health Insurance In-Country
If you are the type of digital nomad who spends a long period of time – months or more – in each destination before moving on?
If so, it might make sense to see if you can buy in-country insurance specific to your destination. For example, in Argentina, there are many private healthcare systems that allow foreigners to join on a month-to-month basis.
On the other hand, if you are a digital nomad who bounces around several destinations each year, this might not make sense in your case. Which brings me to our last option …
Option C: Buy an International Nomad Healthcare Plan
If neither of those first two options apply to your circumstance, your best bet may be to enroll in an international healthcare plan.
Insured Nomads is the most promising company I have found offering healthcare plans tailored to the digital nomad lifestyle.
Here are some of the key reasons why an Insured Nomads health insurance products might be attractive in your situation:
- No exclusions for pandemics or Covid-19
- Choose your coverage area by region or worldwide
- Policies are available for as little 2 months, or annually
- Instead of annual deductibles, select a per-incident excess
- Simplified underwriting process doesn’t require you to submit medical records
- 4.5 star average review on TrustPilot
How much does all that cost?
It depends on several factors like age and location, but it only takes 60 seconds to request a custom quote (you can get a quote here).
Keep in mind that you’re getting full healthcare coverage – not just emergency travel protection – so compare costs with that in mind.
Where to Find Digital Nomad Travel Insurance
Ok, so that covers nomad health insurance, but what if you are looking digital nomad travel insurance?
Remember travel insurance is different and more focused on things like emergency medical care, rental car liability, stolen items, trip delay, etc.
Here is a quick breakdown of the most common travel insurance for digital nomads:
Option A: See If You Already Have Travel Insurance
Before you do anything, first check to make sure you aren’t already covered for the risks you’re worried about.
If you a remote employee, for example, check and see what insurance cover is provided through your employer.
You also might have some included limited travel insurance if you buy your travel through a premium credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, though be aware that coverage caps are usually low and that pandemics are often excluded.
Option B: Buy Long-Term Travel Insurance
You can save a fair bit on travel insurance over the long run if you buy annual travel insurance in one purchase.
The bad news is that, as of April 2020, World Nomads is only selling to USA residents. The good news is that World Nomads USA is saying they will cover coronavirus medical treatment (though not all coronavirus-related risks, as we’ll see later).
Side note: You may be wondering about SafetyWing, a popular digital nomad insurance provider with a big marketing presencep online. Please note I do NOT recommend SafetyWing anymore. To understand why, read my article on why I think SafetyWing mishandled the coronavirus situation, unnecessarily created dangerous moral hazard, and totally lost my trust.
Anyway, if an annual World Nomads policy isn’t right for you or is out of budget, you can also use our next option to find other long-term insurance providers:
Option C: Compare and Search Policies
Travel insurance is an individualized thing. People care about protecting different risks, and what works well for one digital nomad’s situation may not for the next.
That’s why I always suggest doing your own research and comparing travel insurance products head-to-head yourself.
TravelInsurance.com makes that process super easy by acting like a search engine for travel insurance.
Just plugin a few details like your age and dates, and you’ll be able to instantly get dozens or even hundreds of quotes.
Their interface provides tons of important details, links to the underlying policies, and a checkbox that lets you easily compare policies side-by-side. They even have a live chat feature if you have any questions.
Yes, it requires a little legwork to find your own policies, but I think it’s worth it to be an informed consumer.
Coronavirus Travel Insurance Considerations for Digital Nomads
Coronavirus and Covid-19, the disease the virus causes, create some special issues to consider when shopping digital nomad insurance.
First, let’s tackle the issue of medical coverage:
Coronavirus should, at least in theory, be something that is covered by both travel medical insurance and international healthcare insurance. The reason is that catching coronavirus is an emergency healthcare event, similar to catching dengue or influenza or pneumonia (all of which most travel insurers will cover).
The problem is that many travel insurers have pandemic exclusions. And even some that don’t have found questionable ways to deny coverage (I’m looking at you, SafetyWing).
As mentioned above, WorldNomads USA is one major travel insurer currently selling policies and also saying they will cover coronavirus medical costs. You may be able to find other options by doing your own research on TravelInsurance.com, though.
Ok, but what about non-medical coronavirus-related risks. For example, what if the country you are in locks down again (or worse, devolves into riots) and you need evacuated out?
Unfortunately, at the moment it’s difficult to find coverage for these situations as most insurers are refusing to provide this type of coverage going forward. See my Consumer Guide to Travel Insurance During Coronavirus for a much deeper dive into these issues.
While my hope is that insurers will adjust their offerings for the new normal, the reality is that for now digital nomads (and traveler generally) don’t have the best options when it comes to insuring against the many risks created by coronavirus.
READ NEXT: How to Get Paid to Travel (52 Ideas!)
That’s it for this guide to digital nomad insurance.
But wait – don’t leave yet!
If I was helpful to you in this article, I can be of a lot more help in the future!
So be sure to sign up for my Travel Lemming digital nomad newsletter here and get all my best tips for living your best digital nomad life:
Interested in more articles about the nomad lifestyle? Check out a few suggestions for what to read now:
- Nomad Cruise Review – Did I Love or Hate It?
- Why Georgia is the Next Big Digital Nomad Destination
- 23 Digital Nomad Jobs
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