Travel Insurance for Thailand: Do you really need it?

Do I Need Travel Insurance for Thailand? (Maybe Not!)

Travel insurance for Thailand can be expensive.

But not getting travel insurance for that trip to see all the amazing places to visit in Thailand can be even more expensive. 

As someone who travels in Thailand frequently, and who recently was burglarized and got my laptop stolen just before my latest trip to Thailand, travel insurance is a subject I've thought about a lot recently.

If you're like me, you may be asking yourself: 

Do I need travel insurance for Thailand? 

The short answer is: it depends. Proof of travel insurance generally is not required to enter Thailand or get a visa. But it may be a smart decision anyway (and one you could end up regretting later if you don't get it). 

I personally have purchased travel insurance through World Nomads for my last couple trips to Thailand, I also think that even the best travel insurance products are overpriced and loaded with benefits you probably don't really need (more on that later). 

That's why I put together this quick guide to help you sort out whether or not it makes sense to purchase Thailand travel insurance in your particular situation.

Pandemic Update: Given current world events, the case for travel insurance is stronger than ever. Unfortunately, many insurers have exclusions that make buying travel insurance right now super tricky. I highly suggest checking out my Guide to Travel Insurance And Coronavirus for a deep-dive into these issues. 

We'll cover:

  • when travel insurance makes sense
  • what to look for in a policy, and
  • where I personally look for my own travel insurance. 

Don't have time to read the whole guide?

No problem!

Click the below questions to see short summarizes of some of the content I'll cover in detail below: 

What's the best travel insurance for Thailand?

What should I look for when shopping for Thailand travel insurance?

Is Thailand safe for travel? 

Ok, but there's a bunch more nuance than I can convey in those short answers (can you tell that I have a lot of thoughts about this subject??).

First off, the fact is you may already have most of the coverage you need for your trip to Thailand.

And, even if you don't, it may not make financial sense to buy travel insurance in your particular situation. With so many companies hawking overpriced, confusing policies, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. 

No worries, though, because I'm here to help! 

There's a ton of info here and I'm trying cover a lot of subjects, so feel free to use the below table of contents to jump around: 

[affiliate disclosure: if you choose to make a purchase through my links, I may receive a small commission that helps to keep the lights on]

Why Should You Listen to Me About Thailand Travel Insurance

I'm not a travel insurance agent, and ultimately can't tell you what is right for your insurance situation. However, I am someone who has traveled a lot (I travel full time nowadays) and who has spent a lot of time considering whether travel insurance was a waste of time or not.

Usually I buy travel insurance, but not always. 

Me in Koh Chang, Thailand (covered by travel insurance)

Me in Koh Chang (with travel insurance in case I fell off!)

I bought annual travel insurance for my year-long trip around the world (when I somehow managed to visit 43 countries in a single year!).

And I again bought travel insurance for Mexico when I spent six months exploring the many things to do in Mexico

As I write this article, I'm currently sitting in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For this trip I personally chose to buy my own insurance cover through World Nomads. I also used World Nomads the last time I was traveling alone in Thailand

But there have also been times when I decided NOT to buy travel insurance, including on my first trip to Thailand (and including a recent trip to Austin where I was burglarized and had my laptop stolen two days before my flight to Bangkok!). 

So what gives?

How do you decide when travel insurance is right for that killer trip through the Thai islands, or for your jungle trek through the mountains near Chiang Rai? 

Well, it really depends on a few things ....

So let's step back for a minute and quickly what travel insurance is meant for and when it is and isn't a good deal: 

A Quick Primer on Insurance (and Why it's Often a Ripoff)

The first thing you need to know about insurance is that it's really important for situations where there is a risk of a financial loss that would really hard for you to deal with if you had to cover it yourself (example: emergency medical bills from an accident). 

That's why everyone has to get covered for driving, and it's why it's a good idea to get flood insurance for houses that sit on a flood plain. 

If you total your car (or, heaven forbid, your body) in an accident, or if your house turns into a scene from Aquaman in a hurricane, you're really going to hope you are covered by your insurance policy. 

But here's the second thing you need to know about insurance: 

It's BIG business. 

Last year insurance premiums in the US totaled $1.2 Trillion USD.

That's "Trillion" with a "T."

And that means Americans spent more on insurance than the entire GDP of Mexico! 

Now, obviously those insurance companies aren't underwriting all that insurance out of the goodness of their hearts. They make money by selling more in premiums than they have to pay out in covered losses plus expenses. 

And part of the way they make money is by selling you on insurance coverage that you don't really need. 

Think about those extended warranties companies try to sell you after you buy a washing machine or a toaster oven.

Or those cell phone insurance plans meant to scare you about what will happen if you crack that brand new iPhone. 

If your toaster oven breaks down or your iPhone screen cracks, you can probably afford to absorb the loss. And that's why I personally think those coverages are probably ripoffs. 

The bottom line: insurance makes a lot of financial sense for emergency risks that could be catastrophic, but makes less sense if the risk is a small one you can afford to personally cover if it happens.  

With that in mind, let's dive into what you should be looking for in Thailand insurance cover: 

What to Look for in Travel Insurance in Thailand

Ok, now that the little lecture is over, let's dive into specifics of what to look for when reviewing the options for insurance cover: 

Before we do though click here to compare policies, then come back here and read this article while you compare : 

Here are the three features I care most about when comparing travel insurance: 

  • Emergency Medical Coverage (at least $100k)
  • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation (at least $100k)
  • Coverage for Driving a Car (or Scooter)

Why do I prioritize these three things?

Because they are all catastrophic risks!

If I break my leg hiking in the mountains near Pai and need medivac-ed out for emergency treatment and medical care, or get hit by a car trying to cross the street in Bangkok and wake up in my own personal version of the Hangover II, or crash my scooter driving the Mae Hong Son loop, it could lead to financial ruin! 

On the other hand, most travel insurance companies advertise some benefits that I DON'T care so much about, such as: 

  • Delayed Baggage Coverage
  • Trip Cancellation Coverage
  • Trip Delay Coverage

Why don't I pay much attention to these coverages?

I have two reasons: 

First, I often already have other personal coverage for them (see the next section for more on that subject). 

Second, even if I have to pay an uncovered loss out of pocket, it's probably going to be a loss I can handle.

If my baggage gets delayed (which over the course of thousands of flights, has happened exactly once), I can probably afford to buy a change of clothes and a toothbrush. If my trip is delayed (which has happened quite a few times), it's probably not a big deal to change my hotel bookings around and eat a cancellation fee or two. 

Bottom line: over the course of a lifetime, the cost of paying all those premiums probably won't be worth the few times I have to shell out a few hundred dollars for these relatively small risks. So it's just not as important to me as emergency medical cover is. 

Now, there is one major thing I did not mention above: lost and stolen item coverage. 

Why didn't I mention it? 

Well, honestly I'm conflicted about it. In some ways, it falls into the second category. If I lose my GoPro diving in Koh Tao or have my wallet stolen at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, I can probably afford to cover the loss. 

On the other hand, I travel with a lot of valuable equipment in my Osprey 46 L backpack, including a laptop, drone, camera equipment, and my killer board shorts (ok, those last ones aren't so expensive!). Losing all of that at once would be a pretty rough financial hit. 

And just last month I did actually lose my laptop when my Airbnb in Austin was burglarized during a break-in while I was at a travel blogging conference.

I had a flight to Bangkok two days later, I had no travel insurance (I don't usually buy it for the USA), and so boy did it really suck having to replace that laptop! 

So you can see why I'm a bit conflicted on lost and stolen item coverage. I guess for now I consider it a bit of a bonus to buying a policy, though not the main thing I look for.

Special Considerations for Thailand Travel Insurance

You'll notice that most of the considerations I list above can apply to any sort of travel insurance buying decision, no matter where you are going.

And that's because about 85% of the things you should consider really aren't country-specific. 

But what about that other 15%?

There ARE some special considerations you should take into account when trying to decide whether to buy travel insurance for a trip to Thailand: 

Scooters and Travel Insurance in Thailand

Scooters or motorbikes are a great way to get around in Thailand. They give you the freedom to explore at your own pace, are super affordable and available for rent everywhere, and can be a blast to drive.

Travel Insurance Thailand

Me learning how to ride a bike (safely and legally!)

And they are also enormously dangerous.

In fact, by some estimates, Thailand is number one or two in the world for motorcycle deaths! 

And the news get worse, because if you aren't properly licensed to drive, it's virtually certain that your travel insurance company won't cover you. 

That's why before my latest trip to Thailand I took a motorcycle class at home in Denver, Colorado. I got my motorcycle endorsement and then applied for an International Driver's Permit, which makes me legal to drive here in Thailand. 

And that's one of the reasons I chose World Nomads: because I am properly licensed and always wear a helmet, their insurance allows riding a scooter (for medical coverage, if properly licensed). 

Other Risks in Thailand

Crazy monkeys in Thailand: another reason to get travel insurance

You'll want travel insurance if you're bit by this guy!

Thailand is a reasonably safe place to travel, but there are still some risks that warrant consideration when deciding whether to get covered: 

  • Vehicles Accidents and Emergencies - Even if aren't driving yourself, there have been many incidents of tourists getting injured when buses, cars, and pedestrians collide. 
  • Petty Theft - Crime in Thailand isn't terrible, but pick-pocketing and the theft of belongings are common in tourist areas.  
  • Terrorism, Strikes, and Protests - Unlike some of its neighbors, Thailand has a pretty good record on this front (and tons of incentive to protect its tourism industry), so while it's always a risk, I personally don't worry too much about it.
  • Natural Disasters - Thailand is near the water and is prone to heavy rains and flooding. Tragically, nearly 5,000 people died in Southern Thailand (including some of the popular islands) during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. 
  • Animals - I've seen more than a few mangy dogs running around Thailand (not to mention those crazy monkeys). Animal bites are a real risk here. 

Thailand's Medical System

There's a scene in Hangover II where one of the characters gets shot and then rushed to a Bangkok medical clinic.

He comes out and, of course his friends are worried, but he says: 

"Actually the bullet just grazed my arm, 8 stitches, it only cost $6, how is that even possible?"

-Phil from The Hangover II

Ok, so Hollywood may have been stretching the truth about the Thai medical system a little bit. 

But the point is that the Thai medical system does have a reputation for being relatively affordable in cost (much is government subsidized) and pretty decent in providing quality healthcare service. 

So even if you are uninsured and the worst happens, you might be able to get decent treatment without breaking the bank too much.

But there are certainly no guarantees, and personally I never like the feeling of walking into a hospital asking for treatment without insurance. It's the kind of thing you want to have a plan for .... 

But Wait, Maybe You're Already Covered for Thailand? 

Before you buy travel insurance for Thailand, you should first consider that you might already have some coverage and just not know it! 

Here are three questions to ask yourself before buying anything to see if you are already covered: 

First, does your health insurance from home cover you abroad? 

Many American health insurance policies exclude overseas travel, but not all do, so it's best to call and ask. Maybe you already have health cover in Thailand! 

Second, does your credit card provide any travel insurance? 

A lot of credit cards do provide some travel insurance for Thailand as a bonus service, though usually it's fairly basic and doesn't cover the most important things like emergency medical care. Still, it's worth checking to see. 

Third, do you already have rental car coverage? 

Your auto policy and/or your credit card may provide some coverage for rental cars in Thailand, reducing the value proposition of buying a separate travel insurance policy in Thailand. 

The Best Travel Insurance: What I Personally Buy

I personally choose to to be covered in Thailand through World Nomads

World Nomads is one of the most trusted names in travel insurance. I've used them for years, including to insure my huge year-long round-the-world trip from 2016-2017

Their website makes it really easy to understand the coverage being offered.

They also make it easy to combine your coverage for other countries (for example, if you also plan to visit Cambodia or Vietnam on your trip to Thailand).

And, as someone who never buys a return ticket, I like that they make it really easy to extend coverage online. 

How much will World Nomads cost for your Thailand trip?

That depends, but you can get an instant quote by entering your dates, destination, and age into this page and clicking "get quote."

Note that they have two packages depending on whether you want coverage for adventure activities like scuba diving or extreme sports, or just more general tourist activities. 

What about other options for travel insurance in Thailand? 

Well, after the whole "getting burglarized" thing, I tried very hard to research this issue.

I priced out a dozen different companies (check out this site for a handy way of comparing a lot of prices). 

And, while I found some slightly cheaper options, I wasn't thrilled with the coverage limits offered and I ultimately chose to go with the company I've trusted to provide my travel insurance for year. 

So, while I encourage you to comparison shop, I do really like World Nomads. 

Click here to price out a Thailand travel insurance policy with World Nomads. 

Conclusion: Do You Really Need Travel Insurance for Thailand?

Here's my personal bottom line on travel insurance for Thailand: 

Insurance isn't always worth it, but it is really important in my mind to be covered for catastrophic losses like emergency medical expenses. 

Given the incredible number of accidents that happen in Thailand every year, I'll happily continue to give World Nomads my money in exchange for the piece of mind that comes with knowing that my trip to Thailand is covered. 

Heading to Thailand? Don't Miss These 14 Tips

After several solo trips through Thailand, I put together some practical tips to help you avoid some of the mistakes I've made! 

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