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Free, mandatory and compulsory travel insurance

Questions to ask about how it works before you travel

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Did someone say free travel insurance?

Yes, you heard that right! COVID-19 has led to the rise of free travel insurance being offered by some travel providers in a bid to improve confidence in traveling abroad.

It has also seen an increase in the number of governments imposing additional entry or visa travel restrictions for foreigners around travel insurance. These vary from mandating the purchase of a specified travel insurance policy and insurer, to the compulsory requirement to travel with an insurance policy with minimum benefits and levels.

While on the face of it, it may seem like a dream come true (after all who doesn’t like free stuff?), or a forced imposition to be complied with, it’s still a good idea to ask some questions about these policies and understand if they’re sufficient for your unique travel needs.

Could free travel insurance possibly be a bad idea?

‘Maybe’, is the short answer, depending on your unique travel plans.

Before you take-up that free travel insurance, or purchase the mandatory or compulsory travel insurance you need in order to enter the country you’re traveling to, it’s worth pausing for a moment and considering if the cover the travel insurance policy offers is sufficient for your individual travel plans.

If it’s not, you, and possibly your family, could be left out of pocket, or completely uncovered for events you thought your insurer would cover.

We’re not saying you must buy more insurance – we're suggesting the important question to ask about any policy is whether it’s appropriate for you and your plans, not whether it’s free or you have to buy it.

Purchased travel insurance versus free or mandatory travel insurance

  • Purchased travel insurance: It helps to understand that traditionally purchased travel insurance policies are generally designed to help travelers cover the costs of the many unexpected events travelers encounter every year – not just COVID-19. Different plans with differing levels of benefits will suit different people – you can purchase a more well-rounded policy that covers many kinds of events such as baggage, evacuation, repatriation, cancellation and more, or there are also some single-event policies that might only cover cancellation. If you compare travel insurance plans you’ll see the categories of cover and benefit limits generally increase as the price of the policy goes up.
  • Free, mandatory or compulsory: In comparison, many free, mandatory and compulsory travel insurance policies were introduced in response to COVID-19… that means it’s worth checking if they include cover for non COVID-19 related events and when they start. After all - there are plenty of other things that can go wrong while traveling. Many of the COVID-19-related free, compulsory or mandatory travel insurance policies may only cover medical costs or COVID-19 related costs. They may also have lower benefit limits than what you might expect from traditional travel insurance policies on-offer.

Questions you should ask about compulsory, mandatory or free travel insurance

The following questions are a good place to start to understand the level of cover a free, mandatory or compulsory insurance policy is offering. You’ll no doubt have more.

  • Policy start and end date/location: If I get ill, are my medical costs covered for all destinations I’m traveling to or through, including transit countries? When does it start? Is it as soon as I book my holiday, or is it only when I arrive at my destination? What happens if I get hurt en-route or need to cancel?

  • Cancellation: Does it include costs of canceling all my travel or just those of the provider I’ve purchased with? Does it include accommodation costs if I’m quarantined or hospitalized?

  • Evacuation and repatriation:  Will it cover the costs of paying for emergency flights to evacuate me home if needed? What if I break my leg while skiing or hiking – does the policy include evacuation costs off the mountain?

  • Benefit limits: Are the benefit limits sufficient for my destination? Are they likely to cover the cost of an average hospital stay if something goes wrong… or will I be left out of pocket.

  • Medical: Does it cover me if I get sick with something other than COVID-19 such as if I’m injured and need surgery or other medical help?

  • Who is covered: Who does the policy cover – my family or just me? Do I need to buy a separate policy for each family member?

  • Quarantine costs: If I’m quarantined unexpectedly, who will look after my children, or my pets if they’re traveling with me? Will the costs for their care be covered?

  • Baggage: What if my stuff is stolen, damaged or lost – is that covered?

What do travel insurance policies cover?

It varies between providers – and depends on how much you pay. As an example - all World Nomads policies offer two kinds of plans (Standard and Explorer) with different benefit limits for:

  • Overseas emergency medical and dental expenses
  • 24/7 Emergency Assistance.
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Trip delay, cancellation, or interruption due to an unforeseen event
  • Delayed, damaged, or stolen gear or bags (if they've been checked in with a carrier) 
  • Cover for more than 150 activities… and even more on some of the Explorer Plans (Benefit limits apply)

And many policies offer extras you can buy such as baggage cover or additional activities… for an additional fee of course.

How much travel insurance cover do you need?

How much cover you need depends on your circumstances. All plans have benefit limits which define the maximum amount the insurer will pay in the event of a successful claim for that event. You should consider:

  • Where are you traveling to, or through? If something goes wrong, will medical assistance or evacuation be difficult and expensive? Remote locations might not be covered by travel insurance policies, or you might have to pay extra to get cover. Do you need a plan that has an unlimited benefit limit for medical costs and evacuation, or the choice of a cheaper but reduced benefit limit? If your unexpected medical costs go over the benefit limit, you’ll be out of pocket for the difference.

  • What activities will you be doing? For more adventurous sports you might need a higher level of cover, or they may not be covered at all. Check what you’re planning to do against the level of cover and covered activities in your policy.

  • What items are you taking with you? Benefit levels vary so don’t assume your phone will be covered if you lose it. Also, some policies won’t cover luxury items so if you can’t afford to lose it, don’t travel with it.

How do I get a letter with supporting information for my visa stating my insurance cover and limits?

Some countries require a letter outlining your travel insurance medical cover and limits as a condition to obtaining a visa. It pays to be prepared and leave plenty of time (at least six months depending on where you’re going and the visa you need) before your consulate visit or travel to obtain the supporting information you need.

Bought your travel insurance with World Nomads? Contact our Customer Service Centre who may be able to help. Allow enough time for us to process this before your appointment at a consulate.

Bought with a different provider? Contact their customer service and find out if they can help.

Travel insurance tip: Does Travel Insurance cover visa delay? While the answer is that 'It depends on the insurer and their plans’, you should check your policy carefuly as many don’t. It pays to be prepared and leave plenty of time to get your visas before you travel, at least six months depending on where you’re going and the visa you need, and consider holding off on booking and paying for anything until you have it.

What next?

Just remember, you should consider taking out a travel insurance policy that provides cover for your trip and activities with the benefit levels you need. You can have a look at World Nomads What’s covered pages, get a quote and compare our plans or contact us to ask more.

This is only a summary of cover and does not include the full terms and conditions of the policy. You should read your policy wording in full so you understand what is and isn’t covered. That way there won’t be any surprises if you need to use it. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Teeth hit the ground

I put my foot in a funny way while I was walking quickly because it was raining. I fell unexpectedly to the floor, face first, so I put my arm out, broke the shoulder and my front teeth hit the ground breaking a tooth.
Claim paid: USD $3441.64
P.R. Italian Nomad.

Travel Insurance Benefits: how we can take care of you*

Trip Cancellation

Been working hard for your trip?

We'll work hard to protect it.

Trip Protection
  • Unexpectedly hospitalised?
  • Travel buddy unfit to travel?
  • Close relative suddenly dies?

We’ve got your back.

Emergency Medical Expenses

Feeling fit and healthy? What if you get sick or injured?

Take the pain out of medical or dental costs.

Emergency Medical Insurance
  • Need meds quick?
  • Accidentally injured?
  • Suddenly sick?

We’ve got your back.

Emergency Medical Transportation

Know where the nearest hospital is?

Don’t stress, we’ll get you there quickly.

Evacuation and Repatriation
  • Banged up abroad?
  • Need a hospital urgently?
  • Suddenly sick?

Help starts here.

Protect your gear

Love photography, filming or sport?

Cover your bags, tech or gear.

Protect your gear
  • Passport or tech stolen?
  • Airline lost your gear?
  • Bags delayed?

Help starts here.

  • Emergency Overseas Medical & Dental Expenses
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation & Repatriation
  • Trip Cancellation or Interruption
  • 24-Hour Assistance Services
  • Baggage
  • And more (depending on your country of residence)
*This is a general summary only. Restrictions, exclusions and limitations will apply. Coverage may not be available for all countries, states or provinces. Benefit limits may vary depending on the plan chosen. Get a quote for full details.

24/7 emergency assistance

Whether you need medical assistance or emergency evacuation, our teams are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year before and during your trip.

Are you in need of emergency assistance right now?

Contact the team

Travel insurance. Simple & flexible.

Travel insurance for independent travelers and intrepid families. Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on their trip, but these things can and do happen. So be prepared and get your travel insurance today.