Do I Need Travel Insurance?
We’re often asked at Road Junky whether it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance before setting off on a trip. Our standard response is to think of how we would have spent on travel insurance in all the years we’ve been on the road and it would come to tens of thousands of dollars – enough to travel for many years yet!
In the old days, of course, there was no such thing as insurance for travellers and you just trusted in God. Or failing that you carried a big sword as insurance against thieves and if you got sick or injured you would probably die anyway given that most doctors thought leeches were the panacea to all ills.
In a way getting travel insurance is like betting against yourself. If things go right then you get to keep your health and possessions, if not then at least you get a pay out.
What If All Your Stuff Gets Robbed?
Tourists get pickpocketed all the time, their bags are snatched from them in the streets and occasionally someone comes along with a knife and asks for an involuntary donation. So what about all your hi-tech gear that modern travellers seem to think indispensable?
One solution is not to carry any.
You don’t need a laptop because you can find internet cafes wherever you go and anyway you’ll have a much deeper travel experience if you disconnect instead of holding virtual hands with everyone back home every step of the way. You don’t need a camera because you won’t take better photos of the scenery and sights than you can find online from professional photographers so save everyone else the deluge of images. The only really valuable things worth taking with you are your money and your passport and if you learn to carry them safely then you won’t get robbed.
You could just get travel insurance to run a scam but it’s really not good karma.
What About Illness and Accident?
One alternative is just to develop a healthy fatalism. Much of the world believe it’s all in the hands of the God(s) anyway, so you can just cross your fingers, make sure to look the correct direction when crossing the road and avoid Indian street food.
The truth is while it’s really unlikely something will happen to you, it would be no fun if it did and you didn’t have health insurance, or failing that a wealthy family to take care of the bills. Backpackers do die on the road and many more get injured or really ill while travelling and if you get malaria, typhus or something equally awful you’ll be grateful for the travel insurance you bought earlier on.
True, in many places in the world the healthcare is cheap and in Europe you can pretty much count on getting it for free after a bit of wrangling, but your life might depend upon immediate and quality medical attention to which your insurance policy will give you access. And if you’re travelling in the US then hospitals might even turn you away if you’re not covered.
So Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Yes. No. We don’t know.
Alright, the answer is yes, if you have the money then it would be incautious to the point of reckless stupidity to not have health insurance while travelling in most of the world. But if you’re just going to be trekking around Sweden for a few weeks it’s probably a waste of your money.