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Is Travel Insurance Mandatory for Your Trip?

When I first went backpacking around the world, I never even thought about a lot of things I wouldn’t leave without today—and I’m talking about more than a smartphone. I never bothered with travel insurance, for example, figuring I was young, healthy, and had the money to pay a doctor if required. Now I don’t have all the time in the world when things get delayed and there’s another reason I have it: in many cases, travel insurance is mandatory to even go on the trip.

travel insurance mandatory for a group tour

There was a while there when countries were jumping on the bandwagon and requiring proof of insurance to even enter the country, with cheap countries like Nepal and Cambodia joining but thankfully that started dying down when the COVID threat subsided and the vaccination requirements went away.

You couldn’t just head to the immigration line with a passport and a smile. The requirements were rather daunting too: you needed proof of $30K in medical coverage for Chile, $100K for Thailand when they first opened back up. If you visited Antarctica, you needed $100,000 in medical coverage and evacuation insurance that would fly you out of the region if necessary.

Now we’re back closer to the historical norm, so there are not many countries that require this to enter. The short list includes ones that don’t get many American visitors anyway, such as Cuba, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, and Bermuda.

Now it’s mostly a matter of what kind of travel you are doing.

When is Travel Insurance Mandatory? 

Travel is a challenge, which is a positive and a negative, often on the same day. Tales of inspiring solo travelers echo the profound personal growth that can emerge from facing the world alone. I have often written about how travel can provide a much greater education than sitting in a classroom at an expensive university.

These encounters highlight the transforming potential of travel and show how it can promote self-awareness, independence, and resilience. People exploring new areas come upon circumstances that push them to their boundaries and force them to adjust, frequently resulting in a greater awareness of both the outside world and the inner journey.

All that is great until…you have a motorbike accident. Or sprain your ankle on a hiking trail. Or eat something that puts you in a hospital with an IV hooked up to your arm. Then what?

Because they’ve seen these accidents happen rarely but regularly, most tour operators require every participant to show proof of travel insurance before they join the trip. I’ve done it for my own tours I’ve led and will do it again for the next ones. (Want to join me in the future for a European ski trip or Mexican adventure? Get on the notification list here.)

This is not because they’re shirking their duty. It’s just plain not their job to take responsibility when you have a problem unless it’s their fault. You probably signed a waiver to that effect, whether you went ziplining for an hour or headed to the Arctic for two weeks.

So when you have a medical issue, one that may even cause you to be left behind while the rest of the group goes on their merry way, you need solid coverage to take care of any medical bills in the foreign land. If there’s the possibility you will need evacuation from a remote rural area, factor that in too.

whitewater rafting adventure tour

This requirement extends across all budget levels. G Adventures may have a reputation for bargain group trips, occasionally at less than $200 per day for guided tours, but here’s their policy:

G Adventures requires travel insurance for all travellers. When selecting a travel insurance policy, G Adventures requires that, at a minimum, travellers are covered for medical expenses including emergency evacuation and repatriation. A minimum coverage of USD $200,000 is required.

At the high end, here’s the less clear policy for Abercrombie & Kent:

It is very important to have comprehensive travel insurance when booking your next holiday, and we require all those travelling with us to have an appropriate policy. Your safety and enjoyment when travelling overseas are paramount.

Some of the high-end companies push you into buying policies from them, ones where they get a commission from every sale, but they can’t legally force you to play that game. Shop around and find the best option for your own needs.

Then there are cruise companies. I don’t think most people reading the Cheapest Destinations Blog are going on a lot of cruises, but it’s important to keep them in mind in case Grandma invites you on a trip to the Galapagos or Antarctica.

None of the cruise companies require insurance for all trips, but they do for some destinations. And let’s not forget that this is some of the riskiest travel out there when it comes to digestive problems. Floating hotels are great breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. But hey, sometimes the views from a cruise ship can be better than what you can see from land.

If you do independent online research on virtually any travel insurance company, you’re going to see a litany of complaints that far exceed the “everything was great” comments. A huge number of these are from people who ran into exclusions they didn’t know about because they didn’t read the general policy description, much less the fine print. 

There are all kinds of exclusions that you have to dig into the policy for, no matter who you buy it from, so you know what is covered and what’s not. Injuries from extreme sports usually aren’t covered unless you pay a lot extra, for example, nor are situations where your travel company just shuts its doors and disappears. Always pay with a credit card so you can challenge the charge in those cases—as I had to do with a flight on ex-airline Interjet as they were starting their death spiral. 

If you want to be covered for any travel disruption situation whatsoever, including you getting too nervous to travel because of something in the news, say a door blowing off an airplane in mid-flight, go straight to the most expensive option out there: “Cancel for any reason” coverage.

On the medical side, if you want to be ready for anything, have at least $100,000 in medical coverage and evacuation insurance on top of that for at least as much more if you’ll be in an area without good hospitals. That much mandatory travel insurance isn’t necessary in many places, but if you have it you’ll be ready for a disaster.

Compensation Benefits of Travel Insurance

compensation for lost luggage

This post is about the medical aspect of travel insurance since that’s the first thing that comes to mind, but there are a lot of good selfish reasons to have a policy in your pocket. You’ll be compensated if you have troubles on the road, often problems that have nothing to do with your health. Good insurance policies for travelers will also include the following: 

  • Compensation for flight cancelations or long delays
  • Reimbursement for lost/delayed baggage and contents
  • Rental car collision damage coverage
  • 24/7 phone assistance (and sometimes an app where you can submit claims immediately)

Thankfully I haven’t had bad enough luck to take advantage of these, but I’ve come close a few times. I could have submitted a claim when my bag got lost by Turkish Airlines, but it was only lost for 24 hours while I was at a hotel with toiletries provided. I didn’t feel like investing the time to submit a claim for a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a cheap hat for the sun. (I was already wearing quick-dry underwear, so I just sink-washed the pair I had before going to bed.) 

Even if the answer to “Is travel insurance mandatory?” is no for your vacation, you probably want to have it these days anyway. Make sure your travels are happy travels by being prepared when something goes wrong. Something will go wrong eventually if you travel even once a year, so be ready for it and take it in stride. 


Friday 17th of May 2024

Thanks for raising this important question! While travel insurance may not always be mandatory, it's definitely a wise investment for peace of mind during your trip. From medical emergencies to trip cancellations, having coverage can save you from unexpected expenses and disruptions. Appreciate the reminder to prioritize travel insurance—it's an essential consideration for any journey.


Saturday 20th of April 2024

Your travel resource blog is a treasure trove for wanderlust seekers! From planning tools to packing suggestions, you've created a complete list of resources to ensure that every voyage is a smooth adventure. Thank you for providing this useful information and enabling travelers to explore the world with confidence and ease. Enjoy your travels!


Tuesday 30th of November 2021

Great article, Tim and glad to read Allianz is finally offering pandemic-related insurance. Times have changed and it's important travel insurance coverage evolves too!!


Saturday 6th of November 2021

grateful to your content thanks for sharing us

Mike (of

Friday 5th of November 2021

Great piece. I have been a long time Allianz annual customer. Since I travel so much, it's great piece of mind.