There’s reason to celebrate as I write this because many countries opened back up to foreign travelers for the first time since March or April of 2020. It’s not as simple as waltzing through the immigration line with a passport and a smile though. First, you’ll increasingly need to be vaccinated to be allowed in. In recent months, the opening announcements have had something else in common: mandatory travel insurance.
Among the requirements about shots, tests, and filling out forms in advance, here’s what else is on the list for three of the last holdouts in South America:
Chile – Travel medical insurance with COVID-19 coverage for a minimum of $30,000.
Argentina – Travel/Health Insurance covering assistance and hospitalization for Covid-19 reasons.
Uruguay – Travel medical insurance with COVID-19 coverage required.
Where is Travel Insurance Mandatory?
These recent openings are not isolated cases; it’s becoming a trend to require insurance with Covid-19 coverage. In a way, you can’t blame them. The hospitals are full enough without tourists adding to the problem and treating people in the ICU is very expensive.
The requirement is most prevalent in the Caribbean islands, where it’s becoming more common than not. If you want to visit some of The World’s Cheapest Destinations that are open now, however, you’ll also need it in some spots.
It’s probably a good idea to pony up for an annual plan so you can be set for any trip. Here are just a few countries where you’ll need to show proof of that before you can go roaming around the country, with coverage amounts where they’ve announced them.
If you’re planning a bucket list trip to Antarctica, pony up for some good insurance. You’ll need $100,000 in medical coverage and evacuation insurance that will fly you out of Antarctica if necessary. You won’t need it to enter Ecuador for the mainland, but you will if you intend to visit the Galapagos Islands (where every adult has been vaccinated, by the way)
The United States will not have this insurance requirement for entry when the borders open back up on November 8, but do you really want to go to the hospital in the most expensive healthcare market in the world without health insurance of any kind? Where a stay of a few nights could bankrupt you?
No Shots? You Might Need Extra Travel Insurance
If you are not vaccinated but are traveling to a country that will still let you enter, it’s even more likely that you will need extra insurance. In Costa Rica, for instance, the unvaccinated need to show proof of health insurance with minimum coverage of $50,000 USD for medical expenses and $2,000 for accommodation. Since very few international plans offer the latter, you’ll probably need to purchase a special policy through a Costa Rican provider.
This begs the question as to whether there’s a hidden incentive going on to bring additional money into the country as a tax under a different name. In Aruba, whether you’re vaccinated or not you have to buy local insurance. “Incoming visitors must purchase Covid-19 travel insurance from the Aruba government. Your own travel insurance can supplement Aruba visitors insurance, but it cannot replace it.” (Since there are dozens of other islands in the Americas offering a similar experience to Aruba, often at a more favorable price, we suggest you make alternate plans.)
In other cases there’s travel insurance that’s mandatory, but it’s hidden in the visa fee, which is the case for the Bahamas and Jamaica. The price varies in the Bahamas depending on whether you’ve had your shots or not.
Know What You’re Buying When Traveling Abroad
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.
Before 2020, policies rarely covered any kind of pandemic, so everyone blew their top when they got Covid while flying an airline that didn’t care much or eating at a crowded restaurant in the early days and were out of luck. For obvious reasons, that had to change. A lot of policies now include that even in the basic plans.
I have an annual policy through Allianz that I renew every year and thankfully that got an upgrade without me having to do anything. Here’s the official description from them of how Covid-19 illness contracted while traveling is covered now:
For plans that now include the new Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, your plan may now have epidemic-related covered reasons under some or all of the following benefits:
– Trip Cancellation, if for example, you must cancel your trip after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
– Trip Interruption, if for example during your trip you are specifically named and individually ordered to quarantine (not including generally or broadly applicable quarantines). See details here.
– Travel Delay, if for example you are denied boarding based on a suspicion that you are ill with an epidemic disease such as COVID-19.
– Emergency Medical Care, if for example you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and need to be hospitalized while traveling.
Emergency Transportation, if for example you’re diagnosed with an epidemic disease such as COVID-19 while you’re traveling and you require an emergency medical evacuation.
To see if your plan includes this endorsement, please look for “Epidemic Coverage Endorsement” on your Declarations of Coverage or Letter of Confirmation. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.
I think my chances of getting the virus are low at this point, but it gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing I’ve got some backup if the odds turn against me and I run into a problem while traveling.
There are all kinds of other exclusions though 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 last year 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, 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
This post is about the medical aspect of travel insurance since that’s what the people granting you entry want to see, 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. (In the case of Allianz, that’s anywhere at least 100 miles from where you live). 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 Air, 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.)
Make sure your travels are happy travels by being prepared when something goes wrong, plus you’ll be sure you can get into the country where you’re headed when they say, “Travel insurance mandatory.”
This post was sponsored by Al Centro Media advertising partner Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) from whom I have received financial compensation. I also use them as my travel insurance provider. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.