We've scoured the inter-webs and struggled to find a proper, detailed, side-by-side comparison of the major differences between these providers and have thus attempted to create exactly that. Hopefully, to make your decision a bit easier in the process.
UPDATE - November 2020:
SafetyWing recently launched a new product called Remote Health (Nomads). They describe it as "a comprehensive health insurance for traveling nomads and remote workers AND also for people who still stay in one spot as expats or are in their home country". This might just be the one we've been waiting for as a lot of 'ex-pat' type health products still do not provide proper cover for nomads. We'll be doing a write-up shortly of what this new nomad insurance offers and will compare it to what we currently use (Regency for Expats) - yes, that has also changed since we first wrote this article
Firstly - we have been with World Nomads for two years running now but during our last renewal cycle, we seriously considered SafetyWing's offer - primarily due to the great price structure well as the convenience of a month to month cover. In the end, we decided to stick with World Nomads (for now) after making our comparisons - you will find our reasons for this lower down.
In a related post you can find a write-up on a podcast we released on the topic of travel insurance where we speak more broadly about what you should consider when you need travel insurance - regardless whether you travel full-time or just go on a holiday. The post with a link to the podcast is available here: https://www.wewillnomad.com/post/travel-and-health-insurance
OVERVIEW OF INSURANCE FOR TRAVELLERS
The logistics that come with starting a nomad lifestyle can be overwhelming and might even surprise you with its complexity. Whether you want to live in a cheaper location to work, or just travel for a set period of time, you will find travel and medical insurance to be one of the primary challenges to your new life.
Although there are many factors to consider surrounding your specific circumstances and how to best decide on your cover, it doesn't mean getting there is an insurmountable task. Our aim with this post is to help you understand what options are available to long-term travellers and make sure your expectations are rooted in reality.
A majority of long-term travellers we know, or have met, either use World Nomads or SafetyWing. Keep in mind that some travellers might qualify for cover under their government healthcare system in their home country, however, for the sake of this comparison, we assume that you don't have any government-provided system in place.
By reading this post you agree that the author (s) of this post and owners of this site are not liable for any misinformation, outdated information, or harm of any kind that comes to you as a result of reading it. This comparison was written to the best of our knowledge and understanding but unintended mistakes or changes to insurance policies and the availability thereof are inevitable. Please use the information herein at your own risk and discretion as it is not intended as medical or financial advice and provided for editorial purposes only.
We are not paid to endorse any insurance over another (although we are an affiliate for both World Nomads and SafetyWing), we are in no way partial to your choice. You should consider your individual needs and risk profile - what will work for you may not work for everyone and we do do not endorse or recommend any specific provider or product over any other.
HOW TO GET THE INSURANCE YOU NEED
If you’re in the market to get nomad insurance, the best way to get started is to go through the process of getting a quote - without necessarily committing. This will give you a brief overview of the cover provided and you can compare prices to a degree. Note that very few products are EXACTLY alike and you should take care to identify the key differences between offerings and how this might impact the suitability of the product to your needs.
Once you have a basic understanding of the policy you should locate the latest policy document and familiarise yourself carefully with its content. If need be, contact Customer Service and ask questions! Remember that nobody is your friend in this and at the end of the day YOU will have to make a fully informed choice.
There’s little room for any benefit of doubt when it comes to making claims. Most providers will be honest, but ruthlessly legalistic. Don’t take anything on faith and be diligent in studying the details of a policy. Providers are in the business for profit and it will be up to you to comply with the letter of the agreement. Whatever you do, keep the information you provide concise and to the point - don't tell elaborate stories. There's always a risk of a failed claim due to providing too much unnecessary fluff at some point and even if you do everything right it still doesn’t mean you won’t trip up a claim on a silly technicality!
Make sure you scour the Internet for reputable reviews on all providers you are interested in. Perhaps, this will trigger a question you may not have thought of asking! However, remember that reviewers might be disgruntled travellers who did not understand their obligation to the agreement they entered into or the limits of the cover they thought they had enjoyed.
If you think your travel insurance policy will offer complete protection for your trip, you might want to take another look. Travel insurance rarely covers everything. Truth be told, it might not cover anything.
The list of exclusions might be longer than the included items. Don't wait until the last minute to review your policy. By then, it may be too late.
ALWAYS HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
You should almost ALWAYS expect to pay for travel-related expenses you’re covered for out of pocket, first. Insurance companies usually require some form of paper trail and if your bag gets damaged or your camera was stolen, you might be on your own - for a while. Be prepared for this by having a healthy emergency fund to deal with unexpected issues - which could take some time to resolve.
Most negative reviews or complaints are because policyholders believe they are entitled to immediate restitution and do not understand or accept that there might be a procedure in place. Claims take time to process and it might take weeks before you get your money back! Expect the worst and always expect a delay. In this way, you will manage your expectations and in the process might just end up being surprised.
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR IN YOUR POLICY
When we compare products, we like to create a side by side spreadsheet to make it easy to spot the obvious differences. Below are some of the details you should take note of from the policy document (preferably BEFORE you sign up!).
1. What will my deductible (excess payment) be for health-related claims? Is it different for different items? For example emergency dental work vs in-hospital surgery. How about treating minor injuries at an emergency room? Are these procedures even included in the cover?
2. Are my luggage or valuables only covered for theft or also for loss or damage? How do I prove it was stolen? Must I witness the crime taking place? What would the requirements be for making a claim in such a case?
3. Are there limits on individual items? Are there annual limits on claims for certain items or categories?
4. What are the deductibles for electronic gear or valuables? What might be grounds for not being covered?
5. How long will it take to be reimbursed on claims?
6. Are certain activities excluded from cover? What about riding a rented scooter or rock climbing?
7. What happens if I'm caught up in a natural disaster and require emergency extraction? How does the policy relate to a government-supplied healthcare plan?
Part of the problem is that consumers don't understand how insurance works and they don't put in the required effort to understand what they will be covered for when signing up. Most travel insurance products are of the "named perils" variety, which is to say it covers ONLY what is specifically named in the policy. However, insurance companies often tend to "oversell" the benefits when they promote their policies. The truth is that travel insurance only protects what the fine print SAYS it protects.
All of which brings us to the biggest mistake travellers make when they buy insurance. They get the timing wrong. The time to think about insurance is BEFORE you book your trip.
INSURANCE TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW
This may seem obvious at first, but it is an important point to clarify upfront for the purpose of further discussions.
Health Insurance may be state or government-provided or it could be a private product which you elect to make use of. However, while outside of your home country you may not be covered because you’re outside of your home country for a particular period of time.
Health Insurance products MAY or MAY NOT include the following cover, depending on how comprehensive the product itself is:
- Medical emergency situations and injury due to accidents
- Hospitalisation and medical procedures
- Day to day medical treatment
- Chronic and dread disease treatment
- Health check-ups and preventative screenings
TRAVEL INSURANCE is for when something goes wrong with your travel plans or your trip as a whole.
A TRAVEL INSURANCE Product will FIRSTLY AND FOREMOST provide cover for:
- Emergency medical treatment (and possibly emergency dental) for your travel duration.
This type of insurance product is often provided automatically and at no charge by many establishments such as your credit card facility or even a travel agent. It is however very often limited to only limited emergency medical treatment for your travel duration and might not actually include any other travel-related risks which you may think are included! This form of cover is also usually limited to a certain maximum travel duration (usually varying from 30 - 90 days) and may only be applicable if your trip is a return trip from and to your home country and the flight tickets have been purchased through the particular establishment. As you can see, there are many limits and requirement to qualify for this cover, but it is usually available at no additional costs should you be aware of the conditions and adhere to them accordingly.
A TRAVEL INSURANCE Product will SECONDLY, include SOME or ALL of the coverage mentioned below, depending on how comprehensive the product itself is:
- Trip cancellation
- Trip interruption
- Missed/delayed flights
- Lost baggage / Stolen baggage / personal items
- Emergency evacuation / repatriation
- Personal liability cover
Personal liability cover is one of the things that we often tend to forget about, yet in our opinion, this is one of the most important forms of insurance cover! You may already have some form of personal liability cover through various other insurance products, so just remember to check what you already have and not just forget about this one, it may have a low chance of being required, but the consequences of not having the necessary cover could be devastating.
DEDUCTIBLE / EXCESS
An insurance deductible is an amount you pay for services or losses BEFORE your insurance provider starts to pick up the tab. For example, with a $250 deductible, you will pay the first $250 of any covered services or losses yourself. After you pay your deductible, your coverage might be the book value of the item in question (perhaps with a per-item limit).
WORLD NOMADS vs SAFETYWING
If you’ve done your research, you will know that World Nomads and SafetyWing are the two most popular nomad travel medical insurance options that a majority of digital nomads talk about, refer to, and endorse.
World Nomads and SafetyWing are available to people from hundreds of countries. They partner with the most competitive insurance companies in various parts of the world to provide the best possible coverage for a fraction of what it would typically cost.
Let's have a look at WHY you should consider World Nomads and SafetyWing and why we are using them in this comparison.
They both offer:
One major aspect that makes these providers stand out is that you are able to sign up for insurance from the road, even after you’ve started travelling. The signup process is completely online and quick and as convenient as you generally can hope for.
Although there is no 'maximum cover term' there might be some limitations in renewal and extensions.
With World Nomads you cannot extend your insurance period after the issue date. However, you can purchase another insurance policy to cover an additional insurance period with no waiting period as long as the current insurance period has not ended and the new insurance period has a commencement date that immediately follows the end date of the current insurance period.
With SafetyWing you can automatically renew every 28 days up to 364 days, where after you will be requested to renew or cancel the coverage.
Although there is plenty of overlap between these two insurance providers there are also some differences you should be aware of (To download a PDF of the below table click here):
BEFORE you purchase your travel medical insurance policy please check the details and do not blindly accept the above comparison as some of these details related to your coverage may have changed!
We've personally only used World Nomads travel medical insurance as a provider (Explorer Plan) and fortunately have as yet not had any need for a claim. However, close friends and fellow nomads have provided plenty of personal feedback regarding their claim experiences.
Our current needs dictate our current choice and as we both have elderly parents there's a greater risk for trip interruption/resumption for which World Nomads offer better cover - albeit at a higher premium. There is also better cover for protection of stolen or damaged personal items at this time.
In either case, both nomad travel medical insurance companies deliver great value for the cost of their coverage and will continue to grow and improve.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to make the leap into nomadic life without proper insurance and a stash of emergency money. We’re all constantly at risk, we all have others who rely on and love us, and we have to take the necessary precautions for those worse case scenarios. Because things can fall apart pretty quickly.