Travel medical insurance 2024: Your emergency coverage policy (2024)

Key points

  • Travel medical insurance pays for emergency medical expenses if you get sick or injured while on a trip.
  • This coverage is especially important if you are traveling outside of the country because your U.S. health insurance may provide little to no coverage abroad.
  • The average price for a travel medical insurance policy is about $100 for a 20-day trip.

More than a third (39%) of travelers who have traveled internationally in the past five years have experienced medical issues abroad, according to a GeoBlue survey of 2,086 Americans conducted by Harris Poll. When asked how they’d cover medical expenses if they got sick or injured while on an international trip, nearly half (46%) of all respondents expected their domestic health insurance would cover them abroad, but that is often not the case.

Travel medical insurance can help bridge a gap in health care coverage, especially when traveling outside the U.S.

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What is travel medical insurance?

If you get hurt or sick on a trip, travel medical insurance can help cover the cost of your emergency medical treatment. This coverage pays for ambulance services, doctor and hospital bills and prescription medicine.

Travel medical insurance is a health insurance policy that covers the cost of “reasonable and customary” emergency medical expenses that require treatment by a physician during a trip, up to your policy limit.

You can buy travel medical insurance as part of a comprehensive travel insurance plan or as a standalone policy.

How much travel medical insurance do you need?

Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, recommends buying at least $50,000 in emergency medical coverage for international travel. For travelers going on a cruise or to a remote destination, the site recommends at least $100,000 in coverage.

“The most common claims we see on our travel products, both consumer-purchased travel medical insurance and employer-sponsored business travel medical insurance, are for conditions like viral infections which has been particularly high in recent years because of COVID, pain (abdominal, chest, or joint), anxiety, diarrhea, rash or cough,” said Lynn Pina, chief marketing officer of GeoBlue. “These claims typically average around $435 USD.”

Pina added, “Less frequently we see claims for broken bones, cardiac arrest or stroke with costs averaging between $15,000 and $30,000, but could range as high as $300,000 or more.”

What does travel medical insurance cover?

Travel medical insurance typically covers the following if you need emergency medical treatment while on a trip:

  • Ambulance service.
  • Doctor and hospital bills.
  • Emergency medical expenses such as X-rays needed for a broken leg.
  • Emergency dental expenses.
  • Prescription medication.

Tip: The best travel insurance for COVID-19 offers generous coverage for medical treatment at your destination. It will even cover the cost — and handle the logistics — if you require medical evacuation to be treated for COVID.

Most travel medical insurance plans offer 24-hour emergency assistance. If sick or injured, you can call the helpline to facilitate emergency care and communicate with medical personnel about your condition. This is particularly helpful if you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language.

What does travel medical insurance not cover?

While exclusions vary by plan, most travel medical insurance policies will not cover emergency medical expenses related to:

  • Extreme sports, such as skydiving and bungee diving.
  • Intoxication and drug use.
  • Mental or psychological disorder.
  • Normal pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Preventative or elective care such as a teeth cleaning or fertility treatment.
  • Pre-existing conditions, except those waived under a pre-existing medical condition waiver.
  • Routine physical exams or dental care.
  • Self-harm.

Pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver

Most travel insurance plans exclude coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, but this exclusion might be waived if certain conditions are met.

To qualify for a pre-existing medical condition waiver, you typically need to buy your travel insurance policy within 14 to 30 days of making your first trip deposit. You are also usually required to insure the full nonrefundable cost of your trip, and be medically able to travel at the time of your departure.

If you meet the policy’s requirements, an illness or injury that happened before the effective date of your travel insurance policy will not automatically be excluded.

Some standalone travel medical insurance policies cover pre-existing conditions without a waiver.

Types of travel medical insurance

When buying travel medical insurance, pay attention to whether the emergency medical coverage is primary or secondary, to make sure your needs are being met.


Primary coverage

You file medical claims directly with your travel insurance company

Secondary coverage

You file medical claims with your primary health insurance provider first, even if you know they won’t be covered. If the claim is denied or does not cover all medical expenses, you can then file a claim with your travel insurance company


This plan covers only one trip


Also known as annual trip insurance, this policy covers all trips in a calendar year, as long as each trip does not exceed a certain number of days, usually between 30 and 90

Long-term travel

Also called long-stay or expatriate coverage, this provides international travel medical insurance for long-term stays abroad, generally longer than 90 days

Travel insurance vs. travel medical insurance

Travel insurance can include travel medical insurance and likewise, Pina said many travel medical plans also include trip interruption and lost luggage benefits.

“Travel insurance is designed to protect against the financial loss you’d experience should you need to cancel your trip or experience an interruption in your trip,” Pina explained. “These types of plans are commonly referred to as trip cancellation plans.”

“On the other hand, travel medical insurance is a health insurance policy that provides coverage for medical expenses should you need to seek care while traveling abroad,” said Pina. “GeoBlue consumer plans offer up to $1 million in coverage for less than $2 a day (subject to age and eligibility).”

Pina added, “If your prepaid trip costs for an international trip are for items that can be rescheduled, like airline tickets, consider a travel medical plan that provides coverage for medical expenses that will not be covered by your domestic health insurance.”

How to get travel medical insurance

You can typically buy a travel medical insurance policy up to the day before your trip.

To buy travel medical insurance, follow these steps.

  1. Decide how much coverage you want. The top-rated plans in our best travel insurance rating provide between $50,000 and $500,000 in emergency medical expense coverage.
  2. Choose a plan that meets your needs. Travel insurance comparison sites like Squaremouth allow you to enter details about your trip, then show you plan options from several companies. This is an easy way to compare prices and coverage options across several companies.
  3. Buy a policy. You can buy a policy online.
  4. Read your policy documents. Most travel insurance companies have a “free look” period, which allows you to return your policy for a full refund if you change your mind within that period. Take this time to read the details of your coverage and make sure it meets your needs.

Cost of travel medical insurance

The average cost of travel medical insurance is about $5 per day, according to data from Squaremouth. This average is based on policies purchased in 2023, for an average trip length of 20 days.

These policies do not include trip cancellation insurance. If you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage that includes both trip cancellation and emergency medical benefits, you can expect to pay about 5% to 6% of your nonrefundable trip expenses for travel insurance.

In addition to your trip cost, these factors can influence how much you’ll pay for travel insurance:

  • Your age and the age of your traveling companions.
  • Your ZIP code.
  • Your travel destination.
  • The length of your stay.
  • The travel insurance plan (and included coverage limits) you choose.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If you’re traveling abroad, taking a cruise or heading to a remote destination, travel medical insurance can provide financial protection in the event of a medical emergency, for an average cost of $5 per day.

Most domestic health insurance policies do not provide much, if any, coverage outside of the country, so it’s a good idea to supplement your U.S. health insurance with travel medical insurance when traveling abroad.

Senior travelers should be aware that Medicare is not generally accepted outside of the U.S.

Most travel insurance policies exclude coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, which are defined as any medical condition that has changed during the look-back period. A look-back period can be 60 to 180 days before you bought your travel insurance, depending on the policy.

You may qualify for a pre-existing medical conditions waiver if you meet certain conditions, which will be explained in your travel insurance policy documents. The conditions generally include buying your plan within a few weeks of making your first trip deposit and insuring the full value of your trip.

A pre-existing medical conditions waiver provides coverage for conditions that would otherwise be excluded. It is typically available at no extra cost.

Get the trip protection you need: What does travel insurance cover?

The average cost of travel medical insurance is $101 for a 20-day trip, or about $5 a day, according to 2023 sales data from Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site.

If you’re interested in a policy that includes other valuable benefits, such as trip cancellation insurance, more comprehensive travel insurance may be worth it to you, for an average cost of 5% to 6% of your total nonrefundable trip expenses.

Travel medical insurance 2024: Your emergency coverage policy (2024)


Does travel insurance cover emergency care? ›

Emergency medical coverage is automatically included on all comprehensive travel insurance plans. This emergency medical coverage can work in conjunction with your health insurance, or in place of it, to help reimburse the cost of emergency medical care while traveling.

How much emergency medical should I have for travel insurance? ›

How much travel medical insurance do you need? Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, recommends buying at least $50,000 in emergency medical coverage for international travel. For travelers going on a cruise or to a remote destination, the site recommends at least $100,000 in coverage.

What is the best medical insurance for international travel? ›

Based on our comprehensive review, the companies offering the best travel medical insurance are Faye, IMG, Travelex, AIG Travel Guard and Allianz. Travel medical insurance is a specialized type of coverage that helps pay for medical bills and emergency evacuations if you're hurt or become sick while traveling.

What is emergency evacuation travel insurance? ›

Medical evacuation insurance typically includes emergency transportation to a local medical facility, medical transport home if you're sick or injured while traveling abroad and repatriation of remains. You can buy it as a stand-alone policy or include it in a travel insurance policy.

What is not covered by travel insurance? ›

Reasonably foreseeable events. Known storms, epidemics, acts of war. Travel restrictions imposed by government authorities. Pre-existing conditions, unless the Premium plan is bought within the window for coverage.

What conditions are not covered by travel insurance? ›

Injuries or illnesses which occur during your trip are covered-unless they relate to a pre-existing injury or illness. However, some policies cover some pre-existing injuries or illnesses if you pay a higher premium. There may be exceptions to this such as terminal illnesses, mental disorders and heart conditions.

Is $250,000 enough for medical travel insurance? ›

If you read any of our other articles, you'll remember that we always offer a simple recommendation for Medical Insurance. Overseas travelers should have these minimum levels of protection: Medical Insurance Coverage - $100,000. Medical Evacuation Coverage - $250,000.

What is the average cost of travel medical insurance? ›

The average cost of a standard travel insurance policy is $221, according to research conducted by the MarketWatch Guides team. However, the destination, number of travelers, trip price and more can affect the exact cost of a policy.

Can I just get medical travel insurance? ›

This type of insurance can be provided by the benefits of certain premium travel credit cards, but the coverages can be both limiting and low in value. Emergency medical coverage is included within some comprehensive travel insurance policies but can also be purchased on its own.

What is the difference between travel insurance and medical travel insurance? ›

International health insurance is designed to provide a comprehensive level of health care to those relocating from their home country for a sustained period of time, whereas travel insurance provides cover for emergency treatment while you are in another country for a shorter space of time.

Is medical evacuation insurance worth it? ›

If you're visiting an area with limited medical services, medical evacuation coverage could also include transportation home or to an international hospital with sufficient resources to treat your condition. Medical evacuation coverage is worth considering if you're traveling abroad without sufficient health insurance.

Do I need an emergency evacuation plan? ›

It is a legal requirement that all workplaces have an emergency plan. No one can predict when an emergency is going to take place. Emergency situations may arise due to a fire, explosion, chemical spill, medical emergency, natural disaster, bomb threat or violence.

Is Allianz good travel insurance? ›

Allianz is a popular choice among business travelers due to its AllTrips Executive travel insurance policy with coverage for lost, stolen or damaged business equipment and rental car insurance. Earning 4.1 out of 5 stars, our expert reviewers think Allianz is a great choice for international travel insurance.

What happens if you have a medical emergency abroad? ›

The nearest US embassy or consulate can help travelers locate medical services and notify your friends, family, or employer of an emergency. They are available for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, DC (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444).

Does travel insurance cover hospitalization? ›

Some airlines and tour companies will allow cancellations outside of an insurance policy. Additionally, travel policies with medical coverage may cover any illnesses or hospitalizations that occur during a trip, but you need to review your policy to see if your policy is one of them.

Does travel insurance cover medical evacuation? ›

Most travel medical policies will cover medical evacuation to the “nearest acceptable facility”, but that's likely where you'll stay until you are well enough to be repatriated home by commercial airline. Getting home for further treatment and recovery, to a hospital of your choice, is typically not covered.

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