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Insurance forum

Travelling without an insurance - a warning!

Posted by Jleef on 19/3/2010 at 21:08

Far be it for me to suggest to people what they do with their money - there are many who feel that buying travel insurance is a waste of time, statistically, and I met several of them on my short period of travelling recently.

However, hopefully some of you will hear my story and think twice before going away without cover!

I'll give the short version as if people really want to read more detail they can do on the blog - link in my sig. Whilst on Ko Phangan I came down with acute appendicitis. After one thing and another, this resulted in two operations at a private hospital on Ko Samui, resulting in a whole months stay and a total bill which I estimate to be around 14000-15000 GBP, not including the repatriation costs on a business class flight. The original policy for 6 months of travel came to 225 GBP so I rate that as a sound investment.

I hope I don't sound self-righteous here but I'd like to advise those few of you who think that insurance is an unnecessary expense: you may think it's a waste of time and that it'll never happen to you, but I didn't think it'd happen to me either! Think twice before not bothering, your opinion may differ, but as far as I'm concerned travelling without insurance is one of the most actively careless things you could do.

Also, whilst I said I'm not here just to endorse my insurance company, I would have no qualms in recommending STA for any UK travellers. Their insurance service was faultless, as was their 24/7 medical telephone support and their efforts to get me home as soon as I was well enough to fly!

#1 Jleef has been a member since 6/7/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 36

Posted by somtam2000 on 20/3/2010 at 05:45 admin

wow -- glad to hear you're ok, and thanks for posting your experience both here and on your blog. I had my appendix out in Bangkok -- luckily for me there was no followup operation required!

So when is the return trip ;-)

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by swag on 20/3/2010 at 06:50

Hi JLeef, thanks for the report. Very sobering story. Glad to hear everything was sorted quickly for you. The issue of insurance brings up some interesting responses from people. Personally myself we never travel without insurance never will. I have also stopped renting scooters in Asia as I don't have a motorbike licence in my home country so would not be covered in the event of an accident. You only have to see the banged up people getting around the Thai islands to see there are quite a few scrapes and more serious accidents.

At my workplace there are a couple of guys who regularly travel to Thailand and never have insurance. I've given up trying to convince them of the value of probably $100 for 3 weeks travel.

My next door neighbours had a terrible situation last year. There 24yo son wanted to travel to SE Asia. Unfortunately he had a collapsed lung 9 months earlier. As this was under 12 months the insurance company would cover him for everything except any issue involving the right lung. So after buying the insurance off he went. Flight from Phuket to BKK you guessed it, his right lung collapsed again. Ambulance from airport to private hospital,2 operations,flight for famely member, 4 weeks stay in BKK,cost to parents $24,000.

In hindsight if he had waited 3 months would have been totally covered.

all the best

#3 swag has been a member since 28/3/2007. Location: Australia. Posts: 331

Posted by Lother on 21/3/2010 at 00:41

My travel insurance has also paid itself back many, many times over, mainly due to a 2-night stay at the Royal Angkor Hospital in Siem Reap (~ $ 1200).

One thing I do wonder about though, how come everyone's travel insurance seems to be so terribly expensive? I get pretty comprehensive coverage for all trips shorter than three months for around 45 € a year, and the prices at other insurance companies in my North European country of residence are pretty similar. This is for traveller insurance only but covers all medical expenses without limit with the usual limitations (for extreme sports etc). I don't insure my belongings. As I see people paying 100-200 $ for their insurance per trip, are the prices that different in other countries or is there something I'm missing?

#4 Lother has been a member since 12/5/2006. Location: Earth. Posts: 214

Posted by somsai on 21/3/2010 at 05:38

From #3 "The issue of insurance brings up some interesting responses". As far as I can tell I've never ranted about insurance here, have I?

And I won't as I think the owners and World Nomads are maybe buds.

But to give you an American outlook, because I'm self employed being sent back to the US on a medical flight could be a death knell. My regular insurer could just drop coverage as soon as I entered the country, so for me, I'd rather stay in SEAsia. I know many Americans feel more secure back home, I don't.

And a heads up, the US is the kind of place they warn you about. Intensive Care Unit can cost more than $25,000 a day easily, that might be an average, better have a million in coverage or you could find yourself pushed right the heck out on the walk.

#5 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by Archmichael on 21/3/2010 at 09:03


Like others above, I too would not travel without the insurance. This thread is the first time I've seen prices quoted for buying travel insurance in countries other than the US. When we went to Lao and northern Viet Nam last year, for a month, it cost us 40 USD each (full coverage, including, god forbid, medical evacuation). Next trip, 5.5 weeks in Cambodia and southern Viet Nam commencing December '10, it's costing us 75 USD each.

As much of an expense as that is up front, the cost of paying for medical care, etc., out of pocket while on the road would be a much greater burden.

My advice (which is worth what you're paying for it, of course): buy the insurance!

#6 Archmichael has been a member since 23/7/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 395

Posted by Archmichael on 21/3/2010 at 09:10

As another self-employed American, I second Somsai's post @ #5, especially the final paragraph.

Which is why we are having the Mother of All Debates in the US right now (set to come to a climax Sunday, 21 March) regarding comprehensive (if not universal) health care for the citizens of this crazy country.

But that's a topic for another thread.....somewhere else, probably.


#7 Archmichael has been a member since 23/7/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 395

Posted by exacto on 21/3/2010 at 10:02

We always buy travel insurance for our trips too. On this last trip, I paid $85 for 8 weeks in Thailand and Laos. That included a few additional bells and whistles, but what I really liked was the extensive medical coverage and emergency evac (both medical and civil unrest - a real bonus all things considered :-), which also included repatriation of remains. Compared to the cost of my air ticket, the travel insurance was a drop.

If I ever needed it, I'd actually prefer to stay in Thailand for my medical treatment too, since I've always had high quality and more personal attention from the medical staff there than anywhere else I've lived. I've got good medical insurance here, and sometimes I still work in medical appts when I'm in Bangkok because it is usually better and easier. Regards.

#8 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,840

Posted by CRASHT1224 on 21/3/2010 at 22:39

May I ask what company you guys used?
Ive been looking at World Nomads and got quoted $150 US for 2 months of travel..
What company offers a 2 month plan for $80?

#9 CRASHT1224 has been a member since 4/3/2010. Posts: 10

Posted by exacto on 22/3/2010 at 02:07

Hi CRASHT1224,

This last time I used a company called Travelsafe, but I've used different companies in the past as well. There are two things I usually do to help keep the cost lower. First is to accept a bit of a deductable on the medical coverage. Even something like a $100 co-pay (deductable) can save quite a bit on the policy premium fee. The other trick is that I am not insuring a high trip cost. For example, on this last trip, the only prepaid thing I had was my airfare, so I only insured for a trip value of $500 or maybe even a bit less. Insuring for a trip value of even just $1000 would have nearly doubled my premium. That may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for me. It means the value of my insurance for trip cancellation, delay, and stuff like that is very low, but since what I'm really after is medical coverage, that works well for me.

We also noticed that for most of the US-based insurance companies we checked, policy premiums for trips of under 30 days were quite cheap. My wife had a 28-day policy through AMEX with very good coverage, which even included a week of travel in the states, and paid something like $35.

The World Nomads coverage looked good too, but included higher limits and coverage for a few things we didn't think we needed, which is why we selected a different company. I've been lucky and haven't needed to file a claim, so I can't say how good the claims service is for the company we used. Hope that helps. Cheers.

#10 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,840

Posted by Archmichael on 22/3/2010 at 04:05

The insurance for our up-coming trip is with Travelsafe. It includes trip cancellation and delay, a very good array of medically-related coverages, and a variety of other things (such as baggage loss/delay, and so forth). 75 USD each.

#11 Archmichael has been a member since 23/7/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 395

Posted by somtam2000 on 22/3/2010 at 07:47 admin

Certainly worth shopping around for a policy that meets your needs.

Regarding the medical coverage, worth noting that given the standard of care available in Thailand, it would be unusual to be repatriated to the US or UK (as the OPs cases evidences) -- it is more useful when say in Cambodia and you'll be evacuated for better treatment in Singapore or Thailand.

somsai - welcome to rant -- I've met the guys behind World Nomads and they struck me as a pretty fair pair. As I've mentioned elsewhere on the site, when we travel we use World Nomads. They're not the cheapest, but fit our needs quite well.


#12 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by mattocmd on 22/3/2010 at 08:57

I met an Ozzy in Siem Reap who snapped his arm in half arm wrestling a police officer in Russia. Luckily he had (World Nomads) travel insurance...they flew him back to Ozzy business class and took care of everything.

I never travel without it..

#13 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 368

Posted by Archmichael on 22/3/2010 at 10:29

And what lessons should we take away from all this?

> Always buy travel insurance.
> Never arm wrestle a Russian policeman.


#14 Archmichael has been a member since 23/7/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 395

Posted by somsai on 22/3/2010 at 19:51

One lesson from the Russian arm wrestling story is that it matters who you get insurance from, things are never cut and dried. An insurance comapny makes money by denying claims but makes a good reputation by paying reasonable claims. If you're going to spring for insurance it probably pays to get one with a rep, not simply the lowest price.

Somtam might well have been wrestling with a policeman on his most recent trip, things happen, having the insurance there when you need it is a big deal.

Being part of a group helps too. By entering that discount code you are identifying what advertising brought you in and also placing yourself within a pool of future customers from that same source.

But it works both ways. No Fraud! More than once on these forums I've heard of people wanting to be airlifted out of Luang Prabang and into Hanoi cause the bus takes so long and flights are pricey. Meanwhile they were sampling the cuisine, and complaining of stomach ailments. Another lady was helicoptered out of an African "game drive safari" for a case of Dehli Belly, when weak tea, rice and imodium might well have worked. Don't scam. I'll bet insureres have interesting stories.

#15 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by CRASHT1224 on 22/3/2010 at 20:36

The trip price jumps to about double when I enter my ticket price from the states ($1000)
If I put in a lower price, would it void the policy? I suspect it would..

#16 CRASHT1224 has been a member since 4/3/2010. Posts: 10

Posted by UsTwo on 6/5/2010 at 12:03

Any advice for us considered too old to be travelling, by the Insurance companies?
I'll be 67 when I make my planned trip, and it seems I should instead be putting my slippers, and reading the paper in front of the fire!
I ain't that old yet.

#17 UsTwo has been a member since 22/4/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 72

Posted by CunningMcFar on 7/5/2010 at 08:14

for trip cancellation/interruption coverage, most policies want to know the portion of your tickets and other upfront trip costs that are non-refundable. If you purchased totally non-refundable tickets, then you would insure the entire ticket amount. Airlines will normally specify a cancellation fee for cancellations of purchased tickets, usually in the $100-200 range, this fee is the only portion of the ticket that is insured, as the rest is refundable and therefore not insurable for trip cancellation/interruption coverage.

#18 CunningMcFar has been a member since 20/8/2004. Posts: 163

Posted by samh90 on 31/5/2010 at 15:00

Just make sure your policy is comprehensive and that you answer everything correctly.
A friend of mine from uni has a cousin stuck in BKK with a rare medical problem ( i cant remember all the details) but basically the bill is expected to be tens, if not hundreds of thousands and his insurance wont pay out as he failed to declare he had asthma before he went.
To summarise, there's no point in taking out insurance if your going to omit any details, its as good as useless.

#19 samh90 has been a member since 13/5/2010. Posts: 9

Posted by somsai on 31/5/2010 at 23:56

Sounds pricey #19, coranary bypass at one of the most famous hospitals in BKK is under 30K.


The low price, high quality, and my comfort with being treated in Thailand all contribute to my lack of insurance.

#20 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by SometimesThai on 1/3/2011 at 05:41

I've used Southern Cross Travel Ins and have been really pleased. Costs me about $215 for 3 months. Made a claim last year no worries. Good overall coverage. Everything online including claim,

#21 SometimesThai has been a member since 1/3/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by Couderc on 27/5/2011 at 01:22

Hi all,

YES, if you are travelling to Cambodia or Laos you need insurance - particularly if you still have an appendix. My husband got appendicitis in the middle of Cambodia a few months ago. He had complications and I'm not sure we would have had the cash to cover the hospital costs as you can only get so much cash from an ATM per week. As it was, he could not leave the hospital before the insurance co. confirmed they would pay for everything (except the first € 100). Cambodian hospitals are cheap but it came to more than €1000 - quite a whack off the travel budget.
We bought the insurance with the plane ticket in France - GO insurance - definitely worth it.

#22 Couderc has been a member since 28/9/2009. Posts: 5

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