The Best International Travel Insurance
How We Found the Best International Travel Insurance
15 Hours of Research
22 Providers Evaluated
4 Top Picks
The Best International Travel Insurance
When planning a trip abroad, finding the best international travel insurance is as important as booking the perfect hotel. Since U.S. insurance rarely travels out of the country with you, you’ll want to find a policy with substantial medical coverage to get you through any emergency, along with travel insurance basics like reimbursement for lost baggage and trip cancellation.
If you’re taking a trip with kids, we recommend the Travelex Select plan, which covers kids under 18 at no additional cost. They just have to be traveling an adult family member (not exclusively a parent). In addition to that nice perk, Travelex provides comprehensive coverage at every level and reimbursement for 100% of the trip cost if you have to unexpectedly cancel.
If you're not traveling with kids, all three of John Hancock’s plans had what we were looking for in an international travel insurance policy: generous coverage limits in even its cheapest plans, plenty of optional add-ons, and the best customer service of any provider we tested. The only downside is that kids aren’t included for free, so it’s a better choice for solo travelers or couples.
For more unique types of trips, look into IMG and Allianz. IMG’s iTravelInsured LX plan has coverage targeted towards very specific travelers: adventurers going to remote and hard-to-reach locations. It includes $1 million in emergency evacuation, along with $10K for search and rescue and $50K for non-emergency evacuation, enough for just about any situation. With its coverage of trips up to 365 days in length — most companies topped out around three months — we liked Allianz’s Classic Plan with Trip+ best for those spending a semester (or two) abroad.
How We Chose the Best International Travel Insurance
We began our search with a list of companies that sell international travel insurance policies nationwide, leaving off companies like InsureMyTrip and Squaremouth that act as quote comparison tools rather than providers. We required that they offer coverage in five major areas, all of them essential for any international trip:
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption: Reimburses you for pre-paid trip costs like flights, hotels, and rental cars if you have to cancel your trip for a covered reason.
- Emergency Medical Care: Since most U.S. insurance policies don’t travel out of the country with you, emergency medical care covers everything from a chipped tooth to a sprained ankle.
- Medical Evacuation & Repatriation: Pays for an emergency evacuation to a local hospital or a medically staffed flight back home if necessary. Evacuation costs aren’t included in medical expenses, so even if your primary insurance covers you abroad, you’ll still need evacuation coverage.
- Baggage/Personal Item Loss and Delay: Provides reimbursement for any lost, stolen, or damaged property on your trip. If your flight is delayed, some policies will pay for essentials like clothing and toiletry to hold you over.
- 24/7 Worldwide Assistance: Provides a wide range of services like help with lost documents, filing claims, and medical emergencies before and during trips.
In all, that left us with 22 companies that met our criteria. From there, we evaluated their financial health.
We looked for strong financial ratings from A.M. Best.
There’s nothing more important in an insurance company than their ability to pay out a claim. As Ian Ford, founder and CEO of Undercover Tourist explained it, “The one thing about this business is that it’s based on good faith. When I make that claim, I want to know that they’re still going to be in business.” It’s the foundation of any strong insurance policy, and we only wanted to consider the strongest.
So, we required an “A” rating from A.M. Best, an agency which awards financial strengths scores to insurance companies. A stamp of approval from this company means you can count on these companies to pay out a claim of any size.
We made sure our providers’ limits could cover a worst-case scenario.
Since most U.S. insurance providers don’t travel with you outside of the U.S., we looked for policies that had enough coverage to cover any emergency situation. As Stan Sandberg, Co-Founder of TravelInsurance.com, told us, “The single most important thing travelers need to think about when traveling, and in particular traveling internationally, is whether their existing health insurance covers them when traveling.”
Yvette McQueen MD, an emergency physician specializing in travel wellness, agreed, reiterating, “Medical travel insurance should always be purchased for international trips outside of the United States and territories. Life happens and most international hospitals will not take U.S. medical insurance.”
How much medical coverage you need depends on a lot of factors: who’s using it, where are they traveling, how long their trip is. After all, a vacation in the Caribbean shouldn’t require the same coverage as a ski trip in the Alps. Still, our experts emphasized again and again that this is the most critical part of international travel insurance coverage because the costs can get out of control quickly when you’re paying out of pocket.
The best needed to cover at least $50,000 in emergency medical costs.
Most agreed that $50K was a good minimum to look for, as it would cover about a week in the hospital. “We find that for most types of travel $50K in medical seems to be the sweet spot,” Stan Sandberg told us. Dr. Wasim Mohideen, Director of Techmed Healthcare and Basil Wellness, agreed, “If you are young and healthy, this should be more than sufficient.”
Medical evacuation can be even more costly, so we set the bar at $100,000.
If you need to be airlifted to the nearest hospital, or even flown back to the U.S. on a medically staffed flight, costs can get prohibitive fast. Yvette McQueen MD advised looking for a policy that doubled our medical coverage, saying, “For medical evacuation, I recommend at least $100K value. Most medical evacuation flights start at $50K and it needs to cover personnel and supplies.” Travelex estimates the average cost of a medical evacuation within North America to be around $25K, going up to $50K if you’re coming from Europe. To make sure you’d be good almost anywhere in the world — some remote locations warrant even more coverage — we opted for $100K as our minimum.
Like with medical expenses, you might want to opt for even more coverage for certain types of trips. “If you’re going to a remote part of the Himalayas or deep into the Amazon, you would err on the side of a higher coverage limit because an evacuation is likely to be more expensive than if you were going to the Caribbean or staying domestically,” Stan Sandberg told us. “You have to take into consideration the type of travel, the destination, and what your personal considerations are.”
Finally, we made sure all the companies we were considering provided primary insurance coverage rather than secondary.
Primary insurance essentially replaces your U.S. insurance while you’re traveling. The advantages to this come through in both convenience and breadth of coverage. With secondary insurance, you’d have to file a claim with your U.S. insurance first, wait for them to reject it, then file it with your travel insurance company. Buying primary travel insurance right off the bat cuts out an enormous amount of time and paperwork. And in the rare cases that your U.S. insurance will cover you abroad, you won’t have to worry about meeting multiple deductibles, and the claims won’t apply to your U.S. policy’s annual or lifetime limits.
Stan Sandberg recommended primary coverage for all international trips, saying, “I’ve traveled enough times to know that I’d rather deal with one claim process that’s efficient and fast than to have to go through my completely backwards health insurance plan.” In the interest of saving time and headaches, we cut out any companies that didn’t offer primary medical insurance policies.
We looked for providers that went the extra mile in their coverage.
Even after making sure they had all the core coverages we were looking for, policies still varied greatly between our remaining contenders. To see how they stacked up in some of the finer details, we pored through each company’s policies and graded them on the amount of add-ons available and the breadth of coverage in their core plans.
We gave the highest priority to plans with “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrades, which reimburse you for a portion of your trip costs (usually 75%) if you need to cancel because of something that’s not explicitly covered under your policy. In other words, if there’s a sudden family emergency or your kids get sick right before you’re supposed to leave, you can still recoup most of your expenses.
After that, we looked for policies that offered the most options for customization. We looked for plans that included optional medical coverage for “extreme” activities like mountain climbing or heli-skiing, which aren’t typically included in most international travel insurance policies. We also preferred policies that included kids for free at no additional cost. Finally, we took a closer look at what it would take for coverages to actually kick in. After all, a generous travel delay budget doesn’t mean much if you have to wait ten hours for it. We also took into consideration dollar limits in those coverage areas, giving more points to the more generous policies.
There were a few big names that scored surprisingly low in this round. Berkshire Hathaway, for example, had some of the most bare bones insurance we saw, with very few optional add-ons and low coverage limits for things like missed connections and lost baggage. We also cut out Trawick International for policies like requiring that your flight be delayed for a full 12 hours before it pays for things like food and a hotel room.
Finally, we graded our remaining contenders on their customer service.
After learning the ins and outs of each company’s policies, we wanted to know what it would feel like to actually use them. Unfortunately, our bosses wouldn’t agree to send us to Europe — something about insurance fraud — so we had to settle for calling and emailing each company instead.
If you’re ever in a situation where you need to use your international travel insurance, you’re likely in a pretty stressed out frame of mind. We were looking for agents that would be knowledgeable, friendly, and patient with us throughout that process.
The good news is that every company was easy to get a hold of on the phone and responded to our emails in a timely manner. However, the quality of their responses did have a lot of variance. Travelex and John Hancock stood out as the best in class: It was clear that its agents had actual experience handling claims, and they were unwavering in their kindness (and patience) when answering our long list of hypothetical questions.
Others, like AXA and Allianz, seemed to just be reading policy details straight from the website when we asked them specific questions. We got the feeling that its reps weren’t as concerned with helping us understand their insurance as they were with making a sale, pressing us for the details of our trip before we could even ask them anything. We did appreciate how Allianz was the only company with a mobile app, but the prospect of relying on its customer service in an emergency made us feel a little uneasy.
We also eliminated TripAssure because we simply couldn’t find an email address anywhere on its site. While the company does promote all its social media accounts, we’d prefer not to tweet our travel insurance provider with questions about its pre-existing condition policy.
All things considered, the companies that offered the best coverage also had the best customer service, bolstering our confidence in them.
It’s a good idea to compare quotes from a several providers.
There are a lot of factors that go into your international travel insurance premiums: your age, the length of your trip, where you’re going, what state you live in, what coverage limits you’re comfortable with.
The bottom line: Premiums are going to change for every trip; there’s no one provider that’s going to always have the best prices.
One company might have the best plan for your cruise to Alaska, while another might be better for your backpack through Iceland. In most cases, you should expect to budget about 4–10% of your total trip costs on travel insurance. It’s always a good idea to compare quotes from several companies to make sure you’re finding the coverage that’s right for your trip. You can get a quote in a few minutes on each company’s website, or on comparison sites like Squaremouth.
Our Picks for the Best International Travel Insurance
Along with Allianz Classic Plan, Travelex was the only company we looked at that includes kids under 18 on its policy for free. It’s only available on the more expensive Select plan, but it’s worth the upgrade if you’re booking a trip for the whole family.
Travelex has everything we were looking for in its base international travel insurance coverage: $50K for medical expenses, $500K for emergency evacuation, and reimbursement for 100% of the trip cost up to $50,000 if its cancelled for an approved reason. The company also offers coverage across the board for the more minor areas: Trip delays, missed connections, and lost baggage are all included with generous limits.
Aside from those core features, Travelex has a ton of customizable upgrades that allow you to increase your coverage limits at nearly every level. Want a little more peace of mind? You can easily double both your medical and evacuation limits. Going on a rock climbing tour of South America? Travelex has an adventure sports package for just that. Most importantly, it offers a “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrade that covers 75% of your total trip costs (as long as you purchase your policy within 21 days of your initial trip deposit).
Travelex’s customer service is on point, too. Our emails were answered within about four hours, and it only took a minute or two to get through to an actual person on the phone. The reps we spoke to had an impressive knowledge of their policies, the differences between them, and which one would be right for all the hypothetical trips we threw at them.
If you’re not traveling with kids, John Hancock’s plans have coverage that’s as comprehensive as anything we looked at. And if you end up needing to file a claim, John Hancock’s customer service agents were the most knowledgeable and friendly of any we spoke with.
John Hancock’s cheapest option, the Bronze plan, reimburses you for $50K in medical (the same as Allianz’s highest level plan), $250K in emergency evacuation, and 100% of the trip cost if you’re forced to cancel for an approved reason.
Aside from those key areas, we were impressed by its coverage for things like lost baggage and missed connections. Where a lot of companies observe stingy requirements before they pay out on those things, John Hancock was reasonable at every turn. For example, you can get reimbursed for expenses like food and hotels after only three hours of a delay, where providers like Trawick International only covered this benefit if you’re delayed 12 hours or more.
After its impressive benefit limits, John Hancock stands out for its excellent customer service department. Our emails and phone calls were answered within seconds every time, and we were connected with someone who clearly knew what they were talking about. We never felt like John Hancock’s agents were pushing us towards a sale or reading off a script; every rep we spoke with seemed genuinely invested in helping us find the right policy for our trip. If we had to choose one travel insurance company to call in an emergency, John Hancock would be it.
The only bone we could find to pick with John Hancock is that it's the only one of our picks that doesn’t cover kids for free — they’ll be treated as additional travelers subject to their own premiums. But if you’re traveling solo or with other adults, this is a great place to start looking.
While we would opt for Travelex or John Hancock for most international travelers, IMG did stand out for one specific type of trip. If you’re going on an adventure to an exotic and far-flung location, IMG’s iTravelInsured LX plan beefs up conventional travel insurance in a few important categories.
The more difficult it is to get to a destination, the more coverage you’re going to want once you’re there. We loved how the iTravelInsured LX plan targets its policy specifically towards those types of excursions. It starts with hefty limits at its core levels of coverage: $500K in medical expenses and $1 million in emergency evacuation, well above the other plans we looked at. Whether you’re taking a trek through the Patagonia or kayaking around Alaska, this is enough to get you through any emergency situation.
But where the iTravelInsured LX plan really sets itself apart is in its reimbursement for other evacuation scenarios. It includes $10K for search and rescue (essential for backpackers and other wilderness explorers) and another $50K for non-emergency evacuation. Because those events aren’t typically covered under emergency evacuations (reserved for things like medically staffed flights home), finding a policy that covers them is essential for anyone going into remote territory. We also loved how IMG doesn’t exclude any extreme sports or activities, so you’ll be in the clear no matter what kind of thrill you’re seeking.
There were a couple details in the fine print that we weren’t crazy about. For one, pre-existing conditions are covered, but only if you buy your insurance policy within 24 hours of your final trip payment. That was much more stringent than we saw with other providers — two or three weeks from the first trip payment seemed to be the norm. It’s an annoying feature, but as long as you’re aware of it when you buy, it shouldn’t be a huge issue. IMG also places a trip duration limit of 90 days, a number that was at the shorter end of companies we saw.
If you’re a recent grad taking a backpacking trip around the world or a college student studying abroad, Allianz’s Classic Plan with Trip+ is uniquely tailored to fit your trip: Policyholders can purchase coverage for trips up to a year long, with the basic benefits you’d need for most situations.
The Classic Plan with Trip+ met all of our minimum requirements: $1 million in evacuation, $50K in medical, and a waiver for pre-existing conditions within 14 days of your initial trip deposit. We were also impressed that it covers kids under 18 for free, although we still preferred Travelex for families because of its multitude of customization options.
That was our biggest issue with Allianz: Its policy is pretty cut and dry, without many add-ons available to tailor your coverage to your trip. The company does have a number of other plans, but the Classic Plan with Trip+ was the only one that met all of our minimum coverage requirements. There’s no “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrade, no raising your coverage amounts, no extreme sports additions.
We also had one of our worst experiences with Allianz’s customer service. It wasn’t a nightmare by any means — everyone was perfectly pleasant — but the reps didn’t seem to know much more about their policies than we did. We could see how it might get frustrating if you had to figure out an arcane policy detail in the middle of a nerve-racking situation overseas.
Ultimately, we’d only recommend Allianz for people who are taking extended trips longer than a few months. We did have our reservations about some of the smaller details, but its most important coverages are substantial enough for almost any emergency situation. And with an A+ rating from A.M. Best, you can feel confident that any claim you make will be paid out in a timely manner.
International Travel Insurance Policy 101
The bulk of your premium costs will be based on factors out of your control — age, trip location, where you live, how long you’ll be gone — but there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not adding any unnecessary expenses to your budget.
It's best to purchase your policy soon after your first trip payment.
Travel insurance companies offer a number of incentives for purchasing your policy at the same time as your plane tickets, hotel rooms, and other trip expenses. Three of the most time-sensitive coverages are pre-existing conditions waivers, Cancel for Any Reason upgrades, and Cancel for Work Reasons upgrades.
Without a waiver for pre-existing conditions, you could end up footing the bill for any expenses related to your previous medical history. Most companies provide a pretty reasonable window in which pre-existing conditions are waived — you usually have around two or three weeks from the initial trip deposit to purchase insurance — but some are a little stingier. IMG, for example, requires that you buy your policy within 24 hours of your final trip payment to use the pre-existing conditions waiver.
The Cancel for Any Reason and Cancel for Work Reasons upgrades aren’t as critical for most people, but if you plan on purchasing them, you’ll want to make sure you do it as close to your first trip payment as possible. Like the pre-existing conditions waiver, you generally have about two or three weeks from your first deposit.
Check your current insurance and credit cards to see if you already have coverage in some areas.
A lot of international travel insurance policies promote upgrades for areas that you might already have coverage for. Things like lost property, rental car collisions, identity theft, and accidental death are features of a comprehensive policy, yet there’s often overlap with your existing insurance. For example, most homeowners and renters policies cover your property anywhere in the world, and many credit cards have rental car damage waivers that travel internationally. It’s worth double-checking your current insurance to make sure you don’t end up paying for the same coverage twice.
Your destination country won’t affect premiums as much as you think.
It’s a common misconception that where you’re travelling will have a significant impact on the cost of your travel insurance policy. In reality, the bigger factor is whether or not you’re going out of the country. International travel insurance is almost always more expensive than domestic, but whether you’re going to Sweden or Chile won’t make a huge difference. The major exception is if you’re planning a visit to a country with a travel advisory in effect. Most insurance providers won’t cover a trip to a nation with an “Avoid all travel” status from the State Department (currently Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen).
Heads up: Travel insurance won't cover trips booked with frequent flyer miles.
Since there’s no dollar value attached to these points, travel insurance providers don’t count them as insurable expenses. If you want to purchase insurance for a trip you’re taking with free miles, flights and hotel rooms book with those points won’t be considered a part of your policy. You will be able to insure any taxes or fees associated with those rewards, but that’s generally a small fraction of their overall value.