How to Choose Travel Insurance – The 3 Best & Cheapest + 2 Free Options

Helicopter Rescue

Why should you have travel insurance during your trips?

Good travel insurance is really important, especially if you travel like I do and do activities where the chance of getting hurt are high and the medical expenses they might cause are enormous. During my trips, I’m always hiking on mountains, climbing things, jumping here, throwing myself over there, swimming where I shouldn’t, diving ….basically doing everything that I consider part of a perfect trip!!

Imagine if you’re snowboarding in Switzerland without travel insurance, get hurt in the middle of the mountain, and have to be evacuated by helicopter. The medical bill you will receive, while still in the hospital bed, is going to be so big that you will have to stay longer at the hospital to treat the cardiac arrest you’ll get after looking at all those zeros.

I’ve lost count of how many backpackers I met during my trips who had a giant scars on their legs… it is the famous Thai Tattoo!! Basically, this happens when someone was drunk while riding a motorcycle in Thailand and ended up falling or burning himself on the exhaust pipe. Do you really want to go to a public hospital in the middle of Bangkok?!?! With travel insurance, you can go to a private hospital where they will probably l take much better care of you. 


But do I really need international travel insurance? I don’t usually do any extreme activities or sports!

Death Road BoliviaYou can even say: “I’m going for a shopping trip to Miami so I don’t need travel insurance.” Remember that there is always the risk of being run over by a car, something falling on you head, or just getting sick during your trip. Using the American health system (and many others) without personal health insurance is often asking for personal bankruptcy alongside other things that can happen in any trip like loss of luggage, cancelled flights, etc…

Moreover, if you are not European and have bad luck while entering Europe, the immigration officer may ask you if you have a travel insurance which is mandatory for tourists traveling to the Schengen area (the European Union plus Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland). If you don’t have it, he can legally refuse your entrance into Europe!

Keep in mind that the minimum travel insurance coverage for the Schengen area is 30,000 Euros (around 32,600 USD).

And remember, travel insurance is not only related to health problems. Depending on the plan you may have, it can cover lost luggage, flight delays, bad weather, and even your evacuation from a country if civil unrest breaks out. 


What are the best travel insurances on the market?

Well, this will depend mostly on where are you from and what kind of coverage you want for your trip. If you research travel insurance online you should be able to find a lot of options.

However, I have already researched A LOT and have done a lot of travel insurance comparison and I always end up with the 3 online options that follow: 


    1.  The cheapest travel insurance on the market!!


HCC Medical Insurance Services (Atlas Travel)Travel Insurance


Seriously, if you can find a cheaper travel insurance than this one, which works for citizens from all over the world, please let me know. As I have not found anything cheaper, I like to use HCC Medical (Atlas Travel) when I’m traveling to a “safe” place where I’ll be visiting mostly cities, such as United States or Europe, and I know I won’t be doing anything crazy. To be honest, I’ve thankfully never had to actually use any travel insurance so I’m not sure how the compensation services works. But I searched for travel insurance reviews about HCC Medical (Atlas Travel) and it looks like it worked fine for others who did have to use it. It’s really a great option if you are looking for cheap travel insurance or, is traveling on a tight budget.  

As I mentioned before, it is an international travel insurance that accepts citizens from all over the world, with a few exceptions. Since it is cheaper than others, however, it may not cover all types of extreme activities. So, if you want to buy it, just make sure it covers the activities you intend to do as well as your nationality. It’s suitable for trips of any lengths ranging from someone’s round-the-world backpacking trip to a student on a short exchange study or an annual travel insurance for long holidays.

You can also buy travel insurance with HCC Medical if you have already started your trip. You don’t have to be at home or within your country of residence to buy this travel insurance or to extend your existing policy. 

Finally, there is NO age limit for HCC Medical!  It will rate the cost based on the age you enter. However, when you’re over age 70 and then 80, the limits of coverage decrease. In other words, you will pay more than a younger person for the same amount of coverage. With that being said, since there is no age limit unlike most other travel insurances companies, HCC Medical is an ideal travel insurance for seniors. 

And again, if you find a cheaper travel insurance than HCC Medical (Atlas Travel), please let me know!!


    2.  The well-known, mid price option


IMG Global Best Travel Insurance (US Citizens) (citizens from all other countries)


IMG or International Medical Group is a well-known American company that offers holiday insurance to travelers from more than 190 countries (so probably yours is among them )

They have a travel insurance plan for Americans only (Patriot Travel Medical Insurance) and one specially designed for non-U.S. individuals (Patriot America Plus).

You can choose your maximum coverage from US$ 50,000 to US$ 500,000 and deductibles from US$ 0 to US$ 2,500.

The prices are usually very competitive, although, as with HCC Medical, they do not cover some activities. Check the policy to see if it suits you. 

Seniors travel insurance (65+): A good thing about IMG is that they have a travel insurance designed specially for seniors of age 65 and above (GlobeHopper Senior), which something that most travel insurance in the market do not have.

In case you don’t feel comfortable for not knowing this company, here is a small video promotional video about them:



    3.  The best travel insurance that exists for backpackers and adventurous travelers (they cover almost everything!)


WorldNomads Travel InsuranceTravel Insurance


WorldNomads travel insurance is especially made for backpackers or active travelers and is still relatively cheap when you see how much more it covers than the other companies! I believe this to be the best backpacker travel insurance option and it’s the one I use the most. If I’m traveling in an area where I know I will do a lot of risky activities, such as New Zealand or Australia (snowboarding, bungee jumping, canyoning, skiing, swimming with seals, hiking, skydiving, glacier walking, etc… ), I buy insurance with WorldNomads. In my research, I’ve never found a travel insurance that offers a better deal in price vs. what they cover. To check which adventures they cover click here. Then, choose your country and the list will follow. If you know of a better option for backpackers please let me know in the comments below because I have yet to find one. 

Citizens from any country in the world can use WorldNomads.

It’s a great value for any kind of traveling; you just need to put your citizenship, if your trip includes the United States or not, your start date, and the duration of your trip. In seconds, they will give you two options of insurance with the price of each.

You can choose between a more basic insurance “Standard” (which already includes an number of “risky” activities) or the other backpacker insurance for more extreme travelers that covers almost every activity imaginable, “Explorer”. Even if you plan to be doing some adventurous things, you might still be able to get the “basic” option. To have an idea, if you are American, the basic policy already covers skiing and even hiking up to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet)!! That’s why it’s one of the best travel insurance companies in the market!

Another cool feature from WorldNomads is that they have the option for you to cover “…high-value specified items such as iPhones and digital cameras“. This option is not automatically included, but if you are someone who travels with a lot of electronic gadgets, I think it is worth to pay a bit more to cover these things in case they are lost or stolen.

Also, as with HCC Medical,  you can buy travel insurance with WorldNomads even after having started your trip! You don’t have to be at home or within your country of residence to buy this travel insurance or to extend your existing policy.

Once I was in Thailand,  I got sick and spent about US$ 50 in medicine. I contacted WorldNomads for a refund and they told me this value was below the deductible of US$ 100, so not worth asking for reimbursement. But they were super attentive and easy to deal with….so I recommend it as cheap trip insurance. 

*I’m putting the list of activities for American residents below but please check out the website for an updated version for you specific location. 


  1. The largest and cheapest travel insurance portal to guarantee the best deal (for Brazilian citizens only)

Real Seguro de Viagembest travel insurance for Brazilians 

Real Seguro de Viagem isn’t an insurance in itself. It’s an aggregator that offers and sells different online travel insurances. Through tools available on its website, travelers can compare the coverage of prices of different companies and choose their travel insurance. Real Travel Insurance also helps in the case of claims, mediating the contact between the client and the insurer. 

So I recommend that, after searching the medical travel insurances above (HCC, IMG Global and Nomads), you take a look at the Real Seguro de Viagem website just to confirm that there’s not a better option. But make sure you also don’t forget to search the others above because they won’t show up in the search results from Real Seguro de Viagem (even though they are sometimes even cheaper). On Real Seguro de Viagem, you’ll find various options for travel insurance with really good prices! I’ve even found travel insurance cheaper from Real Insurance than HCC for the United States.However, pay attention to the coverage for these policies. Remember that the minimum coverage needed for travel insurance in Europe’s Schengen area is € 30,000, or about US$ 33,000 as of today. So, if you are traveling to Europe, your travel insurance has to have a coverage of at least this amount. Besides this, as I already mentioned in the case of Nomads, you need to make sure that the insurance that you’re purchasing covers your needs (sports, adventures, total value of coverage, etc….).

One last detail: Real Seguro de Viagem is worldwide! In other words, if you are going to visit more than one continent during your trip, you just need to purchase a single policy. For example, if you are going to Asia and Africa, you purchase a single policy (for either Asia or Africa) and it will cover the two of them as long as the coverage is above € 30,000 and US$ 33,000. It’s the same for three or more continents. 

Real Seguro de Viagem can also be paid with credit card and divided into six installments without interest or you can have a 5% discount if you pay the invoice directly in the bank.  

So, do a search on Real Seguro de Viagem to test it out and, if you find the cheapest price, purchase directly from them!

Some of the travel insurances offered by Real Seguro de Viagem:

Melhor seguro de viagem


If you are going to travel for some time, travel insurance can be a big cost in your trip. So, don’t feel bad spending some time researching different companies for a better deal (I know it can be a pain to compare travel insurance, but it is worth it). If I were you, I would get a travel insurance quote with the three companies mentioned above, see if they cover the activities you are going to engage in, and then choose the best option for you based on that. Like that famous commercial with the gecko, “15 minutes can save you 15% A LOT OF MONEY on car travel insurance”.


But wait….you might not even need to buy travel insurance!!


  1. Credit card travel insuranceBuy the return flight ticket with your credit card


Depending on the credit card you have, if you buy the entire round trip flight ticket with this card, it might give you a free basic travel insurance as well. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners all have this option. You must get in contact with your card provider or check its website to see if your card has this benefit and how it works. Usually, it covers the mandatory Schengen travel assistance described above. But remember, it is an international health insurance, not a travel insurance. So, unlike travel insurance, if you have your flight canceled, lose your luggage, or have any other problem not related to health, you will not be covered. It’s also a very basic one and does not cover risk activities and most sports. Obviously, this is no good either if you are using miles to buy your ticket. And don’t forget that these insurances from credit cards usually only last for 31 days. After that, if you are still traveling, you will have to acquire a regular travel insurance. 

CORRECTION: After a comment from the reader Alex in our Portuguese version of this article, we corrected the above information. In the case of the Visa Platinum credit card, if you are issued a ticket using miles that you acquired by using the card itself and then pay the fees of the ticket with it, you will also be entitled to its worldwide travel insurance. In other words, you can get the insurance by using the card to buy a round-trip ticket or by using miles received because of the card to buy the ticket and then using the card to pay associated taxes and fees. However, I would suggest you confirm this information with your own credit card provider since the same credit cards tend to have different benefits depending on the country where they are issued. Thanks for the info, Alex!

Plus, it is worth mentioning that the Visa Platinum insurance is only valid for 60 days (thanks Ana Luisa for the tip!). In other words, if your trip is longer than that, you need to complement the rest of the trip by buying a normal travel insurance. At least you will save the money for the first 2 months…


Schengen Eligibility Coverage Letter:

For those who bought their flight ticket using a MasterCard Platinum and are going to Europe, here is the link to issue the Schengen Eligibility Coverage Letter. You may have to show the immigration authorities this letter in case they ask for proof of travel insurance coverage:


    2.  Use your health insurance from home


You can contact your health insurance at home and ask if they have any international travel insurance options. Since you are already insured with them, you can usually get a cheaper (or even a free!) deal. Remember to check if it covers the places you are going to as well as the sort of activities you will do.


Quick note about travel insurance for cruises trips:

Since someone recently asked me if any of these travel health insurances could be used for cruise trips, I went searching for this information. And yes, both HCC and WorldNomads will cover you. 

HCC sent me an email confirming that their cruise travel insurance (Atlas Travel) even cover evacuation in their Atlas plan, depending on the situation. For WorldNomads, the coverage for cruises is automatic, but remember that the age limit is 66 years old! For HCC, there is no age limit!

I haven’t received any confirmation from Alliaz.


Fraud Warning! As I have mentioned before, both WorldNomads and HCC travel insurances can be purchased after you’ve already started your trip. But be careful with possible fraud! This does not mean that you can travel without travel insurance and purchase it only after you have become ill or had an accident.

Since insurance companies know that there are people who may try this trick, the companies have an anti-fraud clause where you can only use the insurance 2 days (48 hours) after purchasing the policy. In this case, if you get very sick during your trip and want to buy travel insurance for treatment, you will have to wait 48 hours until you can actually go to the doctor or hospital in order to be reimbursed for the costs. In addition, you’ll also have to prove that you became ill only after buying the insurance.

If you get hurt in an accident, you can use the insurance within those first 48 hours, but you will also have to prove that the accident occurred after you had already purchased the travel insurance. In other words, if you had a car accident traveling without travel insurance, you cannot buy the insurance, stay hurt or injured for 48 hours, and then get treatment that is covered by the insurance. You also cannot claim that the accident occurred before, as the companies are not stupid and have had plenty of people already try to do that. If they see that someone bought travel insurance and used it very soon afterwards, even if it is within the legal time limit, they will investigate the accident make the person is not cheating!


Travel Insurance for Terrorism

Some people have asked me in both the English and Portuguese articles if travel insurance covers acts of terrorism. I did some research and this was what I found out:

Although Atlas Travel from HCC doesn’t cover terrorism, the Atlas Premium from HCC DOES cover “treatment of injuries and illnesses relating from an act of terrorism, up to the limit set forth in the schedule of benefits and limits”. So it’s a kind of “Terrorism Coverage.”

So if you are traveling and have the incredible bad luck of getting hurt in a terrorism event, you will be covered if you have the Atlas Premium plan from HCC.

Plus, both the Atlas Travel and the Atlas Premium plans already have the “Crisis Response Cover” included, which gives you protection in case of civil or political unrest, natural disasters, or other crises travelers might encounter abroad. It’s specially designed for “express kidnapping” type of crises since it deals with response expenses, ransom, and personal belongings surrendered. They even have 24/7 negotiators!!

However, some countries are not covered by this “Crisis Response” feature: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea (although in most of these countries, your regular travel insurance is still valid).


General Tips to Guarantee you Get Back your Travel Insurance Reimbursement

The 3 travel insurance examples above include a vast provider network of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. This way, if an incident happens (accident, sickness, etc…), it’s always best to call the travel insurance company beforehand so they can tell you which doctor or hospital you can go to for your treatment.

Then, by going somewhere in the insurance’s network, you won’t have to shell out any money because the treatment bill will go straight to the insurer (unless the treatment is more expensive than the maximum treatment of your coverage).

However, if you’re somewhere in the world where there isn’t a doctor, clinic or hospital in your insurance’s network near you, you’ll have to pay for the treatment out of pocket and ask your insurer for reimbursement after.

But you know how it is. Insurance companies in general (whether travel, car, house, etc…) are always a pain to get payment from and they’ll keep finding excuses if all the documentation isn’t just right.

In this 2nd case, here I’ll add in all the documents travel insurance companies usually ask you to send them if you file a claim for the reimbursement of medical expenses during your trip.


But first, a few insurance terms to cover:

*make a claim: ask the insurance company for reimbursement for medical expenses

*insurer: the travel insurance company

*beneficiary = claimant = the insured: the person (you) asking the insurance company for money back


Documents usually requested for reimbursement of medical expenses (if you go out of network)

  • Copy of the claimant’s national ID (driver’s license or other state-issued ID)
  • Copy of Proof of Residency (any current proof – from the last 3 months – with the name of the claimant). If you don’t have this, send a declaration of residence that is completed, signed, and notarized form provided by the insurer)
  • For minors, a declaration of residence must be completed, signed and notarized by the respective legal guardian (form provided by the insurer)
  • Copy of the claimant’s voucher.
  • Original registration information form, signed by the beneficiary (form provided by the insurer)
  • Copy of passport (ID page + page with entrance and exit stamps from the country where the accident happened) or other documentation that shows beneficiary was outside of habitual domicile when accident happened (aka your home country) – for example: airplane tickets (by the way, you should always keep your boarding pass until the end for trip, not only for filing a possible claim but also request your miles.)
  • Presentation of the original medical report with descriptions of the procedures, provided by the health professional or medical center with a clear indication of the diagnosis, clinical history and admission form in case of hospitalization
  • Original prescription (if the pharmacy still has the prescription, send your x-ray or a document showing you picked up your medicine in exchange for the prescription)
  • Invoice of the medical procedures or of the pharmacy with medications prescribed, which should match in quality and quantity with the provided prescription
  • Report of medical care (explaining the reason, what happened and how the treatment went – both from the travel insurance staff as well the health providers) written by the beneficiary (you can create your own letter from a blank Word file)
  • Completed list of expenses (from provided by the insurer)
  • Your contact phone number, address and e-mail
  • Proof of bank info (copy of bank statement header, check, or debit card)


And you’ll have to physically send all these documents through the mail.

Yeah, I know. It’s a ton of documents. So, in other words, if you’re able to use a provider that’s inside your travel insurance’s network, it’ll be much easier. You won’t have to pay anything out of your pocket, plus you can skip the headache and wasted time to get all this paperwork ready to send.

Although, if you don’t have an alternative and you have to pay for the treatment and request reimbursement, it won’t be the end of the world.

By being organized and having all these documents to send to the company providing you travel insurance will make your chances of filing your claim and getting your reimbursement back quickly and successfully are close to 100%!

If you’ve ever had to make a claim and had problems or not, you can leave your experience and tips below to help other readers. 


My final general advice: Buy travel insurance before you travel! If you forgot and are now traveling, buy as soon as possible! If you already bought it but have extended your trip and need to extend the policy (which both HCC and WorldNomads allow), do so before the current policy expires. This way, you have peace of mind knowing you’re covered for your entire trip.

What about you?? Have you ever had to use your travel insurance while traveling?? How was the experience? Were you covered properly? If you still have any questions not clarified in the text, please ask me on the comments area and I will try to help you as best as can. 

* Unfortunately, our system doesn’t allow you to comment without an email. But feel free to just make one up and leave your comment anyways as we personally reply to each and every one.

Happy travels and I really hope we will never need to actually use our travel insurance…. 


To learn about my favorite travel companies and resources that let me travel so much for such a low cost, take a look at my special page of “81 Travel Apps & Resources.”

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42 Responses

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  3. Sarah
    Sarah at |

    Hi, really neat this article, exactly what I was looking for. This HCC Insurance is really cheap! But are you sure it is a reliable company? Sometimes I’m just afraid of buying services from a place that I’ve never heard off.

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  5. Meztli
    Meztli at |


    With that HCC company, can you buy the insurance when you are already travelling?
    I’ve been looking for the info but I cannot find it anywhere, because I know that with World Nomads you can.

    Thank you!

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  7. Margaret Hoppiks
    Margaret Hoppiks at |

    Thank you. Good information. Do you know if any of these travel insurances cover cruising? I mean, I’m going to a traditional cruise, kind of Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Do you know if I have an emergency during my cruise, the travel insurance will cover the costs or even evacuation? I know cruise companies can be picky about it.

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  10. Brian
    Brian at |

    Thanks for the info! I came to this page from your snowboard instructor one. Are you sure Worldnomads covers off piste injuries? Do I have to add some special coverage to it? Cheers

  11. Robert
    Robert at |

    Hi, I will be traveling for one month around Australia. How much coverage do you think I should put for HCC? Is $ 50,000 enough? Thanks!

  12. Danni
    Danni at |

    Thanks for the information about terrorism and insurance, it was kind of hard to find somewhere else. 🙂

  13. Mike
    Mike at |

    Does HCC Atlas Travel cover diving?

    1. Nikki @ OutofYourComfortZone
      Nikki @ OutofYourComfortZone at |

      Hi Mike!

      Thanks for the comment. HCC Atlas covers diving up to a depth of 10 meters. If you want to go any deeper, HCC won’t cover it.

      However, World Nomads (the third option above) will. World Nomads’s ‘Explorer Plan’ covers depths of up to 50 meters.

      Also, if you like to dive…. have you seen our article about “How to Become a Divemaster Trainee”? Becoming one is a great way to basically travel and get paid to dive around the world! Here’s the link if you are interested:

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  17. ninjaz155
    ninjaz155 at |

    Thanks for the writing it. Is the coverage per event? Or per the period?

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  20. Pat
    Pat at |

    Hi, good stuff. I’m going to Southeast Asia for a few months but I won’t do anything major there regarding sports. Do you think I can go for hcc or better WN for better cover?

  21. Suspicious
    Suspicious at |

    You said this IMG is well-known. To whom?

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  23. Ahmed Para
    Ahmed Para at |

    You are talking about reimbursement. Is it hard to get? Have you tried? I heard it’s pretty hard and they don’t like to pay. I don’t want to buy travel insurance just to have headache to get my money back. Which one did you get money back?

  24. Aabha
    Aabha at |

    Hello, thank you for the information.

    My parents are coming from India to visit me here in US, do you think HCC Atlas Travel is a good travel insurance option for senior travelers?

    Thank you

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  28. Andrea Cruz
    Andrea Cruz at |

    Hey Rodrigo.

    Which company do you usually use yourself?


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