Which Travel Insurance is Best for You?
The two most popular travel insurance companies for frequent and long term travelers are World Nomads and SafetyWing.
There’s good reason for this. Both are good companies and between the two, they cover the needs of a lot of people. Whether budget is your biggest concern, or wanting to make sure you’re covered for your first attempts at cliff diving, one of these companies is probably going to have the policy you need.
Our goal is to make this an easy decision for you.
We’ll take a look at the basics, then do a deeper dive into the most important differences between the travel insurance policies offered by these two companies. By the end of this article, you should have the information you need to decide which one is right for you.
Do You Really Need a Travel Insurance Policy?
The short answer is – YES, if you’re going to travel, especially internationally, you need travel insurance.
Trust us, we’re both frugal and particular. If we didn’t believe spending money on travel insurance was a worthwhile expense, we wouldn’t do it.
Of course, if you’ve been following us, you know that Tim broke his leg 7 months into our world tour. If we had any doubts, they would have disappeared after that. We’ll tell you more about that experience, shortly.
Every veteran traveler we know believes in travel insurance because we’ve all seen, or experienced, the craziest things happening. There are a few things that contribute to this.
We Take More Risks When We Travel
How often do you go on vacation, or get to a new destination, and start diving into activities you rarely, if ever, do at home? And we go all in, not knowing the inherent risks of the activity.
I mean, who’s not going to take the opportunity to go snorkeling when you’re in an island paradise? Or hiking that semi-active volcano? Or trying snowboarding for the first time?
Personally, my first time snorkeling was in the Red Sea, Tim’s was in Thailand. Our first kayaking and whitewater rafting, also in Thailand.
While I’d ridden a horse once or twice at home, I really wasn’t prepared to go running across the desert on one near the Pyramids at Giza. But I did. (Okay, I didn’t know they were going to run. I just had to hang on tight.)
Let’s face it, when we travel, we take more risks – which is great! Travel is all about new experiences. But it also leaves us open to more dangers and accidents. You don’t want one mistake or bad decision to ruin your entire trip, or put you in serious debt.
*By the way, this page contains affiliate links and we might make a small commission if you purchase something by clicking through our link. This helps us keep the blog running and creates no additional cost for you. Thank you for clicking.
There’s also the fact that being in a foreign environment you might find yourself in some…challenging…situations.
Ever try crossing the street in Paris? Or Jakarta? (We have tips to help you with this in Jakarta, in Paris, you’re on your own.) It’s crazy. Just in the time it takes to learn the rules of the road, crap can happen.
On our high school band’s trip to Europe, my best friend got smacked into by a guy on a scooter – and she was standing on the sidewalk! Fortunately she got out of it with just a badly bruised leg. But it can happen that fast, and the health insurance you have at home may not cover you in a foreign country.
Renting a motorbike, or taking a moto-taxi? These are some of the most common ways travel injuries occur.
In Tim’s case, we’d been on a 7-hour mini-bus ride in Laos. If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia, you know that there are stairs, uneven and oddly-placed ones, everywhere. Coming out of the bathroom at the bus station, Tim mis-stepped, did a dance down the remaining stairs and fell to the ground. Somewhere on the way down, he broke his leg – in 2 places.
Yes, Tim broke his leg coming out of the loo.
If you’re going to travel, you need to include travel insurance in your trip’s budget. This next story is a perfect example of why.
The Adventure of Tim’s Broken Leg
The short version.
The local hospital in Phonsavan was really bad. Hardly any wheelchairs, staff that seemed surprised that we wanted an x-ray, and after wrapping his leg in a temporary support, which they did a good job of, they didn’t admit him, but sent us to fend for ourselves in a guesthouse until we could get transport to Vientiane the next day.
After another 7-hour bus ride, we got to the hospital in Vientiane. They took one look and said that they couldn’t handle his case. So we got a ride in an ambulance across the border to Thailand.
This was actually our 3rd entry into Thailand in 6 months. I think the place had a Team Hazard magnet on it.
Anyway, the hospital in Udon Thani did a great job. They operated on Tim’s leg and put in a bunch of screws and metal plates. The couch in his room converted to a bed so I could stay with him and not have to find a hotel. Tim got physical therapy, a walker and a wheelchair and generally very well taken care of.
Our travel insurance paid for all of it.
And while most plans handle claims where you pay out-of-pocket and then get reimbursed, the hospital administrator was able to work out a pre-approval process with them that meant we paid almost nothing up front. There were a few appointments that didn’t get approved in time that we paid for, but we were always reimbursed in a reasonable amount of time.
We can’t guarantee that bit of organizational magic will always be available, but we appreciate that both sides, the hospital and the insurance company, were actually working to help us.
Oh, and if we had wanted to fly home for the remainder of Tim’s treatment, the insurance would have covered that, too. It was offered several times. But the care he was receiving in Thailand was excellent and going home didn’t make sense for us.
Since this is a comparison post, you might be wondering which insurance we had. We use World Nomads.
But SafetyWing has a lot of good points, too. We’re going to be as un-biased as possible in this breakdown.
Ultimately, the best travel insurance is going to be the one that’s best for your situation. This includes your destination, the activities you plan, your age and your existing coverage.
So let’s take a look at World Nomads vs SafetyWing to see if we can help you sort this out.
Note: All of the following discussions depend on your particular policy and the laws of your country, so please make sure you check the details of your plan to know exactly how you’re covered – and call them to ask questions if something isn’t clear. Our assertions here are general and may, or may not, pertain to your exact policy and situation.
Traveler, Vacationer or Digital Nomad?
World Nomads was has been around for more than a decade. I remember when Lonely Planet started promoting them. The fact that the hardest core of the independent and backpacker travel community trusted them made me trust them. LP followers are a hearty bunch that value exploration and adventure and World Nomads policies cover this. You can see this accommodation in the two tiered plan offering, Standard and Explorer. They have a comprehensive list of activities on their website to help you determine which coverage you need.
Spoiler Alert: If you plan to run with the bulls or go shark-cage diving, you’re an Explorer.
SafetyWing is a newer company. Their roots lie in technology and the evolution of location independent work. They were designed by digital nomads, for digital nomads. The good coverage at a low price, especially targeted at a younger crowd, and easy monthly payment set-up are key to their practicality.
BOTH companies offer policies suitable for single trip travel insurance, mid-term travelers, long term travelers and digital nomads. This is why these two are the most popular choices for all of these situations. Your plans can change, life can happen and you’re still covered.
BOTH companies allow you to purchase or extend a policy mid-trip. Both companies are easily available by phone, or on the web. Both will do everything they can to get you the help you need, wherever* you are.
BOTH companies have live 24/7 support to help you with any kind of question or emergency.
How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost?
This is going to seem like a huge, nonsensical gap, but between these two companies, the price can range from about $37-200 for 4 weeks, (pro-rated for shorter trips, of course).
The low end is SafetyWing’s rate for people up to 39 years old, while the high end is World Nomads Explorer coverage which covers people of any age doing almost any crazy activity you can imagine.
Of course, there are options in-between these two extremes.
Why the big gap? Let’s take a closer look.
First off, SafetyWing specializes in affordable coverage, nomad travel medical insurance and it rewards customers who are younger, and presumably healthier, with very low rates.
World Nomads costs more, but overall the coverage is a little heartier.
This is especially apparent in the activities each policy covers. Some activities that are on World Nomads Standard Plan are completely excluded from SafetyWing‘s plan, as are almost all of the upgraded activities on Word Nomad’s Explorer plan.
World Nomads also offers full, worldwide travel insurance. SafetyWing doesn’t offer coverage in a few countries, *like Cuba, North Korea and Iran.
Over 50 Travel Insurance Concerns and World Nomads Advantages
Furthermore, the cost differences diminish significantly the older you get. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that World Nomads charges the same amount for a plan whether you’re 25 or 65 years old. This is great if you have age concerns over travel insurance.
SafetyWing is cheaper, while still offering great coverage, until you hit 50 years old. Then the price is much closer to World Nomads. It’s close enough that the heartier coverage is probably worth the little extra you’ll pay with World Nomads.
At age 60, SafetyWing is actually the more expensive of the two. Both companies stop their coverage at 69 years old. So they have senior’s travel insurance up until you’re 70th birthday.
However, you can’t beat SafetyWing for price – if you’re younger (49 and under) and not into doing too many adventurous activities.
I would have loved SafetyWing coverage when I first started traveling and every penny counted. It’s not discount coverage that’s going to leave you high and dry when you need it. SafetyWing has a good reputation.
If it were right for us, now, I wouldn’t hesitate to get their coverage and save some money. Nevertheless, we’re both too old, and too adventurous for their policies to be advantageous for us.
Dang, I love that last sentence!
Travel Medical Coverage and Emergency Medical Evacuation
SafetyWing makes it a point that it is Travel Medical Insurance. While there are other elements to their coverage, their focus is on the medical aspect of taking care of you when you travel.
World Nomads refers to themselves simply as a travel insurance company.
Both companies cover accidents and medical emergencies during your trip. They also both offer emergency medical evacuation, meaning if you need to be moved to another country, or your home country, for proper treatment, those costs will be covered.
Emergency dental coverage is included with both plans.
Both companies include death and dismemberment insurance. That’s a nice thought. Not.
Neither plan is a regular health insurance plan. They do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, optional cosmetic procedures, check-ups, preventative care or anything that is not an emergency.
If you need a policy that covers existing medical conditions, look at international or expat medical insurance. It is significantly more expensive, but could be what you need if you’re going to travel long term.
Make no mistake, you can buy this travel insurance while having pre-existing medical conditions, and you should, but they won’t cover your average needs resulting from those conditions. However, if an acute problem or complication from a pre-existing condition occurs, it may be covered depending on the circumstances.
And since we’ve talked about senior travel insurance, you should be aware that Medicare does not cover you when you’re out of the country (US). World Nomads and SafetyWing will (up to age 69).
Trip Interruption/Cancellation/ Missing Luggage
Both policies cover trip interruption or cancellation, lost or delayed luggage and other non-medical travel mishaps in similar fashion.
Additionally, your credit card may have coverage for these occurrences as well. It’s smart to check with your credit card company to see what they cover as there will probably be some overlap. Knowing this might nudge your decision on a policy one way or another.
The big difference here is that SafetyWing doesn’t cover lost or stolen electronics. World Nomads covers loss of electronics, within certain limits.
Non-medical evacuation for reasons of political unrest, terrorism and natural disaster are included in both policies.
Between the two, neither company has any issues in these non-medical coverages that would make-or-break the deal. Both companies do a solid job in these categories.
The Big Differences between World Nomads and SafetyWing
Honestly, I pored over the policies both companies offer and where coverage was similar, one offered a little more here, the other offered a little more there.
Of course, we’re all hoping that we’re not going to need the coverage and it’s impossible to know which bit of here or there, you’re going to need. So where the policies were similar, it’s fairly even.
Both World Nomads and SafetyWing do a fine job of providing quality travel medical insurance. Whether you’re on holiday or starting a location independent lifestyle, or anything in-between, both of these companies should do right by you.
Our best advice is to check the included activities list of each company carefully. You don’t want to be caught without coverage when you’re trying a new, and possibly difficult, sport or activity.
And of course, pay attention to how your age affects the price, as well as what countries you’re visiting.
Focusing on these key factors should guide you to the company that is right for you.
Click on the logos to get a quote and compare their offerings.
Oh, and one last thing…
Have a great trip!