A Little Coverage… Review of Travel Insurance Options: IMG Patriot, World Nomads, & Others

how-to-choose-travel-insuranceThe initial plan for this post was to research all of the different travel insurance options out on the market for budget backpackers and round the world travelers. And I did all of the research. It took me ages. And I had planned to compare and contrast key travel insurance companies. Which I do below. But my overall conclusion is that World Nomads is a fantastic option for budget and RTW travel.

After sussing out all of the negative and positive reviews on other backpacking and travel sites, it’s pretty clear that the while every single insurance company has some negative reviews, there are many success stories for World Nomads and their support staff. That said, different trips call for different travel needs, so below I’ll break down why I picked World Nomads for my one-year RTW, but also why I have used IMG patriot for some trips as well — I’ll explain which type of trip worked for each of the different insurance companies that I use. I’ve been on the road more than nine years, so there are circumstances (like living in a spot long-term and traveling with children) where it made sense to use a different policy.

UPDATE: This post was last updated in October 2017 to reflect experiences from recent travels. The short of it, World Nomads is still my go-to and I used it for my Africa trip in 2014 and am used it this year while backpacking Vietnam. ~Shannon

World Nomads’ Credibility?

When I first left on my RTW, I was unsure of any companies and had to look for outside verification from others to know what’s best. World Nomads has a lot of credibility in the market:

  1. It’s the travel insurance recommended by Lonely Planet.
  2. They are actually a brand that secures the policy for you — that’s how they can insure people from 150 countries.
  3. I used it for 90% of my more than nine years on the road. I only switched when traveling with on four separate long-term trips with my nieces and nephews — and I know a lot of the travel writing community also uses World Nomads.
  4. Reviews.com lists it as a Top Four budget travel insurance option — and they’ve seen a lot of policies.

I also looked through this beginners guide to travel insurance and checked it against my options, settling on WN as a strong contender.

Jumping from a boat in Australia during prime jellyfish season? Seemed like a good idea at the time!

Adventure Activities Covered

Before I left on my own RTW trip I made a list of all of the crazy and wild adventure activities that I wanted to participate in while traveling — then I used the site’s A-Z List of Adventure Activities to find out if they were covered in a World Nomads policy; each and every one was. While not all of yours may be covered, the complete list is comprehensive, online, and broken down by country. This is an important step! I really wanted to know that rock-climbing in Laos was covered just as fully as snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. On my RTW trip, I was very active and adventurous, so I like how easy it is to verify on their check-list if an activity is covered.

Covering the Important Things (and smaller things too)

A World Nomads policy provides levels of coverage for five key areas: overseas medical care, medical evacuation (Medevac), baggage claims, theft on some belongings and electronics (read the policy details!), trip cancellation coverage, and more. The company also has a Travel Safety Alerts subscription service.

Making Insurance Claims Online

A huge selling point for me was the fact that all of the process can be done online; the internet is ubiquitous and I loved knowing that all of the information I needed was laid out for me on the World Nomads site. And since I thoroughly read through my policy before I bought it, I sent the support team an email asking for clarification (those policies can get confusing!); they emailed me back within a day with a detailed answer. In addition to buying a policy online, you can extend your insurance policy indefinitely or even buy one when you’re already traveling. This is becoming a feature across many travel insurances, but WN has one of the slickest interfaces.

You can check for a free WN quote right here and see their affordable rates:

Cautions, Warnings, and Read Your Policy

You can find terrible reviews online for all insurance companies. There are some circumstances where the traveler just didn’t fit within the policy wording and they weren’t covered. That’s so tough. It is very, very important that you read the requirements for making a claim if something goes wrong on your trip. Keep these things in mind:

  • Document all of your valuables. If you want to make a claim, you’ll need to prove you bought it (receipts) and that it was there with you (take a photo of all valuables before you leave, and that it was stolen (a police report). Each step here is so, so important. Many negative reviews I read online are people who didn’t have a copy of the police report, or couldn’t generate ownership proof. Read your policy and understand exactly what they require to make a claim.
  • Document your illness. Call your insurance company as soon as you are ill; they will help you find the best providers in the region — plus it states in your policy that you have to do that, so when buying a policy, you agree to allow them to help you choose a provider and be involved in the process. If you don’t they might not cover it. Also, keep your paperwork! There will be a lot of back and fourths as you make the claim and the more information you have the better.
  • Follow the law. One sticky situation for backpackers is the rampant use of motorbikes in Asia. If you are not licensed to drive the vehicle in your own country, then you are not covered in an accident. This is a huge loop-hole. And it sucks. But double check things like this before you assume that if you’re in an accident on a windy Thai road that you’ll be covered if something serious happens. (See note below for more information).
  • Read your policy. Seriously. It’s dry and boring. It will take at least an hour. But read it, highlight areas you didn’t know and really understand what they are covering and what they are not. And if you’re unsure, email or call them! They do always answer questions before, during, and after you’re their client.
  • Read this information on common things not covered. From pre-existing conditions to extreme sports, there are a few things you’re just not getting in a general travel policy.

Three to a bike in Thailand? I actually don’t know if we would have been covered if we had gotten in an accident…

What to Know: Travel Insurance & Riding a Motorbike

In addition to the small comment above about insurance coverage for licensed motorcycle drivers only, an ALA reader left this note in the comments, and it nicely explains why it’s so important to 1) know what you’re covered for 2) take steps to ensure you meet the requirements for insurance reimbursements (have receipts, police reports, etc):

From Matt of Great Distances: “For anyone who’s curious about motorbiking, the rule is this: If you’re going to pilot a motorbike in Asia (or really anywhere in the world), you need a motorcycle license in your home country as well as an international drivers license with motorcycle certification (this requires a prior motorcycle license, at least in the U.S.). Without these things, your travel insurance will NOT cover you whatsoever should you get in a wreck or injure yourself or others while on a motorbike. And people wreck and hurt themselves ALL the time, especially when they haven’t had proper safety training and find themselves wearing clothing that provides no projection from motorbike mishaps.”

Want other options?

What is the Best Travel Insurance? Why, How to Pick, and Personal AdviceIn October 2011, I left the U.S. with my 11-year old niece and we traveled together throughout Asia. Traveling with her left me with a unique challenge for travel insurance. I wanted a lot of protections if something happened to me and she needed to a new guardian flown overseas, so I went to the researching drawing board. I settled on a family plan at IMG Patriot that had great rates, coverage that worked for both of us, and I generally liked their online system. With my niece in tow, I knew I wouldn’t be doing some of the more adventurous activities, so I didn’t mind switching to IMG. However, now that I am back to solo travels, I am back with World Nomads. If you are in the UK or Europe, my friends wrote a good insurance guide here that has other options solely for Brits and Europeans.

Other thoughts for researching companies:

  • Don’t buy “travel protection,” this term is a sneaky way for unlicensed companies to offer travel insurance — it’s likely not valid, so move along.
  • Only buy from your travel agent if he/she is low-pressure and offers you several choices. If it’s a high-pressure situation they are likely receiving hefty commissions to sell you what could be an inferior product.
  • Take your time, research, read the policies and ask every question you want answered before you buy.
  • Ask if the insurance is primary or secondary insurance. And verify if the insurance requires that you hold primary. Primary usually refers to medical and homeowners insurance and some travel policies only allow you to purchase secondary insurance if you have a primary policy. For those who don’t carry health insurance, this would present a problem. Secondary means that you must file an insurance claim with your primary policy first. But some travel insurance policies will allow you to purchase them without having a primary policy in place. World Nomads will cover you on the road without requiring you to file first with your health insurance company back home. If you need to maintain U.S. coverage to meet the requirements of the ACA (ObamaCare), then you either must keep your policy back home and buy a travel policy, or you can look at some of the more expensive plans that offer primary care coverage in the U.S., and will meet the requirements of the ACA. I just bought a plan for 2018 with IMG Global because I am in the process of securing a European residency visa, and I will need travel coverage and U.S. health insurance, too. If you are backpacking and will be gone for a long time, World Nomads is a good option to thoroughly cover all of the possible adventure activities (expat policies like IMG Global aren’t meant for incredibly adventurous vacations).
  • If you are volunteering abroad, this post outlines the specific aspects you should consider when buying volunteer travel insurance.
  • I also carry separate gear insurance to protect my laptop, smartphone, and gear. I use Clements, and go into that a bit more on the long-term travel resources planning page.

With my nephews traveling in 2015, and then while hiking the Camino in Spain in July 2017 with another niece, I bought IMG Patriot policies to cover our short-ish trips (one was three weeks and the other was six weeks). While I looked into other options once again, when I needed a family plan with some coverage of adventure activities (unfortunately not scuba), I went with IMG again. After dropping my niece stateside in summer 2017, however, I booked a World Nomads policy to cover me for some epic hiking through the Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan. After more than nine years of travel, I plan/hope to move to Europe in 2018, at which point my more tame expat policy should serve me in good stead. :)

Check World Nomads plans and prices to see if it’s a good fit for your travel situation.

World Nomads Insurance

While all of the information in this post is correct to my knowledge, I encourage you to do your own research and verify all aspects of your travel insurance; I cannot be held responsible for your use of any of the information provided here.

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38 Responses to A Little Coverage… Review of Travel Insurance Options: IMG Patriot, World Nomads, & Others

  1. Annette Jackson November 17, 2017 at 10:10 am #

    Hi could you clarify, is WN a Primary coverage? I am abroad and do not have primary insurance currently. what would you suggest..THANKS for a great BLOG!

    • Shannon November 17, 2017 at 10:50 am #

      Tough question. This post in their forums answers it officially from the company: https://answers.worldnomads.com/questions/all-locations/16195/will-worldnomads-honor-my-claims-even-if-i-dont-have-a-primary-insurance-provider . Basically, you can claim on their policy first, but becuase it is not intended to cover you in your home country, it’s not *technically* primary coverage. So, anything that happens overseas, yes it’s primary. But if you have to be flown home for medical treatment, it will only cover you there for the amount of time stated in the policy before your home insurance takes over. And if you are American, WN does not meet the terms of the ACA to count as primary to cover you for the individual mandate.

  2. Matt November 15, 2017 at 12:41 am #

    Hi Shannon,
    Real quickly here, great post, you echo a lot of what others say about WN but I find it helpful you shed some light on IMF and policies for families or children. In your referral mention, I’m happy to pay it back, for all your help and sharing, but how does the WN site associate with your name, like where is the/your referral link?

    • Shannon November 15, 2017 at 12:53 am #

      Well, I haven’t read the WN policies in a while, but when I did, if you compare what they say about minors and guardians, IMG had clearer and more favorable terms (at the time that I compared, so please double check) about in what circumstances they would authorize and pay for a guardian to be flown overseas for the child (if something happens to the travel guardian, like serious illness, injury, etc). IMG allows you to select coverage levels and deductibles and all of that, whereas WN is a set policy, so with kids involved I did a low deductible and the clear coverage so that my nieces and nephews would always be covered. As for referral links, I don’t have any for IMG, and the WN one is built into the link. :)

  3. Colleen November 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    Hi!

    I really need your advice:
    My BF and I are leaving for 4 month in South America (stoked).
    The first two months will be spent in Buenos Aires (just being city people, nothing too extreme, high theft there, but just hanging out enjoying the culture.)
    The next two months we will be backpacking through Patagonia, then fly to Cusco, do Machu Picchu (mostly backpacking, maybe white water rafting)

    I’d like to book with World Nomads for the entire trip, but it’ll be $575 per person for the whole 4 months!

    My question is, do you think we should book a cheaper insurance the first two and then switch to World Nomads for the last two to cut down on cost? Would that mess up any use of insurance at all?

    Please let me know your thoughts :)

    • Colleen November 2, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      Nevermind! It is $575 ttl. not per person! I think we’ll end up going with that…

      Thanks for the post!

    • Shannon November 2, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

      I would be stoked too! Four months is a great length of time to really dive deep and explore. And I am so glad you sorted out the insurance question, $575 definitely sounds more doable for a four month trip, and I am glad to know that you guys will be protected, especially with the outdoor activities that you have planned. Of note, WN is one of the few companies that definitely allows to purchase even while you are on the road, or even if you don’t have a return ticket yet, so you will be OK if you decide to leave and wing it for a few weeks before buying insurance (although double check to be sure if you go that route!). :)

  4. Dianna Wehr October 13, 2017 at 7:17 pm #

    UGH! Insurance is so wonderful to have and such a pain to research and acquire. Thank you for this review to make figuring out insurance for long-term travel easier. I hadn’t thought about needing to meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act- I’m glad you brought that up!

    • Shannon October 14, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

      Glad you found it helpful, it’s such a headache of a topic! I actually just bought insurance for next year that should cover me if the ACA requirements are still in place, and it will also act as an expat policy for me if I successfully secure a visa to live in Europe. It’s more a traditional plan, but with coverage all over the world too. But far less travel-focused than the travel insurance ones like World Nomads, that rarely work back home (so you often want or need to keep something in place), but travel ones tend to cover more of the adventure activities you might do on a RTW trip (trekking, diving, etc). That’s the main differences I have found in the past few months when I have been researching and buying an expat policy (I went with IMG Global in the end). Good luck!

  5. Matt Wicks October 3, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    Great article, thanks for sharing this!

    Just wanted to drop by to say: your comment on motorbiking in Asia without a proper license at home is spot on.

    For anyone that’s curious about motorbiking, the rule is this: if you’re going to pilot a motorbike in Asia (or really anywhere in the world), you need a motorcycle license in your home country as well as an international drivers license with motorcycle certification (this requires a prior motorcycle license, at least in the US). Without these things, your travel insurance will NOT cover you whatsoever should you get in a wreck or injure yourself or others while on a motorbike. And people wreck and hurt themselves ALL the time, especially when they haven’t had proper safety training and find themselves wearing clothing that provides them no projection from motorbike mishaps. Be safe out there everyone!

    • Dianna Wehr October 13, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Thank you for chiming in to confirm this and add info!! My husband and I had thought about international drivers license, but hadn’t thought of getting motorcycle certification … which is a really great idea. This will save us headaches and disappointment later- thanks!

  6. Peter September 20, 2017 at 3:00 am #

    Thanks for the info, Shannon. However, there are tons of bad reviews of World Nomads. I myself had a very very bad experience with them just a week ago. I will spare you the details. These guys are either massive liars or just totally disorganised – I think both. I used them once and never again!!

    • Shannon October 14, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      Ah well, I do wish that you would share specifics. Too often in those reviews (including ones you had linked to), people are upset that claims are not paid even though it amounts to them not actually understanding what was covered in their policy. I don’t link to those negative reviews because I haven’t yet found a story where everything was submitted as required and the WN insurer didn’t pay. I am sure it has happened, I just haven’t found that to be the case in the vast majority of reviews that bash insurance companies, no matter which one it is. I hope that you can find resolution for your situation, it is so awful when you are out money that you had anticipated you would have returned, it is a situation I hope befalls few travelers no matter their insurer.

  7. Shannon O'Donnell January 27, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

    No, they do not pay me to review it. If you buy a policy I make a commission, which I started years after I first posted this review (the first version of this review was in 2008). I have paid for my own policies and used World Nomads for eight years (they are covering me right now while I am in Vietnam for the past three months, and I pay for it). My review policy is linked in the footer of the site; I only review and recommend products I personally use and believe in. Likewise, I have used IMG when traveling with minors under my care and I recommend them for families (and I make no money if you buy IMG, I just think they have better family policies than WN if something catastrophic happens). Good luck finding the right policy for your trip and situation!

  8. TJ August 7, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    One of your tips is to buy primary policies. Doesn’t World Nomads only sell secondary insurance policies? I believe Travel Guard gives you the option to choose primary or secondary. I didn’t see that choice for WN.

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 7, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

      Good point although WN doesn’t require that you have primary insurance, just that you claim the primary first if you do. You can use them without a primary coverage from my understanding. Which could be wrong, but I did verify that back in the day when I started traveling in 2008 and before I had ObamaCare stateside. I’ve heard from expats that Aetna also carries a policy that works as a primary for travelers who want to also meet the terms of the Affordable Care Act, and then there may be state-by-state policies that cover travel too, but it’s highly varied by state and my state, Florida, does not have a travel one on the healthcare exchange. IMG Global has one too, it’s primary and travel, and it let’s you select if you need coverage while in the U.S., and Cigna Health had a wicked pricey travel one that would also meet the ACA requirements. I carry both travel insurance and ObamaCare. Good luck!

  9. Anna January 22, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    I”m wondering about some of the wording in the policy. It asks for “your country of permanent residence”. Basically, I don’t have a country of permanent residence. I am Canadian, but gave up my residence, and I currently live in South Korea as a temporary resident. Anyone have any insight into this, or who is in a similar situation? Cheers!

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 22, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      That does sound pretty tricky Anna. I would check with the policy and see what they prefer you to list. Many travel friends stick with listing the place of their nationality and they use parents’ or friends’ addresses to meet that qualification. I have a Canadian travel friend who is in a similar situation but uses her parents house in a pinch, though she is not technically a resident for years now. Check with the policy though, as you would not want to be caught in a loophole and stuck with a big bill!

  10. Trip30 December 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    I’m a diver, as well, so always have DAN coverage. I’m looking for a plan that covers non-dive medical to augment my DAN coverage and for when we’re on non-dive trips, so am considering World Nomads or Patriot. Do you have DAN coverage in addition to your World Nomads (Explorer plan, I assume) policy?

    • Shannon O'Donnell December 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

      Good question! I haven’t been diving in a few years, so I don’t maintain dive coverage, but I did have DAN coverage my first year traveling when I was diving often. Now though, I just use the explorer plan/adventure sport coverage if I am heading somewhere and I think I might dive.

  11. adventurerob December 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm #

    Nicely written Shannon, I've been meaning to do a similar post as I too am with World Nomads and haven't a complaint so far. Although I've not made a claim myself I met someone who has and they said it went through fine, and they paid up promptly, that's all you need to know when it comes to insurance companies at the end of the day.

    • ShannonOD December 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

      Precisely! And there are those few odd negative reviews out there from people, but I really did find that WN had great feedback from other RTW travelers and backpackers :-)

  12. adventurerob December 6, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Nicely written Shannon, I've been meaning to do a similar post as I too am with World Nomads and haven't a complaint so far. Although I've not made a claim myself I met someone who has and they said it went through fine, and they paid up promptly, that's all you need to know when it comes to insurance companies at the end of the day.

  13. ShannonOD December 5, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Hey Brian, based on what I've read and what I understand, it depends on the level of the emergency. If you are in and out for something small, then you pay and submit for reimbursement. But, in the case of a medical emergency, they ask that you contact them immediately, or have the hospital do it, and they will pay – same for med evac, they will arrange if it is necessary. No specific places to go, but once they are talking with your hospital, they will help determine the next actions (transfer to a diff hospital, etc). I'm pretty sure that's how it goes down! :-)

    • ShannonOD December 7, 2009 at 7:35 am #

      Precisely! And there are those few odd negative reviews out there from people, but I really did find that WN had great feedback from other RTW travelers and backpackers :-)

  14. ShannonOD December 5, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    So true, thanks for that tip Mark, I rarely go through agents, but a few people have told me that some agents can be really high pressure as they try to make a commission.

  15. CandiceW December 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    This is killer advice, thanks Shannon. I know nothing about insurance and the whole process is daunting. Will definitely keep this in mind for the future.

  16. ShannonOD December 3, 2009 at 6:56 am #

    Ooo – that's such a great tip – I'm going to add it to the article actually (w/attrib ;-) Thanks! I was pretty lucky to not have to make any claims w/them yet so it's nice to hear from other travelers that their claims have been paid out, and timely too. :-)

  17. Mark H December 3, 2009 at 4:47 am #

    World Nomads do seem to be the popular choice among travellers. I've used them and they seemed fine though I've never had to make a claim. My understanding is that insurance is at times an agent's biggest earner so you do need to check prices to make sure you are getting a fair deal.

    • ShannonOD December 5, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

      So true, thanks for that tip Mark, I rarely go through agents, but a few people have told me that some agents can be really high pressure as they try to make a commission.

  18. Brian December 3, 2009 at 4:37 am #

    Thanks for the comprehensive review Shannon. World Nomads is the one most people seem to recommend when traveling. Good questions to ask and ideas to think about when picking a company.

    Do you know if you have to pay and then they reimburse or can they pay the medical clinic/hospital directly? Do they have a list of places you can go for medical treatment, or is it wide open?

    • ShannonOD December 5, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

      Hey Brian, based on what I've read and what I understand, it depends on the level of the emergency. If you are in and out for something small, then you pay and submit for reimbursement. But, in the case of a medical emergency, they ask that you contact them immediately, or have the hospital do it, and they will pay – same for med evac, they will arrange if it is necessary. No specific places to go, but once they are talking with your hospital, they will help determine the next actions (transfer to a diff hospital, etc). I'm pretty sure that's how it goes down! :-)

  19. Audrey December 3, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    We've been using World Nomads insurance for the three years of our rtw journey…and I just renewed it again. While we have fortunately not had to make much use of this insurance, the two claims we did file were quickly addressed and money arrived in my bank account within a week of a decision.

    One piece of advice if you can't get a police report for stolen equipment – you can get a statement from your hotel, tour company or someone in authority instead.

    • ShannonOD December 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

      Ooo – that's such a great tip – I'm going to add it to the article actually (w/attrib ;-) Thanks! I was pretty lucky to not have to make any claims w/them yet so it's nice to hear from other travelers that their claims have been paid out, and timely too. :-)

  20. Mark H December 2, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    World Nomads do seem to be the popular choice among travellers. I've used them and they seemed fine though I've never had to make a claim. My understanding is that insurance is at times an agent's biggest earner so you do need to check prices to make sure you are getting a fair deal.

  21. Audrey December 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    We've been using World Nomads insurance for the three years of our rtw journey…and I just renewed it again. While we have fortunately not had to make much use of this insurance, the two claims we did file were quickly addressed and money arrived in my bank account within a week of a decision.

    One piece of advice if you can't get a police report for stolen equipment – you can get a statement from your hotel, tour company or someone in authority instead.

    • nodebtworldtravel.com December 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

      Thanks for the comprehensive review Shannon. World Nomads is the one most people seem to recommend when traveling. Good questions to ask and ideas to think about when picking a company.

      Do you know if you have to pay and then they reimburse or can they pay the medical clinic/hospital directly? Do they have a list of places you can go for medical treatment, or is it wide open?

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