Last updated on July 25, 2023
Note: I bought numerous World Nomads policies since 2008, but stopped buying World Nomads policies in 2017 because I personally felt like the quality of coverage changed. Other options offered better cover for my trip, that’s what informs this review, where I spell out coverage and my own personal considerations when choosing travel insurance for me and my son in 2023. While I may receive a commission from some of the links in this post, I do not make money from World Nomads when you buy travel insurance (unlike other World Nomads reviews).
When you’re planning domestic or world travel (either a quick trip or long-term travel), you have a dizzying number of options to review when it comes to picking the best travel insurance. After well over a decade on the road, World Nomads is still viable travel insurance for backpackers, adventurous travelers, and long-term travelers. That said, I use IMG travel insurance on my travels now—I like the clear family plan additions IMG offers, the ability to pick my deductibles (including $0), and coverage in the U.S. now that I am an expat residing outside the U.S.
I also stopped recommending World Nomads in 2022 because it no longer includes coverage for Europeans, and there are a number of wonky exclusions ALA readers have encountered and shared in the extensive comments section below. I have experience with IMG Global claims in 2022, on the other hand, and it was seamless.
Should You Buy World Nomads Travel Insurance in 2023?
My initial research back in 2008 for the best travel insurance was thorough, and I found negative and positive reviews for every travel insurance company in existence. Every single travel insurance company has some negative reviews—what you’re looking for is the best travel insurance for your specific trip: a company that has successfully paid claims, an easy online system for making those claims, and few loopholes. Because all travel insurance companies have loopholes, including World Nomads.
A bit about this World Nomads review: I am travel writer and online marketer—I am not an expert and you should always conduct your own research. I write from my lived experience, as well as 15+ years of feedback from friends and readers. The fact is, I’ve used both World Nomads and IMG Global for well over a decade, so this is a first-hand, honest travel insurance review and no one paid me to use them—my hard-earned money bought a policy on every trip.
And since every insurance company has sneaky loopholes in place to ensure you were following the rules, I review the specific advice you need to successfully make an insurance claim if something happens while you’re traveling. Seriously, there are a few loopholes you should know before buying any travel insurance!
Below I’ll review why I bought a World Nomads insurance policy for my long-term round the world trip, and why I use IMG Patriot Platinum for most of my travels now. I’ll review which types of world travels work for the two different travel insurance companies (hint, I used IMG Global when I needed an expat health insurance policy and when my nieces and nephews traveled with me, and I use it now with my young son).
I’ll also help you decide if travel travel insurance is worth it for you—only you can make that call, but travel insurance provides essential protection for everything from short vacations to long-term, adventurous backpacking trips.
What is the Best Travel Insurance?
The word best is so subjective. Anyone claiming they know the flat-out best policy is wrong: You have to assess travel insurance policies based on your exact circumstances. When I first left on my round the world trip, I looked for outside verification from others to know what’s best in the confusing insurance landscape (and one rife with fraud).
World Nomads has a lot of credibility in the market. It’s also an inclusive travel insurance, meaning it covers a broad range of people (up to 70). It also includes the adventurous activities common on long-term trips and while backpacking. That said, their claims process leaves a lot to be desired and in more recent years travelers are less-than-thrilled—a 3.6 rating on Trustpilot leaves a lot to be desired.
IMG Global, on the other hand, has a 4.6 rating on Trustpilot and it’s well deserved. It’s an insurance company I discovered a few years after beginning my world travels, and they also have policies designed for long-term travelers, expats, seniors, and more. Everything I loved about World Nomads is available with IMG Global, but it’s also a lot more flexible when you pick a policy and choose deductibles and coverage.
Let’s review why World Nomads is a good travel insurance option for some:
- It’s the travel insurance recommended by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guides—three names you can trust in travel. If Lonely Planet says it’s great for backpackers, then it’s a fair bet you should start your research looking at what a World Nomads policy offers. I first found World Nomads reviewed by long-term travelers in the forums, and nearly all of them noted that it was trusted by these top brands. Then as I traveled, I owned a lot of Lonely Planet guidebooks, and from day one, the Lonely planet has stood by its recommendation and review of World Nomads as a great travel insurance option.
- World Nomads is actually a brand that secures the policy for you—that’s how it can insure people from dozens of countries.
- It offered the best coverage during my year of long-travel, and with competitive prices. I spent my first year as a pure backpacker, and from there out needed travel insurance that could cope with me traveling for nonstop for a decade—that’s when I started looking for more flexible travel insurance like IMG that could change and adapt to my trip—this is a downside of World Nomads, the insurance is packaged up and sold as-is, including coverage limits, deductibles, adventure sports, and more.
- It’s a socially-conscious company that still has majorly competitive prices—a total win in my book. The company’s social good programs and sustainable company ethos is stronger than any other travel insurance out there.
World Nomads is an affordable companies considering they help you through the claims process with the underwriter, but it’s also significantly pricier than if you go directly through the travel insurance company. When you buy a policy with IMG Global, you’re buying it directly from the company and that means a few less hoops to jump through when you need to make a claim.
Backpackers and long-term travelers need the flexibility and security of knowing they won’t go bankrupt if something happens on the road. It’s why I can unequivocally say that travel insurance is useful, and I like both IMG Global and World Nomads for backpackers and long-term travelers.
With both companies, in addition to buying a policy online, you can extend your insurance policy, or even buy one when you’re already traveling. They both offer a nice online interface so you can take care of business and get back to traveling—a good travel insurance lets you travel without the worry, that’s the entire point!
What’s Covered by World Nomads (And What’s Not)?
The coverage on your travel insurance policy is the most important part—so this is where it’s vital you take time to understand exactly what buying travel insurance can get you on a trip. It’s everyday protection for you, for your luggage, and also in the event of BIG issues with a capital B (think catastrophic weather event, traumatic injury, etc).
Let’s review the five key coverage areas on any World Nomads policy:
- Overseas medical care
- Medical evacuation (Medevac)
- Baggage claims
- Theft on some belongings and electronics (read the policy details!)
- Trip cancellation coverage
Beyond these five areas that any good travel insurance policy must have, these are a few other things that are bonuses and also included—at least to some extent. Coverage on these areas depends on your country of residence:
- Natural disasters
- Pregnancy complications (but not birth)
- Emergency dental
- Stolen passport
Once you know what is covered by World Nomads, it comes down to the extent of coverage. You should not sign up for a policy that skimps in any of these areas. But some coverage does really depend on your trip, especially when we get into limits.
That’s where IMG Global comes in—if you book through a company like IMG, you’re choosing all of your own limits, and you have to read the fine print more. World Nomads bundles its policies and they are not customizable. IMG allows you to tweak and adjust coverage limits—this is essential for me when I’m booking coverage when I travel back home to the U.S. as an expat. I usually pay extra for a low deductible if I am traveling in places with expensive healthcare systems, and I’ll have a higher deductible traveling in places where a medical visit might cost $50 and I probably wouldn’t go through the hassle of claiming that on the insurance anyway. Note that this is my calculus when buying travel insurance—your situation my vary!
Wait, Can I Do That?! Adventure Activity Coverage
Before I left on my world travels, 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 World Nomads’ A-Z List of Adventure Activities to check they were covered in a policy. Each and every activity I hoped to experience was on the list of what’s covered. In later years, I’ve done the same with the sports rider for IMG Global—and some things aren’t covered by IMG that are covered on World Nomads, but they were all very dangerous things like canyoning, which I wasn’t going to do anyway.
While not all of your activities may be covered—there are some things general travel insurance will just not cover—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 scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
On my first long-term backpacking trip, I was active and adventurous, and it was dead-simple to verify on World Nomads’ checklist if an activity was covered. Note that what World Nomads covers for each policy is clearly outlined online—it’s easy to check before you do the activity; that’s imperative! You don’t want to be waiting for an email from your insurance company while the boat leaves on your planned scuba diving adventure. With other policies (like the expat insurance I use with IMG), adding any adventure sports requires paying for an additional rider, and the coverage is not as robust.
World Nomads‘ coverage was designed by a world traveler—a Aussie named Simon Monk who wanted to demystify the entire travel insurance process. That’s why the policies seem single-handedly designed for long-term travelers and backpackers—they are! Rather than being left to choose your own coverage limits, the policies are designed to give you maximum protection for the type of things most travelers face on the road.
Only some travel insurance policies offer adventure sports riders (and even basic outdoor travel activities may fall under that!). Review the activities carefully—be positive that you’re selecting one that covers everything you have planned.
Does Your Travel Insurance Cover COVID-19?
I think what we all learned from the sudden shutdown of the world in March 2020 is that you just don’t know what will happen. Since Covid lockdowns and restrictions are essentially lifted in all of the world, you likely don’t need to concern yourself with this. That said, if you somehow escaped catching Covid-19 and get sick on your trip, most travel insurances, including IMG and World Nomads consider this illness endemic now, and include coverage if you fall sick.
There are caveats though, in case this situation were to spring out of control again. According to IMG: “Travelers who purchase coverage on or after August 6, 2020 may be eligible for benefits directly or indirectly related to COVID-19, as long as the DOS or CDC have not issued a Level 3 or higher Travel Warning for your destination country. In addition, if a government agency from your country of residence has not issued a similar travel warning, you may be eligible for coverage for COVID-19 coverage.”
Is World Nomads Travel Health Insurance?
There are no insurance companies that by default offer health insurance as a part of their travel policies. Now, cover is provided for emergency medical expenses—that’s a key reason you’re buying the policy, but note that this is not the same as health coverage like regular doctor visits.
Generally, for World Nomads and really any travel insurance you might consider, when you review the fine details you realize that treatment is not designed to mimic health insurance. That’s why, written into the policy, your travel insurance will end either once you step foot on home soil, or within a week or two.
You can buy comprehensive worldwide medical insurance
IMG Global does offer expat health insurance policies that are meant for expats with a residence overseas. The Global Medical Insurance plan does cover many of the same aspects as traditional health insurance, and you can even buy them with a $0 deductible (I bought this expat policy for my first year living in Spain).
|Covered Health Emergencies||Not Covered by Traditional Travel Insurance|
|Hospitalization||If you’ve taken drugs or alcohol|
|Day surgery and outpatient treatment||Minor rashes/non-emergencies|
|Visits to registered medical practitioners||Reckless behavior|
|Prescribed medicines||Non-emergency treatment that can wait until you return home|
|Ambulances||Certain pre-existing medical conditions|
|Extra expenses to get you home, if medically necessary||Ongoing treatment at home|
Making Travel Insurance Claims Online
Most insurance companies now allow you to file your claims online. A seamless system is a huge must for long-term travelers and backpackers especially because you can’t wait until the end of your trip to sort it all out—you’re going to have to file your insurance claim on the road.
For World Nomads or IMG Global, you can process all of your claims online, and there are no caps on the length of time you can be insured. This is not the case with all travel insurance policies. Some max out at three months and a few still don’t have an entirely online claims process.
For most insurance companies, if it’s a medical emergency and you have time, you are obligated to contact them and let it go through their authorized providers—that speeds up the process. Either way, I found the online claims process easy and the company offers 24 hour helplines for immediate assistance, as well as helplines for figuring out the sometimes bureaucratic process of filing a travel insurance claim.
Travel Insurance Coverage When Riding a Motorbike
In addition to the small comment above about insurance coverage for licensed motorcycle drivers only, an ALA nicely explained why it’s so important to:
1. know exactly what your insurance covers.
2. take steps to ensure you meet the requirements for insurance claims 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 driver’s license with motorcycle certification (this requires a prior motorcycle license, at least in the U.S.). Without these things, your travel insurance may 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 protection from motorbike mishaps.”
TL;DR: World Nomads Coverage Review Recap
- Having travel insurance through World Nomads and then IMG Global as made my life easier as a digital nomad living on the road for 15+ years by offering an entirely online process.
- The adventure sports coverage is included in World Nomads policies by default, meaning there’s no chance you overlooked a crucial coverage step in the select-it-yourself policies. With IMG, make sure that you add this rider into your policy if you’re doing anything more than sunning yourself on a beach.
- IMG Global is my travel insurance of choice for long-term travelers. It’s during my solo backpacking trips that I’ve used World Nomads to the best success, but then for the last decade IMG Global has offered me the flexibility I needed to live and travel overseas.
- You are only covered for those things you are legally allowed to do—no drugs or drunk driving, and no driving without the proper license.
- Wondering what the best travel insurance is for anyone visiting the U.S. as a non-resident? I like IMG Global, because this is where World Nomads coverage has some gaps for many international travelers (because the U.S. healthcare system is so whack, citizens of most aren’t offered the type of full coverage I believe essential to long-term travels in the U.S.).
Essential Travel Insurance Tips
Travel insurance is the single best way to protect yourself against the unknown facing you on the road. During my more than a decade of travel, I’ve had dysentery, Giardia, scabies, strep throat, and a host of health issues. Travel sickness is a part of long-term travel.
Although I’ve never had major catastrophic health problems, nor been robbed of any key gear, I would never take the risk of backpacking the world without emergency help available. Travel insurance companies have a huge network of providers, and once you activate them, they negotiate (often in the local language) with those providing your help or care. That’s a huge relief when things are going south.
You can find terrible reviews online for all travel insurance companies. There are some circumstances where the traveler just didn’t fit within the policy wording and they weren’t covered. That’s tough. It is imperative that you read the requirements for making a claim if something goes wrong on your trip.
When reviewing any policies, even the best travel insurance has some loopholes. Here are key cautions and warnings to heed:
- Document your valuables. To make a claim, you must prove you bought it (receipts), that it was with you (take a photo of all valuables before you leave), and that it was stolen (a police report). Each step here is vital. Many negative travel insurance reviews are from people who didn’t have a copy of the police report, or couldn’t generate ownership proof. Read your policy and understand exactly what it requires 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! When buying a policy, you agree that they will choose a provider and be involved in the process—this is true for selecting hospital care, medevac providers, and more. If you don’t do this, they may not cover your bills. Also, keep your paperwork! There will be a lot of back and forths as you make the claim—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 even the best travel insurance will not cover you in an accident. This is a huge loophole. And it sucks. But double check things like this before assuming you’ll be covered if something serious happens on a remote stretch of mountains on a winding Thai road . (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, understand what it covers, and highlight anything that isn’t clear. If you’re unsure, email or call them! They answer questions before, during, and after you’re a client. There is also extensive Q&A in the comments below as other travelers and I hash out the fine print.
- Understand what’s not covered. From pre-existing conditions to extreme sports, there are a few things you’re just not guaranteed in a general travel policy. But, every travel insurance company is different. The high-end Select plan from TravelEx covers pre-existing conditions, so if that’s a huge factor for you, then the significantly higher cost might be worth it. But if you’re a backpacker planning a long-term trip that will include adventure sports, then you should instead look for policies from World Nomads that are designed to meet that need. If you’re a family planning to travel the world for a year, and you will do adventurous things, World Nomads might still work—they have family plans—but also look to an IMG policy with the sports rider (you must add the sports rider, truly).
- Understand the target market of your future insurance company. This helps you understand if it provides the breadth of coverage generally needed by someone of your age, health, and style of travel.
FAQ About World Nomads & Travel Insurance
After more than ten years on the road, I moved to Europe in early 2018, now I have local Spanish health insurance and I use IMG Patriot Platinum when I travel back to the U.S., or to cover me and my son when we travel Europe and the world.
Generate an IMG quote to see if it’s a good fit for your travel situation.
Disclosure: I am not a licensed insurance agent, nor a medical professional. While all of the information in this post is correct to my knowledge, you must do your own research and verify all aspects of your travel insurance before securing a policy. I cannot be held responsible for your use of any of the information provided.
*Please note that I make a small commission—at no additional cost to you—on purchases you make through a select few product links. This keeps A Little Adrift an ad-free community and never affects my recommendations.