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Do I need travel insurance?

Do I need travel insurance?

By on Apr 4, 2015 in Life Lessons, Phnom Penh, Travel experiences, Travel tips | 0 comments


It’s so damn expensive was my first thought upon seeing quotes for travel insurance. We toyed with the idea of setting out on our adventure without insurance. But since we planned to travel through countries that don’t have public health systems like the USA and most Asian countries we decide it would be advisable to at least get some cover.

Eventually we actually acquired full cover though the assistance of family members who were keen to see the children and ourselves covered as best we could be. We considered this overkill and never expected to make a single claim. How wrong we where.

There must be hundreds and thousands for people taking out travel insurance each year and I expect very few significant claims are made against that number. The majority of people only travel for a few weeks at a time so the likely hood of them needing insurance is slim.  I assume that traveling for longer periods means the likely hood of needing insurance increases but that’s probably not true.

Just like driving a car the more you driver doesn’t increase the likely hood of an accident. Statistically the odds are the same each time you get into the car. The chances are you will be involved in one accident every 17.9 years. The likely hold of fatal accidents goes up when other factors are involved like drugs and speed. So perhaps the same is true for travel. Maybe there are influencing factors like country visited, activity engaged in and method of travel.

My reading suggest that your likely hood of needing hospital assistance while traveling is about 1 in 700. So once in 700 trips you will need to seek assistance in a hospital.  Mostly minor stuff like X-rays, sutures or an overnight stays. These are all quite reasonable in countries that have public health systems but in country’s with user pay health systems even these can be very expensive.

If you have read Michelle and my accounts of our experience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia   “Hospital in Cambodia be careful what you eat ” you will know Michelle was hospitalized for two days in the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital.  A country with a user pay health system and quite high medical expenses.

Michelle contracted food poisoning after eating a meal in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. She quickly became very dehydrated and collapsed in the bathroom several times. During one of these spells she struck her head badly and required sutures and an MRI. Fortunately she recovered quickly needing only two nights in the hospital but the bill for the treatment was significant.

The insurance company was excellent. They sent us a SIM card before leaving Australia which we used to ring for assistance from the hospital foyer. After explaining the situation and talking to a nurse about the best action they agreed to send through a credit note to the hospital which enabled us to continue the treatment. Without that assurance our deposit would only have covered the sutures and the initial doctors consultation.

Our experience means that we will continue to purchase travel insurance especially while traveling in countries with high medical cost.  The chances of needing the insurance are low but the risk of financial hard ship outside of Australia as a result of and unexpected hospitalization is high. So the value of travel insurance comes into its own when you need assistance in these countries. 

The reverse is true if traveling to Australia. Several years ago a friend of mine travelled from USA to Launceston. While visiting our place he was struck in the face by a lump of wood from a collapsing hammock. The  wood split open his cheek below his right eye resulting in a wound that needed 5 or 6 stickes. I took him to a hospital in Launceston. During the 20 minute driver he tried to convince me that he didn’t need to see a doctor. I insisted that he did and couldn’t see why he thought it wasn’t necessary considering he had a 1 cm wide gash in his face.  Unbeknown to me he didn’t have any travel insurance and was expected the visit to cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

The emergency department was very busy that evening so they suggested a medical clinic across the road. Following his visit the Doctor issued him with a bill for $60 for both sutures and antibiotics. My friend paid the bill and walked out of the clinic all smiles. ( well as much as he could manage at the time ) I asked him why he was so happy and he told me in USA a visit like that would have cost nearly $1000 a sum of money he didn’t have.

I’m not suggesting you won’t need insurance in all countries as life threatening incidences are always expensive no matter where you are but the minor stuff in countries with public health systems may not be as expensing as the insurance you purchase.

However if your traveling for a long time or visiting many countries then travel insurance is a must. You just don’t know what will happen its all part of the travel experience. Being prepared for a Medical emergency is prudent planning and something we are very pleased to have invested in. So next year when we need to purchase travel insurance again the answers to “Do I need travel insurance?”  Will be a resounding YES.





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Up Sticks N Go father of the crew. Works as a Social Media Manager and Website Optimiser with Michon International. Helps business develop automated systems to manage their social media, content creation and long term SEO strategies. This includes optimising websites to convert visitors into customers and track the value of a business website. Follow Simon on Twitter @becauseihadto , connect with him on LinkedIn Simon Frost and stay in touch.

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