Travel Insurance vs International Insurance – Which to Budget for When Going Aboard

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When planning travel abroad, considering insurance options should be part of your budget. Two main types of insurance to research are travel insurance and international health insurance. While they share some similarities in protecting you medically when away from home, their coverage, cost, and applicable uses can vary greatly. 

I’ll compare travel insurance versus international insurance, discussing key differences and when each one might make sense to budget for according to your situation and upcoming travel plans.

Key Differences Between Travel Insurance and International Insurance

Travel insurance and international insurance offer different types of coverage for travelers, with key distinctions in their duration of coverage, range of benefits, and costs.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is designed to cover a single, specific trip. Policies can be purchased on a per-trip basis, with coverage lasting only for the duration of the planned travel dates. Travel insurance acts as a safety net in case something goes wrong during your trip, with benefits including:

  • Emergency medical care – Pays for treatment of injuries or illness while traveling.
  • Trip cancellation – Reimburses non-refundable costs if you must cancel for covered reasons prior to departure.
  • Trip interruption – Covers cost to return home if you must cut a trip short for covered reasons.
  • Baggage – Provides reimbursement for lost, damaged, or delayed luggage.
  • Travel delays – Offers reimbursement for accommodations, meals, and toiletries if delayed.

Travel insurance gives peace of mind by protecting your trip investment and helping cover emergency costs abroad. Policies can be purchased inexpensively, often from $5-$15 per day of coverage.

International Insurance

International health insurance provides more extensive coverage for those living or traveling frequently outside their home country. Rather than covering a single trip, these plans provide ongoing health insurance for extended periods of time, like months or years. International insurance includes:

  • Doctor visits and hospital coverage – Comprehensive outpatient and inpatient care.
  • Prescriptions – Medication coverage through international pharmacies.
  • Emergency medical evacuation – Transport back to home country if needed.
  • Pre-existing conditions – Coverage may be available after waiting periods.
  • Wellness benefits – Some plans include dental, vision, and preventive care.

International insurance requires a greater commitment, with premiums paid monthly or annually. But for frequent travelers or expats, it provides essential health coverage while living abroad.

When to Budget for Travel Insurance

One time to consider purchasing travel insurance is when you are planning a significant international trip away from your home country. For adventures like cruises, packaged tours, or other potentially risky activities, travel insurance can provide peace of mind. 

If an emergency were to force you to cancel the trip before departure or interrupt the trip early, travel insurance can help reimburse your non-refundable costs. This protection is especially important for expensive, once-in-a-lifetime trips.

Another instance to budget for travel insurance is if you have concerns about potential disruptions to your upcoming travel. Whether due to health issues, work obligations, or family emergencies, unforeseen situations could arise that prevent you from taking the planned trip. In these cases, travel insurance would cover financial losses from cancelled flights, hotel deposits, and other prepaid, non-refundable expenses related to your trip.

Travel insurance can also be beneficial if you have specific health issues or chronic medical conditions. For travelers with illnesses like diabetes or heart disease, emergency medical treatment abroad could be extremely costly without insurance coverage. Purchasing a travel insurance policy that includes emergency medical benefits will cover hospital visits, doctor fees, prescriptions, and more while away from home.

When to Budget for International Insurance

If you are moving abroad to live as an expat, international health insurance is likely an essential part of your financial planning. Having comprehensive health coverage that is valid in your new country of residence protects you in the event of illness, injury, or other unexpected medical situations. Without international insurance, you would likely need to pay hospital and doctor bills yourself while abroad.

Another key time to consider an international insurance plan is if you travel frequently outside of your home country for work or leisure. Rather than buying a new travel policy before each individual trip, an annual international insurance plan covers all your trips within a 12-month period. This can be a more convenient and cost-effective option for those who take multiple international trips per year.

Finally, international insurance can provide coverage and peace of mind if you are concerned about requiring emergency medical evacuation back home. Whether due to an accident, heart attack, or other critical illness, medical transport flights can cost tens of thousands of dollars. International insurance helps cover these expensive evacuation costs that might otherwise fall directly on you.


When going abroad, it’s a good idea to get either international insurance or travel insurance. Depending on how long you’re planning to be abroad and where you’re traveling will likely help you determine which type of insurance is best to budget for. Happy travels!