By Alison Fox
September 08, 2019
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Sometimes travel isn’t as simple as booking a ticket and off you go. In fact, when you travel internationally, you often have to think about things like getting a visa and the expiration date on your passport.

And in some cases, you also need to think if the country you are heading to requires you to have travel insurance.

“If a visa is required, there are certain instances where travel medical insurance is going to be required... depending on what country you're going through,” Jill Cappelli, the sales director for individual plans for the Eastern Region for GeoBlue, the international division for Blue Cross Blue Shield, told Travel + Leisure, adding that with domestic health insurance: “There are typically gaps in coverage and a lot of gray areas in the policy because they don’t really define what is and what is not covered internationally.”

Cappelli said needing insurance when you travel differs by the country you are going to, which passport you hold, and how long you are staying for. And without insurance, bills can add up: you’re often asked to pay for a service up front and Cappelli recalled an instance where someone needed to be medically evacuated, which ended up costing $185,000 (paid for by insurance).

Beth Godlin, the president of travel insurance provider Aon Affinity Travel Practice, told Travel + Leisure that travelers should check the U.S. Department of State website to find out if the country they are heading to requires insurance.

“One of the primary benefits of travel protection is reimbursement of non-refundable expenses if a consumer is forced to cancel a trip for an unforeseen reason like an illness that requires medical attention. But there are still risks to travelers and their investment after the vacation begins,” Godlin said in an email, adding: “All vacations have their own nuances to consider, so be sure to ask plenty of questions of any travel insurance provider and read the policy thoroughly to ensure the investment matches both trip and the traveler. Sometimes a relatively small investment can have a huge payoff for traveler safety and peace of mind.”

Some countries make insurance mandatory while others, like Japan, are thinking about it, according to the Los Angeles Times. Currently there is legislation in Thailand that would make travelers pay about 65 cents at the airport into a fund that would cover someone in the event they died up to just over $32,000, according to The Telegraph.

Here are some countries that require travel insurance.

Cuba

Cuba requires that visitors have non-U.S. medical insurance, according to the Department of State, which is usually included in an airline ticket price on flights that originate in the U.S. The department added that travelers should check with the airline and keep their boarding pass, as they will need it to obtain medical care.

Schengen countries

The Schengen area is made up from 26 countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, and Switzerland. While citizens from the United States are exempt from needing a visa for a short tourist stay, residents of some other countries require one. If you are required to obtain a Schengen visa, you also need to have a travel medical insurance plan that covers “emergency medical, [hospitalization] and repatriation (including in case of death)” with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros, according to the European Commission.

Russia

U.S. citizens are not required to show proof of medical insurance when applying for a visa, but that is not the case for other countries. Citizens of some European Union countries, for example, are required to provide a copy of their health insurance policy card and policy documents, according to VFS Global, the website for Russia Visa Application [Centers] in U.S.

Antarctica

The beauty of going to Antarctica is its total remoteness. But that also means that the continent doesn’t have any public hospitals, pharmacies, or doctor’s offices, according to the State Department. And while cruise ships can deal with minor issues, you will likely have to be evacuated if you suffer a medical emergency, which can be prohibitively expensive. Some cruise ships include emergency evacuation as part of the cost of the cruise, like Quark Expeditions, but the State Department strongly recommends people purchase insurance.

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