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Travel Guide

Hostel Travel: 4 Tips to Insure this Trip




Tips to Insure Hostel TravelDid you know there are hostels to fit every type of travel? We were surprised too, but we found that some hostel sites define different types of hostels – luxury, romantic, family, etc.  –  and tag them by activity  – ski, party, beach. You can even find designations for the structure in which the hostel is lodged: prisons, haunted houses, ryokans, and more.

Many people believe that hostel travel is only done by the young, single backpacker on a budget, but these days there are hostels to fit nearly every type of traveler. Most hostel travelers are watching their budgets, but they also enjoy the experience of staying in a hostel for a range of reasons. Some hostels give you a lively social scene, for example, and the opportunity to make friends. Not all hostels are like big, open dorm rooms either – many have separate rooms for 1, 2, 3, or more travelers who want a little more privacy.

Of course any trip comes with risks and limiting your exposure to travel risks is what travel insurance is all about. We looked into what hostel travelers should know about insuring their hostel trips and came up with the following tips.

1. No traveler expects to have to cancel

It’s important to understand the range of reasons that could cause you to cancel your trip and some may surprise you:

  • You’re in a traffic accident just days before your trip and not recovered enough to travel

  • A family member is diagnosed with cancer, and you want to help with their care (you can travel once the cancer is gone)

  • You’re unexpectedly offered the job-of-a-lifetime, but you have to start tomorrow

  • Your best friend commits suicide and you just can’t stand the thought of leaving right now

Most of the time the reason a traveler has to cancel any trip is completely unexpected. It’s a surprise entirely out of the blue; something you’d never predict happening. Of course, that’s the intent behind insurance. After all, no homeowner expects to see their house burn down in a wildfire, but these things happen.

If you are taking a trip and you’ve spent money on that trip that you cannot afford – or would prefer not – to lose, then insuring that trip against cancellation is a wise idea. When you insure a trip for cancellation, you are insuring the pre-paid costs that are non-refundable. Anything you pay for before you leave – hostel reservations, airline tickets, train tickets, etc. – is a pre-paid trip expense. Some of those expenses are refundable in certain circumstances, but many are not. After all, they want their money too and cancellation policies are written to protect the one who has your cash.

2. Getting home fast can be difficult and expensive

Just like covering your trip for cancellations, it’s important to have a plan for how to get home should you be called home in a hurry. No one expects that their little sister will be in a tragic accident on her way to school, after all, but if you’re traveling wouldn’t you cancel your trip and head home to be with her and your family if they needed you?

Last-minute flights are expensive, especially if you already paid for your return trip ticket. The airlines are a lot less forgiving than they used to be about flight changes – even for emergencies. In some cases, the cost of changing a flight can be worth the price of a new ticket.

Travel insurance plans include trip interruption coverage, which is designed to get a traveler home in a hurry, and 24/7 traveler support for emergencies.

Trip interruption coverage reimburses the traveler for unexpected, and often expensive, travel costs like last-minute airfare, lodging, taxis and more. It can even reimburse a traveler for the portion of their trip they didn’t get to use because of the interruption – so you can travel again once the emergency is handled.

Travel assistance services can help a traveler arrange last-minute travel home.

3. Emergency medical care is always expensive

The cost of medical care is expensive no matter where you travel and when you travel outside your home country, your health insurance plan (if you have one) doesn’t usually cover your medical costs overseas.

Young people – especially active young people – have medical emergencies and if you’re traveling in a foreign country you may be required to pay for your medical care up-front. Unless you’re willing to put your credit card on the line to pay for x-rays, surgery, bandages, medicines, a doctor’s time, and more, you should have travel medical coverage.

Luckily, travel medical coverage is very affordable and even more so for young travelers. It’s almost a no-brainer when it comes to traveling outside the country where a foreign government is simply not responsible for taking care of your medical needs.

4. Baggage gets pilfered

No one is completely safe from thieves no matter where you go, but travelers can minimize their exposure to risk by leaving the valuables at home, carrying limited amounts of cash, using a money belt, and more.

Many hostels also provide lockers that travelers can use to protect their belongings and hostel travelers know to bring their own locks. A little research in advance will let you know if you will have lockers available.

Coverage for lost, stolen, or delayed bags with a travel insurance plan can help the hostel traveler in several ways:

  • If your bag is temporarily delayed, you can get a fresh change of clothes and some basic personal items to get you through until your bag arrives.

  • If your bag is irretrievably lost or stolen, you can be reimbursed for the clothing, personal items, etc. you have to buy to get through your trip (including a bag to take it all home).

There are a number of limits to baggage coverage, including a minimum number of hours before the delay coverage kicks in, and more. Click the links above for a better understanding of baggage coverage with your travel insurance plan.

What’s the Cost to Insure this Hostel Trip?

Let’s take a look at a hostel trip and what you might need to insure on this trip.

Let’s say a group of four college friends will be traveling for two weeks in Amsterdam. They are coming from all over the country and haven’t seen each other since graduation.

  • Tom – Los Angeles is spending $1,149 for airfare

  • Steve – Seattle is spending $1,166 for airfare

  • Owen – Newport is spending $992 for airfare

  • Matt – Dallas is spending $936 in airfare

They settled on staying at a downtown hostel because it’s in a great walkable location with lots of nightlife, museums, and cafes nearby – ideal for younger travelers who don’t want to rent a car.

To save money, they chose to reserve their rooms as non-refundable. They reserved a 4 bed suite to share at just $245 or $61.25 each. Each traveler will want to insure their pre-paid trip costs – their airfare + their portion of the hostel cost.

Each traveler also has individual concerns for this trip:

  • Avid cyclists, Tom and Matt are taking along their road bikes and plan to ride each day.

  • Steve and Own are self-employed and each is taking a laptop to keep tabs on work.

Tom and Matt will want a plan that includes baggage coverage for their bicycles in case they are stolen or lost along the trip. Baggage coverage with most travel insurance plans includes coverage for bicycles, but the total coverage for any one stolen item is not high. So they may want to choose a plan with a higher limit for baggage coverage. Riding your bike on streets is not considered a hazardous sport by the travel insurance companies, and so they don’t need adventure coverage.

Owen and Matt should understand that there is limited coverage for electronics with any travel insurance plan. They can talk with their homeowner’s policy and cover the electronics that way, but otherwise they should plan to carry them onto the plane and keep them locked in the hostel safe or in private lockers when not in use.

See our techniques for keeping valuable safe while traveling for more ideas.

Here are Tom’s trip details plugged into our travel insurance comparison tool:

Tom's travel details

Tom chooses plans with a little higher per-item limit (at least $1,000) on the baggage coverage for his bike:

Compare travel plan quotes

This image shows just a couple of plans to give you an idea of the cost, which you can see is very affordable for benefits like 100% trip cancellation, 150% trip interruption, $25,000 – $50,000 in emergency medical (in case he falls on a ride), and more.

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Travel Guide

Finding Expat (Expatriate) Insurance |




Finding Expat (Expatriate) InsuranceAn expat, or expatriate, is a person who has decided to live and work in a country that is not their original home country. They may be residing temporarily, long-term, or permanently outside the country of their birth and for a wide range of reasons: they like the culture better, the work opportunities are better, the cost of living is better, and more.

What Insurance Concerns do Expats Have?

Expatriates have a long list of things to think about, including tax laws, whether to take their own vehicle or buy abroad, banking abroad, living arrangements, visa and work requirements, and more. Plus every country is different, so if you move around as an ex-pat, you’ll have to keep up with the rules and laws wherever you go.

As an expatriate, you also have to be concerned about health care. While some countries allow a visitor to receive health care paid for by the government, others are less inclined. If the expat doesn’t qualify as a citizen under the government of the country where they are living, their health care is handled differently – and often paid upfront unless they have an insurance plan.

This is fine as long as you never get sick, break a tooth (or a leg), fall into a ditch, run into a nasty mosquito, or get into a car accident, for example. According to media reports, the cost of health care may be the highest in the U.S. and Canada, but it’s rising around the globe as well. Unless you are one of the few who prefer to risk it, buying an expatriate insurance plan is the way to go.

How is Expat Insurance Different from Travel Insurance?

There are essentially two types of travel insurance: vacation plans and travel medical plans. Most vacation (package) plans cover trips of a limited amount of time (often just 30 days) and the cost of covering a cancellation comprises most of the premium. But as an expat, you don’t care too much about trip cancellation coverage. It’s not useful to you.

For an expat, a travel medical plan is the way to go and the premiums are much less than those for package plans. Plus, they come in short- and long-term periods of coverage (even annual) and they can often be extended for more time or renewed on an annual basis. Plus, periodic visits back home are allowed without invalidating your coverage.

Expatriate Insurance Can Cover Non-Emergency Medical Care

Now that you know you have to choose a travel medical plan, it’s also important to consider where you’re going, what type of medical care will be available to you, and whether you’ll need basic maintenance medical care for minor illnesses and checkups.

If you are living and/or working abroad, you may want to have the same level of health insurance as is typical back in the U.S. – especially if you’re traveling as a family and have (or are planning to have) kids. If so, you’ll want to look into a long-term travel medical plan with coverage for non-emergency medical care.

Expat Insurance May Include some Package-like Benefits

Most insurance plans that are appropriate for expats also include at least some benefits that are more commonly found in vacation plans, like the following:

You should carefully review the exclusions of your plan because many plans don’t include coverage for hurricanes, terrorism, political unrest and more. Once you’re in your new country, you can expect your insurance company to get you out unless you have the coverage for it.

Determining How Much Coverage You Need

This is where things can get more complicated because how much coverage you need depends on several things:

  • How much medical care costs where you’re going

  • How much money you have available at any time to pay for medical care

  • Your personal level of comfort with risk

Much like investing in stocks, choosing the right coverage limit is a highly personal decision, but there is some research you can do to make your decision easier. Start by going to the U.S. State Department’s International Travel Information site, and choose the country where you’ll be living as an expat.

Let’s say you’ve decided to spend a year in Australia as an expat, so you choose Australia and the country specific information displays. There are several sources of useful information here, including (links are specific to Australia):

According to the information for Australia, excellent medical care is available but you should check to see if the policy you already have covers you in that country, and if not, you’ll want to have some type of overseas medical coverage.

Finding Expat Insurance Plans

When it comes to finding expatriate insurance plans, we found a couple of plans that you can review for your expat trips:

  1. HTH Worldwide Global Citizen EXP – this plan is worldwide health insurance for emergency and preventative care and includes optional prescription drug benefits, maternity benefits, and more.

  2. Frontier MEDEX TravMed International – this plan has major medical coverage, dental care, and covers evacuations/repatriations for travelers living away from home for extended periods of time.

You can use our compare quotes tool to find an expat insurance plan that fits your needs. Be cautious about any pre-existing medical conditions you may have as medical care for those may not be covered if you choose a plan that excludes pre-existing conditions.

Be sure to check out our Tips to Surviving Culture Shock too!

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Travel Guide

How the Latest Global Travel Alert Affects your Travel Insurance




How the Latest Global Travel Alert Affects your Travel InsuranceEarlier this week, the U.S. State Department issued a global travel alert announcing the threat for terrorist attacks on Westerners and warning U.S. citizens to take precautions while traveling.

The travel alert expires on August 31, 2013, and nearly the moment it was issued, many U.S. travelers were scrambling to check their travel insurance policies and understand the terms under which they might be able to cancel their travel plans – and get a refund – or travel anyway and be sure their emergency medical care will be covered.

Let’s review how this latest global travel alert affects your travel insurance coverage.

A Terrorist Act (by definition) May Not Be What You Think

Travel insurance doesn’t always apply to emergency situations the way many travelers expect it to – especially in cases of terrorism, or political and civil unrest that causes instability in certain regions of the world. Specifically, a terrorist incident is not the same as political or civil disorder or riots.

Understanding how your travel insurance plan defines a terrorist act is critical to understanding your coverage.

See your travel insurance plan’s definition of terrorist act – here is an example copied from the plan description document for TravelEx’s Select plan:

Some travel insurance plans – like Seven Corner’s Round Trip Choice plan – define a terrorist incident like this:

Terrorist Incident: means an incident deemed a terrorist act by the United States Government that causes property damage or Loss of life.

Essentially, the coverage in the plan isn’t in effect unless the U.S. government deems it a terrorist act. So, just because you’d define it as an act of terrorism doesn’t mean your travel insurance provider does.

Changing Your Mind is Not a Covered Reason to Cancel

Most travel insurance policies do not cover trip cancellations in response to a travel alert or travel warning – the terrorist action actually has to occur for the coverage to kick in. For those plans that do include cancellation coverage for terrorist actions, the following rules generally apply:

  • The travel alert must be issued after your plan’s effective date (meaning you can’t buy travel insurance now because the threat is already a known event).

  • The terrorist incident must occur after your plan’s effective date and within a certain number of miles of your travel destination.

  • The terrorist incident must occur within a certain number of days (usually 15-30) of your scheduled departure date.

  • The same city must not have already experienced a terrorist incident within ninety days prior to the incident that is causing you to cancel your trip.

Those travelers with trips scheduled after the August 31, 2013 expiration of the global travel alert can get coverage for their trip, but remember that buying your plan soon after your first trip deposit is always recommended.

Travelers who purchased a travel plan with ‘cancel for any reason’ coverage can cancel their travel plans no later than 48 hours prior to their departure. ‘Cancel for any reason’ coverage is the only coverage that allows a traveler to cancel for any reason at all and get 50-100% of their money back.

See more about terrorism as a covered reason to cancel your trip and a list of policies with that type of coverage.

Benefits May Not Be Payable for Certain Types of Terrorist Incidents

Travel insurance providers limit their losses for some events using exclusions, which are clearly defined in your travel insurance plan. For example, most travel insurance plans specifically exclude any coverage for sickness, injuries, or other losses due to war, attacks using weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical, biological or other warfare – regardless of who commits the act or whether war has been declared or not.

This means that if a terrorist decides to unleash a nuclear attack where you are intending to travel or are already traveling, your cancellation, your emergency medical treatment, your evacuations, etc. will not be covered by your travel insurance plan – even if it’s defined as a terrorist action simply because of the type of incident.

If You’re Traveling Soon and Have Travel Insurance

This particular global alert was issued on August 2, 2013 and expires on August 31, 2013. If you are traveling within this travel alert’s time frame, especially if you are traveling to one of the areas listed in the global travel alert, which are: North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula, you’ll want to do the following:

  1. See if you purchased ‘cancel for any reason’. If you decide not to go, you’ll need to cancel your trip no later than 48 hours prior to departure.

  2. Check your plan’s exclusions section to see how your cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical, and evacuation will be covered in the event of a terrorist attack.

  3. Check your plan’s coverage for political evacuation. In some cases this coverage will provide for your evacuation in the event of government or social upheaval in a foreign country. Remember that the event must occur for the coverage to be available.

If an event does occur within the travel alert’s time frame and you’re traveling, know that extra costs due to travel delays may be covered if the carriers stop all travel for a certain number of hours.

Summing It Up

The issuance of a travel alert or travel warning associated with an increased threat of terrorist attacks does not automatically trigger benefits under your travel insurance policies. Travelers who are concerned about taking their trips in light of the increased threat must have purchased their insurance prior to the alert being issued.

Travelers with plans to travel after the expiration of this latest alert should purchase their travel insurance early – soon after their initial trip deposit date – and consider getting ‘cancel for any reason’ protection in case other alerts are issued and they decide to cancel.


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Travel Guide

9 Expensive Travel Mistakes You’re Likely to Make




Expensive Travel Mistakes that are Easy to MakeWe all make mistakes, but we’ve also learned that some mistakes cost more than others do. This is especially true when you’re traveling. While no traveler can predict unexpected events like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, there are a number of expensive mistakes travelers make often enough to warrant this post.

The following are some of the most expensive mistakes travelers common make – and how to avoid them.

1. Not checking your passport early

This mistake can happen to the best of us – after all, ten years is a long time and if you use your passport infrequently it’s easy to forget when it is due to expire.

Trip cancellation coverage with your travel insurance plan may cover your lost trip expenses if your passport is lost or stolen, but it won’t cover them if your passport has expired because that’s part of your good faith responsibility to verify.

In addition, entry into some countries like Costa Rica requires that your passport be valid for six months AFTER you arrive in the country. If you get turned away at the border for having an invalid passport, your travel insurance plan won’t reimburse you for your costs.

If you’re planning a trip where you’ll need your passport, check the expiration date early and for everyone who’s going on the trip. See the State Department’s information on how to get your passport in a hurry if you need to expedite your passport renewal..

2. Using your phone overseas

These days, our phones do far more than ever before – and many of us are ridiculously dependent on those services to find our way around, find a restaurant, keep everyone updated on our day, etc. But using your phone in a foreign country without an international plan can be shockingly expensive.

Of course, you could leave your phone behind and see what travel was like in the ‘old days’. If that’s too scary, you have lots of options to choose from to stay in touch without losing your shirt, including:

  • Get a temporary overseas plan with your provider for the duration of your trip.

  • Switch to a Voice over IP app like Skype to make calls when you find a Wi-Fi hotspot or use your 3G network.

  • Switch your phone’s SIM card, which you can buy locally and pay local rates.

  • Buy or rent a temporary pre-paid phone that works where you’re traveling.

  • Use a free hotspot and spend your time on social media (just remember to disable any automatic downloads).

See Does travel insurance cover phones to understand how to protect your phone.

3. Packing too much stuff

Nearly all of us struggle with this one and more than half of us return home with an outfit that was never worn on the trip. With baggage fees climbing steadily, it’s wise to rethink how much stuff you’re bringing with you and remember that you can buy something you’re missing on your trip.

Regularly check the weather reports for your destination – both current and historical data – to be sure the items you have are really what you need.

See these tips to lighten your load:

Avoid an expensive situation at check-in by reviewing your airlines’ baggage rules and weighing your bag ahead of time. An overweight bag can really bite into your available travel money.

4. Traveling without medical insurance

Not one of us likes to spend money where it’s not necessary, but having travel medical insurance is not one of those scenarios. Sure, you might get through your entire trip without breaking your ankle on a cobblestone street, or contracting a severe case of norovirus, or slipping on the wet tiles at a spa, but if you do wind up in a hospital that’s outside your health insurance network, it can be an expensive financial blow.

Many countries require up-front payment for medical care even with travel insurance, and some travel insurance providers will pay the medical facility directly. If your travel insurance company reimburses you instead, you may need plenty of credit on your credit card.

Before you leave, contact your health insurance provider and find out what coverage you will have where you’re traveling. If there’s little or none, a travel medical plan is a cheap way to protect yourself.

5. Forgetting to tell your bank

If it’s unusual for your credit or debit card to have a charge for restaurant meal in Paris, then your bank may suspend your card for potential fraud. This is an excellent service when the charge isn’t your own and your card has been stolen, but it can be a real problem when you need to pay for your next purchase and the card has been cancelled.

Avoid this situation altogether by contacting your bank and let them know the dates and where you’ll be traveling. Be sure to give them both pieces of information and tell them how to get a hold of you on your trip – if you’re in Paris and a charge shows up on your account from Singapore, the bank will do what it’s trained to do and close your account anyway.

6. Making booking mistakes

Many of us are guilty of this one and it includes a wide range of mistakes:

  • Not leaving enough time between connecting flights

  • Not verifying our calendars and taking into account the time differences

  • Booking the wrong outbound or return flight

  • Booking a flight out of the wrong airport

Rebooking departure dates is one of the most common traveler mistakes and it happens all the time. You can make a lot of changes to airline tickets, but these days those changes can lead to a hefty fee. Double and triple check your calendar before making reservations.

7. Not reserving a place to stay – at least for the first night

Even the most spontaneous travelers need somewhere to put their suitcase – and perhaps their bum – down for the first night. Traveling can be hard on the human body and landing in an unfamiliar city without a reservation could prove more expensive than you think. Wandering around with heavy bags looking for a place to rest isn’t ideal either.

No matter how flexible you want your trip to be – have a place to stay the first night. Keep that reservation and hotel information handy so you can get directions from a local or give it to a cab driver.

8. Failing to research local transportation

What do you know about the transportation at your destination? If you’re staying in a friendly seaside village, do you know how you will get from the airport to that final destination? You can’t assume that the transportation system where you are traveling is similar to the one you have back home. You might be used to lots of cabs and buses being available at all times of the day and night, but try that in some regions of the world – especially if your plane was significantly delayed and you’re arriving late in the night – and you could end up sleeping in a park until morning.

Do a little research on the transportation so you know how far you’ll be going and how you’ll get there. If you’re planning to take public transportation, be sure you know what options you’ll have when you arrive. Also, it may be more cost-effective to buy your rail passes before you leave.

9. Taking the ‘typical tourist’ route

Staying on the standard tourist route is often the most expensive way to travel. While there are certainly some sites that are not to be missed on certain trips – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, for example – the simple demand for those views means they cost more. Visiting the less known destinations can significantly reduce the cost of your trip and often those are some of the most interesting places to visit.

The same is true for traveling during the high season. A destination’s peak travel period results in the highest demand and thus the highest prices. If you’re planning to travel during a busy time, book well in advance for the best prices. If you can travel during the off-season, however, you’ll save a lot of money but you may not have ideal weather conditions. The shoulder seasons are often ideal to get the best of both worlds.

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