Cheap international travel health insurance might pay the hospital bills.
But what if . . .
What if you lose your passport? Damage your brand new camera? Can't get to the airport because of bad weather? Or need to be evacuated in an emergency?
One of the keys to having a great time backpacking around the world is knowing you're well protected in case the unexpected happens. But if you haven't done a lot of international travel, it might not be so easy to imagine what the unexpected could be.
Here's the lowdown on what a decent international travel health insurance policy should cover:
Even just going to a foreign doctor for a prescription refill can set you back a few hundred dollars. So if an unfortunate accident lands you in hospital, be prepared to fork out for it — big time.
Many health care providers insist on taking your credit card details before they attend to you. Some even expect payment in advance. Others may treat you but then they won't let you go until you've coughed up the cash!
With good medical travel insurance, you simply hand over your policy card and your insurers take care of the rest.
Things don't always go to plan.
Maybe your travel companion gets sick and you have to postpone your departure. Or your flight is delayed overnight and you lose your hotel reservation deposit. Or your visa application is denied and you need to rebook your round the world tickets.
That's why trip cancellation insurance is so important.
You might not think you'll end up dune bashing through the Arabian Desert, abseiling into glow worm caves at Waitomo, dog sledding across frozen lakes in Lapland or swimming with sharks in Bora Bora.
I didn't either. But guess what?
Okay, so you might not be up for a close encounter with Jaws. Still, even a relatively tame elephant trek in northern Thailand or a few runs down the slopes at Ski Dubai could mean trouble if anything goes wrong.
Be sure your international travel health insurance covers you!
Say you rent a scooter to boot around the olive plantations and visit the whitewashed mosques of Djerba. You accidentally crash into someone else's scooter (ahem . . . not exactly my finest moment!) and end up responsible for the repairs.
That might not be so bad. But what if you hurt the driver as well?
(Just for the record: I didn't.)
Personal liability insurance will not only pay for the scooter repairs but also cover you for any injury you may have caused another person. And if any lawyers get involved, your legal fees should be taken care of as well.
Slip and break a leg on your Amazon jungle safari and you'll be waiting a long while for the doctor to see you!
In places that just aren't equipped to deal with medical emergencies the only option you might have is an air ambulance. That could be anything from a seaplane to a Learjet — and you really don't want to know how much it costs.
Check that your budget travel insurance includes medevac.
In the worst case scenario or if your recovery is expected to take some time, you might want or need to be airlifted home.
Repatriation is not cheap. Basically, you're chartering a private plane with expensive hospital equipment on board and paying a specialist medical team to accompany you. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars in the case of a flight to the US East Coast from Europe.
Now, if that's not enough incentive to get international travel health insurance, I don't know what is!
All it takes is one knock to your camera to regret not having any international travel health insurance.
You can insure you backpack and more or less everything in it — from your clothes to your snorkelling mask to your notebook computer. And remember you'll have a passport, international plane tickets and travel money to keep safe as well.
The best travel medical insurance will even let you waive your deductible (also called excess).
It's not much fun when you fly into a city for three days and your bags are delayed for two of them — or your backpack doesn't show up at all until you get to your next destination!
Don't count on getting any real compensation from the airlines, either. The most they're likely to do is deliver the bags to you when they finally do arrive.
And even if you are lucky enough to get some money to buy basic toiletries and underwear to tide you over, it won't be a lot.
Cheap travel insurance can be a big help in these sorts of situations.
Some countries are well known for their cheap but high-quality medical and dental care. I've actually met backpackers who've specifically planned their around the world itineraries to include dental surgery!
No insurance is going to pay for you to have your teeth whitened or get a cavity filled, but some policies do cover emergency dental treatment.
If you fall and break a tooth, for example, your international travel health insurance should pick up the tab.
Travel insurance policies always come with long lists of terms and conditions, limits and exclusions.
So make sure you get what you think you're paying for!
Find out how: