Are you planning a trip to Thailand? Thinking about getting travel insurance but overwhelmed at all the choices available to you? Don’t give up. This travel insurance guide will walk you through the process of selecting the perfect travel insurance plan for your trip to Thailand or Southeast Asia.
After all, you don’t want to be one of those ill-fated foreigners who come to Thailand, get injured, and then rack up a hefty hospital bill. Or worse— hospitals may deny you care. And if you think skipping out on the hospital bill is an option, think again. Some countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements, meaning you might be responsible for outstanding hospital bills no matter where you go.
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- 1 Potential Dangers in Thailand
- 2 Do You Already Have Travel Insurance?
- 3 When to Buy Travel Insurance
- 4 What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
- 5 Recommendations
- 6 Fake Travel Insurance
- 7 Typical Exclusions
- 8 Travel Insurance Conditions
- 9 Add-ons
- 10 How to Make a Claim
- 11 Emergency Contact List
- 12 Final Thoughts
How safe is it to travel in Thailand? The answer to this question it depends on where you plan to go and what you do when you get there. Overall, Thailand is a relatively safe place to travel in. Physical attacks and other crimes are rare, but you still need to keep your wits about you.
Here are some of the potential dangers you might face during your trip.
Potential Dangers in Thailand
- Traffic: In the cities, the streets can be a chaotic snarl of cars and motorbikes, and pedestrians don’t have the right of way. When you add in the factor of inebriated drivers, the road can be a dangerous place.
- Outdoor Adventures: If you are planning on taking part in risky adventure sports such as mountain biking, zip lining, scuba diving, or Muay Thai, sometimes the safety practices and equipment might not be up to Western standards.
- Food Poisoning: The hygiene standards of street food stalls or local restaurants, along with spicy and unfamiliar cuisine, can wreak havoc on the stomachs of some travelers. Eat fresh cooked food. Busy restaurants and food stalls with a high turnover of customers are best.
- Jellyfish: Box jellyfish can be present in the waters and their sting can be painful or even fatal. Wear protective clothing during snorkeling expeditions in areas where jellyfish are present.
- Skin Infections: Fungal infections, rashes, bacterial infections, and other skin issues can develop in Thailand due to sweat, humidity, heat and poor hygiene. Keep your skin clean and dry and apply antiseptic cream to any broken skin.
- Unstable Political Situation: When you travel to Thailand you will need to be vigilant to avoid dangerous situations, such as the recent bombings in Bangkok in August of 2015. Read up on the political climate and any warnings issued before and during your trip. The U.S. Department of State publishes a list of travel warnings on their website.
- Scams: There are many scams played out by unscrupulous locals in Thailand who are trying to swindle unwitting tourists. This includes fake airport taxis, fake gems for sale, corrupt cops, fake travel agents and more. Check out TravelScams.org’s list of 21 common tourist scams.
Do You Already Have Travel Insurance?
Before you buy travel insurance, it might be worth checking to see if you already have travel insurance. Wondering if that might be possible? Check with your existing health insurance provider and your credit card company.
Existing Health Insurance
Sometimes, your existing health insurance provider will cover you for international travel. If you have health insurance coverage through the company you work, call them up and see if you’re covered for travel. But they may exclude coverage for some travel scenarios. Check what your existing health insurance covers, as these exclusions may be necessities in Thailand.
Credit Card Travel Insurance
What about your credit card? Will it provide you with any travel insurance coverage while you are in Thailand? The answer will depend on your credit card, but you can get some coverage. Of course, you will only be covered if you have paid for the travel with your card.
For example, Standard Chartered Bank offers you Travel Accident Insurance Coverage when you pay in full for your travel tickets and flights on scheduled transport. You will need to call to activate at least two hours before you departure time and give details such as your flight number, destination, and arrival date. You’ll also get coverage for flight delay and loss of baggage.
Sometimes your credit card will also provide you with insurance for travel medical expenses. According to April International, the upper limit for medical expenses with a Visa or MasterCard is $12,800, which isn’t enough if you have a serious accident or need medical evacuation. Also, you aren’t covered with Visa or MasterCard if you cancel your trip or if a thief steals your luggage. You also won’t get coverage for liability – which protects you in a situation where you cause injury or damage to others.
So, it is worth finding out what your specific credit card covers you for, but credit card coverage isn’t a replacement for full travel insurance coverage.
When to Buy Travel Insurance
You should buy travel insurance before you leave for vacation. Not every travel insurance company will insure you after you’ve started your journey. WorldNomads is one of the exceptions.
For the best choices, start researching travel insurance ahead of time and buy it before you leave. For most travel insurance policies it is possible to book up to a year from your trip. But this is not necessary. But, if you want your travel insurance to cover you for possible cancellation of your flight, you should take it out the same time you buy your flight.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
To put it simply: If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Travel insurance protects you from a number of risks that could not only ruin your trip, but could also ruin you financially.
The most important part of the policy is the medical coverage, but there are also other aspects to consider. If you have valuable belongings or you plan to take part in adventurous sports, you will need to look for more coverage.
Let’s take a look at what a typical travel insurance policy will cover.
When your flight gets delayed, it can become a huge pain and can add up to some unexpected costs, such as having to stay more nights in a hotel. So, make sure your Thailand travel insurance covers you for flight delays because your airline is not forced to cover you for this.
Usually single trip insurance will protect you on your way back from your trip to Thailand, while multi-trip insurance will protect you from delays occurring within any of the trips you take while you are covered by that policy.
A flight must be delayed for a minimum number of hours of flight before you can get reimbursed. The fine print of your travel policy states the length, but it is around six to twelve hours, although some are shorter.
For example, WorldNomads insurance covers you if your scheduled flight gets delayed for more than three hours. The policy will reimburse you for any unused trip arrangements you missed out on which were non-refundable. So, if you booked a non-refundable tour or excursion and missed it due to a delayed flight, World Nomads would cover the cost of that.
Your coverage will often assign you a specific amount per person, per day. For example, on the Allianz Travel Insurance Deluxe plan, you will be covered for $150 per day (a total of $500), which should be more than enough to cover a hotel room and food in Thailand. This coverage kicks in after a departure delay of six or more hours and also covers any lost prepaid expenses.
On the Global Alert Essentials Policy from Global Alert, you will be covered for up to $100 in expenses per day as long as your flight gets delayed for more than eight hours. If you have the Gold or Platinum Travel Insurance from Good To Go Insurance, and your flight gets delayed for more than twelve hours, you have the choice to “abandon” the trip altogether and recoup your unused flights and accommodation.
When you make a delayed flight claim, make sure you gather all flight details, as well as ask the airline for a report that confirms the fight delay and the cause. Then, contact your travel insurance company as soon as possible to find out what other forms you will need to fill out for your claim.
It is important to also choose a travel policy that will protect you in the event of any damage that occurs to your property while you are in Thailand, such as the airline roughly handling your baggage and breaking something, or a tour guide dropping your backpack and cracking the lens of your camera.
Most travel insurance policies will cover you for your personal effects up to a limit. For example, this Muang Thai Smile Traveller policy will cover Loss or Damage of Baggage and Personal Effect up to $375. This is enough to cover you if you have a small camera or phone with you, but it wouldn’t be enough to cover the loss of a laptop or other more expensive electronics.
Another choice is Travel Guard Insurance from AIG. Plan A will cover you for up to $1,800 for any damage or loss of personal baggage. The insurance will also protect you for up to $750 for damage or loss of property due to natural disasters. In a separate item of coverage, you will be covered for up to $900 for Loss of Travel Documents, which could come in handy if you lose your passport and have to pay to get an emergency passport at your home country embassy while in Thailand.
If someone steals your luggage during your travels in Thailand, a travel insurance policy will protect you. But you will not be covered for negligence. For example, if you leave your bag unattended at a bus station while you go to the toilet and someone steals it, your insurer might not cover you for the loss. When it comes to making the claim, you will need to provide the paperwork for proof of purchase, as well as a police report if someone steals your phone or wallet. You should notify the Thai authorities within 24 hours of the theft and get a written report from them.
Make sure you find out how the insurer will reimburse you for your lost or stolen luggage claim. Will they cover the depreciated value of the personal items, or the full value of your belongings? Or, will they replace the stolen or lost items?
Many travel insurance companies will put a limit on the payout for individual valuable items, such as laptops and cameras. For example, with the UK company Bell Travel Insurance Premier Plan there is a $660 single item limit and a $660 valuables limit. AIG Travel Guard Basic offers a baggage loss limit of $500, with a $50 deductible. This is $500 total on all losses to watches, jewelry, cameras, furs, computers, and electronic devices.
Usually the limits will be around $350 to $650. They may also put a limit on the amount they will pay out for the lost or stolen baggage. This is around $2,500, although some policies are higher. For most people this is adequate coverage, but if you are carrying something of high value in your luggage this may not be suitable for you.
If you have an item of high value, you will need to insure it by adding an extra to your policy. Make sure any “add on” you agree to is in writing. If you have an expensive DSLR Camera and a nice lens it is worth it to get supplemental insurance.
Clements insures high end electronics.
Also, think about what your belongings are worth. If you are traveling with high end camera equipment that would be expensive to replace it is worth paying extra for theft coverage. But if you are just a minimalist backpacker carrying a few clothes, you may find the cost of replacing your belongings yourself is cheaper than the cost of the insurance.
Your travel insurance should cover any medical emergencies and injuries. In the larger cities of Thailand, especially Bangkok, medical care is comparable to any city in the Western World. Once you travel out to the more rural areas of Thailand and find yourself in small villages, this changes and medical facilities can be lacking.
A decent travel insurance company will provide at least $100,000 in medical coverage care. If you have a more upscale policy, you’ll be covered for more, although you might not need it. For example, the International Travel Medical Plan allows you to choose your maximum coverage, starting at $50,000 and going all the way up to $2 million.
Find out whether your travel insurance policy covers you for an airlift if you hurt yourself in a remote location. The protection in your policy for this expense should be at least $300,000. Also, double check the evacuation means from the hospital abroad back to your home country. With the Liaison International Plan by Seven Corners, you can choose a medical maximum of $50,000, $100,000, $500,000, or $1,000,000. This plan comes with Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage of $300,000.
Your travel insurance will cover you for any sudden and unexpected illness that is life threatening or needs immediate treatment.
If you are planning to travel to Thailand for one month, three months, six months or a year , what is the best policy for you? When you plan to be away from home for this long, there is a good chance you will need to seek medical care at some point, whether it is for a minor illness or injury, a cold or flu, or an accident. For longer term travel it is a good idea to look into a travel plan that will give you more health care coverage for an extended period of time.
If you are planning to travel for several months to a year, you should look for long term backpacker travel insurance designed for trips of this length. Of course, it will depend on your specific needs, but here are a few good policies we can recommend. These prices come from sample dates I entered for a traveler from the USA. You may get different prices depending on your travel dates and your home country. But this will give you a general idea of what to expect.
World Nomads is a great choice to cover yourself for a one month trip to Thailand. When I checked the website, one month of coverage was $131.76 for the Standard Plan and $190.41 for the Total Explorer Plan.
The main difference between these two choices is that the Total Explorer Plan covers you for more sports and activities. Also, the Total Explorer Plan includes $500,000 in emergency evacuation coverage while the Standard Plan offers $300,000. The Total Explorer Plan also offers more coverage for trip cancellation—$10,000 vs $2,500—as well as higher coverage for many other situations.
If you are an Australian, Tick Travel Insurance is another great choice for one person traveling to Thailand for thirty days. They offer a Basic Plan for $48.99, which includes unlimited medical expenses, but doesn’t include coverage for electronic devices, valuables, baggage delay, or cancellation.
If you pay $80.41 for the Standard Plan you’ll have unlimited medical expenses as well as $5,000 in coverage for cancellation, $10,000 in emergency expenses, $300 in baggage delay, and $2,000 in electronic device cover. Take a look through the choices to see which is the best plan for the amount of coverage you need.
Seven Corners offers a great balance of value and protection for a three month trip to Thailand with their Roundtrip Elite Plan. It is available for trips of ninety days or less and it will cover trip cancellation for 100% of your trip cost, trip delay for $1,500 for delays of six or more hours, emergency accident and medical expense of $250,000, and emergency medical evacuation of $1,000,000. Plus, you’ll be covered for $2,500 for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage.
Allianz Travel Insurance is another choice for a three month Thailand trip. They offer a classic plan for $452, which will cover you for $8,000 for trip cancellation, $1,000 for baggage loss or damage, $25,000 for emergency medical, and $500,000 for emergency medical transportation. They also offer a 24 hour help hotline, which is available anytime to help you with any travel emergencies.
World Nomads shows up on this list again, because it is one of the best travel insurance companies for long term trips. The Total Explorer Package for a six month trip to Thailand would be $495 and covers $100,000 in medical expenses, $500,000 in emergency evacuation, $10,000 in trip cancellation, and $3,000 in baggage and personal effects. You are also covered for a wide range of adventurous activities such as kite surfing, scuba diving, canyon swinging, and bungee jumping. It offers more coverage than many other insurers, at a similar price.
Also, the advantage of this travel insurance company is that you can extend your coverage online, just in case you like Thailand and want to stay longer than six months.
The Worldwide Trip Protector Plus from Travel Insured International came up as $831.23 for a six month trip and it is a good choice if you are traveling as a family, as it covers children at no more cost. This policy offers $12,000 in trip cancellation, $100,000 in medical coverage, $1,000,000 in medical evacuation coverage, and 24 hour emergency help.
Liaison Majestic’s insurance policy allows you to buy up to 364 days of coverage, as well as renew it for up to three years. It costs $439.35 for the year and it includes $1,000,000 of emergency medical evacuation and repatriation coverage. It also includes $250 per day in the case of natural disasters and 24/7 travel help. You will be covered for motorcycle riding, parachuting, zip lining, bungee jumping, windsurfing, and other adventurous sports.
Navigator is a good choice for a year long trip to Thailand if you travel from Europe and the UK. They have a Navigator Backpacker policy for £193.75, which offers basic coverage for emergency medical expenses up to £1,000,000 and personal belonging protection for up to £300. The Navigator Longstay option is £254.42 for the year and it will cover you for £5,000,000 of emergency medical expenses.
Fake Travel Insurance
Whenever or wherever you buy travel insurance, be aware that travel insurance scams exist.
While on a scuba diving vacation in the south of Thailand, Karsten was offered insurance by the dive trip operator. Karsten asked to look over the insurance policy, and while thumbing through the fine print, found out the policy specifically excluded diving-related accidents or expenses. Upon further reading, he discovered the insurance policy was downloaded from the internet.
While on another trip to Chiang Mai, Karsten rented a motorcycle and took out a 100-baht-a-day insurance. The motorbike he rented wound up breaking down, and when he called for help, a one-man team showed up to pick up the bike. But when the man tried and failed to load the bike onto the back of the truck himself, Karsten had to help him.
Travel insurance packages offered by dive shops and motorbike rental shops can be handy for breakdowns of their own equipment. But when it comes to medical and emergency care, nothing replaces real travel insurance bought from a real insurance company.
Some travel insurance policies will exclude dangerous activities, which can mean motorcycling. Under some policies, you won’ be covered if you get a motorcycle license in Thailand while on vacation. Compare Travel Insurance put together this chart, which compares several travel insurance policies and whether or not they cover you for motorcycle riding. It also specifies which capacity of engine is covered and what license you need to have.
If you are in an accident while riding a motorcycle in Thailand, you won’t be covered. Also, if you are consuming alcohol and riding your motorbike this will void your coverage.
Drugs and Alcohol
On the party islands of Thailand it is affordable to buy a bucket of mixed spirits and energy drinks and dance on the beach until the sun comes up. But consuming a lot of alcohol increases your risk of injury and can make you more likely to make poor choices when it comes to your personal safety.
Under many travel insurance policies, you will not be covered if you are drunk when an injury occurs.
Also, drugs are not hard to find either. But buying drugs in Thailand can get you in trouble with the police and the Thai legal system and if anything happens while you are under the influence of drugs you cannot make a claim with your travel insurance. Plus, Thailand has strict laws for possession and supply of illegal drugs and violators of these laws could face the death sentence. Here is some information about the definition of an illegal drug in Thailand and the penalties for possession.
Have fun while in Thailand, but be smart about it. Avoid drugs and heavy drinking—your safety comes first.
If you plan to take part in high risk adventure sports while in Thailand, such as scuba diving, Muay Thai, bungee jumping and jet skiing, you might not get coverage for them in your travel insurance policy. Usually the underwriter will see them as dangerous activities. But in some policies it might be possible to add them on as extras.
Some insurers will offer special “sports pack” choices that will cover you if you plan on enjoying adrenaline activities while in Thailand. For example, there is the Sports Leisure Pack by Columbus Direct, which provides coverage for scuba diving, water skiing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, horse riding, parasailing, basic boxing training, and many more sports. It provides up to $15 million in medical coverage. It is available for travelers of a limited amount of countries, such as Australia, the UK and Canada, and the price depends on your country of origin.
Dogtag is another choice for special sports and activities coverage. The default package covers a wide range of sports and activities like water sports and mountain biking. Then there are choices for “Sports Plus,” like kite surfing and martial arts. And lastly, “Extreme”,” for paragliding and canyoning, and “Extreme Plus,” for ultra marathons and mountaineering.
Two levels of medical benefits are available: $500,000 or $1,000,000. The policy will cover you from ten to ninety days and the pricing varies with the sports you select. The company gets its name because every insured person gets a unique stainless steel dog tag which carries your name and your policy number, so you don’t need to carry paperwork.
To get an idea of the cost of a pack like this, I asked for a quote for a month long trip to Thailand on the Sports Plus program for a thirty year old from the USA. The premium was $320.43 which included a medical maximum of $500,000, no deductible ,and emergency medical evacuation of $1,000,000.
The best thing to do is to decide which sports you want to take part in while you are in Thailand and then search for a policy that will cover them. For example, if you are booking with World Nomads, they cover two hundred different sports and activities in their policies including boating, bungee jumping, canyoning, and dog sledding. Check out this list to see if the sports that interest you are included.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you contract a sexually transmitted disease while in Thailand. So, have fun but make sure you bring condoms with you and use them at all times.
But the exception is if someone rapes you and you contract an STD. In this situation, if you received medical treatment your travel insurance will cover you for personal injuries resulting from a crime as well as any personal belongings you may have lost during the assault. For the insurance company to consider this claim valid, you must report the crime to the police in the country where the assault took place. In some cases, your policy may cover other costs you will incur as a victim of rape, such as legal fees.
Many travel insurance policies will have general exclusions for events of terrorism. But there are some exceptions. For example, after the August 2015 Bangkok bombings some travel insurance policies covered their clients if they were injured as a result of the explosion, or if they had to cancel their trip at the last minute and couldn’t get a refund.
But this can vary depending on the policy, so make sure you read the fine print, contact your insurer and pay attention to official government warnings. If you travel to Thailand when official government warnings are urging you not to, then your policy may not cover anything that happens to you.
If you have a medical condition that you don’t tell the insurer about and you need treatment for it while you are overseas, you may find your travel insurance policy will not cover the costs. Make sure you note all pre-existing conditions when you are filling out the insurance paperwork, even if the medical condition was years ago and it hasn’t been an issue for a long time.
If you have a pre-existing condition not covered by the typical travel insurance policy, you may want to look into special travel coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Travel Insurance Conditions
Cancellations and Non-Extensions
Often your travel insurance will reimburse 100% of your prepaid travel costs if you have to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen and covered event. This could include weather issues, natural disasters, injury or illness, hurricanes, court summons, traffic accidents, property damage, terrorist events, and much more.
But you may not be covered for every reason you cancel the trip for. For example, you won’t be covered if you decide to cancel because you can’t afford the expense, or because the weather isn’t agreeable. Although, there are some policies that will allow you to cancel your trip for any reason.
Pre-existing conditions are generally not covered by your travel insurance. So, in simple terms this means you will be covered for anything that goes wrong, as long as it isn’t linked to any medical condition you already had before you went to Thailand.
So, if you suffer a heart attack because a tuk tuk hits you, you’ll be covered because the tuk tuk caused the heart attack. But if you have a heart attack and then fall in the path of the oncoming tuk tuk, you wouldn’t be covered.
Some travel insurance plans will cover medical costs relative to pre-existing conditions by offering a waiver to the exclusion. Also, you can get special travel insurance plans designed for people with pre-existing medical conditions. For example, UK’s AllClear specializes in insurance for pre-existing medical conditions. They cover over 1300 different conditions, from cancer to diabetes to heart conditions to asthma. Plus, they have no age limits on their policies which makes them suitable for older travelers.
If you injure yourself or become sick while in Thailand and you need an evacuation, it can be expensive. You will want to make sure you have medical evacuation coverage that will include airlifting you to a hospital in Thailand for emergency treatment, as well as transport back to your home country when the hospital clears you.
In many policies, emergency medical transportation coverage may also include the cost of bringing a friend or family member to the medical facility, or where you get treatment or return any dependent children to your home or to a location of your choice. Travel insurance companies or their agents must approve and coordinate medical evacuations.
To give you an idea of what the average travel policy provides for this coverage, let’s look at some examples. The Annual Travel Protection Policy from Allianz covers you for up to $100,000 in medical evacuation. This seems like a lot, but if you need to be airlifted with a medical helicopter from a remote region, given care, and then returned home, the costs can get this high.
There is a special plan called Medjet Assist which specializes in medical evacuation services. You pay for an annual membership and you are covered with no limit on the cost of your medical evacuation.
With this coverage, you can get medical evacuation from any hospital in the world to any other hospital in the world, and you can buy the membership for one, three and five year plans. The basic plan will cover you for up to ninety days of travel per year, while other plans provide for longer travel. This means no matter what happens and how expensive it becomes, you will be covered. But they do not cover you for any other medical treatment. You will need to buy this along with any other travel insurance coverage.
A typical comprehensive travel policy will cover most of the basics, but there are certain add-ons you might want to include within your policy which will cover extras. For example, if you plan on driving in Thailand you may want to buy a suitable add-on which will cover any damages that may occur to the rental car. You can also add on third party liability insurance which could cover the liability to someone else if you were to get into an accident.
How to Make a Claim
When something goes wrong and you need to make a claim on your travel insurance, you will need to visit the website of the travel insurance company and download the necessary forms.
You’ll also need to send over evidence of your expenses, such as receipts, and medical forms. If you are filing a claim for theft, you’ll need to send in a copy of the police report from when you reported your stolen belongings.
When it comes to baggage delays, you must get a document from the airline that confirms the flight number, the reason for the delay, and the delay period.
It’s important to read through the fine print on your travel insurance policy, to make sure you are covered for what you think you are covered for. If not, you could have an unwanted surprise when it comes to making your claim.
Saving the Important Info
Make sure you save all paperwork for any medical treatment you receive while in Thailand. This includes receipts from the pharmacy for any prescriptions and printouts of medical results. You will need to be able to show the insurance company what treatment you received and what you paid for it.
It’s better to gather more evidence than may be necessary than to not have enough paperwork, so ask the hospital to print off any information, receipts, and other details about your visit.
What does it mean when your travel insurance policy requires prior authorization?
This means your insurance company must check before they will agree to cover certain medical procedures or prescribed medications. The insurers have stated the purpose of this is to prevent any unnecessary procedures as well as prescribing expensive brand name medications when there is a generic choice available.
If your travel insurance asks for prior authorization for a medical treatment and you don’t get it, they may consider your claim null and void. So, make sure you know whether or not you need prior authorization. If it is, always call the travel insurance before you see a doctor in Thailand.
It may take quite some time to get reimbursed by your travel insurance, as they will need to process the claim and see whether it is valid. Once they have approved everything and have decided to reimburse you, they will mail you a check. But it is possible to get reimbursed in other ways, such as a direct deposit.
Emergency Contact List
|Emergency Contact||Phone Number|
|Ambulance and Rescue||1554|
|Australian Embassy in Bangkok||+66 2 344 6300|
|Canadian Embassy in Bangkok||+66 2 646 4300|
|American Embassy in Bangkok||+66 2 205 4000|
While there is no one perfect travel insurance policy for everyone, the list above should help you narrow down your choices and show you what is available through some of the more popular Thailand travel insurance providers. If you have any experience with Thailand travel insurance, be sure to let us know in the comments section.
Featured image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall.