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I’ve been researching the best travel insurance policy for our upcoming trip around South East Asia. We’re limited as to what insurers we can use because our travel doesn’t originate in our country of residence. This is a big pain for location independent people. You either need to get insurance for the duration of your travels (expensive) or find an insurer which allows you to buy travel insurance on the road (limited options).

We had a sucky experience trying to make a claim for Lee’s damage iPhone 3 when we were in the US last year. We used State Travel Insurance – one of the major insurance companies in New Zealand. We weren’t able to extend the policy on the road so had to estimate when we thought we’d return to New Zealand. This meant we ended up paying for eight months of insurance when we only ended up needing five. They also had no provision for making claims from overseas and were very difficult to deal with. We know now to choose a more nomad-friendly insurer.

We didn’t buy travel insurance before we left New Zealand. New Zealand and Australia have a recipricol healthcare agreement, meaning that we don’t need to pay for healthcare here in Australia. I discovered this when we travelled here last year and was hospitalised overnight for an asthma attack. The only cost that I incurred was the fee to visit the GP as a unregistered patient (A$50). My entire hospital stay was free. We had travel insurance at this stage and the excess was NZ$100 so there wasn’t anything to claim for. There didn’t seem to be much point paying for travel insurance for the one day we were flying from Christchurch to Brisbane – this would have cost us at least NZ$50.

I’ve only found two insurers that will cover us for travel that doesn’t originate in New Zealand – World Nomads and Travel Insurance Direct. Here’s my comparison between the two. Quotes are for a 64 day trip for two adults and one child.

Travel Insurance Direct (NZ but they also have an Australian branch)

  • NZ$480
  • Underwritten by Lloyd’s
  • Coverage for my pre-existing medical conditions (asthma and meniere’s disease)
  • NZ$100 excess – reduced to NZ$0 for an additional NZ$25
  • Personal effect limit of NZ$700 per item. Sub-limits on laptops, tablets, cameras and video cameras up to NZ$4,000. NZ$20 additional for specifying cover for Lee’s iPhone 4s (NZ$1200 value). A maximum of NZ$24,000 worth of gear can be covered.
  • With a bit of googling, I found a 10% discount code online which applies to the base policy but not the extras
  • Total policy cost NZ$525 (NZ$477 with 10% discount code)

World Nomads

  • NZ$456 (This is coverage for three months. It would have only been $414 if we’d were away three days less i.e. under two months total.)
  • Underwritten by Lloyd’s
  • No coverage for pre-existing medical conditions
  • $100 excess – no opportunity to reduce the excess
  • Personal effects limits $250 per item. Specified cover for other items can be added but only up to $1000 per item. A maximum of $3000 worth of gear can be covered.
  • Total policy cost $456

Seems like a no-brainer. I bought the Travel Insurance Direct policy. World Nomads is popular with location independent people because it can be bought outside your country of residence, extended and claims made on the road. It also covers lots of adventure-based activities. There coverage for electronics is terrible so unless you’re travelling with a point & shoot camera and a cheap netbook it’s risky to say the least.

I’d love to hear what other nomadic individuals and families do for their travel insurance. Let me know if there are better options out there! 


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Showing 12 comments
  • Martin

    We went with World Nomads, but the key is who underwrites the policy. Make sure to read the fine print. We had an emergency and had some issues to collect the money. Their side was that they paid for medical emergency only so as soon as you leave the hospital and treatment may not be covered…well at least that’s how they interpreted the policy. For instance, if you break an arm and end up in ER, and then come back next day for reconstructive surgery, the surgery may not be covered as it is after you left the hospital. My advice, call the provide and review the policy with a fine tooth comb. Also, if something does happen to any of you, make sure to call the insurance co right away and communicate via email so you have a trail with their recommended treatment protocol. That is what saved us in the end. The communication trail. All the best in your travels! Martin and family

    • Bethaney

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree it’s so important to go over the policy with a fine tooth comb. It’s terrible to be caught out when you think you should be covered for something, go to claim for it and it’s not.

      That’s a great tip about the medical emergency cover – I guess it pays to check and then insist on having all treatment done there and then.

      A (virtual) paper trail is the best way to cover yourself. We often find we are told different things by different people in customer service. Ringing back and speaking to different staff sometimes nets a different result. Last year, we were told we would have to wait until we returned to NZ to claim for a damaged item by one customer service rep – on a five month trip this just wasn’t acceptable. When we phoned back and spoke to someone else they emailed us through claim forms to process from overseas.


  • Vicky

    I have yet to really jump into travel insurance research but looks like I’ve got a lot of reading to do and many questions to ask!

    • Bethaney

      Travel insurance research is so time consuming. You have to go over policies with a fine-tooth comb. Have a look on “A Little Adrift”. I think she did somewhat of a thorough job looking into insurance for Americans. Good luck!

  • Izy Berry

    Thanks for this post, I’m really grateful. I have heard such great things about World Nomads but I have a laptop and HAD a camera that was pretty valuable, so they just don’t mix well with me.

    • Bethaney

      I couldn’t believe how sucky the World Nomads cover was. So many people still seem to get it. The days of backpacking without a good camera and a laptop are long gone. They need to get up with the times. Hope you found yourself a coupon!

  • with2kidsintow

    We’re Aussie and went with Southern Cross. I was hospitalized for 1wk while in Malaysia and they were really terrific. You can make a claim while overseas too but if it’s for a lost item you’d still need to supply the original receipt. Our claims got paid very quickly too. Really great to deal with but not sure if you can purchase outside of your country of residence. But insurance companies do rip you off for claims on things like cameras etc as the depreciation is a killer.

  • Dave R

    Just being shafted by World Nomads now with their excessive depreciation on non-electronic/computer gear, the kind of stuff that will last another 5 to 10 years without a problem, yet they want to depreciate 25-30% a year. Now needing to find another with fairer replacement values.

  • Reply

    We went with TID as well. They cover so much more electronics then WN. Great comparison.

  • Catherine

    Such a helpful post. I’m looking for travel insurance too for my first, long-term solo trip and, like you, have asthma so need to make sure it’ll be covered as a pre-existing condition. I’m in the UK though so don’t have Travel Insurance Direct over here. I’ll be making sure I read the fine print of any which catch my eye very carefully (especially after reading your most recent post about hospital in Koh Samui)! Glad you’re well again 🙂

  • Brandon @ TheYogaNomads

    We’ve been traveling full time for more than 2 years and ONLY use World Nomads. They reimbursed me fully when I tore a tendon in my hand while in Vietnam. ~$2,500

    • Bethaney Davies

      That’s great Brandon. For us, the coverage for electronics and gear wasn’t enough on World Nomads.

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