What Does Travel Insurance NOT Cover

What Does Travel Insurance Not Cover?

Introduction: If you’re anything like me then travel insurance is probably the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip. Offering a sense of security, especially for unexpected trip cancellations or lost luggage, it is a must-have for most travellers. However, when it comes to medical emergencies, travel insurance *might not* be your best travel companion.

Now, while travel insurance offers a safety net for trip disruptions, but it’s crucial to understand its limitations especially where medical issues are involved. 

This guide dives into the limitations of travel insurance and the gaps in most travel insurance policies that can leave you unprotected and out of pocket.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Simply put, travel insurance acts as a financial buffer against unexpected events that disrupt your trip, providing temporary protection for specific situations, including:

  • Trip cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances
  • Lost or damaged luggage
  • Medical emergencies during your trip (but with limitations!)
  • Travel delays

Honestly, I can’t argue that travel insurance doesn’t offer valuable protection for travellers and nomads, but its limitations in specific circumstances, especially when it comes to medical needs are really important to understand. 

So, here’s what commonly isn’t covered by travel insurance:

  • Pre-Existing Conditions: Travel insurance typically excludes coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or complications arising from them.
  • Routine Medical Care: Routine checkups, vaccinations, or prescriptions for pre-existing conditions are usually not covered by travel insurance.
  • High-Risk Activities: Injuries sustained during adventure sports or excursions deemed “high-risk” by the insurer might be excluded.
  • Evacuation and Repatriation: While some plans offer evacuation coverage, it might not be comprehensive or have limitations on distance or treatment facilities.

Does Travel Insurance cover trip cancellations?

Trip cancellations are typically only covered if the situation is 100% out of your control – such as bad weather that makes it impossible to reach your destination, but even in this instance you may not be guaranteed coverage. 

Now, funnily enough many insurance policies will use ‘acts of god’ to define unavoidable events outside of human control – think natural disasters like floods, tsunamis, or earthquakes. We’ll get to whether or not these are covered by travel insurance shortly.

There’s also more to trip cancellations than just nature. There are loads of other unexpected situations travel insurance might not cover, like:

  • Illness: If you or a close relative falls ill before your trip, you might not be covered unless you have a specific “cancel for any reason” policy. Some travel insurance plans might offer coverage, but exclusions often apply and insurance companies tend to be pretty strict with these.
  • Job Loss: Losing your job before your trip probably won’t cut it with insurance companies if you end up having to cancel. 
  • Personal Emergencies: Unexpected events like family emergencies or home repairs also likely won’t be covered for cancellation under standard travel insurance. You’ll end up paying out of pocket if the insurance company deems that cancellation was due to something like this. 

Pro Tip for you: Consider “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage which will mean you can get money back in case you have to cancel your trip for whatever reason (it is in the name after all!). Be aware, though, that this type of travel insurance usually costs quite a bit more…

Does Travel Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

  • Pre-existing Disaster: If a natural disaster is announced before you purchase your travel insurance, your ticket, or before you leave for your destination, it won’t be covered for trip cancellation. If a natural disaster has been forecast and warnings are in place but you choose to travel anyway, it is highly unlikely that your travel insurance will cover any issues you encounter as you chose to travel at your own risk.
  • Disaster During Your Trip: If a natural disaster occurs after you’ve arrived at your destination, evacuation, relocation or emergency medical expenses might be covered depending on your plan. Any costs incurred due to the disruption to your itinerary likely won’t be covered due to an ‘act of god’. It’s also important to note that only emergency medical expenses will be covered so depending on the severity of any injury, you’ll likely still be faced with paying a large bill at then end. 
  • Acts of God: “natural catastrophes,” “acts of God,” or even “force majeure” often will not be covered by insurance policies as they are deemed to be beyond human control. Read your policy carefully to see if any of this wording is included as it will effect the scope of your coverage in the event of a disaster. 

Does Travel Insurance Cover Adventure Activities?

Love to explore the world on the edge? If that’s the case, travel insurance probably won’t be your best friend when it comes to adventure activities. Many policies exclude injuries sustained while participating in anything they consider high-risk, like skiing, rock climbing, or white-water rafting.

When I first began travelling and got my first travel insurance package the list of exclusions in this section was 2 full pages long – honestly, I think it excluded more than it covered really. 

Okay, it’s really important you’re reading the fine print to understand what activities are excluded from your plan and make sure that any activities that you wish to pursue are covered.

No one wants to be caught short in an emergency when the last thing you should be worrying about is medical bills. You can get specific travel insurance policies that are built for adventure travel, but these often cost more and have higher deductibles.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?

Travel insurance and pre-existing medical conditions can be a tricky combination. Most travel insurance plans exclude coverage for medical emergencies, and even routine treatments, arising from pre-existing and/or chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.  

I’m asthmatic and I have always found that honesty is the best policy when it comes to navigating this area of insurance. Be upfront about your pre-existing conditions when purchasing travel insurance. Non-disclosure could invalidate your entire policy.

Does Travel Insurance cover Medical Expenses?

Travel insurance might provide some coverage for medical expenses but with significant limitations. As I’ve pointed out, it typically applies only with emergencies and accidents.

We have a full article on what medical coverage is actually provided by typical travel insurance policies that you can check out here

But to put it simply, if you opt only for travel insurance, chances are you’ll be out of pocket without proper medical coverage on a long-term trip or travelling overseas. In my opinion, for more comprehensive health care, it’s far better to look at specific medical insurance.

What Travel Insurance Doesnt Cover Medically

There are loads of extra, routine medical expenses that travel insurance does not cover like mental health, outpatient care, minor surgeries, dental and much more – all of which can be covered by a robust medical insurance policy.

I think the biggest difference to highlight is the lack of outpatient and ongoing support care which is massively overlooked by travel insurance.

This means that if you get sick in another country your travel insurance will not cover your ongoing care and recovery including basic things like prescriptions, medication, surgery, checkups ups and consultations. Essentially all the things required to get you healthy and keep you that way in the long term. 

Choosing The Right Insurance

Choosing The Right Insurance

I know I’ve already said it but this is honestly the most important part of getting insured! When choosing travel insurance, it’s crucial to understand what’s not covered.

So, Carefully read the policy exclusions to avoid surprises later, looking out for phrases like ‘pre-existing conditions’, ‘adventure activities’, ‘acts of god’, and specific cancellation reasons.

I know sometimes the legal jargon can be quite hard to break through sometimes, so what you can do is ask Chat GPT to read and summarise the documents for you.

Just make sure you take whatever the AI says with a pinch of salt as they’re still not 100% accurate yet!

Comparing Plans: Coverage Amounts & Deductibles

Compare coverage amounts for different scenarios like medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost luggage. Consider deductibles – the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in. You’ll want to compare plans to find one that offers the coverage amounts you need at a deductible you’re comfortable with.

I like to choose ones that have quite high coverage (what can I say, I’m accident-prone…) but low deductibles so I don’t have to worry too much about out-of-pocket expenses. The only problem with this is that the insurance tends to cost a bit more, but in my opinion its worth it for the peace of mind!

Travel Duration & Destination: How They Affect Coverage

Consider the length and destination of your trip. Longer trips or destinations with high medical costs or more risk might require more comprehensive coverage. 

If you’re travelling to somewhere like Nepal you’ll probably find premiums are a bit more expensive, and you’ll require more intensive coverage including for things like air evacuation, especially if you’re visiting the Himalayas.

Now, compare this to travelling to, say, London and you’ll find that your insurance needs are less intense as you’re significantly less likely to fall off of a mountain.

My advice? Absolutely double check you’ve read the small print on your policy and fully understand in what way you’re covered.  

What Medical Insurance Can Offer

So, while travel insurance provides a safety net for specific trip disruptions, you can see it doesn’t replace comprehensive medical coverage. This is where medical insurance designed for frequent travellers comes in. Having a reliable medical insurance plan designed for nomads can provide a more extensive safety net compared to travel insurance, especially for:

  • Outpatient Care: This allows you to travel with confidence, knowing you’ll have access to necessary medical care without worrying about exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.
  • Routine Care: This is so essential for long-term travellers as it allows you to be proactive in managing your health, giving you access to doctor visits, prescriptions and even some preventative care which can be invaluable. You’ll be able to manage your health before it becomes an unavoidable emergency. 
  • Emergency Care: Medical insurance isn’t just for the every day but also will be there for you in emergency situations so you can just focus on recovering without having to fork out for hospital bills, scans, tests and surgeries. 
  • Worldwide Coverage: Unlike travel insurance limited to a specific trip, medical insurance offers peace of mind with coverage in multiple countries.

How Medical Insurance Is Specifically Designed For Nomads Fills Those Gaps

  • Comprehensive Care: Medical insurance goes beyond just emergency situations. Cover like this typically includes doctor visits, hospitalisation, prescriptions, and even preventive care like vaccinations and blood tests. This ensures you can access routine healthcare needs while abroad, preventing minor issues from escalating into bigger problems.
  • Worldwide Coverage: I’m not a big planner and tend to pick out new destinations on a whim so cover that can follow me wherever I go is a must. Medical insurance can offer worldwide coverage allowing for flexibility and peace of mind, knowing you’re protected wherever your travels take you.
  • Evacuation and Repatriation: Many medical insurance plans include evacuation and repatriation coverage. This could literally be lifesaving for you. This crucial feature ensures access to advanced medical care if needed and facilitates your return home in case of a serious medical emergency.


Travel insurance is valuable for trip cancellations and specific emergencies, but often only 

offers a temporary safety net for specific trips. In many cases, especially when it comes to your health, you will find yourself out of pocket. Otherwise known as nomad insurance

In comparison, medical insurance offers a more comprehensive and long-term solution for health security, especially for frequent travellers and digital nomads. It provides peace of mind, global coverage, and access to quality healthcare, allowing you to focus on your adventures without health anxieties.

By understanding both options and what may be included and excluded in the varying policies, you can make an informed decision to prioritise your health and well-being on your global adventures. 

Remember, your health is your greatest asset. Invest in it wisely.

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With a decade of experience in medical insurance, Damon crafts solutions for nomads and global entrepreneurs. Often seen at global seminars or featured in industry publications, he’s dedicated to simplifying medical insurance for all.

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