‘Travel insurance’ has been a phrase on every traveller’s lips of late. In times of global crisis, you really get to know what is and isn’t covered, how companies define terms (and why the fine print matters), and what your rights are as a customer.
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But travel insurance isn’t just something you take out in case a crisis unfolds. Ninety-nine percent of long-term travellers would agree with me when I say that travel insurance is something you should always have, no matter how long or short your trip is, or how far or close to home you’re travelling.
When you’re on the road, things can, and do, go wrong. After almost five years of travelling full-time and living overseas, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way! From my partner falling ill and being diagnosed with a chronic illness on the road, to political unrest, lost luggage, visa issues, and now a global pandemic, travel insurance has saved our butts more than a few times.
Up until now, I’ve always taken out multiple short-term policies back to back to cover longer journeys. When you add up all the policies I forfeited when plans changed and all the overlap I’ve paid for, I’ve probably lost hundreds of dollars.
When I learned about SafetyWing, a new medical insurance provider that could cover me for my upcoming extended trip to the Caucasus, I was very keen to try it out.
This review was sponsored by SafetyWing, but all opinions and recommendations are my own. This review is intended to provide an overview of SafetyWing’s pros and cons as a long stay travel insurance provider. Before deciding if a particular travel insurance provider or policy is right for you, read the PDS and do your due diligence.
In This Post
- What is SafetyWing, and why is it different?
- Advantages of taking out long stay travel insurance with SafetyWing
- What isn’t covered by SafetyWing
- SafetyWing’s response to COVID-19
- SafetyWing long stay travel insurance: The verdict
What is SafetyWing, and why is it different?
SafetyWing is a Norwegian start up based out of Palo Alto. It was born from a fairly simple idea: To fill the gap in the market for long-term health insurance. Policies are offered through their partner, Tokio Marine HCC, and underwritten by Llyod’s.
SafetyWing is designed specifically for digital nomads and remote workers. It also works for people who are planning to spend extended periods overseas.
There are lots of ways SafetyWing stands out from other providers, including the policies themselves and the way they’re purchased. SafetyWing is a subscription service, meaning you can pay month to month. This has some major advantages, including a flexible end date. If plans change, you don’t have to worry about your insurance expiring when you’re on the road.
Advantages of taking out long stay travel insurance with SafetyWing
SafetyWing was developed to fill a specific gap in the market, and the company has certainly succeeded with delivering on many nomads’ expectations.
Here are some of the major advantages to choosing SafetyWing over ‘conventional’ travel insurance providers.
Policy conditions are flexible
SafetyWing policies aren’t restricted by many of the conditions applied by other providers. For example…
You don’t need an end date or proof or return travel – something a lot of insurance companies require before you take out a policy. (I never knew this and in retrospect, previous policies I’ve bought could have been found void if I made a claim because I never possessed a return ticket. Now that’s a scary thought!) SafetyWing policies are valid for a maximum of 364 days, after which you can simply re-subscribe.
You can purchase a policy after your trip has already started – again, many insurance companies require you to purchase a policy before your trip has commenced. With SafetyWing, you can sign up from the road.
I actually had the reverse problem when trying to take out a SafetyWing policy from home. If your address is in Australia, Canada, Florida or New York State, you can’t purchase a policy while you’re physically there. SafetyWing advised me that this is due to local regulations. You can get around it by giving them an alternative address – otherwise, you’ll have to wait until you’ve flown out. I had to buy a 48-hour policy to cover my first flight to Doha, then I signed up to SafetyWing from Qatar. It was a bit of a hassle (and extra expense), but not a huge deal.
Finally, if you finish your trip earlier than expected or you decide to switch to local health insurance, you can cancel your policy any time and get a partial refund. SafetyWing rolls over automatically each month, but you have a grace period of 3 days to get a full refund on your last installment. If it’s been longer than 3 days and you’re eligible for a refund, you could still get your money back minus the $25 cancellation fee.
Affordable & straightforward pricing structure
One of the most attractive things about SafetyWing is the low prices. While most travel insurance providers offer different coverage tiers (silver, gold, platinum, etc.), SafetyWing has flat rates depending on your age group.
These are the current prices for global coverage excluding travel in the US. If you do plan on visiting the States, it will incur an extra charge (approximately a 45% increase on the policy price depending on your age).
- 10-39 years old: $36.96 USD/28 days
- 40-49 years old: $59.92 USD/28 days
- 50-59 years old: $94.08 USD/28 days
- 60-69 years old: $127.68 USD/28 days
If you’re over 69 years of age, SafetyWing can’t offer you coverage. If you have a child who is under 10 but older than 14 days, you can opt to have them receive automatic coverage under your adult policy (maximum 2 children per group).
There are two ways to pay for your policy: Either you pay for the first 28 days then elect to have future payments automatically withdrawn from your Paypal or bank account, or you can set your travel dates (if you know them) and pay for the entire policy up front. There is no discount if you choose the latter.
Policies have a standard deductible of $250 USD and a maximum payout of $250,000 USD. No co-payment is required for medical expenses as long as you’re claiming outside of the US. Some essentials such as emergency dental care, medical evacuation and compensation for trip interruption are not subject to the deductible.
Coverage for some high-risk activities & destinations
Riding a scooter or motorbike, recreational skiing, scuba diving (as long as you’re PADI Certified) and a host of other ‘high-risk’ recreational activities are all covered by SafetyWing.
Paragliding, martial arts, quad biking and some other sports are not. It’s important to note that organised sports with scheduled practices and games are not covered. If you’re an expat who signs up to join a local football league, for example, you may not be covered for injuries.
SafetyWing covers world-wide travel, including some countries deemed high-risk by other providers, such as Pakistan (although you won’t be covered for kidnapping). The only countries not covered are Iran, Cuba and North Korea. Citizens of these three countries aren’t eligible to take out a policy with SafetyWing, either.
Coverage for visits to your home country
This is a big one for expats – SafetyWing will still insure you during visits back to your home country. They are one of the few providers that will cover incidental home visits of up to 30 days duration within every 90-day period.
If your home country is the US, it’s limited to 15 days per 90 days.
24-hour support & easy claims
24-hour support and online claims are pretty standard these days. SafetyWing also offers these features.
When you take out a policy, you get access to an online database where you can find a list of recommended medical professionals in your area. Some providers on the list offer direct billing, meaning you won’t have to pay anything upfront (but you’ll still need to submit a claim).
I haven’t had to lodge a claim through SafetyWing (knock on wood), but the process seems fairly straightforward. You just log into the member area on the website, fill out the PDF form and send it to the designated email along with photographs of your receipts and any other relevant documents.
What isn’t covered by SafetyWing
SafetyWing has lots of perks, but there are also some pretty big limitations that you should take into consideration as well.
No coverage for lost or stolen electronics
In my opinion, the biggest downside to taking out long stay travel insurance with SafetyWing is their policy on electronics. This will be a deal breaker for a lot of people.
I’m slightly baffled as to why an insurance product pitched at digital nomads wouldn’t cover laptops, cameras or other equipment you need to work from the road. There must be a good reason why – and I do have it on good authority that this will change in the near future (fingers crossed).
For now, keep in mind that you won’t be covered for electronics and that you can’t add these on separately onto your policy like you can with many other providers. You’re still covered for checked luggage lost during transit, but only up to a max of $500 per item.
No coverage for pre-existing chronic conditions
SafetyWing will cover acute onset of a pre-existing condition, but it’s not applicable to chronic conditions. My partner suffers from a chronic illness and unfortunately, he couldn’t get coverage under SafetyWing and had to go with an alternative provider.
No coverage for cancellations or rental cars
If plans change and you have to cancel hotel or tour bookings, SafetyWing won’t reimburse you. For digital nomads who are more likely to be staying in one place for a long period, this isn’t such a big deal.
If you’re planning a road trip, remember to take out separate rental car insurance.
SafetyWing’s response to COVID-19
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a temporary black swan event, I wanted to touch on SafetyWing’s response. I think the way they handled the situation says a lot about the company and how they cope with crises.
In my view, SafetyWing was very proactive in issuing email updates to its customers about their rights and what is/isn’t included under their policies. They were quick to set up an information page to centralise all information.
As the pandemic unfolded, SafetyWing made it clear that Coronavirus-related expenses were covered provided you didn’t travel to a Warning Level 3 country after the warning was issued by the CDC, or remain there 10 days after. Customers were given a 10-day period to evacuate Warning Level 3 countries and could apply for political evacuation benefits.
SafetyWing long stay travel insurance: The verdict
Overall, SafetyWing is a solid choice for long stay travel insurance, particularly if you’re a digital nomad or remote worker and plan on spending an extended period of time in the one location. If you’re moving around a lot, you should consider the limitations of coverage before you commit.
SafetyWing isn’t a replacement for conventional travel insurance – it’s closer to a health insurance policy that will cover you for emergencies. If that’s all you need, fantastic – I think SafetyWing is hard to beat in terms of value, customer service, and specific perks such as covering visits to your home country.
As a SafetyWing user, I feel confident in my coverage and secure in the knowledge that the company has a robust response system to global crises.
Remember – travel insurance is a highly personal choice and you should always investigate different providers and policy options to suit your personal circumstances.