The differences between international health insurance and travel insurance

What's the Difference Between International Health Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance?

You’ll need to safeguard your medical health if you’re heading abroad, whether it’s permanently or for a short trip. When it comes to travel vs health insurance, the former suits people heading on holiday, while the latter is for expats working and living abroad.

Both insurance types cover different needs. So, what you’ll want from your insurance package will depend on your personal circumstances and the length of time you want to protect yourself.

Let’s look at the differences between the two before we decide.

What is international health insurance

International health insurance is medical coverage that covers expatriates living abroad for a long period of time. It’s for those that have packed up and taken residence overseas.

With this insurance, you can protect yourself in case of any health issues while living there.

This is an annual agreement, unlike the short-term nature of travel insurance. In some countries it is a legal requirement. Even in countries where it isn’t, it can be more beneficial than using the local health service.

International health insurance is mostly medical based, offering cover for pre-existing conditions, hospitalisations and other health-related costs and issues.


Who is international health insurance for?

International health insurance is for those who are working abroad for long periods of time, studying internationally, or just living there.

Expats, students and foreign nationals might want to consider protecting their health with comprehensive insurance. Especially if local law means you can’t access the national healthcare system.

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a short-term medical cover for people visiting another country on holiday or while backpacking. There are a few differences between travel insurance and international health insurance.

Like health insurance, travel insurance will cover emergency treatment, however, you’ll need to return to the country where you reside permanently for long-term care and support.

It also covers travel related issues, such as flight cancellations and protection against loss of personal items.


Who is travel insurance for?

Travel insurance is for vacationers and backpackers taking a trip to another country. They can use the coverage while visiting there. It can put people’s minds at rest, so that if anything happens – they’re covered.

Differences between international health insurance and travel insurance

So, what type of insurance is best suited to your needs? The first question you should be answering is how long you need insurance for. If you’re on a short-term trip of a few months or less, then you might want to consider travel insurance. Longer durations of cover are better suited to international expat insurance.

Let’s look at the differences at a glance.

International health insurance

  • Long-term, often 12-month cover.
  • Choice of where to receive care, with many insurers having access to a network of global hospitals and medical practitioners.
  • Covers long-term care needs like maternity cover, pre-existing health conditions and surgery recovery.
  • Sometimes a legal requirement in nations that don’t offer national healthcare or restrict access to nationals.
  • Has a medical focus.

Travel insurance

  • Short-term, cover usually of six months or less.
  • Treatment at the nearest medical facility.
  • For people visiting another country on holiday or short breaks.
  • Usually requires repatriation to your home nation for long-term care.
  • Covers things that aren’t medically related too, such as lost luggage and flight cancellations.

What does international health insurance cover?

International health insurance differs between insurers, but generally the cover relates to medical issues and care. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Hospital stays – this is if you need to stay in hospital for medical purposes.
  • Routine check-ups – the standard routine care, for example, at a GP or family doctor.
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions – you may have ongoing medical issues; you can continue with treatment for it.
  • Cover for chronic conditions – this is coverage for those with conditions such as cancer, asthma, arthritis.
  • Maternity care – you or your partner may be expecting a child, this is to cover you for that pregnancy period and beyond.
  • Dental care – for your teeth.
  • Mental health care – not all health issues are physical, this is to cover psychological treatment.
  • It’s a legal requirement in some nations.

What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance will differ between insurers, but generally cover is for holiday specific issues. These can include:

  • Cancellations – in case your flight is no longer going ahead.
  • Loss of luggage – if your suitcases go missing.
  • Delays – if your flight takes longer than expected or you miss a connecting flight as a result of delay.
  • Loss of personal belongings – misplaced items can be a nuisance, have peace of mind with travel insurance in case it happens.
  • Theft while abroad – this is to cover you in case you’re a victim of theft while abroad.
  • Emergency medical treatment – for those unexpected medical visits.
  • Repatriation to own country – covering travel back to your own country after you’ve received emergency treatment wherever you are.

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Yes, we recommend you get travel insurance even if you have private healthcare insurance. While private offers access to the best medical treatment, travel insurance can also cover those other things such as loss of luggage.

In some countries, international health insurance is a legal requirement. Some even have it as a pre-requisite for the visa application. Therefore, we recommend checking your destination country’s requirements ahead of travelling there.

Both travel insurance and health insurance are different and cannot overlap. Some travel insurance plans provide very basic medical cover. For a fully comprehensive plan covering a broad range of medical needs – we recommend health insurance.

We recommend arranging your international health insurance before arriving at the country you’re looking to relocate to. Ensuring you’re protecting from the off can give you more free time to make the most of exploring your new home.