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  1. #1
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    Insurance for the adventurous?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm writing an article for a website on insurance for the adventurous traveller, which includes us cyclists!

    I'd love any feedback from those of you who've bought travel insurance for cycling (or other adventurous activities - not your bog standard cruise or bus tour) on any pitfalls you might have encountered, tips on how to choose insurance.

    From the American perspective, I wonder if planning a big cycle tour (say a RTW trip) where you'll be away many months causes problems when you come back home and need to get domestic coverage again?

    For example, I discovered that many companies that advertise cycle touring coverage only offer it as an incidental part of the holiday. If you're doing it every day of your vacation, you're not covered.

    If you don't mind being quoted, that'd be great. I may message you for your real names. Otherwise, even just general feedback to go into the 'brainstorm pot' would be appreciated. And if there are any experts out there who'd like to be interviewed in depth, please get in touch too. I may be able to provide links to relevant websites...
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  2. #2
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Just general feedback:

    Living in the USA, the only insurance I've bought has been appropriate health insurance. I make sure it covers me for where ever I am going -I figure I can get over the loss of a bike, but not a life changing injury or death! Though I know other countries I've been to have some form of universal health care, from a moral standpoint since I don't live in that country nor pay the taxes, I don't see why another country's tax payers should foot my health care bill if I need medical services. I figure health insurance costs are just part of touring -if you are not covered by your own country or as an individual where you plan to tour and if you can't afford health insurance, then you shouldn't be going unless you have your own private funds to cover large medical expenses. Of course if that country has no medical services to speak of, that doesn't apply and in which case you take your chances being aware of this .

    I have never bothered with property insurance (though I may well be covered on my home owner's insurance, I'm not sure) as I feel that a catastrophic loss of all my touring possessions can be eventually replaced. As I've not been on a RTW trip nor am likely to, the word "eventually" is probably more acceptable to me. A couple of things make me think this way:

    1. Any equipment loss is likely to be via the airline and hence I know I'll probably be able to get some money back (I realize there are small limits, but still it can be worth it if successful). I'm also pretty careful with my bike and stuff when I am on tour, so I think theft is less likely.
    2. I have a backup bike and equipment if I want to go touring again.
    3. Each time I don't pay it, I get ahead of the game.... (yes, I know I've been lucky).

  3. #3
    mev
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    I've done two long trips outside the US, one where I was 10 months outside the US and once 9 months outside the US. In both cases, I was on leave from paid employment.

    The first case wasn't as interesting as my employer continued to pay a share of health coverage and I paid my normal smaller amount. This confused me a little since (a) employees I'd had that went part time e.g. 80% had to pay more than I did earning 0% of normal salary (b) benefits coverage was a rather big bureaucracy and not well set up for someone on the road. Prior to the 10 months overseas, I did a "warm up" ride across the US and there were several times I was on the phone with the benefits folks trying to figure if I was covered or not.

    The second case, company policies had changed that folks taking a leave of greater than 90 days were now placed on cobra coverage. The benefits bureaucracy was a little less - though it did cause a little confusion when the "you are enrolled in cobra" letters referred to termination of employment. Apparently, that was a blanket letter sent to everyone even those going into cobra due to a leave. I also had some difficulty getting a straight answer from the benefits phone sites and web sites exactly how I would submit a claim from overseas. The folks I talked with prior to the trip would tell me to "just dial the 1-800 number" and tell me the business hours in central time in the US without apparently understanding that it was likely I wouldn't be able to reach that 1-800 number from overseas. Finally after two tries, I was able to get a second number to use.

    My interactions with the benefits people did not give me much confidence that I would easily be able to submit a health claim for something that happened in middle of Russia. So, I looked a bit on the internet for medical insurance that might pay for things overseas. Without a huge amount of comparison shopping, I picked a policy from Liason International. That was all a pretty straightforward operation, though I didn't ever need to interact with their claims group.

    I also wondered a bit if something actually happened, while the policy said up to $500,000 medical coverage - there were also clauses that they would pay up to $20,000 for a medical evacuation (at which point this particular policy no longer covered things) so if I truly had something severe it would certainly cheaper for them to bring me back to the US. I was also reassured that when they gave a specific list of high-risk activities that required an extra rider (e.g. bungee jumping, sky diving, motorcycle racing) that bicycle touring across Siberia wasn't on the list.

    I was fortunate that in neither case did I need to submit and claims, so didn't need to test that part of the process.

  4. #4
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    It isn't clear to me what you are trying to cover. Are we talking health, property, something else?

    I have never toured outside of where my health insurance covered me and never saw the need for other coverage. Property just isn't that big of an issue. My gear is all pretty inexpensive other than my camera. If I lost everything and had to replace it, I could be touring again for $1000 and that I can come up with. Besides, for much of the gear I have duplicate or equivalent items that I could have shipped to me from home. I might have to spend more to get it in a hurry, but on a long tour a delay of a week to resupply wouldn't end the tour. On a short tour the trip would be over if all my stuff was stolen, but having insurance wouldn't prevent that.

    My bike was $599 and most of my other stuff was pretty cheap. Nicer gear really doesn't change the quality of the experience and adds to the worry of "what if". I really don't want to be dependent on gear that I couldn't afford to replace if it was stolen or lost by the airline. As a result, I don't lust after a lot of really high end stuff.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    1) My bicycle is covered under a policy in addition to the homeowners insurance.

    2) I always get travel insurance when I travel to another country.

    Fortunately, so far, I have not had to use either.

    If you have any questions about either, feel free to ask.

  6. #6
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    W've picked up health insurance through International Medical Group. It's designed for expats or others who are overseas for extended periods of time - you have to be out of the US for at least 6 months out of the year in order to get it. They do have a rider for "extreme sports" but bicycle touring is not on the list, so we are OK.

    We don't have our bikes or gear covered at all.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  7. #7
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Our view on insurance is unorthodox. I've written a section on our website about it here.

    When we were doing our book tour one of the first things people asked about was health coverage. It is the reason many Americans fail to follow their dreams. Considering that we are a nation founded and populated by rugged immigrants who reached the U.S. after perilous journeys, it is a sad commentary that today so many of their decendants are trapped in unhappy lives by the tangled webs of a safety net that did not exist a hundred years ago.

    Amanda's grandmother is in her mid 90s. She lives on her own in downtown Tijuana and manages a small apartment complex. Over her long life she has never had medical coverage. Like the vast majority of the world's population she has followed the fee-for-service or self-insurance model where she pays out of pocket for any health related expenses.

    Since leaving our corporate jobs in 2000 we have followed that same model. When we had medical issues we paid for them ourselves. Fortunately we've been relatively healthy over the past eight years and when we did need a doctor we were in the developing world where first-rate medical care costs a fraction of what it does in the U.S.

    Had we kept our insurance as it was before leaving our jobs we would have spent over $50,000 on medical coverage over those eight years. Even a severely restricted policy with a $7,000 deductible would have cost close to $20,000. Neither would have covered us outside the U.S.

    Any policy (or combination of policies) that would sufficiently cover an adventurous traveler on foreign soil for an extended period is beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest among us. Those who can afford it are the ones who need it the least. The rest of us face tough choices.
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  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato View Post
    Had we kept our insurance as it was before leaving our jobs we would have spent over $50,000 on medical coverage over those eight years. Even a severely restricted policy with a $7,000 deductible would have cost close to $20,000. Neither would have covered us outside the U.S.

    Any policy (or combination of policies) that would sufficiently cover an adventurous traveler on foreign soil for an extended period is beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest among us. Those who can afford it are the ones who need it the least. The rest of us face tough choices.
    Reading stuff like this makes me so incredibly glad I'm a Canadian.

    When I get travel insurance, I pay about $50-100/month for the time period I'm travelling for a comprehensive package ... and this is where I get it: http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/am....htm?link=nav2

  9. #9
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Insurance is just that, insurance.

    I opted to buy a health insurance policy from World Nomads out of Australia on my year tour. There policy covered me for one month after I came back to the US. For the year it didn't cost much (maybe $400-600 US dollars??)-I don't feel like looking it up rite now.

    I had about a month of overlap between my old jobs health insurance, and World Nomads policy. Thankfully I didn't have to use the health coverage on my trip. I did have an illness which required a visit to a western doctor/clinic while in Nepal, but the out of pocket expense was absurdly inexpensive (including lab tests and x-rays).

    I'll rant for a short bit on insurance: Carry it if at all possible!

    My brother is a non-smoker (never smoked), and rarely drinks alcohol. Christmas week he was diagnosed with a blood cancer (we have no family history). His treatments so far would cost nearly a hundred thousand dollars if he had to pay out of pocket. Years ago he had also signed up for both short and long term disability insurance where he works (costs maybe 3$/week). He likely will not be able to work for 6 to 8 months.

    In the case of cycling, and traveling, there are all sorts of risks we expose ourselves to which have the potential to be financialy catastrophic.
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  10. #10
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Reading stuff like this makes me so incredibly glad I'm a Canadian.

    When I get travel insurance, I pay about $80-$100/month ... and this is where I get it: http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/am....htm?link=nav2
    I used to work at the KOA campground in San Diego and we had a whole flock of Canadian snowbirds. I seem to remember that they would rush back to Canada just before the six month expiration of their health insurance coverage. If they were outside of Canada for more than six months - I think it was six?- they would lose the government coverage. Is this still true?
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf View Post
    Hi everyone,

    I'm writing an article for a website on insurance for the adventurous traveller, which includes us cyclists!

    I'd love any feedback from those of you who've bought travel insurance for cycling (or other adventurous activities - not your bog standard cruise or bus tour).
    Insurance for scuba divers to cover transportation and treatment for decompression injuries is pretty standard. I bought it from the Divers Alert Network for a trip to Rongelap in the Marshall Islands. For some scuba diving tour operators it's mandatory.

    Speedo

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato View Post
    I used to work at the KOA campground in San Diego and we had a whole flock of Canadian snowbirds. I seem to remember that they would rush back to Canada just before the six month expiration of their health insurance coverage. If they were outside of Canada for more than six months - I think it was six?- they would lose the government coverage. Is this still true?
    I'm not sure if it is health coverage, or CPP and OAS eligibility, or the length of time on the green card, or what exactly, but it's not just seniors. I worked for a company who employed engineering students and sent them to the US to do testing on the farm equipment the company made. They couldn't be in the US any longer than 6 months. So every 6 months a whole flock of them would come back, mill around the plant I worked in trying to look busy for a few weeks, and then head out into the field again.

    I'm actually trying to find out what it is because I may need to know for my move to Australia.


    OK, there is something about a six month limit for Alberta residents, but this would vary by province.

    http://www.health.alberta.ca/AHCIP/travel-claims.html
    You must maintain your Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan coverage if you leave Alberta for another part of Canada and intend to return within 12 months, or leave for another country and intend to return within six months. If you are leaving for a longer period, you may apply for the following extensions of coverage:

    Four years (48 months) for absence due to work, business or missionary service
    Two years (24 months) for travel, personal visits or educational leave (sabbatical)
    The time period you are a full-time student at an accredited educational institute
    If you are normally in Alberta at least 183 days of the year, you remain eligible for continued Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan coverage. If you are away longer but retain your ties in Alberta – for example, permanent residence – contact us to apply for continued coverage.

  13. #13
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Most of the travel or expat insurance policies have a clause buried deep in the legalese that says coverage is not provided in the home country. Combine that with the other important clause that allows the insurer to decide to pay for treatment abroad or for suitable transportation to the home country. Together the two create a situation where the policy coverage is essentially limited to the cost of stabilizing and transporting the sick or injured person home. If they do not have home coverage, as many travelers do not, then they are out of luck.

    When we were in Southeast Asia there was a guy who broke his leg in Vietnam and was faced with just this situation. The travel medical insurance company paid to fly him to Bangkok ($200). His spouse had to pay her own way. In Bangkok they determined that his injuries were extensive. They offered to reimburse him for his flight home. He refused as he wanted to be treated in Bangkok where it would be covered. They refused and he was stuck with the bill.
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  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato View Post
    Most of the travel or expat insurance policies have a clause buried deep in the legalese that says coverage is not provided in the home country.
    My insurer (for travel insurance) has a "Canada Package Plan" for travelling in other provinces. Because our government health insurance is all provincial, what one province covers another might not. I've never gotten the Canada Package Plan, but if I were doing a cross-Canada tour over severl months, I might.
    http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/am...a_Package_Plan


    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato View Post
    Combine that with the other important clause that allows the insurer to decide to pay for treatment abroad or for suitable transportation to the home country. Together the two create a situation where the policy coverage is essentially limited to the cost of stabilizing and transporting the sick or injured person home. If they do not have home coverage, as many travelers do not, then they are out of luck.
    The package I get is usually the following, or something like it:
    http://www.ama.ab.ca/cps/rde/xchg/am...8.htm?link=txt

    Benefits
    Up to $5 million CAD in emergency medical coverage
    No age restriction or deductible
    Pre-existing medical conditions may be covered if you meet stability and eligibility criteria
    Unlimited coverage for travel within Canada outside Alberta (under the annual plan)
    Competitive rates
    Comprehensive coverage
    24-hour emergency assistance hotline
    Coverage for amateur sports and recreational activities
    Choice of annual multi-trip plan or single-trip plan
    Choice of individual or family plan
    -----
    Coverage Highlights
    Emergency hospital and medical services
    Professional services of a chiropractic, physiotherapist or podiatrist
    X-rays and laboratory procedures
    Prescriptions ordered by a physician
    Medical appliance rental
    Medical transport including air ambulance
    Private duty nursing
    Emergency dental expenses
    Return airfare if you should return to Canada immediately for medical care
    Repatriation if your vehicle is stolen or rendered inoperable
    Transportation of a family member to your bedside if you are hospitalized
    Travelling companion's return if you are hospitalized
    Vehicle return if you are unable to do so because of a medical emergency
    And much more


    I just checked and for a 3-month trip anywhere in the world, this plan would cost me about $100/month.

  15. #15
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I hate paying that insurance premium!! That being said, I do it regularly - because the alternative is worse. In the US, if we were sustain a major injury or long-term illness like cancer, the hospital fees would break us completely. They can even do things like take our house and completely drain our savings. If you don't have anything to take, then not having insurance is an option - what is there to take? But if you are like us and have a house and a savings account for retirement, then we stand to lose it all. I consider paying that couple thousand dollars each year worth it.

    As for coverage in the US... IMG offers several plans. You can choose to be covered everywhere except the US and Canada, or pay a bit more and have worldwide coverage. That's what we opted because we want to be able to go back to the USA if we want. We did get a very high deductible, so we figure we will pay for all the small stuff - broken bones and what not. But if there was a major accident, we want to be covered.

    Years ago, my husband had a fluke situation where his heart when into Arrythmia. We were living in Ethiopia at the time and they were unable to get it converted. The doctors knew exactly what they needed to do - shock him like you see on TV - but they refused to do it because it could have stopped his heart instead of convert it. They were not prepared to put in a pacemaker in case that happened.

    Anyway, he ended up having to be evacuated out - to the tune of $90,000!!!! They flew a plane down to Ethiopia from Israel, picked us up, then flew back. He was in the hospital for about ten days in Israel - at $500 per day. We did have insurance, and didn't have to pay anything for that whole episode, but that one event could have broken us for life if we didn't have it. And this was for a man who was very, very healthy and rode his bike hundreds of miles each week! You just never know...
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    Thanks everyone, there are some very valuable thoughts in here. It might be a while before I get the article ready (3 projects on the go at the moment, plus the cycling!) but I will post the results when they're online. I may also contact some of you directly for your names to be quoted, if you're willing. No obligation, of course...

    To answer a post about what exactly I am writing about, I was more focused on health insurance, not so much the gear side of it, although any feedback about that is fine. But the health side of things is my main concern.

    For those of you who said you'd go without insurance, I completely agree that the 'everyday' things are easy to cover yourself in countries like Thailand. But what if you get hit and seriously need to be evacuated and need long term treatment? That could eat up $100,000 or more very quickly. That is the reason we get insurance.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Losligato View Post
    I used to work at the KOA campground in San Diego and we had a whole flock of Canadian snowbirds. I seem to remember that they would rush back to Canada just before the six month expiration of their health insurance coverage. If they were outside of Canada for more than six months - I think it was six?- they would lose the government coverage. Is this still true?
    As far as I am aware, this is still the case. We are anticipating buying insurance for our domestic coverage when we return to Canada this coming summer. In some situations, studying abroad, you can get that 6 month limit extended to a year but that's the max.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  18. #18
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf View Post
    For those of you who said you'd go without insurance, I completely agree that the 'everyday' things are easy to cover yourself in countries like Thailand. But what if you get hit and seriously need to be evacuated and need long term treatment? That could eat up $100,000 or more very quickly. That is the reason we get insurance.
    In general, I like to "self-insure/self-pay" for all the little and everyday things. Hence, high deductibles (and when I owned an automobile, not carrying collision/comprehensive insurance). Perhaps it is false, but the other reason I like to keep myself insured is that little "pre-existing condition" type clause. In particular, once you have one of those, in the US I perceive it to be more difficult to get further insurance coverage unless you were originally insured when the disease was found.

    I'm less concerned about having a $100,000 accident overseas, than I would be of it being just coincidence that when I was uninsured just happened to be when that cancer or other expensive disease was found - even though the cancer was totally unrelated to cycling itself.

  19. #19
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf View Post
    But what if you get hit and seriously need to be evacuated and need long term treatment? That could eat up $100,000 or more very quickly. That is the reason we get insurance.
    Yes, that is true. A long-term illness or injury would be devastating. It would destroy our savings and perhaps bankrupt us.

    Trouble is, I believe this is true for those with insurance as well.

    I could be wrong about this but I have found no single policy that would cover things like long-term treatment or offer home country coverage. Those listed above have limited amounts and time frames (ie, 1 month of home country treatment for an extra fee.) When the month is up, you are on your own.

    I would be very interested to know what others do. Seeing that so few have responded to a topic that should be vital to every single international bike tourer is a bit surprising.

    When we go abroad we purchase the airline tickets with our Merrill Lynch Signature Visa card. We got it when we opened a Merrill Money Market account. It provides up to $50,000 of Medical Evacuation Coverage to the nearest appropriate facility. They also have on-call nurses and a bunch of other benefits.

    I would imagine, but I am not sure, that this would cover much of the cost that Nancy's husband would have incurred had they not had the insurance when he experienced heart problems in Ethiopia. It seems to be the evacuation that really is expensive. (As an aside... Knowing that about the familyonbikes folks gives me an even greater respect for their current trip!)
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  20. #20
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    I doubt it is any good for North American fokes but BMC insurance is ment to be excellent. You can even get polar cover.
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