Why Buying Travel Insurance is Necessary (And What Happens If You Don’t)

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 23 December, 2022

Travel insurance isn’t just for COVID – it is a critical and potentially powerful tool that belongs in every traveller’s kit. Here’s why you need to buy travel insurance and what could happen if you choose to go without

COVID-19 has undoubtedly made us all better aware of the importance of travel insurance. But the fact is, travel insurance has always been an important and powerful tool that should be in every traveller’s pocket.

I know, I know, travel insurance is boring and complicated, with more restrictions and exclusions than your cold, controlling ex. So it’s understandable if travellers only get a travel policy “just in case COVID”.

So to help demystify the topic, here are four overarching reasons why you should buy travel insurance and how it can protect you not only during your travels but even before your trip begins.  



Shields you from costly medical fees

It bears noting that medical services are costly, especially since, as a foreigner in another country, you won’t qualify for subsidies, which means paying full price.

And also, it’s not like you can afford to shop around for the cheapest hospital during a medical emergency or post on Fiverr for a medical student willing to set your broken leg for “exposure and future referrals”.

I’m being sarcastic to highlight a point, being: you shouldn’t roll the dice going without travel insurance. Why? Because if you really do meet with an accident or serious injury, and can’t pay the bill, you may be sued, prevented from leaving the country, or even arrested or jailed

Granted, the chances of requiring medical aid while travelling is slim. And even when you do need to go to the doctor, it’s much more likely to be for minor illnesses.

Even then, your travel insurance benefits may still be applicable – if your travel plan covers outpatient treatment. This will allow you to opt for treatments that help you recover faster and get back to enjoying the rest of your holiday, even if said treatments cost more.  

Related to this topic: Travel Insurance Add-ons: Which Ones are Worth Your Money?

From personal experience, this can be a thing. I once had to see a doctor while in Taiwan for a particularly bad gut inflammation. No, I didn’t have travel insurance – my mistake!

The recommended procedure was a 40-min drip, which would clear up the condition by the next day. However, afraid to overspend, I opted instead for the cheaper option – pills and bed rest.

Taking this route meant I had to spend the last few precious days of my vacation holed up in my hotel room (is there anything sadder?) and forgo meeting my Taiwanese friends.

But if I had been properly insured, I wouldn’t have baulked at the cost and would have got right back to holidaying (and eating all the hot pot!)

One more point before we move on: Many travel insurance plans nowadays include supplementary benefits that help you recover from illness or injury while overseas.

These come in the form of benefits that pay for follow-up treatment and consultation when you return to Singapore, which you can claim to continue receiving care.

This grants another advantage – you can use your travel plan to meet treatment costs first, delaying or avoiding having to dip into your Medisave funds.


Helps you out of a bind

When you sign up for a travel insurance plan, you will be given access to a hotline to contact your insurer in an emergency. This may not seem like much – until you find yourself stuck in a panic after a road accident in a foreign country, not knowing what to do and whom to call.

Your insurer can help you with vital tasks such as contacting emergency services and alerting local authorities – important in keeping you safe from scammers or other criminals.

Other ways they can help you include securing temporary accommodation, arranging for transport to safety, and providing advice and answers on what to do.

Hence, a travel policy doesn’t simply offer coverage against financial costs, it can actively help you get out of a bind.

Think of your travel plan – or the emergency hotline that comes with it – as a trusted concierge that you rely on to get you through a bad event.

Prevents lost belongings from being a hindrance

From noise-cancelling headphones to fancy shades, snazzy winter wear, and that spanking new luggage case, bringing your favourite things to enjoy during your trip is part of the fun. However, there’s the ever-present risk your belongings may get lost, stolen or damaged overseas.

While a general travel insurance plan is unlikely to fully cover the cost of your precious items, it will furnish you with the means to obtain replacements – at least in function, if not in form or brand.

The whole point is to allow you to carry on with your holiday without further inconvenience – even if that means no longer being able to binge Netflix in the tub on your iPad.

For instance, if your luggage gets delayed and only shows up two days later, you will need to purchase extra clothes, medications or other necessities to get through the night and continue with your holiday.

This means you have little choice but to take on the extra expenses (although you may be able to wrangle some compensation from the airline, but don’t bet on it), because what’s the alternative, turn around and go back home?

Well, having a travel insurance plan makes baggage delays or losing your belongings less of an issue, as you can get these unexpected expenses covered, whether in part or fully. You’ll still have to go through the hassle of making an unplanned shopping stop, but knowing that your insurer will foot the bill can help make the setback less painful.

Instead of agonising over whether your luggage will eventually turn up, or mourning the loss of that oh-so-snug winter jacket you only wore twice before, you can simply purchase what you need and – importantly – get back to enjoying your holiday.

Which was the entire reason you got on a plane in the first place!

Related to this topic: These Travel Insurances Offer Up to S$1,000 Payouts For Your Camera Equipment

Protects you from trip changes or cancellations

So far, we’ve discussed how travel insurance can protect you during your trip. But did you know it can also save you from financial losses even before your trip begins?

Travel insurance policies come with trip cancellation or curtailment benefits, which work by providing payouts if you have to cancel or cut short your trip.

This means that should you have to postpone your holiday because of a sudden illness or can’t make it to your BTS concert because your flight got cancelled, you may be able to claim benefits from your insurer to make up for any prepaid tickets and bookings that you now cannot use.

There are caveats, of course. One, the reason for the change or cancellation must be a valid one – i.e., covered by your plan. This can vary between different insurers and plans. For instance, one insurer may only cover trip cancellation for medical reasons, whereas another may offer a “cancel for any reason” clause.

Two, you will be required to first seek compensation from relevant parties, with the payout meant to make up for any shortfall. For instance, if your flight to Osaka was cancelled and the airline compensates you for the plane ticket, your insurer will only pay out for hotel bookings and other ticketed events for which you were unable to obtain a refund.

Incidentally, this is why it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance soon after you’ve purchased your flight tickets and hotel accommodations.

If you have a travel policy in place, you gain an extra safety net to make good on your losses should your holiday plans take an unexpected hit, instead of solely relying on the good graces of your airline, attraction operator or travel agent.


Read these next:

Where to Buy Travel Insurance (with COVID-19 Coverage) 2023: Insurers, Credit Card Rewards, or Airlines

Starr TraveLead Travel Insurance Review: Flexible, Comprehensive and Affordable

FWD Travel Insurance Review: Excellent Coverage For The Budget-Conscious Traveller

Singlife Travel Insurance Review: High Medical Benefits And Well-Rounded Coverage

Money Confessions: Have You Ever Submitted a Travel Claim?

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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