As the editor of a travel guide, over the years, I have had most of the big insurance companies asking me if I want to promote their stuff in return for a little affiliate fee. A quick look at every other travel website in the world made it clear everyone else was happy to go for it.
However, a second look at those companies’ reviews was usually enough to persuade me not to: everyone is happy, until they have to make a claim. Then the trouble starts.
On top of that, there is a problem with getting travel insurance for the countries we write about: insurance companies tend to cover everything, except the things you might actually want cover for.
In the end, about a decade after I started this website, I did get contacted by an insurance provider I could recommend: one with great reviews and cover for all the places and activities people who use this travel guide tend to get involved in. It’s called battleface.
Before I get to discussing battleface, let’s go over the reasons why I cannot recommend most other insurance companies.
What’s wrong with other providers?
In standard policies, there are 2 ways to exclude countries from coverage. They often end up excluding a decent part of the area we cover with Caravanistan.
The clear definition
Mostly in Anglo-Saxon countries, it seems, the policy will say something to the effect of: “We cover all countries except those that have specific Government ‘Do Not Travel‘ warnings. There is a split here: some companies cover “MFA advises against all but essential travel“, but not “MFA advises against all travel”. Other companies also exclude countries that are in the all but essential category.
This definitely sucks when you are about to embark on a trip to a country deemed safe by your government, to suddenly see an unexpected event (eg. coronavirus) turn the map red.
The fuzzy definition
Something along the lines of: your cover may be limited if you decide to travel to a country or region where the following specific events are occurring;
a war, invasion, acts of a foreign enemy, hostilities (whether war has been declared or not), civil war, terrorist acts, rebellion, revolution, insurrection, civil commotion, military or usurped power, martial law, riots or the acts of any lawfully constituted authority, or army, naval or air service operations (whether war has been declared or not)
Very broad terms here like civil commotion and terrorism. If this is in your policy, be sure to ask for a clear explanation, since ‘civil commotion’ is quite common in the world (and definitely in this part of the world).
You have to go to a specialist insurance company for travel to Afghanistan. A regular insurance company will exclude it by default.
Big range of options here depending on the insurance provider. When comparing policies, find out the maximum altitude you are covered for when you go hiking.
While most basic insurance policies have a premium option for winter sports (again, read what is included!), if you are planning to do paragliding or mountaineering, you will need specialist insurance.
Double-check if any search and rescue expenses are covered. They often aren’t, even in more adventurous insurance policies.
Think you are covered? Watch out for these sneaky exclusions:
- flights that are not to/from your home country
- having to cancel your trip for anything other than illness
- Cancelling your trip before you left (you would think that is a basic, right?)
Lost, stolen or broken stuff
Have a really careful look at what exactly is covered. Your policy will usually cover you for stolen goods, but beware: “all valuables must be kept within reach and view at all times.” It has to be stolen while you were looking at it.
Before buying, also look at per-item value limits (the maximum they pay you back for 1 item) versus the total limit. If the per-item value limit is 100$, your policy is useless to insure your expensive gear.
Excess is the other side of the equation you need to look at: it is the initial amount you need to drop before they start paying you back.
In short, you want the excess to be low and the per-item value limit to be high.
War and terrorism
Covered. It’s the number one reason we recommend them. battleface is often used by journalists or humanitarians going into war zones, but you don’t have to go that far to get excluded by standard insurance. Places we talk about on this website that are often excluded: Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Eastern Turkey, breakaway territories of Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Dagestan, Chechnya and Ukraine. And of course Afghanistan.
They are all covered by battleface, except for Iran – not covered at the moment due to sanctions. You can see how much it would cost you to insure your trip here.
When unexpected events like bombs or viruses change the travel recommendation of your government, you are still covered.
battleface is working on an adventure product, hoping to launch it in April. For now, their standard product covers general activities such as trekking up to 4500m, hiking, horse riding, motorbike riding (as long as you have a license ) or kayaking.
However, at the moment activities such as hiking at high altitude, mountaineering, paragliding, are not automatically included. For those tours, send them an email; most likely they will be able to approve cover but there may be a increase in premium due to the risk.
Once the adventure product is up and running those will be included and there will no need to refer.
Cancellation cover applies to all flights belonging to the trip within the period of insurance.
Downsides and alternatives
It’s more expensive than other travel insurances. If you do not need extensive cover because you are not planning to do anything or go anywhere out of the ordinary, don’t use it. A standard travel insurance policy by a local provider will cover all your needs at a lower price.
If you are from a country with good national health care that covers internationally, you do not travel with expensive gear and you travel overland, you may not even need travel insurance at all. This scenario has often been the case for me.
Also, while the excess for luggage items is 0, the per-item value limit is only 250 euro, and only 100 euro for smartphones. If you want to insure expensive things, you should use a different company.
Why not World Nomads?
World Nomads is the big player in the online insurance world, so I should take a moment to explain what I have against them.
World Nomads is not an actual insurance company, it is a sales and marketing company that sells insurances from different providers. Depending on your country of residence, the provider will change. Different companies means different policies. Read the fine print based on your country of residence!
Their success is based on their attractive affiliate program that has every travel site promoting them, from Lonely Planet to Blonde Girl on the Road. There is a big chasm between the rave reviews from travel bloggers and the real user reviews, though.
Seeing how World Nomads works with different companies across the world, their policies are not necessarily the worst, but there are better, cheaper alternatives out there.
Case in point is Columbus Direct: a cheaper, better-reviewed alternative to World Nomads.