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Article by Mohan Babu

Travel insurance protection

Everyone who travels needs health/medical insurance to cover unforeseen risks. MOHAN BABU explains why Indians are vulnerable international travellers and need the protection of travel insurance

This is the time of the year when students from all corners of India pack their bags for the long trek to the US. Every year thousands of Indian students sweat it out by working towards high scores in GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, etc, hoping to bag a coveted seat in a good school (as universities are called), in the US. After September 11, 2001, things have become especially challenging for young students aspiring to go to the US. The same holds true for visitors from India hoping to tour the US, visit relatives and friends too. Given the excruciating effort involved in acquiring a coveted visa to America, most people tend to overlook other important aspects of travel after getting a visa. Perhaps one really significant aspect of travel abroad, especially to the US, is also the one which is overlooked the most often—travel insurance. Surprisingly, even the recent SARS epidemic that generated global awareness on health risks of global travel did little to generate greater awareness of the need for insuring oneself against such unforeseen risks.

Before we get into the details, exactly who needs travel insurance? Practically everyone who travels needs some sort of travel/health insurance to cover unforeseen risks. Indians are especially vulnerable because medical insurance issued locally in rupees may not cover a bigger bill in dollars or Euros. Short-term visitors, those on businesses or visiting friends or family, are especially vulnerable since they can be lulled into a false sense of security by presuming that their regular medical policies provided by employers in India (or other native lands), will cover them. That is not true since most insurers of regular policies explicitly exclude foreign travel. Even students coming to the US to study may find it intriguing that although universities provide plans that cover them after they register as full-time students, they may not be covered when school is not in session. Human tragedies involving injury, hospitalisation or death can occur at inopportune times, putting an undue financial strain on self and dependents.

Now that I have successfully argued that travel insurance is a must-have, and not just a “nice to have” aspect of international travel, how does one go about getting an international travel insurance in India.

Where to buy the policies?

There are many ways to get an international travel insurance. One way would be to contact the local travel agent who will be able to suggest suitable insurance companies selling foreign travel agents. However, the preferred way is to buy insurance directly through travel agents in your country of travel., a portal for NRIs contains an informative FAQ on foreign travel insurance ( The portal makes for interesting reading with questions like “Why should I purchase insurance with an American company and not buy insurance in my native country?” It goes on to add: “It is advisable to have insurance from an American company while in the United States, even if the premium for these plans are more expensive. The reason is that while almost all doctors/hospitals in the United States accept American insurance company cards, they will be reluctant to acknowledge overseas insurance coverage. The medical office can easily contact an American insurance company for clarification, while the same will not be true for an overseas insurance company. Typically medical offices in the US will bill directly to known American insurance companies. For overseas insurance companies you most probably will have to pay the bill, and then try to get the claim reimbursed from the insurance company.”

Another aspect of travel insurance is the “variety” of policies available in the globalised marketplace. Hundreds, if not thousands of companies provide insurance of different kinds, ranging from very basic “emergency” policies to those with extensive and in-depth coverage. The length of coverage, premium, deductible payable, number of people covered, area of coverage (local, country-wide or global) also may vary from one provider to another. There are also a number of specialised insurance vendors who have sophisticated interfaces on the Web, which allow visitors to view brochures, compare policies and even buy the policies directly using a credit card. My favourite is’s travel insurance page: ( The site provides extensive listings of agents, many of whom also correspond over e-mail and have their websites. The site also has an “insurance comparison” tool that takes the user through a set of questions before suggesting suitable policies that can be bought directly using a credit card.

It goes without saying, as with every online transaction, the maxim of caveat emptor, buyer beware holds true.




About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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