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I've typically taken out annual travel insurance for any trips abroad, at around £40-80 a year based on travel plans. But with my renewal fast approaching, I've realised that the 4 month training secondment I will also shortly be starting to offices in the US will either push my insurance beyond £400, or not be valid at all. The further complication is that I am insured to some degree by my employers - medical, flight at start and end of trip, business items - but not for any travel during the secondment, nor my own gadgets.

Has anyone ever had experience with trying to insure themselves for this sort of scenario? As I am there on a J1 Visa I don't believe I am able to insure as a US resident while I am there, but equally I cannot affordably get a policy in the UK that allows for the length of my time there (no doubt due to the medical, which I already have covered).

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    What risks are you looking to insure against exactly? If your employer's medical plan will cover you in the US for the duration of your travels, that basically leaves only coverage for your belongings and trip cancellation/delay, the policies for which usually contain many exclusions and limitations. It may be better to consider self-insuring (i.e. travel without insurance) for these risks, especially if we're just talking about ordinary domestic sightseeing trips. – Zach Lipton May 31 '16 at 22:04
  • @ZachLipton Missed flights, cancellation/curtailment, delay, lost/damaged baggage, and my current policy also helps if there are any issues with hotels. I'm aware a number of these would be covered by making purchases with Amex Gold, which may well be a better option. – ajfstuart May 31 '16 at 22:20
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    I would think you'd be able to insure your trip based on a "home" of wherever you're staying in the US, even if you're only temporarily resident there. If I were you, I would also ask what sort of coverage my employer had for my trip -- it might offer more protection than you assume. – phoog Jun 1 '16 at 0:02
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I was in a tricky position when I went on my J-1 visa too. As you've noted, you can't insure locally as a resident. I also had some extremely high-risk existing health conditions, which often makes insurance companies run a mile.

I ended up having to survey most of the high quality insurance companies in NZ (where I lived) and eventually found one that would cover it, albeit with a high excess.

This was well pre-internet comparison sites and required phoning most of them, and you couldn't specify individual items or components (Eg non-medical) like you're after.

However, these days with comparethemarket and other such UK sites, you may be able to do so. I've seen ones which just cover luggage, and many credit cards will provide basic cover (missed flights etc) if you book your flight with them.

You'll also be noticing the higher cost for travel insurance to North America - this is unavoidable, unfortunately, especially if medical is involved in the policy, most providers tend to group it separately from the rest of the world because of the prices.

  • I'm caught out because I actually have the medical cover provided by the company, so paying £400 for cover is a bit of a pain when I will only be needing it for travel & content. At this point I'm planning to just rely on AmEx however! – ajfstuart Jul 18 '16 at 8:15
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The purpose of travel insurance is evacuation insurance. If you get hit by a truck in Chad or Phnom Penh, you don't want to be treated locally -- and you don't want to pay the $50,000 or $100,000 out of pocket it would cost to get an air-ambulance to a First World hospital.

But if you get hit by a truck in Boston -- a reasonable possibility, Bostonians are famously terrible drivers -- you might as well be treated in Boston.

"Trip-interruption" insurance is bullshit. You should only insure against expenses you cannot afford out-of-pocket, and if you cannot afford a ticket home, you shouldn't be traveling.

As for medical insurance, if you aren't covered by your employer -- well, buy medical insurance. The insurer doesn't care about your visa status; you could be illegal for all they care.

  • This really misses the point of why visitors to the US need travel insurance. If you're hit by a truck anywhere, initially you're going to be treated locally. For a European visiting the US, with its famously expensive healthcare system, that means needing insurance that covers emergency treatment. Travel insurance which covers trips of up to 3 months to the US costs around USD 100. As I understand it, this is massively cheaper than buying US-style health insurance (because it's a completely different product - significantly it doesn't cover longer-term health problems). – djr Jun 19 '16 at 15:16
  • @djr -- If your national-health service does not cover you overseas, yes, you should buy appropriate insurance. And, if the American system is so "famously expensive", you should ask yourself why three months of coverage is only $100. – Malvolio Jun 19 '16 at 18:12
  • @Malvolio Because three months of travel insurance coverage is very different from three months of standard American health insurance. You don't get travel insurance and then send them a claim for hundreds of dollars worth of medications for chronic conditions (or if you do send such a claim, they'll laugh at you). Travel insurance medical claims are generally only for serious unexpected situations, which are rather rare. – Zach Lipton Jul 1 '16 at 6:14
  • @ZachLipton -- insurance should only be used for serious, unexpected situations, but since in fact "insurance" in the US pays for chronic conditions, you can arrange for especially large consignments of medication to take with you on trips overseas. – Malvolio Jul 1 '16 at 18:10
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Travel insurance seems to be a European thing. Most Americans don't buy it at all other than for specific situations like elderly people who have health issues that might flare up. My advice is to forget about it. If some bit of your travel gets screwed up, it'll get screwed up. But more likely, things will work more or less as planned and you can use the money you would have wasted on insurance on stuff you really want.

  • It can sometimes, depending on your risk tolerance, make sense to buy travel insurance in the US when you have expensive pre-purchased tickets that are completely non-refundable, such as cruises. For more typical domestic trips where the hotel has a reasonable cancellation policy (and hotels have been known to waive 24-hour cancellation policies if you have a sufficiently sad tale of woe) and airline tickets can be changed for a fee less than the value of the ticket, insurance may well not be worthwhile unless you already know of a non-excluded reason why you're likely to need to make a claim. – Zach Lipton Jun 2 '16 at 1:42
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    This advice could be quite dangerous taken out of context! What most non-Americans travelling to the US really need is short-term / emergency medical coverage. Travel insurance provides this (with a few bits of travel-related cover thrown in). It sounds like the OP is already covered for this, so I agree with you that not bothering with anything else might be fine, but anyone else reading this answer should think carefully about whether it applies to them or not. – djr Jun 4 '16 at 18:08

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