After 18 months of pandemic-related travel restrictions, you may be itching to act on your pent-up wanderlust⁠⁠—but the situation and the rules are still continuously evolving. So before you go anywhere, it’s best to have a travel insurance plan that protects the investment you’ve made in a long-awaited trip.

A robust travel insurance plan will reimburse pre-paid trip costs and non-refundable deposits if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip, encounter trip delays, experience baggage loss or require medical expense and medical evacuation. Your policy will also reimburse “covered reasons” in your plan, such as death, illness or injury, serious family emergencies, unplanned jury duty, military deployment, acts of terrorism, or your travel supplier going out of business.

But COVID-19 has added an additional checklist to your usual insurance needs⁠—it’s now important to check to ensure your travel insurance plan includes coverage for COVID-19 medical expenses, and losses related to illness. Your policy should also cover quarantine costs if you need to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus.

What do I look for in COVID-19 insurance coverage?

When you’re shopping for a travel insurance plan that covers COVID-19, you need to do your research and read the fine print of your plan. 

Look for a travel insurance product that will protect your non-refundable, prepaid expenses if you have to cancel your trip due to illness caused by COVID-19. Your policy should also cover emergency medical treatment and emergency medical transportation. With regard to COVID-19 coverage, be sure your policy covers medical care, medicine, hospitalization and quarantine expenses.

“The type of coverage you should look for depends on you, your needs, travel dates, and the type of trip you’re taking,” says Sasha Gainullin, CEO of battleface, a travel insurance carrier. He says some travel insurance companies have now excluded COVID-19 coverage because it has been labeled a “known/foreseeable event”, while others may exclude pandemics altogether.

“It’s important to search for plans that include medical and quarantine expenses as well⁠—this will be critical in the event you become ill and need to receive treatment while traveling,” continues Gainullin. 

One additional tip is to confirm there are no exclusions based on the destinations you’re traveling to⁠—this can happen with countries under government-issued travel warnings, Gainullin says.

“If a traveler feels uncertain, I recommend speaking with the travel insurance company directly. They can review the policy details with you, answer all of your questions, and confirm all of your required coverage options are included,” he adds.

Is getting coverage dependent on vaccination?

While it’s a good idea to be fully vaccinated before traveling, vaccination is not required to purchase a travel insurance policy, says Daniel Durazo, spokesperson with Allianz Partners USA.

What are the medical costs that are covered by travel insurance?

Travel insurance can cover the cost of both medical treatment and emergency medical transportation. A US health insurance plan, as well as Medicare, generally will not cover overseas medical expenses, so it’s best to check with your personal health insurance provider if any global coverage is available. 

“While losing the cost of a trip due to an unexpected cancellation would be painful, paying for expensive emergency medical treatment or emergency medical transportation can be financially devastating,” Durazo says.  

Under a travel insurance plan, medical costs could range doctor visits, pharmacy expenses, imaging costs and covering a hospital stay if required. Other expenses that can be covered are transportation to medical care and medicine.

Read more: Will my health insurance cover getting COVID-19 while traveling in the US⁠⁠—or abroad?

What about covering an unexpected quarantine due to COVID-19?

Many international destinations are now requiring that visitors purchase travel insurance coverage for an unexpected quarantine. Allianz Travel Insurance has added coverage to many of its products that includes reimbursement for quarantine-related accommodations if you or a traveling companion is individually-ordered to quarantine while on their trip, says Durazo. 

This coverage typically covers the cost of additional food, lodging and transportation while quarantined. In addition, trip interruption and travel delay benefits on certain Allianz plans also provide coverage if you or your travel companion is denied boarding by your travel carrier due to suspicion of illness.

The benefits for quarantine coverage vary from carrier to carrier. For example, on select Trawick International plans, they offer $2,000 in quarantine benefits and for an additional charge, and you can increase it up to $7,000. 

What about pre-flight COVID-19 testing?

Your plan may provide coverage for flights if you are turned away at a border for not passing a health inspection. Foster says Trawick’s travel insurance plans that cover COVID-19 would cover the expenses if you could not pass your pre-health inspection.  Also, the plan would cover the costs of the failure of your PCR test to return to the United States, such as having to quarantine abroad. 

Doctor in protective workwear taking nose swab test from young woman.
Travel insurance does not usually cover PCR testing for travel © Ergin Yalcin / Getty Images

It’s important to note that the actual cost of the PCR test is not covered by your policy, just the loss associated with the negative test.

Read more: PCR tests for travel: everything you need to know

Some destinations require COVID-specific insurance coverage⁠—how do I comply with those restrictions? 

Before any international travel, you should check the country where you are headed to make sure you comply with insurance coverage requirements. Countries like Spain, Turks and Caicos and Thailand are among the nations that mandate COVID-19 insurance coverage.

“You first must check the countries’ specific COVID regulations for entry into the country. Some countries require travelers to provide proof of travel insurance that covers COVID-19 related expenses purchased from a third party,” explains Foster. Providing proof coverage is key; so travelers need to ensure they receive documentation from their insurance provider that their policy covers COVID-19 related expenses to show customs officials, she says.

Should you arrive in a country that requires proof of insurance to cover COVID-19 medical expenses and quarantine costs, and you don’t hold a policy, you will not be granted entry.

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

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