Travel Insurance in Southeast Asia: Is it Necessary?
Insurance is one of those things that people often think about as a side note—something that you know you should have, but perhaps an added cost that you would rather not pay for if you don’t have to. Is it really that important? What are the chances that something will happen to you while you’re out of the country? The truth is, you never really know. In a region like Southeast Asia, where motorbike drivers fly out of side streets without even looking to see what’s coming, hygiene standards can be low and tropical diseases abound, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Sure, many people travel through countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos and suffer nothing more than a few annoying mosquito bites and a mild case of Bali belly. I’ve done it myself, knowing full well that if something did happen to me, I’d be looking at huge doctor’s bills that I may or may not be able to pay. I was lucky, but some of my friends and acquaintances were not.
Take for example, Tamara. Tamara had just moved to Singapore with her husband Stan, and was loving the fact that there were so many small islands and beaches just a short, inexpensive plane ride away. They spent their weekends surfing in Bali, swimming off the coast of Malaysia and touring Thai islands. On one of their trips to Thailand, they took a snorkeling trip to see the reefs off the southwestern coast. Everything went off without a hitch, the guides were great and knew where to take them to see amazing underwater sights, the sun shone all day and the ocean was calm. When they got back to shore, Tamara stepped over the side of the boat to exit, lost her footing and fell smack into the side of the boat, breaking her nose in the process. The doctors at the hospital did a great job resetting her nose, but the total bill came to a shocking $3,000 USD, and Tamara did not have insurance. She’s still paying the bill off on her credit card to this day.
Then there was Sally, an accomplished motorbike driver and a long-time resident of Ubud, Bali. She knew the ropes when it came to driving, was familiar with all of the streets in the small town where she lived, and for the most part, was young, healthy and strong. After a night of a few too many cocktails at one of the local bars, she jumped on her bike to head home. She doesn’t fully remember what happened, but she ended up unconscious on the pavement, the bike was totaled, and she had scrapes and deep gashes covering her entire right side, including a massive abrasion across half of her face. Luckily for her, some locals found her shortly after the accident and took her to the hospital, where she received much-needed medical attention. Total bill? $5,000 USD, and no insurance.
In the 6 years that I’ve been in Southeast Asia, I’ve managed to stay pretty healthy, despite a few minor colds and mild cases of food poisoning. However, I did experience a break-in at one of the houses I lived in in Phnom Penh. I had just moved into a new apartment and had just gotten paid from my first English teaching job, and I was out on the town to celebrate (and spend) my first paycheck. When I arrived back at the apartment, I stepped into my room and noticed something was off—it just didn’t feel right. My stomach sank as I looked over at the spot where my computer normally sat. To this day, I still don’t know how the thieves got in, as I had locked all the doors and there were bars on all the windows. Perhaps a cut key from the landlord? And no, I didn’t have insurance.
Overall, Southeast Asia can be a very safe and enjoyable place to travel. However, at the risk of sounding like a nagging mother, you just never know what could happen on any given day. From slips and falls to motorbike accidents to the occasional bag snatching or hotel or house break-in, you always pray that it won’t happen to you. Most times it doesn’t, but all it takes is just one unlucky day, and you could be out thousands of dollars. Better to play it safe, and avoid taking chances with fate. Bite the bullet and invest in some insurance, even if it amounts to nothing more than peace of mind. Hopefully, you will never need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
For great rates on travel insurance for your trip to Southeast Asia, check out World Nomads, the leading insurance company for travelers of all ages and nationalities:
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