Travel Insurance: Why You Should Think Twice About World Nomads

Travel insurance seems like a no brainer: it's better to pay a small fee now in hopes of avoiding a potentially larger fee later. Since most health plans don't cover you while abroad, travel insurance is one of those begrudgingly necessary investments one must make before their next adventure. Nomadic Matt has written an in-depth article about travel insurance and is one of the many travel bloggers who promotes World Nomads (they are also heavily promoted by Lonely Planet). Following his, and many others, advice I used World Nomads for my trip throughout Asia in 2014. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

First, I should like to say that World Nomads has great service – you can call them 24/7, and they are generally quick to email you back if you send them a question. In a pinch, those are both great assets. However, I had to make a claim in 2014 and found myself disappointed at their penny pinching.

During that trip, my DSLR camera lens was broken in a hostel in China. It was bumped off a ledge and the lens was mangled; the cost of repair was more than the cost of a new lens, and so I went with a new lens. I continued with my pre-existing travel plans and eventually picked a new lens up in Vietnam. I sent it all the necessary documents – proof of purchase, photos of before and after, bank statements showing the original lens purchase AND the new one, to compare costs. In short, I did everything they asked. Within a few weeks I had heard back: my claim was denied. Why? Because I didn't get a statement from the hostel owner to prove that the incident happened in his hostel. I found this to be jaw-droppingly absurd. How would the hostel owner know what precisely happened in a dorm room he was absent from? How could he prove I even owned the camera? It was a ridiculous requirement and left me footing the bill for a $300 lens. Suffice it to say I was not happy.

I debated using their services again, but since SO many other people spoke highly of them I gave in. For my recent trip across Spain on The Camino I purchased some insurance from World Nomads. All was well and good until our flight home, wherein a 95 minute delay left us scrambling to catch a connection...which we didn't, thanks to the overzealous folks at London security. I messaged World Nomads immediately and they informed me my delay was not significant enough – I needed a 3 hour delay or more to qualify for my coverage. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I rather expected something of the sort. Nevertheless, I was out $150 for a new flight and understandably disappointed. Again.

I don't think I will be using World Nomads in the future. Sure, insurance companies are generally known to be cheap, sleazy institutions but I had expected something better from a company that caters to backpackers and world travellers: I expected them to be reasonable. Unfortunately not. And so, if they are unwilling to help me out with minor, non-emergency situations am I REALLY going to be able to count on them should I get seriously injured while traveling? I've been lucky: my claims have just been financial. I would hate to be stuck in a hospital only to find out the penny-pinchers on the other end don't want to shell out the cash for my recovery. Maybe World Nomads truly is the best of the lot, as everyone suggests. If that's the case, then it's a sad lot, indeed.

Lesson learned, I suppose.