Travel Insurance: Why You’ll Wish You Said Yes
Or How I Ended Up Getting a Root Canal in Ecuador
Many travelers treat travel insurance like Americans treat health insurance — we don’t want it until we need it. Why? It costs extra! I just got a fantastic deal on these roundtrip tickets to Thailand. Why would I want to spend another $100 on top of that?
That $100 could save you hundreds more. Think about what you pay for when you normally book a trip. You have: your flight, hotel, ground transportation, tours. So if you’re overly invested and prepared like me, you’ve already paid for or at least planned ahead most of these things. If something goes wrong, you can easily miss a tour or your ride to a hotel. Let me share my story from earlier this year.
I had meticulously planned a trip to Ecuador, most importantly, the Galapagos Islands. Realize that in order to actually reach those islands, one must first fly to Ecuador. I flew into the capital, Quito. From there, I was booked to fly to Guayaquil and then finally to San Cristobal in the Galapagos. Once in the Galapagos, I’d be aboard a boat for 5 days, sailing around the middle of nowhere, more or less. To be quite frank, this was not going to be a budget friendly venture. I knew what I was spending going into this trip and that $100 was reassurance that I could, at the very least, recoup some of my money.
Before I could set sail in the archipelago, I first stayed a few days in Quito. The tour company I used helped set up a few things for me to do around town. I did the usual historic city tour and go to see “the middle of the world”, usually known as the equator. I wanted something less sight-seeing and more delicious for the next trip. How about a tour of a cocoa farm and where they make the chocolate? Um, yes. So it was planned. And it was paid for. In the couple of weeks leading up to my departure, I’d had a tooth ache off and on. It went away (nearly) completely after a round of antibiotics. Like any normal human being, I will go to the ends of the earth to avoid having to set foot in dentist’s office.
Two Dreaded Decisions
The day before I was due to leave, I could feel a teeny amount of throbbing in my gums. It wasn’t anywhere close to bad, so I made the smart decision to ignore it and fly off to an entirely different continent, whose language I could only speak if spoken to in short, very slow sentences. For two days in Quito, I was fine. Every now and then, I could feel the throbbing a bit more but nothing a little Tylenol wouldn’t cover up. I woke up the day before my fight out to the islands with my face feeling like I had been hit with a brick. It was my front tooth that had always been in pain and now my entire nose was hurting as well.
I had a two decisions I could make: fly to the islands, 600 miles from civilization (and dentists) with my Tylenol and hope for the best; or I could attempt to find a dentist to help me. I opted for the second since I really didn’t want to end up ripping my front tooth from my mouth in a rash decision at sea. The woman at the front desk of my hotel tried her best to help.
As my ever-so-careful planning would have it, I went to Ecuador in the perfect time to be in pain: it was Carnival and the entire city shuts down. Finding a dentist could be tricky. My first stop was attempting to get some help at an emergency room kind of hospital but they only treat mouth pain when it was major, like reconstructive surgery. I was ready to smash my face into a wall at that point if it meant they’d help. I walked back to my hotel through this eerily dead city, assuming this was a fruitless endeavor and I was doomed to be in pain until I got back to the states in a week.
As I walked into my hotel’s lobby looking defeated as ever, the lady at the front desk told me she’d found an on call emergency dentist but (of course there’s a but), it would most likely cost extra since it was a holiday. I didn’t really care at this point and knew that was a huge possibility. Even laundry services were shut down for Carnival, why would a dentist be open? I hopped in the cab and after about 15 minutes of confusion since nothing there has an actual address, the driver got me where I should be. I had to wait on the dentist to show up but he met me in the lobby within about 10 more minutes.
Soon enough, he had his entire fist in my mouth, tapping not so gently against my teeth to figure out which was the culprit of my pain. He soon found the tooth and I soon found out the meaning of “dólor” (pain). It’s definitely worth mentioning this dentist didn’t speak a lick of English and my Spanish skills are about on par with a kindergartner’s. We managed to pull through and by the end, I could feel the pain melting away.
But first, I had to pay. I knew it’d be “extra” with the holiday and all, but I didn’t even know what the regular price would have been so this didn’t mean much. He wrote up my bill and it came to a whopping $80USD. He’d given me an emergency root canal on an international holiday and it cost $80USD. I happily paid the man and headed to the pharmacy for some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds. A week’s worth cost me about $30USD.
As I walked back to my hotel, I realized this meant I wouldn’t be walking through fields of cocoa or bathing in waterfalls of chocolate today and thought back to my tour company’s prices. After all was said and done, the dentist, medication and cost of the missed tour and transportation, I was out $300USD.
Thankfully, I Planned Ahead
But careful planning was on my side! I had checked that box for travel insurance when I purchased my tickets from Delta. That $60 I had paid on top of my ticket was now saving my butt for those missed plans and added expenses. It took a bit of work talking to the insurance company and getting the correct info over, but I finally got my compensation for missing out on my chocolate covered dreams of that day.
I had purchased insurance from Allianz, who often teams up with airline companies to offer you a deal when you check out. I can’t really say they were easy to deal with, mainly because my claim dealt with an international occurrence. Had this been in the states, the process would have been much easier. With international travel, the most recommended company I’ve come across is World Nomads. In terms of price, World Nomads can be slightly more but worth the expense in the end if you’re travelling internationally.
These companies will pick up the tab your health insurance (if you have it!) does not*. It also helps to pay for those missed plans or a canceled flight. Admittedly, I have skipped on travel insurance in the past. After my adventure in Ecuador dentistry, I will no doubt be checking “yes” on that box when prompted.
*Carefully read over your plan’s guidelines! Not all insurance plans are created equal and it’s very good to know what you’re paying for.