As countries begin to welcome travelers again, proof of digital nomad travel insurance for Covid-19 has become an entry requirement for many.
Prior to the pandemic, digital nomads such as myself opted for travel medical insurance mainly for the peace of mind. I typically paid for a policy to cover the potentially dangerous adventure activities I enjoyed (mountaineering, diving, etc). We thought of travel insurance as useful only for worst-case-scenarios.
In over a decade of travel and remote work after escaping from the corporate world, I was never asked to show proof of travel insurance. Unfortunately, that will no longer be the case.
Travel Medical Insurance as an Entry Requirement
Times have changed. We’re starting to see how the landscape of long-term travel will look after the pandemic. Purchasing travel medical insurance coverage for a trip is no longer as optional as it once seemed.
If you turn up at a border without travel medical insurance and immigration officials ask for it, you’ll be refused entry until you purchase a policy on the spot.
Not only will handling this in a hurry be challenging (possibly with a poor internet connection), you may be forced to go with whatever provider and plan they offer you.
Don’t get stuck at the airport trying to fix an avoidable dead end!
Countries That Require Travel Medical Insurance
The list of countries that require Covid-19 travel insurance (no affiliation) changes frequently, so rather than reinvent the wheel, we’ll just link out to some resources that seem on top of it. Regardless, you should still confirm entry requirements on the official embassy’s website.
A few of the countries that require Covid-19 travel medical insurance are especially popular with digital nomads and remote workers (e.g., Thailand, Cambodia, etc).
To quickly check your next destination, this Covid-19 travel planning tool (no affiliation) provides a simple breakdown of requirements such as testing, quarantines, and mandatory travel medical insurance for Covid-19 quarantine.
As mentioned, the list is in flux and requirements differ wildly between countries. The general trend, however, is to require proof of travel medical insurance with Covid-19 coverage for anyone who is entering the country.
Travel Medical Insurance for Covid-19 Quarantine
Here’s the thing. You may consider yourself “low risk” for serious illness from Covid-19. Maybe that’s true, especially if you’ve been vaccinated and boosted.
Regardless, authorities in different countries can currently take any approach they want when handling Covid-19. Public safety is a concern, so you won’t be offered much flexibility.
Many countries typically require one or more Covid-19 tests when entering. The default scheme is often one test before flying (administered by the airline) and one upon arrival (administered by immigration control). Some countries also require another test at the completion of a short quarantine period before you’re allowed to travel farther afield.
If you test positive at any of these crucial checks, even falsely, authorities can impose whatever isolation/quarantine on you they feel fit. No one is obligated to show you test results, and you won’t have many options.
Early in 2022, digital nomads reentering Cambodia and Thailand began reporting how they were told they tested positive despite having tested negative 24 hours prior. They were then forced to stay in a quarantine hotel (with the nightly rate set by the government) for over a week. Going outside wasn’t allowed, so they had to pay for overpriced meals and water at the hotel.
Some of these travelers who tested positive missed their flights home and had no recourse. At the end of the compulsory quarantine stay, they were given bills for thousands of dollars. They weren’t allowed to exit the country until they paid.
With many countries desperate to recover from economic devastation, you can see how the opportunity for confusion and corruption exists. One false positive on a mandatory Covid-19 test could unexpectedly cost you thousands of dollars with no way out (literally) of paying or exiting the country.
- SafetyWing (affiliate link) offers digital nomad travel medical insurance for Covid-19 quarantine by government mandate. Coverage for trip interruption and medical treatment are standard.
When you secure your travel medical insurance policy through either of these links, you help support this site. In turn, we can keep helping future independent travelers and digital nomads!
Travel Insurance for Driving Scooters
Long before Covid-19 became a concern, there was already a good reason for digital nomads to get travel medical coverage: scooters.
Scooters and motorbikes are the default means of transportation in much of Asia and elsewhere. For many of us digital Nomads in Southeast Asia, we drive or ride on scooters pretty well every day.
Many digital nomad travel medical insurance policies don’t cover scooters due to the inherent risk. I can’t think of a single trip to Southeast Asia when I didn’t see many scooter accidents. You frequently meet bandaged-up, long-term travelers limping around after accidents. Crashing a scooter has become a rite of passage for many backpackers in Thailand.
Even if you’re an expert driver, seeing the chaotic road conditions in many countries will make you glad you’ve got some travel insurance coverage for scooters. Thailand, a very popular place for digital nomads to live and work remotely, has one of the highest road-fatality rates in the world.
SafetyWing is among the few digital nomad travel insurance companies that offer coverage for driving and riding on scooters; it’s in their standard policy. Other providers, on the other hand, may charge an additional cost to cover you for driving motorbikes or exclude them completely.
Even if you don’t plan to drive a scooter (despite the risk, you’ll miss out on a lot of places), you’ll inevitably end up riding on one at some point—especially in Southeast Asia. You should have coverage.
Note: Travel medical insurance policies with scooter coverage always require that you are properly licensed (either local drivers license or international drivers license with appropriate stamps) when driving.
Adventure Travel Insurance for Scuba Diving
Many of the top travel medical insurance companies still require an adventure “rider” at additional cost to cover sports and extreme activities. That seems fair, but what qualifies as an “extreme” sport is often surprising.
Here, SafetyWing, the best travel medical insurance providers for digital nomads, really shines.
By default, SafetyWing covers scuba diving if you are certified or doing a Discover Scuba course (less than 10 meters).
Adventure Travel Insurance for Trekking
As for high-elevation trekking, you need to scrutinize your travel insurance policy carefully.
SafetyWing covers a lot of adventurous activities but only allows for trekking up to 4,500 meters (14,700 feet). You’ll certainly be higher than that if trekking to Everest Base Camp or enjoying other popular treks in Nepal. If only trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 meters / 13,550), you’re covered!
Long-term Digital Nomad Travel Insurance
The road can be a chaotic place to live as a digital nomad. As the sign above warns in Ubud, Bali, you could even get robbed… by a monkey!
That unpredictability is why so many of us are addicted to independent world travel. But even if you won’t be driving scooters or doing many “adventurous” activities, you simply can’t eliminate all the risk from travel.
For instance, mosquitoes are the most dangerous creature on earth due to the many illnesses (dengue fever, malaria, Zika, Chikungunya, etc) they transmit. One unlucky bite could affect your trip or cause you to miss a flight.
In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with SafetyWing (affiliate link that supports this site). SafetyWing has emerged as a clear leader in digital nomad travel medical insurance for Covid-19 and adventure coverage. It should satisfy the entry requirements for travel medical insurance.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your travel insurance, but trust me, the peace of mind is worth the cost.
Regardless of which company you choose, happy (and safe) travels!
Greg Rodgers is a corporate escapee, budget traveler, and location-independent writer. He created Science of Escape to help others also enjoy a thrilling life of travel.