What I Spent: Travel Insurance and Average Medical Costs

How a low up-front investment can result in major savings down the line

For many travelers, the question of whether or not to purchase travel insurance comes down to three factors: the cost, the itinerary, and current world events. However, what you may not consider is the cost of getting ill or injured while abroad.

if you have gone abroad recently, you probably know about most travel insurance costs, including trip cancellation, trip delay, and baggage loss. But what you are probably overlooking are the health care benefits that come with a good travel insurance policy. With the right plan, you can be covered for falling ill while abroad, getting injured in an accident, or even requiring emergency evacuation home.

Before you get stuck with an expensive hospital bill, make sure to know the cost of travel insurance versus the cost of medical care abroad. Here's what you may end up spending if your next trip ends up in the emergency room. 

  • 01 of 06

    Average Cost of Travel Insurance: $263.48

    Did you know your travel insurance can do this for you?
    ••• asbe/Creative RF/Getty Images

    According to the American Express 2016 Spending and Saving Tracker survey, four out of five Americans take at least one summer vacation. Nearly a quarter will be traveling outside the country on. The average price of a trip is $948 per person, bringing up the tab for a family of four to $3,792.

    Although the price of travel insurance can vary based on several factors, InsureMyTrip estimates an average travel insurance policy should cost between four and ten percent of the trip cost. At the median price of seven percent, an average travel insurance policy for a family of four should cost around $263.48.

    While this is an average estimate, the actual cost of a travel insurance policy will vary between providers and based on certain factors, including age, length of the trip, and the destination countries. But for average cost of travel insurance, it's a small price to pay to ensure you don't get caught with an even bigger bill. 

  • 02 of 06

    Cost of Ambulance Transport: $434 or more

    Would you know how to find an ambulance in another country?
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    No matter where we travel in the world, accidents and injuries never take a vacation.. Incapacitated travelers who injure themselves in an accident often require an ambulance to get them to the nearest emergency room. 

    While many developed nations have socialized health care, it only applies to the locals - not tourists. Using Ireland as an example, you may not necessarily be on the hook for an ambulance ride in certain situations. But in Singapore, ambulance transportation can cost as much as $434. That's not overall - that's per ride. If you need more than one ambulance, the price can climb quickly.

    When you travel abroad, most common insurance providers – including Medicare – will not cover your injuries. Without travel insurance, travelers may be forced to pay for their coverage on their own.

  • 03 of 06

    Cost of Hospitalization: Up to $1,742 per day

    Being unaware of what you're doing while you travel could result in a cancellation of your travel insurance policy. Are you fully covered?
    ••• Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    In 2015, United States State Department data revealed over 900 Americans were killed abroad, with the majority of those deaths coming from traffic accidents, drowning, and other assorted incidents. For every one killed, there are many more who required a hospital stay to overcome an illness or injury. Though you never plan for a detour to a hospital, an unexpected accident can cost travelers in the long run.

    According to The Washington Post, those without travel insurance can face high fees for every day they are in the hospital. In Australia, hospitalization can cost up to $1,742 per day, while that same room can cost over $700 in France and The Netherlands.

    Without travel insurance coverage, the State Department warns travelers are responsible for covering all of their expenses in a hospital. Although the embassy can help travelers arrange for money transfers from home, they cannot guarantee pay for hospital care, nor can they refer travelers to a doctor or send a doctor to help...MORE travelers in distress. In this situation, the low cost of travel insurance is a steal compared to one night in a hospital. 

  • 04 of 06

    Cost of MRI or CT Scans: Up to $1,072 per scan

    This man is receiving a CT Scan - which he may have paid for out of pocket without travel insurance.
    ••• Hero Images/Creative RF/Getty Images

    For those who need even more comprehensive tests, an MRI scan – short for magnetic resonance imaging – or CT scan (computerized tomography) is often ordered. These scans create intricately detailed images of the human body, but for a price.

    According to The Washington Post report, a MRI can cost over $1,000 while abroad. The most expensive country for MRI scans is South Africa, followed by Switzerland, New Zealand, Chile, and France. Across Europe, the cheapest MRI was found in Spain, at an average price of $230. Comparatively, the average cost of travel insurance is only $33 more than a MRI in Spain. 

    CT Scans also come with a very high price tag. The newspaper discovered the cheapest cost for an abdomen CT Scan in both South Africa and Switzerland, was over $400, on average. All other places surveyed in Europe, including The Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, all charged over $150 for a CT Scan.

    Although these scans may be life-saving, you could be responsible for paying them...MORE off without travel insurance. Be sure to check if your travel insurance policy will cover these exams if warranted medically necessary by a doctor. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Cost of Follow-Up Examinations: Over $30 Per Visit

    Does the pre-existing condition waiver matter? If you suffer from any type of condition...then it probably does.
    ••• Adam Berry/Getty Images News

    Of all the situations you could run into abroad, seeing a doctor for an office visit may be the most cheapest, even without travel insurance. In countries surveyed around the world by The Washington Post, the most expensive routine office visit cost residents $38 on average in Chile.

    However, much like in the United States, the availability of doctors may vary around the world. Seeing a doctor at the average price may also be difficult, due to language barriers and office policies. The local embassy can often help travelers find a doctor, while a travel insurance policy can help find doctors that will accept their policy as payment, or guarantee of payment. 

  • 06 of 06

    Cost of Air Ambulance: $10,000 and above per evacuation

    This medical evacuation jet could cost travelers upwards of $10,000, without a travel insurance policy.
    ••• Paul Nelhams/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Finally, everyone dreams of returning home in the forward cabin in first class – not the forward cabin of an air ambulance. If you are seriously injured while abroad, you could require a return trip in a specially outfitted aircraft, capable of providing life support from takeoff to landing.

    Riding in an air ambulance is not cheap, either domestically or internationally. In an article published by The New York Times, a spokesperson for the Association of Air Medical Services estimated the average price of an air ambulance to be $10,000 or more. For an emergency evacuation alone, the average cost of travel insurance is much easier than buying an air ambulance

    When faced with the difficult choice of using an air ambulance, be sure to contact your travel insurance provider first. Although travel insurance providers may not provide assistance after an incident, purchasing a travel insurance policy before leaving home can ensure travelers are covered in the event of an emergency. 

While the cost of medical care around the world may vary, you can avoid these costs with the right travel insurance policy. With careful planning and asking key questions, spending the money for a trip insurance cost can save you a lot in the worst case scenario.