Most people would have you think that West Africa is not a place to be trifled with, that it’s simply too dangerous too travel. While the region is nowhere near as dangerous as these people would like you to believe, it is still wise to take out a travel insurance policy. Accidents and theft can happen anywhere, and it’s foolish to travel without appropriate coverage.
As we have said elsewhere on the site, we recommend World Nomads for most travelers to West Africa. But before we explain why we like them, let’s talk about what you should look for when taking out a policy for the region.
- Countries that are covered – You obviously want a policy that will cover all of the countries you are visiting. Companies like World Nomads provide universal coverage, provided you are not in a country that is under a travel advisory from your government. Unfortunately, there are 3-4 countries in West Africa that may be in this category and it may be difficult finding coverage from anyone for these places, unless you are willing to pay a lot of money for the premiums. Check with your state department, foreign office, whatever, before traveling to see what travel advisories are out there. In some cases, it may just be one particular region of a country that is off limits.
- Medical coverage – Medical coverage is at the top of the list when it comes to travel insurance. Many travel insurance policies have a deductible of at least $100 (this means that you have to pay $100 out of pocket before you will start seeing any insurance money. In other words, if you go to the doctor and the cost is $95, you will pay for all of it. If it’s $115, you will pay $100 and then insurance will cover whatever is left over). After that, they will cover up to a certain amount. Many companies offer around $25,000 of medical coverage, but we would recommend at least $50,000 of coverage or more (this doesn’t include possible evacuation costs, which we will include separately).
- Evacuation coverage – Unlikely that you will need it, but it’s important to have just in case. An evacuation can cost several hundred thousand dollars, possibly more depending on the situation. Some companies provide evacuation services specifically, but in many cases you will still have to make it to a capital or large city before being evacuated. The bottom line is that you want to have this service for peace of mind, and you want several hundred thousand dollars included in your policy for it.
- Loss of valuables – There is a good chance you will be traveling with at least a few valuable items, whether it’s a computer, camera, and/or phone. You will want to have a policy that covers loss – either through damage or theft – of these items.
- Customer service and claim follow through – You can have an affordable policy with great coverage, but it doesn’t mean jack if you can’t get through to someone when you need to, and when you do, you can’t get your claims covered. It’s imperative to find a reliable carrier, one that uses a reputable underwriter and one that will respond when you email or call.
There are of course other things to consider, such as cost and ease of renewal, but the points above cover the essentials.
Why we like World Nomads for West Africa
There are several reasons why we like World Nomads for West Africa.
1. For one, we’ve actually used them and seen how they respond to customers. Phil had to follow through on a medical claim with them. They got back to him in less than 24 hours and the customer service was exceptional.
2. Their website is incredibly easy to use. You can get a quote in 60 seconds. You don’t need to specify the countries you will be visiting (hell, you might not know which countries you’ll visit besides the one you’re flying or driving into).
3. Their policies are easy to renew/extend. Bought a policy for a month, but decide you want to keep traveling? No problem, log into your World Nomads account and extend it for as long as you like.
4. They have sufficient medical coverage. World Nomads offers coverage for medical services up to $100,000 and evacuation coverage up to $300,000. Some travel insurance companies offer a third of that coverage.
5. They use reputable underwriters. As an American traveling in West Africa, World Nomads had me covered through Travel Guard, which is a proven brand when it comes to delivering on claims.
5. They have an option for adventure activities. If you are planning on doing any adventure sports, World Nomads has a plan in which those activities are covered (you will play a slightly higher rate).
6. They appreciate travelers. They are an insurance company – true – but they are active in the travel community and it’s not hard to get in touch with them on facebook or twitter (or through email).
Cons of World Nomads
World Nomads does not cover medical situations that arise from preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, this is also the case with many other travel insurance providers. In addition, they will not provide coverage in conflict zones or places that are under a travel advisory from your country of residence (again, this is true for many other providers as well). Finally, World Nomads may be more costly than some other policies. In general, we’ve found that it’s possible to find cheaper policies, but it’s hard to match the quality of service, which is why we have recommended them here.
The bottom line
While we think World Nomads is ideal for most people, you may find that they don’t offer a policy that works for you. Whichever travel insurance policy you choose, make sure you read the fine print and fully understand what is or isn’t covered before you commit. If you have used World Nomads or you have a recommendation of your own for West Africa, please share it in the comments below.
If you are interested in getting a quote from World Nomads, you can do so with the form below:
Photo credit: flickr user IamNotUnique