The difference between international health insurance and travel insurance

The difference between international health insurance and travel insurance is a source of confusion for many soon to be expatriates. Although both are intended for people spending time away from their home country, the intended purpose of each product is different. Not understanding this difference may leave you with the wrong international medical insurance while overseas and unexpected medical expenses.

The main difference between expat insurance and normal travel insurance is the duration of coverage and the level of protection provided. Expat insurance provides coverage for a longer period and complete health coverage while travel insurance is intended to cover short-term trips.


Normal Travel Insurance provides basic medical coverage and may include benefits such as trip cancellation, lost luggage, and travel delay. 

International health insurance is designed to provide a comprehensive level of health care to those relocating from their home country for a sustained period of time, whereas travel insurance provides cover for emergency treatment while you are in another country for a shorter space of time.

Travel insurance is designed to cover you for trips of limited duration. It is intended for holidaymakers and short term trips abroad, and offers protection against travel related issues such as:

  • Cancellations
  • Loss of luggage
  • Loss of personal belongings
  • Emergency medical treatment

In terms of medical coverage, dummy travel insurance is intended to provide short-term emergency medical treatment, within your specified area or period of cover. The aim of this is to get you well enough to return home. Travel insurance rarely covers long term medical treatment.

If further treatment is required, you will usually be expected to return to your home country. Cover ceases once you are back in your country of residence.

International health insurance is designed for those living or working overseas for a prolonged period of time. It covers treatment for both emergency and routine healthcare, and provides expats with flexibility in terms of choice of doctor and treatment facility, with the ability to receive treatment anywhere within their region of cover.

If you are relocating or if you have a home abroad where you spend a significant amount of time, international health insurance may be required.

When experiencing a medical emergency, or even routine medical care, in a country where you are not familiar with the health system, and where you do not speak the language, international health insurance cover will ensure you get the medical attention you need.

International health insurance benefits vary by plan, but often include:

  • Hospital stay
  • Routine check-ups
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Cover for chronic conditions
  • Choice of medical providers

Our standard plans are modular so you can choose the combination of cover that best suits you and your families needs. In addition to the Core plan, options include:

The flexible nature of these plans allow you tailor them to your specific needs, making the right combination of cover for you and your family more financially accessible. Core plan and out-patient plan deductibles offer an opportunity to reduce premiums, as can careful consideration of the region of cover. For example, taking ‘Worldwide excluding USA’ instead of ‘Worldwide’ will alter premium significantly.

As an expat, it can be tempting to try to keep costs down by opting to rely on local healthcare when you are abroad. However, should you fall ill, you may find that the local healthcare options do not meet your needs.

Depending on where you are moving and your individual circumstances, you may not be entitled to free or subsidised healthcare. Without an expatriate health plan, you may incur expensive medical costs.

Before venturing to another country on expat assignment, it is important to weigh your options and ensure that you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Having the correct cover in place, will provide peace of mind as you settle into your new home.

Take a look at our 'differences between international health insurance and travel insurance' plain talking guide.

If you would like a quote for expat international health insurance, please click the link below...

→ Individual International Health Insurance quote

For employers wishing to purchase international Health Insurance for their employees, please click the link below...

→ Corporate Group Scheme International Health Insurance quote