For this first article in a series of practical tips I’ll refer to as “Paris Trip Planning Q&A“, let’s tackle a boring, but entirely necessary, question. Readers have often asked me this: “Do I really need travel insurance for a vacation in Paris/elsewhere in France?”
This is often followed by speculation that “since health care is basically free in Europe, it’s probably unnecessary and a waste of money, right?”
Unfortunately, that’s all wrong. Here’s why I firmly believe that purchasing a good policy is necessary for true peace of mind– and to protect your health while you’re in France.
This has especially been true since the global health crisis hit in 2020 and disrupted travel more than at any time in living memory. Since there are so many unpredictable factors at play these days when it comes to going abroad, making sure you have a good insurance policy in place is more crucial than it ever has been.
But even outside of “crisis periods” like the one we’re currently living through, there are several reasons why travel insurance is important when visiting France. These are two of the main ones:
1. Medical Care Isn’t Free in France
Perhaps because France has a reputation for having a stellar, accessible healthcare system that turns no one away at the door, people often rush to assume that it comes with no out-of-pocket costs. But that just isn’t true.
Even French citizens and European visitors covered by la sécu (social security) and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme are usually reimbursed for only around 70% of typical medical costs.
If they don’t have additional insurance coverage, referred to locally as mutuelles, they have to pay the difference out of pocket for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, ambulances and treatment. There are some exceptions to this rule, but we’re considering averages here.
Meanwhile, for those not covered by French social security or the European healthcare scheme, 100% of medical care is billable.
It’s certainly much less expensive than in the US and some other places– but it can still amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is particularly true if you stay for several nights in the hospital, or undergo surgery, emergency medical treatments and/or costly tests.
Sometimes, you’re billed before you’re offered care, and sometimes you’ll become liable after the fact (as is usually the case with an ER or hospital stay). But you will be asked to pay. Having even a basic travel insurance policy will ensure that you’re covered for accidental injury or illness in many cases.
2. Travel Insurance Can Cover More Than Doctors, Drugs & Hospitals
These days, a good policy is arguably more essential than it once was due to airlines and other travel services having rather rigid cancellation policies attached to them.
For example, if you book a flight with a third-party agent or company and not directly with the airline, it can be almost impossible to get a refund or exchange for certain tickets.
But no one can guarantee that a last-minute family emergency or work-related issue won’t result in you having to delay or cancel your trip. Many travel insurance policies compensate you for the costs associated with such unfortunate events.
Lost or delayed baggage can also result in some significant losses, as well as being a hassle when you’re travelling. Basic policies often compensate you for the stress and inconvenience.
Finally, in 2020 the world is facing the coronavirus crisis, which is developing in unpredictable ways and may result in you needing to cancel or cut short your trip to France.
While as of early March 2020 no countries have issued travel advisories against visits to France, there are cases of coronavirus present in the country and officials are watching developments carefully.
It’s more important than usual to make sure you have cancellation insurance should a travel advisory be issued before or during your planned trip.
Buying a policy that allows you to claim compensation on booked flights, trains, hotels and tours is essential.
Get a Quote and Compare Travel Insurance Policies
If you’re ready to consider buying a policy, a first step is to get a quote from a trusted provider. I recommend World Nomads: they’ve received consistently strong reviews from customers and have earned a four-star rating from TrustPilot.
You can fill out a quick quote form by clicking here– or use the one below to generate a customized list of different policy choices.
Once you’ve purchased a policy, you can claim your benefits from anywhere in the world through a simple online claims form. You can also get round-the clock help and assistance by telephone.
How Expensive do Policies Tend to Run?
Policies vary widely depending on your destination/s, age and other factors. But basic-coverage packages that cover doctor’s visits, hospital stays and even major surgeries can be more reasonable than you might imagine.
To cover my travels in 2017-2018 I purchased a policy that was less than $90 for basic coverage.
If you shop around, you may even be able to find significantly less expensive plans. For more comprehensive coverage, you might want to budget around $150-$170 (prices may currently be higher).
My bottom line?
Many people take the risk of not buying insurance to cover their adventures. Often, there are no consequences, which cements the habit.
Throughout most of my life, I preferred to take the risk rather than pay a bit extra. Only recently have I changed tack, partly owing to the fact that I’ve had a couple of medical emergencies in the past years.
But while you’ll hopefully enjoy an incident-free trip and won’t require medical attention or hospitalization, there are no guarantees. Something could happen that might quickly prove costly and stressful.
Even lost baggage or a last-minute emergency that forces you to cancel, interrupt or delay your trip can be a genuine hassle. Travel insurance helps mitigate all that.
And while health care costs in France are much lower than in the U.S. and many other countries, the ininsured still have to pay out of pocket for doctor’s visits and hospital stays.
These can rack up hundreds if not thousands of dollars in medical bills. Buying a reasonably priced travel insurance plan means greater peace of mind in the event of an accident or sudden illness.
It’s a feeling of serenity that’s worth the extra investment– at least in my book. Of course, 22-year old me would have probably disagreed.
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