It can be hard to come to terms with, but travel insurance isn’t really optional anymore. Even though the planet is no more dangerous to travel in these days, I’m confident in saying that medical care is definitely more expensive.

So how do you get half-decent travel insurance that actually covers you, without breaking the bank?

Know What You Need

This seems pretty straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea what kind of coverage they want. Even people who consider themselves invincible should aim to get medical coverage up to a few million. You know, just in case. It sounds like a lot, but overseas medical care is really expensive, and you don’t want to be served a bill when you’ve just been put through the hospital ringer.

Be Careful Where You Buy

Although it’s convenient to get your travel insurance from the same travel agent, airline, or even tour company where you booked your trip, it’s usually not the best idea. In fact, these companies tend to offer insurance at a much higher price. Why? They have a variety of products, so insurance becomes an extra instead of a main offering. This means they can’t offer deals that are as competitive as travel insurance specialists.

Know Your Geography

Wait until you see how bad insurance geography is. Most companies will organize their policy plans by location (usually called zones), and there is a lot of fine print involved. When you’re buying a policy, you need to make sure that they cover all the places you’re visiting or passing through during your travel, otherwise your policy could be useless.

On the plus side, you can save money if your trip doesn’t include expensive countries, like the US and Europe.

Don’t Forget The Excess

There are a lot of things that make travel insurance cheaper and, unfortunately, increasing excess is one of them. Why worry about it if you are only getting the coverage just in case? Admittedly, if you do something major, you probably won’t sweat a few hundred dollars. But if it’s just a couple of stitches, you don’t want to have to pay $500 so your insurance policy can cover the next $50.

Even if it increases your costs a little, consider shelling out more initially to reduce the excess, or even negate it.

Pre-Existing Matters

For anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, you should be aware that your travel insurance might not cover you. This is another case of reading the fine print and, if necessary, going to the insurer and asking upfront about what their regulations are with pre-existing conditions. This could be anything from asthma to eczema and, remember, insurers are strict. Most will go to great lengths to avoid paying out (that is how they profit) and your medical history will not go unseen.

Activity Exclusions

Before you start planning that mountain climbing adventure, you should know that not all activities are covered by insurance policies, and what is covered is classified under different levels. It’s one area where insurance companies and travelers don’t see eye to eye, with some companies claiming activities such as surfing and hiking as “adventurous.”

So, if you’re planning to do anything beyond sunbathing on a tropical beach, double check and make sure you’re covered.

Compare to Save

If you want to save money, you might need to put in a little time and effort to compare insurers. Avoid just looking at one travel insurance plan and settling. Try to find more than one, and make sure you consider more than just the price. When it comes to insurance, value for money is important, and although one insurer might be slightly more expensive, they could offer a better service.

If you are looking for travel insurance, now is actually a great time to buy. There are more insurers than ever before, which means more competition and more deals. Travel should be about being free, so get yourself covered and you won’t have to worry.