Ricky Batten

International health insurance vs travel insurance

What are the major differences between the two?

One of the things that you will come to fathom as a teacher in Thailand is that getting proper insurance coverage is essential. 

Whether that’s to cover unexpected medical bills, seek coverage for travel delays, or protect against theft of personal belongings when traveling around Southeast Asia.

As an expat in Thailand myself (and an insurance expert), I often get asked what the essential types of plans to secure for school teachers are. And the answer is pretty much always travel insurance and international health insurance. 

Why? You may ask. Well, both are considered necessary, especially now that we have experienced a global pandemic, which has drastically changed our lives, behavior, and travel habits. More so, when you have a good plan in place, you can happily focus on teaching and pursue your personal activities without concerns. So without further ado, let's take a look at what travel insurance, and international health insurance are.

What is travel insurance?

In a nutshell, travel insurance offers financial protection from all the unexpected pitfalls of traveling. You may personally know what it covers (or heard of instances from friends, family, and connections), but here are a few examples to bear in mind:

  • Medical coverage
  • Lost luggage or travel documents
  • Travel delays
  • Theft of personal belongings
  • Trip cancellation
  • Emergency medical evacuation coverage

Since your time as a teacher in Thailand may require unscheduled trips around the country or planned holidays to neighboring countries, having coverage is highly encouraged. I heard stories of expats flying to some of the southern islands of Thailand and experiencing a fall during a hike that required extensive medical input. Luckily, their travel insurance plan had emergency medical evacuation coverage, which meant they could contact their insurer to arrange medical transport to the nearest hospital. 

As for travel delays, travel cancellation, and theft of personal belongings, you never know when these will come in handy. Theft can happen anytime and to anyone, whereas a change in the weather forecast can swiftly end your flight departure. 

As for medical coverage, this is intended to provide short-term emergency medical treatment within a specified destination or period of cover. You’ll probably think this is your medical coverage sorted then, but hold your horses. Such medical coverage may be limited, i.e., the amount the insurer will cover before you have to pay out of pocket for the rest, and if further treatment is required, you’ll be expected to receive it back at home. Thus, an international health insurance plan may be a good one, just in case. Let’s take a look at what this plan is and what it offers.

What is international health insurance?

Unlike a travel insurance plan's range of options, an international health insurance plan solely focuses on providing health coverage. But just because it’s purely for health coverage doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into it. An international health insurance plan is set up so that it covers you for the length of your stay, even if you are relocating from one country to another. 

For instance, if you plan to teach in Thailand for 6 months and then move to Vietnam for the remaining 6 months to teach, then this type of plan may have you fully covered there too. The portability of an international health insurance plan means wherever you go; you'll undoubtedly have peace of mind since the insurer will have in-network healthcare providers in both countries.

Main features

So that you are aware, here are some of the main features of international health insurance plans:

  • Private healthcare - This grants you access to private hospitals and clinics in Thailand and around the globe.
  • Direct billing - This is a preferred option for expats, including teachers, as it means the insurer will settle payment directly with the hospital or clinic, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
  • Lifetime renewability - This is an excellent option on some plans as you can be covered until you stop paying the premium. Usually, insurance companies only sell plans up to around 60 years old.
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation - This is also great for travelers and expats alike. Funding a flight to repatriate yourself back to your home country could cost you an enormous amount - tens of thousands of Thai baht, if not more!

And if the above weren’t enough, an international health insurance plan typically offers a wide range of medical benefits, including:

  • Hospitalization coverage
  • Outpatient coverage
  • Maternity coverage
  • Newborn coverage
  • Vision care
  • Dental care
  • Chronic condition coverage  

Have further questions?

If you have questions about your health insurance options for teachers and are seeking answers, you’re more than welcome to contact me by emailing ajarn@pacificprime.co.th or contact my team at Pacific Prime Thailand.


How much is the travel insurance for a 54 yr old compared to an international heath plan?

By Martin P Dirnbach, Patong (21st September 2022)

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