By Laurent de Veyrac | 31 Jan 2024

Travel insurance vs. international health insurance: What’s the difference?

Travel insurance and international health insurance may seem similar, but they differ significantly.


Travel insurance and international health insurance both provide cover for when you’re overseas. But that’s where the similarities end.

The type of insurance you need will depend on the nature of your overseas travel, including whether you’re taking a short-term trip or are permanently relocating.

Understanding the differences between these two distinct types of insurance will ensure that you have adequate coverage for your needs.

All about travel insurance

What is travel insurance for?

Travel insurance primarily covers issues related to a specific trip or period overseas. It is ideal for short-term travel and holidays and may be suitable for some types of business travel, assuming you were to take out specific business travel insurance.

What does travel insurance cover?

The specifics of any travel insurance coverage will always depend on the provider and whether you buy add-ons or different features to better tailor your insurance to your needs.

However, most travel insurance plans will typically cover the following as standard:

  • Trip cancellation and/or interruption, so you can claim back non-refundable travel expenses if your trip is cancelled or cut short due to illness, natural disasters, or other reasons.
  • Baggage loss or delay, allowing you to claim back the cost of anything lost or stolen during your trip or claim compensation if there is a delay in receiving your baggage at either end of your journey. Cover for any of your belongings damaged in transit may also be included.
  • Emergency medical expenses, meaning that if you fall ill during your trip or are involved in an accident, you can receive treatment. This coverage is often minimal.
  • Emergency evacuation, so you can be safely transported home if necessary for medical reasons or in the event of a natural disaster.

How long does travel insurance last?

Typically, travel insurance covers a specific trip and is not designed nor intended for long-term coverage. While most travel insurance brands offer annual multi-trip coverage, there will still be conditions around this that keep the insurance from acting like an international health insurance plan.

What is missing from travel insurance that is included in international health insurance?

Travel insurance doesn't cover routine medical check-ups, wellness benefits, additional features, or access to comprehensive medical services like an international health insurance plan would. While some travel insurance brands cover people with pre-existing conditions, this isn't as comprehensive nor offers the protection that international health insurance does.

For example, pre-existing conditions cover in a travel insurance plan may be limited to covering the costs of medicines when overseas. In contrast, an international health insurance plan that covers your pre-existing conditions may enable you to receive limited treatment while living abroad and cover associated illnesses.

Perhaps most importantly, travel insurance only covers you outside your country of residence. So if you’re permanently relocating overseas, a travel insurance plan likely won’t cover you at all.

All about international health insurance

What is international health insurance for?

International health insurance is a specialist product specifically designed and tailored to the needs of expats and individuals who work overseas. If you plan on spending time abroad for any reason other than taking a holiday, consider getting international health insurance.

In some countries, having adequate health insurance coverage will be a pre-condition of entry. Even if it isn't, it is worth considering, given that your access to free healthcare may be limited in another country or that free healthcare may not be the standard you are used to receiving at home. Having international health insurance can also help you to reduce waiting times and avoid language barriers at medical facilities.

What does international health insurance cover?

As with travel insurance, the specifics of your coverage will depend on your insurer and the type of plan you buy. If you buy international health insurance with Now Health International, you can choose from various plans to suit your needs and financial circumstances.

Here are some of the things you might expect from an international health insurance plan:

  • Comprehensive medical cover. An international health insurance plan can often be as comprehensive as you need, covering you for routine check-ups and consultations, in-patient, out-patient, and day-patient visits to hospitals, surgeries, and potentially even dental, maternity, and optical care.
  • Chronic and pre-existing conditions may be eligible for cover with some insurers, although waiting periods may apply.
  • Mental health and wellbeing coverage is becoming an increasingly common element of international health insurance plans, recognising that mental health is vital to overall wellbeing.
  • Global coverage may be available, providing extensive coverage wherever you are. Our award-winning WorldCare plans offer such coverage, making it ideal if you plan to live abroad but travel regularly for business or visiting home.

How long does international health insurance last?

International health insurance plans are generally sold annually. You will usually be able to review and update your plan throughout the year and before renewal. Depending on the insurer, you may receive incentives like a no-claims discount or reductions for living a healthy lifestyle throughout the year.

What is missing from international health insurance that is included in travel insurance?

From a health coverage perspective, international health insurance gives you everything you need to stay healthy and happy in your new location. An international health insurance plan won't cover things like missing luggage or trip cancellation – but if you need that, you can buy a travel insurance policy before a trip! When you move overseas, you'll likely take out home insurance to cover your belongings while living there.

How to choose the right insurance

The type of insurance you need to cover you while you’re abroad should be clear.


  • If you’re taking a short-term trip, like a holiday or a brief business trip, travel insurance will usually be adequate for your needs.
  • If you plan to permanently live abroad, even for less than a year if, for example, you're taking a six-month overseas placement, then you should opt for international health insurance.

Enjoy comprehensive international health insurance with Now Health International!

If you’re planning to relocate overseas, whether for work or personal reasons, you can enjoy peace of mind with a Now Health International private health plan.

Check out all our plans or get a quote to take the first step to enjoying our award-winning cover!