Say you are a seasoned traveller (for professional and/or personal reasons). Considering how health scares appear out of the blue, what happens if you fall ill during one such trip to a foreign land? Compared to India, other countries are pretty expensive for medical treatments (hence individuals from all over the globe travel to India to get their surgeries and medical treatments).

Under such circumstances, you are stuck in a foreign land, spending a mammoth share of your savings on your treatment, thinking how

  1. this would have taken only 10% of the billed amount had you been back in India and
  2. the rest could have been used for other foreign-trip-related expenses.

Now, frequent travellers are well aware of such precautionary tales and hence often opt for travel insurance. However, our question is - should you opt for travel insurance or medical insurance offering international coverage? Which of these two will offer more value for your money?

Let’s find out.

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance plans are financial protection tools typically crafted for people who are planning a short trip to a foreign place. The main intent of travel insurance policies is to offer you coverage for -

- Emergency medical treatment
- Treatment for accidents caused during the trip
- Liability insurance
- Last-minute airfare/hotel cancellations
- Misplaced luggage
- Lost personal belongings
- Delayed departures
- Lost or misplaced travel documents, etc.

As you can see, travel insurance offers a diverse set of benefits that also include medical coverage. These policies are of two types -

  1. Single-trip travel insurance - The travel insurance plans that cover one specific overseas trip. Usually, this type of travel insurance has a coverage limit of 180 days and is suitable if you schedule annual holiday trips to foreign places.
  2. Multi-trip travel insurance - This kind of travel insurance plan is crafted for individuals planning multiple overseas trips across a year and normally extends to 30 - 60 days.

a. What are the advantages of travel insurance?

  • Coverage for your foreign holiday: Travel insurance plans are a great choice if you are planning a foreign trip that would last for 6 months or less.
  • Extensive coverage: They cover a diverse set of benefits that cover your travel risks from cancellations to liabilities.
  • Affordability: Travel insurance plans are usually affordable and easy to purchase.

b. What are the disadvantages of travel insurance?

  • Only relevant for short trips: Travel insurance policies are only good to go for if you have a short trip in mind because they have a cap on the number of days that they cover. This may extend from 30 to 180 days.
  • Not comprehensive medical coverage: Travel insurance plans only cover emergency medical procedures/treatments,
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions may not be possible: Certain pre-existing conditions may not be covered under your plan. So, any aggravation caused due to a pre-existing medical condition, even if it raises an emergency, may not be covered by your provider.

What is Medical Insurance Offering International Coverage?

Medical insurance policies are in general very comprehensive and offer financial cushioning for policyholders during dire conditions that require hospitalisations, medical procedures/surgeries, etc. In the case of health insurance plans offering international coverage, if you have opted for a reputed insurer and a suitable policy, you will be covered for both emergency and scheduled medical procedures.

  1. What are the advantages of medical insurance offering international coverage?
  • Comprehensive medical coverage: Medical insurance policies offering international coverage funds both emergency and scheduled medical procedures
  • Maternity expenses may be covered: The health insurance plans that offer global coverage usually cover maternity expenses too.  So, let’s say you are travelling for a babymoon with your spouse and end up requiring some medical care, your insurer will have you covered for the expenses, provided your plan extends you this perk.
  • Pre-existing ailments covered: While there will be some waiting periods, your pre-existing medical conditions will also be covered.
  • Ideal for an extensive trip: Unlike travel insurance policies, international health insurance plans have you financially covered for the long run.
  • Customisation: The medical insurance plans offering international coverage are flexible, and comprehensive, and can be customised as per your medical, financial, and travel requirements. You can opt for health insurance add-ons, deductibles, wellness programs, etc. to ensure that you tap into the maximum potential of your plan.

2. What are the disadvantages of medical insurance offering international coverage?

  • Expensive: Medical insurance plans offering international coverage are extremely expensive as compared to the standard policies. The premiums may weigh significantly on your wallet.

Here’s an example to help you understand the price difference better -

Insurance Plan Costs
HDFC ERGO Optima Secure ₹21,299
HDFC ERGO Optima Secure Global Plus ₹113,993

(Case in point is a healthy 20-year-old male, seeking ₹2 crore coverage.)

Considering this high-end premium, the international health insurance plans only stand valid if -

- You have the financial bandwidth and

- You are a frequent flier

  • Deductibles and Copayments: In a majority of the cases with international health insurance plans, you can expect a mandatory deductible and copayment to kick in. Since the medical treatments in foreign lands are relatively expensive, you may end up paying significantly towards such hospitalisations.
  • Geographical Limitations: Most of the international health insurance policies, unless it explicitly says otherwise, have certain geographical restrictions. Namely, the US and Canada are excluded from their limit of coverage because of the exorbitant charges involved in the medical treatments/procedures/surgeries.
  • Reimbursement is a possibility: Some plans require you to pay the billed amount from your pocket initially. They reimburse the amount after cross-verification with their global service partners for offshore hospitalisation. However, considering how high the billed amounts are in international healthcare facilities, it is a significant financial burden to pay off the amount even if you will be reimbursed later.

3. What are the best medical insurance plans offering international coverage?

International Coverage Insurance Plans
Best Plans Offering International Coverage Coverage Amount
HDFC Optima Secure Global Plus Up to the Base Sum insured (up to 2 crores) and Plus Benefit (50% to 100%)
Care Advantage + Protect Plus Add-on with Global Cover Up to 6 crores
Niva Bupa Health Premia (Platinum) Up to 1 crore/insured person OR Up to 2 crore/insured person (with an International coverage extension)
Digit Worldwide Treatment Plan Up to 3 crores

(Know more about these plans from our blog on - The best medical insurance plans offering international coverage).

What is the Difference Between Travel Insurance and Medical Insurance?

Comparison of Insurance Types
Aspects Travel Insurance Medical Insurance offering International Coverage
Definition Insurance policies that are specifically crafted to offer you financial support during your international trips. Insurance policies that are designed to offer you financial security during your health scares, in domestic and international locations.
Coverage Personal liabilities, medical emergencies, lost baggage, stolen/missing travel documents, last-minute cancellations, etc. Hospitalisation expenses, pre and post-hospitalisation charges, OPD charges (add-on), maternity expenses (add-on or in-built), room rent, daycare treatments, and more.
Emergency/scheduled treatments Only emergency medical treatments are covered Coverage for both emergency and scheduled medical procedures/treatments.
Premium costs Relatively affordable Hefty premiums to adjust to the medical expenses in international healthcare facilities.
  • Only emergency medical treatments are covered
  • Coverage for a limited number of days (30 to 180 days)
  • Pre-existing conditions are most likely excluded
  • Extremely expensive premiums
  • Geographical exclusions (namely the USA and Canada, in most cases)
  • Reimbursements are very common requests from the insurers.
  • Deductibles and copayments may be mandated.
Crafted for Foreign holidays that are scheduled once a year, or very short trips for professional or personal reasons. Extensive overseas visits, trips, work-related requirements, or medical tourism (only Indian residents are eligible for health insurance with international coverage).

What Should You Choose - Travel Insurance Or Medical Insurance?

Well, depends!

It’s all about your financial, medical and travel details. So, let’s get on with a couple of use cases to see, which between travel insurance and medical insurance offering international coverage you should choose -

Use Case Recommendations for Insurance
Use cases Financial stability Travel frequency Travel duration Recommendation
CASE 1: Ashima is a 26-year-old entrepreneur who has to frequently fly to the UK, Australia, and New Zealand for her business purposes. Stable Often Short She is abundantly funded and travels often. So, in her case, the visits are frequent, short, and professional. This would make her the perfect policyholder for an international medical insurance plan.
CASE 2: Anita is a 35-year-old IT professional planning to take her family on a surprise international trip during Christmas. Stable Once a year Short This is a holiday trip that would be short and maybe won't be made multiple times in a year. In this case, a travel insurance policy would be suitable and would cover several aspects of the trip (this is additionally more helpful since she will be travelling with her family).
CASE 3: Seenu is a 30-year-old starting off her business venture into fabrics and needs to visit Bangladesh for a training session that would stretch for a month or so. Unstable Not frequent Short (30 days) She doesn't have the financial bandwidth to fund premiums for a medical insurance policy. Her 30-day trip can be very well covered by travel insurance, which would also ensure financial security in terms of last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, or travel documents.
CASE 4: Heena is a 40-year-old who has knee replacement surgery that will be scheduled in the UK in some years Stable Not frequent Long (include pre and post-surgical time frame) Considering her stable financials, scheduled surgery, and long trip planned, a medical insurance plan offering international coverage would be the best fit. This would also help her with the imminent sizeable hospital invoice and the follow-up check-ins with the specialist.


International medical treatments/surgeries/procedures often incur a sizeable bill that weighs in on the savings of an individual. However, when you are off for an international visit, you must list out your priorities.

If it’s all about a quick solo or family trip that occurs only once a year, travel insurance is your sweet spot. However, if you have a longer trip in mind for professional or personal reasons, you might want to consider how health scares appear out of the blue and are expensive in foreign lands. Also, consider if you have a treatment that you would prefer to be treated for abroad. In such cases, medical insurance policies offering international coverage have to be your option (however, remember, only Indian residents are eligible for international coverage, not NRIs or anyone else). On the flipside, beware of the hefty premiums that international health insurance policies demand, and weigh out the financial pros and cons before you approach an insurer.