- Sixty countries require tourists to have a minimum level of travel insurance, according to InsureMyTrip data.
- Around 12 have added a mandate during the pandemic era, generally to cover medical and other costs related to Covid-19.
- There are many quirks to the rules. Some countries exempt Americans, while others apply just to the unvaccinated.
Are you planning a trip abroad? You may need to buy travel insurance to visit your destination country.
Many countries had insurance requirements even before the pandemic. But about a dozen more have since added rules, typically to cover Covid-19 medical expenses and other costs like lodging in the event of quarantine overseas, according to Clayton Coomer, vice president at WorldTrips, an insurer.
Argentina, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Bolivia, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Jordan and Lebanon are among the ones with pandemic-era mandates, Coomer said.
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Belize also recently announced a new requirement for all tourists that starts Feb. 15.
"Countries are doing it so they don't have to absorb any financial burden for treating uninsured tourists who may contract Covid-19," Coomer said.
"[The situation] is evolving so much, especially with omicron," he added, referring to the highly contagious Covid-19 variant.
In all, 60 countries mandate travel insurance for tourists, according to InsureMyTrip data as of Jan. 27.
Requirements sometimes apply only to tourists who need a visa for entry, which means Americans may be exempt. (The 26 Schengen Area countries in Europe don't impose rules on Americans, for example.)
The coverage rules are fluid and vary widely.
For instance, Costa Rica requires insurance only for unvaccinated travelers. Belize will let travelers buy coverage upon arrival (though officials recommend buying ahead of time). Although both are technically part of the same European Union, the Dutch half (Sint Maarten) of Caribbean island Saint Martin does require insurance coverage, while the French-administered part (Saint-Martin) does not.
These quirks increasingly make such research necessary before travel — in addition to any other entry rules, like those for testing and vaccination. Some countries, such as Japan, still haven't opened their borders to American tourists.
The type and amount of covered costs will vary by country.
"Many countries require travel medical insurance that covers medical treatment for Covid-19 if a traveler contracts it during their trip," said Angela Borden, product marketing strategist with insurance firm Seven Corners. "Some countries require a specific policy amount while others do not."
Some locations ask travelers to cover costs for food and lodging, too, if they must quarantine in the destination country due to Covid, Borden said.
The mandatory Belize Travel Health Insurance, for example, costs $18 and provides coverage for up to $50,000 in medical expenses related to Covid-19 treatment for 21 days. In addition, it covers lodging costs up to $2,000 (and $300 per day) for a quarantine, and trip cancellations and expenses due to an extended stay.
Travelers to Jamaica pay a $40 mandatory fee for coverage that includes $50,000 of on-island health coverage and $5,000 for trip interruption.
Chile requires proof of a health insurance policy that "provides coverage for Covid-19 and related health issues during the traveler's stay," according to the U.S. Department of State.
Travelers must be covered for at least $30,000 and present documentation when boarding their flight. The Chilean capital of Santiago is the third-highest trending international destination for Americans, according to Hopper, a travel site.
What to know about insurance
Most standard travel-insurance policies have been designed to meet the requirements for most, if not all, countries, according to Coomer at WorldTrips. However, consumers should make sure a policy's coverage aligns with the destination's mandate before buying.
(Six of the seven different travel insurance policies Seven Corners sells retail consumers include Covid-related coverage, for example, Borden said.)
Insurers also offer optional add-ons, like "cancel for any reason" coverage — which is more expensive but lets consumers recoup funds in a broader variety of circumstances, though conditions still apply.
U.S. health plans may — but may not — also offer coverage overseas. (Medicare and Medicaid, for example, generally don't cover medical costs for international travelers, according to the State Department.) If they do, the policy may not meet a country's standards.
Travelers may also get some coverage via a credit card. (However, it may not be as comprehensive as a separate insurance policy. Travelers must also generally use the card to buy all or part of the trip for the coverage to apply.)
The State Department has a list of insurance-option considerations for Americans going abroad.
"Travelers must understand the importance of travel insurance for international trips," Borden said. "Their insurance at home may not follow them abroad, and foreign medical facilities may require payment upfront before they provide care."