Choosing international student health insurance

With the summer travel season soon upon us it’s a good time to mention how important it is for students and other young travelers to obtain international health insurance. It’s easy to get caught up visualizing hot summer nights in beautiful places and forget all about how quickly health problems can put a damper on any trip.


  • If you’re included on a family insurance plan at home, you’re almost certainly not covered abroad
  • The same is probably true if you are a member of a state health insurance scheme
  • Many countries (particularly in Eastern Europe) now require travelers to carry proof of medical insurance

Some all-inclusive study abroad programs and internships bundle international student health insurance with their tuition. If you’re signed up with one that doesn’t, or if you’re traveling just for fun, you’ll have to shop for yourself.

Fortunately for international students, it’s not particularly difficult to obtain affordable health insurance. For one, young people nearly always pay lower premiums (they’re usually healthier, after all). Companies marketing to students also know their customers are traveling on tight budgets. When it comes to choosing international student insurance, finding an affordable plan is far from the greatest concern.

In fact, students and other young travelers should take special care not to buy too cheap. As the blog Know Healthcare recently observed,  “cheap international student health insurance is actually very easy to find. You just have to make sure the company you pick is legitimate and stable. Opt for a carrier with an excellent reputation over one with nothing substantial to offer. You’d be surprised at how many top insurance companies offer international student insurance.”

Things to consider:

  • Where are you going? Some companies specialize in international student insurance for specific countries. ISO Insurance, for example, caters to non-US citizens studying in America.
  • How’s your health? If you have a chronic condition that could require hospitalization, look for a student health insurance plan that provides appropriate coverage.
  • What are the risks? If you’re traveling to a country with a history of social or political unrest, consider  a policy with a political evacuation clause. A number of expats in Libya, Egypt and Yemen were certainly glad they did.
  • What’s your insurer’s reputation like? The last thing you want in an emergency is to learn your student health insurance provider is a bad apple. Do some research. Expat communities like the ones at Just Landed can connect you with expats and fellow travelers who may have some great advice.

If you invest a little time and effort, you’re almost certain to find an international student health insurance plan that strikes the right balance between cost and coverage.

Companies Mentioned

ISO Insurance, founded in 1958, is an insurance provider catering specifically to non-American citizens studying in the US and Americans studying abroad. It is administered entirely by former international students. ISO Insurance is underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company, which is in turn a member of the Fairfax Financial Group. (Website)

Nick, the four points to consider that you mention are excellent starting points for anyone looking into international health insurance. I’ve come across a lot of valuable advice online and a number of insurance policies, such as CIGNA Global who cater to those working and living internationally and are seeking global private medical insurance: