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HONEST SafetyWing Insurance Review (2 Surgeries Abroad)

The internet is full of SafetyWing insurance reviews from people who have never actually had to make a claim with SafetyWing. 

Not all, but most. 

This is pointless. 

A lot of these SafetyWing reviews just regurgitate information you can easily find on the official website. But without any real-life experience with the company, how are these reviews supposed to help you? 

Isn’t the whole reason you’re searching for Safetywing travel insurance reviews because you want to know how they’ll actually respond if you need them in an emergency?

I hope so.

After dealing with SafetyWing through two emergency surgeries, 20+ doctor and physical therapy appointments, and over $15,000 worth of medical bills, I want to share my experience with you. 

My goal here is to be brutally honest and help you make a more informed decision.

I’ll share what it was like trying to get reimbursed for tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, including:

  • What I liked about SafetyWing
  • What I DIDN’T like
  • How SafetyWing compares to the competition
  • Tips you can use to make any travel insurance claim go smoother
  • A tricksy lil’ method to ensure you never get screwed by any insurance company ever

Just like every other travel insurance review you read online, I will receive a teensy commission if you purchase through the links on this page (at no cost to you). A portion of these funds is donated to GiveWell charities each month.

SafetyWing Insurance Review: How The Company Actually Works 

SafetyWing has launched some huge upgrades since it first came out, and one of the biggest ones is Nomad 2.0.

The original Nomad insurance plan is underwritten by WorldTrips, a subsidiary of Tokio Marine, which is a huge international company that’s almost 150 years old.

This kind of meant that SafetyWing was just the pretty outside wrapping paper of the real insurance you were buying.

image of wrapping paper and box representing safetywing and tokio marine

It also meant that SafetyWing was limited in the types of plans, coverage, and features they could offer.

But Nomad 2.0 changed that.

With Nomad 2.0, SafetyWing is no longer the pretty wrapping paper — it’s the whole package.

This new plan has allowed SafetyWing to start offering extra cool features and actually implement feedback from customers.

I’ll cover what that actually means for you in a sec.

Note: Nomad 2.0 is currently only available for non-US residents. US residents can still buy the original SafetyWing Nomad coverage, which is a great plan I used for years.

SafetyWing’s slogan is “a nomad insurance policy created for digital nomads, by digital nomads”. But really, most types of travelers can benefit from SafetyWing.

How SafetyWing Compares to the Competition

Alrighty, so before we get into my personal experience with SafetyWing, let’s compare it to the other most popular travel insurance plans for long-term travelers.

For a detailed comparison of the top five travel insurance companies — plus photos of all my travel injuries — check out my best insurance for digital nomads guide.

Compared to these other travel insurance companies, SafetyWing is the best bang for your buck (unless you need a specific type of coverage). 

SafetyWing vs. World Nomads

I had a super in-depth section here comparing the pros and cons of SafetyWing and World Nomads.

Unfortunately, the World Nomads legal team does not allow their affiliates to make comparisons or discuss opinions or recommendations, so I had to remove much of what I wrote.

So instead of writing about World Nomads, I’ll talk about why I decided to switch my travel insurance from World Nomads to SafetyWing.

Firstly, the SafetyWing Nomad plan saved me almost $90 per month on premiums.

Here is an example quote from World Nomads for myself – a 33-year-old American traveling to Colombia for four weeks.

Prices vary based on your age, home country, and other factors. This is just one example. Your quotes may be different.

And here’s how much Nomad 2.0 costs for the same time period (if you’re a US resident, the original Nomad plan costs even less).

Second, SafetyWing covers all the adventure activities I’m interested in.

I don’t have any particularly dangerous travel hobbies, so a more comprehensive plan isn’t necessary for me.

Third, SafetyWing’s deductible is per policy period, meaning it doesn’t reset every time you make a claim.

Fourth, SafetyWing gives you coverage in your home country (if you meet certain requirements), which is handy for visiting home.

That said, the downside of switching to SafetyWing (for US residents buying the original Nomad plan) is you’d no longer have coverage for lost or stolen belongings other than lost checked luggage.

But with Nomad 2.0, you can add electronics theft coverage as an add-on.

Fortunately, despite traveling with a pricey digital nomad laptop, I haven’t had anything lost or stolen in over 9 years of travel despite traveling almost exclusively in third-world countries.

When deciding between World Nomads and SafetyWing, here’s another important thing to remember:

Both companies have affiliate programs, but World Nomads pays better commissions.

That means whenever you search for things like “best long-term travel insurance”, every site you read will earn a commission if you purchase through their links (including me).

Since websites will earn a higher commission if you purchase World Nomads, that’s what they often recommend.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with World Nomads. I used them for several trips, and they covered every claim I submitted.

But just tuck that commission tidbit away in the back of your brain as you do your research — most reviews are slightly biased.

By recommending SafetyWing, I earn smaller commissions, but that’s ok. I’m satisfied knowing I’m helping people save money on quality insurance — insurance that had my back when I needed it most.

Lastly, whenever I talk about World Nomads, I’m required to make this disclaimer:

We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

How to compare nomad insurance companies

Another thing to consider when you’re comparing insurance options is that there’s a difference between travel insurance and international health insurance.

Travel insurance covers things like:

  • Emergency health care
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Lost, damage, or stolen luggage
  • Trip interruption/cancellation
  • Etc.

Whereas international health insurance is more like a normal health insurance policy, but abroad.

Something to keep in mind when comparing prices.

From there, you’ll want to always check:

  • The deductible
  • The coverage limits
  • The COVID-19 policy
  • The activities covered
  • Where you can get treated
  • How the claims process works
  • Pre-existing conditions coverage (if applicable)

Again, I get into all the nitty gritties of this stuff in my nomad insurance comparison guide.

When it comes to SafetyWing, their Nomad insurance is a travel insurance policy.

But they also offer an international health insurance called Nomad Health (I know, the naming is a bit confusing).

After using their normal travel insurance policy for years, I recently switched to Nomad Health because I wanted more comprehensive health coverage.

But for this review, I’ll focus on the regular Nomad travel insurance, which is what I had when I smashed a motorcycle in Thailand and basically disintegrated my wrist.

Alrighty, now let’s move on to my favorite (and LEAST favorite) aspects of SafetyWing.

Let’s start with the good news.

Awesome Things About SafetyWing

#1 – It’s an absolute bargain

It is one of the cheapest — if not the cheapest — travel insurance out there (taking into account the amount of coverage you get).

The price is straightforward compared to other insurance companies that have complicated policies.

With SafetyWing, the only factors that affect price are:

  • Your age
  • Optional add-ons
  • Optional coverage in the US
  • Whether you’re buying original Nomad or Nomad 2.0.

At the time of writing, the base price is $56.28 for Nomad 2.0 for four weeks of coverage outside the U.S. (ages 39 and below).

For US residents, the original Nomad plan costs even less, but includes less features.

The price bumps up for older travelers, but this is true with most insurances.

If you’re traveling less than four weeks, you can enter your dates and the price will adjust accordingly.

#2 – You can set it and forget it

You can choose to purchase coverage for certain trip dates or have it auto-renew every month.

Auto-renewal is super handy for perpetual travelers, digital nomads, or anyone without a specific end date.

Many other companies force you to choose an end date. If you underestimate the length of your trip and need to extend, it’ll not only cost you extra, but any claims you made before extending may become pre-existing conditions on the renewed policy.  

With SafetyWing, you can auto-renew each month for an entire year before you have to buy a new policy.

#3 – No deductible

Nomad 2.0 has no deductible, which means you don’t have to pay anything before your coverage kicks in.

The original Nomad plan had a $250 deductible, but it was per year (or policy period).

That means if you keep auto-renewing your policy each month, you can go for a whole year and only have to pay your deductible once.

Some other companies charge you a deductible per claim — meaning if you had to go to the doctor for multiple issues, you’d have to pay the out-of-pocket deductible over and over before your coverage kicks in.

#4 – You get bonus home-country coverage

For every 90 days spent outside your home country, you can visit home and have coverage for a limited time (15 days if your home is in the U.S., 30 days anywhere else).

Some other travel insurances offer similar deals, but many don’t.

In fact, many companies will actually void your policy if you step foot back in your home country.

#5 – Optional add-ons for extra protection

The limitations of the original Nomad plan meant that there were no optional add-ons.

But with Nomad 2.0, you can add extra coverage for Adventure Sports or Electronics Theft.

These options allow you to tailor your plan to your specific trip and needs.

Does SafetyWing cover COVID-19?

At the time of writing, SafetyWing includes COVID-19 coverage if you are infected after the start date of your policy.

If you test positive on arrival to your destination country and it is determined you were infected before your policy started, then your bills associated with COVID-19 will not be covered (which makes sense).

To make double-sure this is still the case, click the little chat icon on the bottom right of their homepage to ask. They usually answer super fast!

Ok, now onto the negatives (dun dun dun!).

Sucky Things About SafetyWing

I have three main complaints. 

#1 – They don’t work directly with every hospital

Now, this is the case for most travel insurance companies, so I don’t know if it’s really a fair complaint…

But basically, if you don’t go to a hospital in their network (or one with a fancy international department), you may have to pay out of pocket first and then make a claim to get reimbursed later.

This is much less convenient than having the insurance simply work directly with the hospital from the beginning. 

That said, SafetyWing’s product roadmap shows they plan to launch some kind of special Visa card you can use to pay your bills so you don’t have to go through the lengthy claims process to get reimbursed.

(And now that Nomad 2.0 allows gives them more freedom to add features, I’m hoping it comes soon!)

This would be clutch, as it sucks paying a bill with your credit card, then having to pray they reimburse you in time to pay it off.

That said, since Nomad 2.0 no longer has to work through Tokio Marine, the payout times are much faster.

#2 – Claims seem to “slip through the cracks” (with Tokio Marine)

When I originally made one of my claims, I got an email saying it should take around 30-45 days to process.

That’s pretty long, but this particular claim actually took four and a half months to finally get reimbursed.

Now, I don’t know how common this is — I can just speak from my own experience — but it seems like it may have been a fluke.

I waited the 30-45 days as instructed. Nothing happened. So I emailed them again. They said they had some sort of problem in the system, and I had to redo the whole process. 

Here are a few of the many emails sent between me and Tokio Marine/Safetywing.

emails sent to Safetywing and Tokio Marino about delayed claims

Every couple weeks, I gave them a little nudge. And in the end, I did get paid. 

Basically, don’t be surprised if you have to give some little nudges and reminders to push your claim through. 

I never had to fight or argue. Just regular check-ins to make sure everything was on track.

If you have to make a claim someday (with any company), I recommend setting a recurring alarm in your phone to go off every two weeks. Then send them a simple one-line email like:

“Hey, how’s the progress going on this?”

If you do that, it’ll keep them on their toes and help things from slipping through the cracks.

ALL THAT SAID…

Since Tokio Marine is no longer in the picture with Nomad 2.0, these process should be WAY more streamlined.

You can send a message to SafetyWing’s chat and get an instant response.

Fewer companies involved means fewer opportunities to fall through the cracks.

#3 – Getting pre-approval can be frustrating

By pre-approval, I mean trying to get your exams or treatment covered before you actually do the treatment. 

If you can do this, you don’t have to pay out of pocket, fill out a bunch of annoying forms, and wait for reimbursement.

The problem is, when you’re trying to do this, communication between the insurance company and the hospital’s international health team can be awful.

You basically have to act as the middleman.

In my case, the hospital would tell me they’re waiting on the insurance company for something.

Then I’d have to call the insurance company to tell them the hospital is waiting. 

Then the insurance company would say they already sent it.

Then I’d go back to the hospital and ask them if they got it.

It was annoying, to say the least. Why can’t they just talk to each other??

graphic showing person acting as middle man calling between hospital, safetywing, and tokio marine

The hospital claimed that when they try to communicate directly with travel insurance companies, they always drag their feet. But if the patient calls, it lights a fire under their bum.

Who knows if this is true or not. Maybe the hospital workers were just lazy.

In the end, I wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker. I was able to get my main surgery pre-approved. And these quick phone calls were well worth all the money I was saving on cheap SafetyWing premiums.  

Also, my situation was fairly complex — with multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments abroad. If you just need a simple doctor’s visit, I’m sure this process would be much easier.

And with Nomad 2.0, Tokio Marine is out of the picture, so you’re no longer dealing with 3-way communication.

My Tricksy Strategy to Never Get Screwed by Travel Insurance

If you ever want to do an activity but aren’t sure if it’s covered, try this trick.

I once wanted to take a motorcycle trip in Thailand from Chiang Mai to Pai (don’t do this, by the way!).

I looked online to see if this was covered, but the language wasn’t super clear. I was a bit nervous about whether I should go or not (I should’ve said no!). 

I decided to message SafetyWing’s chat directly, explain exactly what I wanted to do, and ask if it was covered. 

And here’s the key.

I screenshotted the whole conversation as evidence. (Or just save the email transcript).

Now, I’m no lawyer, and I can’t guarantee such a screenshot would hold up in a court of law.

But it definitely could help if your insurance company ever tries to pull a fast one on you.

Fortunately, I never had to whip out the recording because after my accident, SafetyWing had my back as promised.

Is SafetyWing Legit?

SafetyWing is a legitimate travel insurance company that was designed specifically for nomads and long-term travelers. This is based on personal experience with over $15,000 in successfully reimbursed medical claims. Most complaints about the company originate from those who try to get reimbursed for something that isn’t covered, like pre-existing conditions.

If you found this Safetywing nomad insurance review helpful, decided it is right for you, and would like to support the site (at no extra charge), you can sign up using the form below. Thanks in advance!

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