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).

SafetyWing Insurance Review: How The Company Actually Works 

The first thing you have to understand is SafetyWing itself is just the pretty outside wrapping paper that covers the actual insurance you are buying.

image of wrapping paper and box representing safetywing and tokio marine

When I first purchased Safetywing, there wasn’t really any information or first-hand reviews of the company.

Since it was brand new, I was worried they wouldn’t come through if I had a problem.

HOWEVER, then I realized the company that actually handles your claims is called Tokio Marine—a huge international company that’s almost 150 years old.

So when you buy SafetyWing, just know that what you’re really buying is Tokio Marine with pretty SafetyWing packaging.

Their slogan is “a nomad insurance policy created for digital nomads, by digital nomads”. But really, any type of traveler can benefit from SafetyWing.

Read also:
How to Become a Digital Nomad in 2021 (Ultimate Blueprint)

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 insurances 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).

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

Safetywing vs. World Nomads

SafetyWing doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage as some insurance companies like World Nomads.

But it’s also a sliver of the price.

World nomads vs Safetywing review comparing pricing
Prices vary based on your age, home country, and other factors.

Here are the main coverage difference between Safetywing and World Nomads. World Nomads coverage varies by home country, so if your home country isn’t the U.S., make sure to verify these details:

SafetyWing

  • Does not cover stolen or lost belongings.
  • Covers some adventure activities—see exclusions here (page 25).
  • Coverage limits in home country
  • $250 deductible per POLICY
  • Coverage excludes North Korea, Cuba, and Iran

World Nomads

  • Covers lost and stolen belongings (limits depend on plan).
  • Covers a wider range of adventure activities.
  • U.S. coverage for U.S. citizens (>100 miles from home).
  • $100 deductible per CLAIM (varies by country of residence)
  • Coverage worldwide

If SafetyWing excludes activities that you plan to participate in or you have expensive gear in your digital nomad office setup that you want covered (like a digital nomad laptop), then it makes your decision easy—you need to find another provider.

But if not, you might find World Nomad’s extra coverage isn’t necessary for your needs—especially considering it can cost THREE to FIVE TIMES more per month.

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 usually recommend.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with World Nomads. It’s actually a great company (before SafetyWing, I used and loved there services).

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

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.

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).

At the time of writing, the price is $40 per four weeks for coverage outside the U.S. (ages 39 and below). The price bumps up for older travelers, but this is true with most insurances.

#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 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 – Deductible is per policy period

This means if you keep extending your policy each month, you can go for a whole year and only have to pay your deductible once.

Some other companies charge your 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).

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.

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.

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 quickly!

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.

Review of Safetywing travel insurance product roadmap

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

#2 – Claims seem to “slip through the cracks”

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.

#3 – Getting pre-approval can be a nightmare

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. If you just need a simple doctor visit, I’m sure this process would be much easier.

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 call SafetyWing directly, explain exactly what I wanted to do, and ask if it was covered. 

And here’s the key.

I recorded the whole conversation as evidence.

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

But a call recording or screenshot of your chat messages 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 accidnet, SafetyWing had my back as promised.

Is SafetyWing Legit?

SafetyWing is a legitimate travel insurance company backed by Tokio Marino. This is based on personal experience with over $15,000 in successfully reimbursed medical claims. Normally, 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!

Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).

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