So you’re traveling internationally. Now what? One of the most important things you should do is purchase an international medical insurance plan to cover you during your trip or extended stay abroad.

Don’t be afraid if you have questions or feel overwhelmed the first time you set out on your search for coverage. Like you, I had so many questions: What’s the difference between short-term and long-term plans? What do these insurance terms mean? What’s the best plan for me and where do I buy it? The list goes on.

In searching for the answers to these questions, I had dozens of tabs open on my computer, trying to sift through all of the information. The experience was exhausting, but I also learned what to look for when buying international medical insurance — both short-term and long-term plans.

To provide you a good starting point on your quest for coverage, here’s what I learned!

Three Steps for Choosing International Health Insurance

Step 1: Decide if you need short-term or long-term coverage

At first, I didn’t even realize there was a difference between these two types of coverage. It turns out that the benefits vary based on the type of plan you select, with long-term plans providing more options for coverage, including dental and vision benefits.

So first, identify:

  • Are you going on a short-term trip (less than one year) or multiple international trips throughout the year? If so, travel medical insurance (short-term coverage) may be right for you.
  • Are you going to be spending more than a year living or working outside of your country of residence? If so, international medical insurance (long-term coverage) may be right for you.

Step 2: Take a Look at the Plan Benefits

I can still clearly remember reading and re-reading the benefit summaries when I first considered purchasing international coverage.

Overwhelmed at the time, I remember making several calls to HOPE’s support team to learn the ins and outs of the plans they could offer. Every time I called, a friendly and helpful team member was able to answer my questions and explain unfamiliar terms to me so I could feel confident when purchasing coverage. That’s one of the many reasons I am such a loyal HOPE customer.

Now, having learned from the experts, here’s what I look at when buying a plan:

  • Maximum Limit – It’s important to look at the plan’s maximum limit, which is the total amount the insurance company will pay over a period of time to satisfy claims on that policy. For peace of mind, I typically look for plans with good maximum limits.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation Benefit – This is the second thing I look for in coverage. I want to make sure my plan includes emergency medical evacuation to a nearby medical facility in the event I become seriously ill or injured.
  • Adventure Sports Coverage – I am an active traveler. I go hiking, take boat trips and go scuba diving. Different insurance companies define “adventure sports” differently, so if you are planning to do any activities while traveling, be sure to read the policy’s definition of adventure sports. It is typical for this to be included as add-on coverage, or a benefit “rider.” Every time I purchase coverage, I always include this option, and I am very relieved to be able to do so.
  • Exclusions – Most plans will have some conditions that are excluded from coverage. Carefully review this part of the insurance plan to make sure none of them apply to you or your situation. If you are ever in doubt, it is always better to call the insurance company and ask.
  • Deductible – The deductible — or amount you must satisfy before your insurance company begins to pay for benefits — can be chosen based on your budget and personal preference.

Step 3: Read Reviews for the Insurance Plan You’re Considering

In the age of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to look for reviews of a product. Do Web searches and look for travel forums. You can also post questions on sites like Trip Advisor and ask other travelers if they are happy with a company’s international medical insurance products.

The good news is when you are planning a big trip, researching international medical insurance is one chore you can do well in advance. Doing so will give you ample time to read, research and ask questions before making your purchase.