It’s that time of the year again when the academic session is about to begin or has already commenced in most foreign universities for the fall term. In the midst of this excitement, a significant number of Indian students will also be leaving the country in the pursuit of their career goals. As per the Ministry of External Affairs, 1.3 million Indian students went to pursue higher education in foreign institutions last year. Among these, the largest section, approximately 4.65 lakh, chose to opt for the United States, followed by Canada (1.83 lakh), UAE (1.64 lakh), Australia (1 lakh) among others.
While a lot is on the mind of students travelling abroad, an international student travel insurance is one thing that shouldn’t be missed. It is your financial companion in an unchartered territory, with multiple benefits. The Core spoke to travel insurance experts to highlight some important factors that all students should know before opting for a travel insurance plan. What is it? Why is it important? What are the things it does not cover?
Importance Of Student Travel Insurance
On the importance of student travel insurance, Manas Kapoor, Business Head - Travel Insurance, Policy Bazaar said, “It is important for a student who is going abroad for studying to cover themselves with the right insurance plan because they are going to a place which is not known to them, there can be situations, circumstances for which no one is ready. Which is why student travel insurance is the key component that they should have in their portfolio when they are travelling internationally. These plans provide benefits especially tailored to students like which have coverage for study interruptions, tuition fees, utility products, compassionate visits, and many more of such benefits”.
Although both international travel insurance and international student travel insurance are obtained when travelling abroad and offer comparable coverage, they are distinct in several aspects. Highlighting the differences between the two, Vivek Chaturvedi, CMO and Head of Health & Travel, Digit General Insurance said, “International Travel Insurance usually covers your travel to another country from the country of your residence typically only up to 180 days. This includes health cover like medical and accidental exigencies, trip-related covers such as trip cancellation or curtailment and baggage-related covers like loss of checked-in baggage, among others.”
International Student Travel Insurance, on the other hand, is typically taken by students who have enrolled in overseas universities and are planning to travel abroad for their higher education. He added, “It is not limited to only 180 days but provides cover of up to 3 years, covering the student throughout the entire tenure of the course. “
What Does International Student Travel Insurance Include?
According to Chaturvedi, international student travel insurance not only takes into account medical emergencies but also provides protection against various other types of exigencies. The policy covers medical expenses like hospitalisation due to sickness or personal accident. It also provides trip-related covers like loss of passport, trip delay or trip cancellation, and personal belongings cover, among others.
Kapoor added, “There are plans that cover pre-existing diseases as well for students.
But the important thing is that, in terms of the market, students are generally from the age of 16 to 40, the tendency of having a preexisting disease is relatively lower versus the person who will go for a leisure activity or senior citizen for example, but there are plans that cover pre-existing medical conditions which are life threatening. However, the students should make sure that they have adequate coverage because they will be going for 1-2 years of study and these pre-existing diseases coverage comes with a limit. So they should compare, understand and then opt for a suitable cover.“
Apart from basic coverage, few insurers also offer additional or optional coverage for students studying abroad. Explaining these additional covers, Chaturvedi said, “Under study interruption cover, in case a student falls sick and is hospitalised over a span of time, leading them to not be able to continue with their studies for a semester, this cover will reimburse the fees that has already been paid for the semester. Since student travel is of a longer span, the student might travel back to the country of residence to meet their family and friends. ‘Coverage at home country’ ensures that the students’ trip during such trips remain covered from any medical exigencies during their visit to the home country as well.
Another important cover that students can include in their insurance is ‘Accident of Sponsor’. Kapoor said, “In case the study sponsor for the student passes away, falls sick or meets with an accident due to which the student is no more able to pay the fees or other expenses of studying abroad, the insurer in such a scenario will ensure that the rest of the outstanding fees is paid, and the education of the student remains uninterrupted.” He also added that some insurers also offer specific covers based on the specific needs of the university. This may range from maternity cover, HIV/AIDS cover to cover for drug abuse and assault, among others.
Speaking of things that aren’t often covered by student travel insurance, Chaturvedi explained, “If the student has not disclosed any pre-existing medical condition, then in that particular scenario, it is not covered. Injuries or illnesses related to some risky activities like, for example, adventure sports or extreme sports that a student is doing are also not covered, in addition to activity or some emergency situation arising because of the influence of alcohol or drugs. So these are general exclusions that are present across the globe.”
Coverage, Costs, and Time Considerations
There is no waiting period when it comes to buying international student travel insurance and can be availed almost instantly. However, as Chaturvedi points out, there might be some waiting periods that insurers may apply for a few additional covers like ‘Maternity Cover’. A student should buy the cover once the university shares the course start and end date and the duration for the course. “It is advisable to get insurance for the entire period the student plans to study abroad,” he added.
The cost of student travel insurance varies from country to country. Kapoor attributed this cost variation to geographical factors. He said, “In the US and Canada the medical expenses are the most expensive across the world. That is why if a student is going to any university in these areas, the prices will be relatively high as compared to a student who is going to Singapore or Germany.” However, as compared to the tuition fee or total cost incurred for the complete duration of their studies, the insurance is at max 1-2% of the amount, he added.
Elaborating on this, Chaturvedi said, Compared to the coverage provided (in international student travel insurance), which ranges from $500,000 to $1 million, the premium charged is comparatively lower when compared to similar health covers taken in India. The premium charged varies based on the geographic location where the student intends to go. For example, at Digit, the geography is divided into two parts—World Coverage excluding the US and Canada and World Coverage including the US and Canada. This is primarily due to medical treatment and cost of living expenses being the most expensive in the US and Canada compared to other countries.”
Which Insurer To Go For?
Even though some international universities and local insurers produce student travel insurance, it is often advised to buy one from India. “One of the biggest advantages of buying student travel insurance from India is the cost factor. As discussed earlier, a student travel insurance plan is 1% of the total cost that the student will be incurring. If we compare this from the coverage or the cost perspective, what the student will be incurring from the university will be at 1/3rd price. In addition, Indian insurance packages are a combination of medical as well as travel and study-related insurance. The insurance that the students are buying from the university itself is only medical-related coverage. They usually don't cover study interruptions, loss of tuition fees, and compassionate visits,” Kapoor asserted.
Chaturvedi too, spoke in favour of Indian insurance packages, owing to their comprehensive coverage, ease of claim settlement etc. “Indian student travel insurance typically offers more extensive protection, covering things like medical costs, emergency evacuation, repatriation of mortal remains, lost checked baggage, trip cancellations/interruptions, and personal responsibility, among others. Some of these covers might not be offered by local or university-level insurance.” He also added that Indian insurers often have a wide network of medical service providers globally, which makes it easier to access quality healthcare during emergencies. Apart from these, Indian policies often include repatriation benefits, covering the cost of sending you back to India in case of a serious medical emergency, which might not be covered by other insurers.
Other benefits of availing international student travel insurance from India include coverage extensions, language assistance and flexibility.
Lastly, Chaturvedi said, “It's important to carefully compare the coverage, exclusions, claim procedures, and additional services offered by different insurance providers. The aim of this cover is to cover students in case of medical exigencies, provide protection in case of any natural calamity, political unrest, or social issues (as seen during Russia-Ukraine conflict), which might interrupt their studies. Choosing the right student travel insurance policy can ensure you have adequate coverage and support during your time abroad. “