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What are your medical care options while you’re traveling?

Accidents and illnesses can happen anytime — even on vacation. Here’s how to get the care you need, wherever you are.

Vacation is the ultimate time to relax, reset and recharge. But accidents, illnesses and medical emergencies can — and do — happen sometimes when you’re away from home.

Whether you’re in the best shape of your life or have a chronic condition, it’s important to be prepared in case something happens while you’re traveling.

Below, find out what your care options are, from virtual doctor visits to travel insurance, so you can be ready for anything.

Before you go on your next trip, find out about your health insurance options. You can call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 or explore your options online.

Where do I get care while I’m traveling?

No matter where you go in the world, there’s always somewhere to go for medical care. Chances are, you’ll have lots of options wherever you are. The key is knowing which is right for your situation.

If you’re sick or hurt in an unfamiliar place, your first thought might be to head to a hospital. You can certainly get the care you need there. But it’s hard to know how much a hospital might cost you, says Noor Ali, M.D., M.P.H., C.P.H. She’s a health insurance advisor and owner of Dr. Noor Healthcare Advisor.

In fact, treatment in an emergency department can cost up to 3 times more than the same care in your provider’s office. If you have an illness or injury that’s not life-threatening, consider one of these care options before heading to a hospital.

1. Advice hotlines

Many insurance providers include access to a 24-hour hotline that you can call for medical advice. When you call, you’ll talk to a nurse or other health care provider about your symptoms.

You can’t get a diagnosis on one of these calls. But you can get medical advice to help you make your next decision. If they feel that the problem is urgent, they might tell you to go to an urgent care center or hospital. Or you might be fine waiting to a see a doctor until you get home.

“Especially when you’re traveling, I think that this should be your first line of defense for seeking care,” says Dr. Ali. It’s simple and convenient and could save you a lot of money on your care.

Before you leave for your trip, find out if your health plan includes access to a nurse hotline. If it does, save the number in your phone so you have it when you need it.

2. Virtual care

If you need to see a doctor while you’re traveling, you might be able to set up a virtual appointment with your primary care doctor. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more clinics are offering virtual care or telehealth appointments. In a virtual appointment, you can talk to your doctor at home via phone or video chat.

Unlike a nurse hotline, you can usually get a diagnosis during a virtual visit. Your doctor could even prescribe medicine that you can pick up locally.

Again, you’ll want to check with your health plan to see what kind of virtual care they cover. Some have built-in access to a telehealth hotline or app. Others may not cover virtual care at all.

If your insurance company doesn’t offer virtual options, Dr. Ali suggests looking into a third-party telehealth plan or app. “Consider getting a supplement, just to have the virtual care package,” she says. “They can be less than $100 a month.” (You can call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to talk telehealth plans too. You can explore your options online.)

3. Walk-in clinics at drugstores

Drugstores aren’t just a place to pick up prescriptions anymore. Today, many of them have walk-in clinics. These types of clinics are an affordable option if you have a cold or flu, or a minor injury such as a sprain, burn or cut.

These facilities don’t usually require an appointment. You can just walk in and see the next available health care provider. If you need some medicine, the on-site pharmacy makes it easy to get prescriptions filled too.

“The good thing about these is your insurance bills it as a doctor visit,” Dr. Ali says, so you shouldn’t be hit with an unexpectedly high bill. “The convenience is also wonderful. And since they are everywhere, it’s a great option for travelers.”

4. Urgent care centers

Like walk-in drugstore clinics, urgent care centers require no appointment. And many are open 24 hours a day. They are another great option for immediate care to treat mild illnesses or injuries. Many are also equipped to handle more serious problems that a drugstore clinic would not be able to treat. For example, many have x-ray machines and can treat minor bone fractures.

Ready to explore insurance plans where you live?

When should I go to the emergency room?

Any of the above care options will likely cost less than a hospital visit. But you may need to go to the emergency room (ER) in some situations.

An ER visit is necessary for life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Examples of medical emergencies include:

  • Difficulty breathing, especially when at rest
  • Dizziness, confusion or fainting
  • Poisoning or overdose of drugs or alcohol
  • Seizures
  • Serious injuries, especially to the head, neck or spine
  • Severe burns
  • Severe chest pain or pressure in your chest
  • Severe headache, particularly if it starts suddenly

You cannot be turned away from an ER in the United States. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all compliant health insurance plans are required to cover emergency services at the same price whether a hospital is in or out of network.

Does my health insurance cover me while I’m traveling?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple yes or no answer. A lot depends on the type of coverage you have and whether you’re traveling within the United States or internationally. For example, Medicare doesn’t cover you if you are traveling outside of the United States, except for in a few situations.

Your best bet is to call your current health insurance carrier to find out what your health insurance does and doesn’t cover.

Ask your health insurance carrier questions like:

  • What is the range of my service coverage? Ask if your coverage extends to the place you’re visiting and what a doctor’s visit might cost.
  • What services can I get while I’m out of state or out of the country? Ask about options like nurse hotlines, virtual visits or local clinics.
  • Do you need prior approval for coverage? Ask if you need prior approval for surgeries or post-emergency treatment, even if they cover it. Make sure to get a list of those treatments.

Should I get travel insurance?

Whether you’re 500 or 5,000 miles from home, traveling for 2 nights or 12 months, problems can happen any time when traveling. That’s why adding a travel insurance policy might be a good idea.

Travel insurance is a type of supplemental insurance that covers the costs of unexpected events while traveling. That includes medical emergencies, but also things like trip cancellations and lost luggage.

Call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to learn more about travel insurance.

Travel insurance policies can vary a lot. Three common types are:

  • Trip cancellation insurance. This type of policy is mainly about protecting your financial investment in your trip. It usually covers last-minute cancellations or delays, and other costs like lost luggage.
  • Travel health insurance. If your regular health plan won’t cover your health care while traveling, you can look for a supplemental short-term policy that will. This type of policy is a good idea if:
    • You have a chronic health condition.
    • You’ll be traveling for more than 6 months.
    • You’ll be doing potentially dangerous activities like scuba diving or hang gliding.
  • Medical evacuation insurance. This coverage will pay for emergency transportation back to the United States or to a nearby high-quality hospital. You might want this type of plan if you are traveling to a remote area with limited health care options.

    In the rare case that you need it, it could save you a lot of money — medical evacuation can cost more than $100,000 in some instances. Medical evacuation is sometimes included with a travel health insurance policy, or it can be bought separately.

You’ll have to shop around to find a travel insurance policy that fits your needs. The U.S. Department of State recommends checking to see if a policy covers these things:

  • 24-hour contact line
  • Activities you plan on engaging in
  • Emergency medical care
  • Medical transport back to the United States
  • Preexisting conditions
  • Sufficient financial coverage
  • The region(s) you’re traveling to
  • Travel/accommodation costs
  • Your duration of travel

A licensed insurance agent can also help you understand your policy options. Call one today at 1-844-211-7730 or discover more options online.


For informational purposes only. This information is compiled by [Name of entity] and does not diagnose problems or recommend specific treatment. Services and medical technologies referenced herein may not be covered under your plan. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Traveler insurance.” Retrieved from Accessed March 7, 2023
  2. “Using your health insurance coverage.” Retrieved from Accessed March 7, 2023.
  3. MedlinePlus. “When to use the emergency room – adult.” July 25, 2022. Retrieved from
  4. U.S. Department of State. “Insurance providers for overseas coverage.” November 22, 2022. Retrieved from


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