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Round-the-world trip: what types of insurance do I need?

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Off and away to discover the world - that's something many of us dream about, even in Switzerland. Insurance is often the last thing people think about here, but it is crucial for a successful round-the-world trip, particularly health insurance.

A round-the-world trip must be carefully planned. And despite all the best planning, there is still one basic rule: no long trip is exempt from disasters, difficulties, and setbacks. By the time of the first serious incident, it'll be clear whether you can continue to enjoy your trip worry-free. It's not uncommon for the continuation of a trip to be determined by your personal insurance cover. For instance, if you have to go into hospital in the US and don't have any international health insurance, you'll very quickly have a problem. We show you which types of insurance really make sense for a round-the-world trip and which ones don't.

Which types of insurance are appropriate for a round-the-world trip?

Travel insurance

Classic travel insurance has a modular structure, in that you choose exactly the insurance cover you need. The key component is normally cancellation costs insurance or travel cancellation insurance.  

  • Cancellation costs insurance: covers cancellation costs (flight tickets, hotel reservations, booked leisure activities etc.) if you can't undertake your trip as planned or have to cancel it. Of course there has to be a valid reason, such as illness, job loss or death of a relative or close friend. It's important to note that insurance only applies if the event happens unexpectedly. 
  • Personal assistance: covers the cost worldwide of emergency transportation to a doctor or hospital, rescue and recovery missions and transportation back to Switzerland.
  • Vehicle assistance: pays for roadside assistance, towing service, return of vehicle, additional transportation costs for returning home or continuing your journey, additional costs for accommodation and meals. This component is only necessary if you drive a car on your trip. Tip: take note of the scope of application. Some products, for example, only cover Europe.
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Accident insurance

Employees who work at least eight hours a month for the same company are covered in Switzerland by compulsory insurance for occupational and non-occupational accidents. However, this insurance cover ends 31 days after the last day of work, regardless of whether you resigned or are taking extended unpaid leave. You now have the following options:

  • Interim accident insurance: you extend the insurance for non-occupational accidents with your current accident insurer for a maximum of six months. The cover is valid worldwide and you pay the premiums.
  • Health insurance: you integrate the accident cover with your health insurer – in the same way as children, young people, self-employed or adults not gainfully employed. The premiums for doing so are not very high, but now you also pay an annual threshold retention and a deductible.

The benefits are normally better with accident insurance through your employer, so you should take advantage of interim accident insurance for as long as possible before you change to your health insurer.

International health insurance

The cover from compulsory basic insurance is valid worldwide, but is limited in terms of its amount. If you travel to countries with high health costs, you are strongly advised to take out international health insurance (see "Is it worth taking out international travel insurance?").

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Personal liability insurance

Personal liability insurance applies worldwide. And it's important that you're covered, even when traveling, as you can accidentally cause damage to someone else anywhere. Tip: at AXA, damage caused by drones in the open category are also automatically insured.

Luggage, cameras, drones & etc.

You have to decide for yourself whether it's worth insuring your luggage. In any event, travelers who have the least to worry about are those who take as few valuables with them as possible. Otherwise household contents insurance offers supplementary cover for luggage and theft away from home. However, many globetrotters today take a great deal of expensive equipment with them, the value of which exceeds the standard sum insured for luggage. It's worth taking out electronic device insurance for photo and video cameras, drones, laptops etc.

What do I do with existing insurance?

  • Health insurance: keep. Without a fixed residence abroad, you are still automatically resident in Switzerland which means that you are obliged to have health insurance.
  • Supplementary insurance: review and possibly amend. You can suspend any supplementary insurance you don't need when you're abroad if the contractual conditions provide for this. In other words, you are not entitled to benefits on your round-the-world trip, but in return you pay lower or even no premiums.
  • Personal liability insurance: keep. See above.
  • Travel insurance: keep, review and possibly amend.

Insured twice?

There is a "Personal assistance" component with 

  • Travel insurance
  • International health insurance
  • Supplementary outpatient insurance

Read your contracts very carefully to avoid multiple cover.

  • Household contents insurance: check. Even if you give up your apartment for your round-the-world trip, you will presumably have to store some of your belongings somewhere. Your possessions are no safer in storage than at home. You should therefore consider carefully whether you'd like to suspend your household contents insurance. Check with your insurer about how cover outside the home is treated. At AXA, you have to give the address of the storage unit after a one-year period to continue enjoying full protection.
  • Legal protection insurance: review and possibly amend. Rental and purchase agreements, bookings, criminal proceedings - you can suddenly face legal disputes, even when you're abroad. At AXA, you can customize Personal legal protection. The "Mobility & Travel" module is of particular interest to those who are frequent travelers.
  • Car insurance: check. Depending on the length of your trip, you can save a great deal of money by returning your registration plate. This is because handing back your registration plate means you are exempt from paying motor vehicle liability insurance and motor vehicle tax. Any overpaid tax will be refunded and your insurer will normally be automatically informed. Depending on the canton, you pay a processing fee for returning your registration plate. Furthermore, certain post offices have deposit facilities for registration plates.
  • Daily sickness benefits: check. Anyone who takes unpaid leave loses the right to continued salary payments. However, the cover can be extended, depending on the daily sickness benefits insurance. Find out more from your employer.
  • Pensions: continue. The longer your round-the-world trip lasts, the more important the issue of pensions becomes. This is because with a career break, you risk having gaps in contributions which can subsequently have a negative impact on your income. Make sure you pay the annual OASI minimum contribution and continue to include pillar 3 in your budget.
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Travel cancellation insurance: when should you take it out?

Travel insurance is valid from the date specified in the insurance contract. You are therefore insured if you take out a policy on short notice. But please note that events that happened or were apparent before you took out the insurance or booked your trip are not insured. Special rules apply to the chronically ill.

Is it worth taking out international health insurance?

There are some countries you may travel to where you will not be adequately insured under Switzerland's compulsory health insurance. Although basic insurance also covers emergency treatments abroad, the benefits are limited: it pays up to twice the rates applicable for your canton of residence for a specific treatment. The insured must pay for anything above this level. The same also applies to accident insurance. The US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are some of the countries with particularly high health costs. Here a harmless incident can become a financial fiasco. For this reason, many insurers offer international health insurance which is supplementary accident and health insurance specifically for travel abroad, the duration of which can be chosen.

High-risk types of sport: watch out for exclusions!

If you're planning special high-risk activities for your round-the-world trip, check whether your insurance makes specific exclusions . For instance, some high-risk types of sporthave to have special insurance depending on the provider, such as downhill biking, snow rafting, high-altitude hiking over 5,000 meters or deep-sea diving below 40 meters.

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Vaccinations and health abroad

Do the destination countries on your trip require specific vaccinations, such as yellow fever? Are you traveling to a malaria area and is medicinal prophylaxis required? Are there currently any outbreaks of contagious diseases along your route? HealthyTravel, the Swiss expert committee for travel medicine, has up-to-date information on its website about relevant events and explains what you should consider before, during and after your trip.

It often makes sense to seek the advice of a professional. You'll find specialist doctors for tropical and travel medicine near you in the Specialist Directory.

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