Wondering if you need Japan travel insurance.  It’s a question we often get and the quick answer to this question is YES. Although chances are small that you will encounter any problems while traveling in Japan, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Is this post we answer a lot of questions you may have about travel insurance and healthcare in Japan. We also compare two popular travel/medical insurances to see which is the best travel insurance for your Japan trip.

We retained SafetyWing and World Nomads for this comparison because they’re available worldwide.  There’re certainly many more travel medical insurances but they’re usually only available in one country and it would obviously not be possible to discuss them all in this post.  

Good preparation is very important when taking out travel medical insurance. Therefore we do recommend to compare prices and coverage of World Nomads and SafetyWing with other insurances that are available in your home country.  We also do this and notice that those insurances are usually more expensive than SafetyWing and they don’t necessarily offer better coverage. 

But now, let’s take a closer look at SafetyWing, World Nomads and what you need for Japan.

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Is healthcare expensive in japan

Healthcare isn’t too expensive for Japanese residents since they have a national health insurance scheme.  This covers all Japanese nationals, although a small fraction does not enjoy this benefit.

As a foreigner, you will have to pay the full price if you haven’t taken out travel insurance. When you get ill and need to seek medical help, or in the worst case, go to the hospital, the medical bill could turn out very expensive. 

Tourists pay at least double, and sometimes the fourfold of Japanese.

The website of Japan Health says the average cost for the first consultation at a clinic is between 20,000 and 50,000 yen ( 182 USD – 450 USD). 

We have also heard stories about hospitals that won’t even treat you if you don’t have proof of insurance.

Does my health insurance work in Japan

This is another question that many people ask. Many people think that their healthcare insurance covers them internationally.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. Most regular health insurances stop at the border. In some rare cases, care providers have partnered up with international insurance companies.

Although this is more the exception than the rule you could always contact your local insurance company to check if they provide coverage in Japan.

Make sure to request some proof of your health insurance if it provides cover for Japan.  Hospitals are often reluctant to treat foreigners if they’re not sure they have proper insurance. 

Having proof of insurance is really crucial in Japan.  It will save you from a lot of trouble and it will ensure you get the care you need a lot faster. 

Ski Niseko Yotei mountain Japan

Both these travel insurances cover skiing in Japan

Is having a Japan travel insurance worth the cost

Travel Insurance, like any other form of insurance, is something that you rather not need. But you know you will kick yourself if you don’t have insurance at the moment that you need it.  

It’s all about peace of mind.

I learned my lesson in the United States. I once had to pay high out-of-pocket expenses there because I was not properly insured and I don’t want to end up in the same scenario again. 

Healthcare in Japan is not as expensive as in the United States but the last thing you want to hear in the hospital is that they won’t start treating you before they have been able to swipe your credit card.  Certainly not in a life-threatening situation.

These days we always take out travel insurance before we leave on vacation.  Our advice is for you to do the same.  It’s absolutely worth the cost and you will be glad you did in case things go awry. 

Good travel insurance doesn’t only cover medical costs but also things like theft and travel inconveniences. As a result, it is not only useful if you have health problems, but it can also provide a more comfortable journey.

Document everything

This is something that many people forget but it is crucial if you want to be reimbursed by your travel insurance. You need to document everything that you may eventually want to be reimbursed.

This means you need to have receipts of costs you made regarding your accident or your illness. 

Keep all the paperwork and all the receipts and take pictures of it so you have an online backup.  You make your claim online so you will need a digital copy eventually anyway. 

Remember, the more proof you have the better.

You should also keep the purchase receipts of your phone, laptop, camera gear and other valuables that you take with you when you travel.  In case they get lost or stolen you will need these as proof that you bought them (and for how much). 

You will also need proof that you had them with you.  Therefore we recommend taking pictures of the contents of your bags or some pictures with your gear at your vacation destination.

Lastly, the insurance companies will ask for a police report in case of theft so don’t forget to stop by the police. 

Scuba Diving Izu Japan

Not all travel policies cover diving in their standard plans. Be sure to read the policy wording or contact your insurance company

When to buy travel insurance for your Japan trip

Although both these insurance companies allow you to subscribe to their insurance when you’re already abroad (most others don’t!) we would recommend not to wait that long.

The insurance only covers things that happen after you’ve bought it. 

Therefore it’s best to buy your insurance as soon as your dates are fixed and you’ve bought your plane tickets.

World Nomads covers trip cancellation. If for some reason you need to cancel your trip after you’ve bought your tickets you know you’re covered and you will be reimbursed.

What to look for in a travel insurance policy for Japan

Valid in Japan

First things first, it’s of course of utmost importance that Japan is covered by your travel insurance.

We know of no travel insurance that excludes Japan but obviously you should check this before you subscribe.

Pre-trip cancellation

Pre-trip cancellation is included in most but not all policies.  We really advise to take out insurance where this is included as a trip to Japan can be rather expensive.

Although it’s not fun when you have to cancel your upcoming Japan trip, it’s even less fun when you cannot recover the money you already spent.

Proof of insurance

As we already mentioned above, Japanese hospitals and clinics will often ask for proof of insurance before they start treatment. 

Therefore we advise you to double-check that the insurance plan will provide a document that clearly states that you are insured.  Carry this on you during your trip so that you can show when required.

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Mount Fuji Lake Kawaguchiko Japan

Hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji is covered by both SafetyWing and World Nomads

Medical emergencies and evacuation

This is, of course, the primary reason to take out Japan travel insurance.  This is a crucial aspect of your insurance policy.

Cheaper policies often have low limits.  If you become hospitalized in countries such as Japan where the healthcare costs are relatively expensive you can quickly hit those limits and you would end up paying huge sums yourself despite your travel insurance.

When comparing different policies definitely check the limits on medical expenses, the areas of cover for emergency evacuations, cover for emergency dental work, etc.

If you take out travel insurance it’s better to pay slightly more for a good cover than a cheap alternative that lets you down when you need it.

We also advise you to carefully check the general exclusions. 

 

Baggage and personal belongings

Although Japan is one of the safest countries we ever traveled to, theft can always happen.  You can also forget something or it can be damaged by accident. 

Good travel insurance also covers these things.  Make sure to check if this is included and up to what amount you can be compensated for loss or theft.   

This is especially important if you are traveling with camera gear, a laptop or other valuables.

Some insurances have an option to increase the coverage limit for an extra fee.  If you have expensive phones, cameras or other electronics it may be worthwhile to increase the limits if you want the amounts you receive to be anywhere near what you need to replace your goods. 

Natural disaster

Although chances are slim something will happen while you are on holiday, Japan sometimes gets hit by an earthquake or a typhoon.

So we advise you to check what your travel insurance covers when a natural disaster happens.

Especially when you are traveling during August and September since this is the season that you have the biggest risk of seeing your travel plans ruined by a typhoon.

Dangerous activities

Some activities are seen as dangerous and are excluded. You can be amazed at what, at first glance, innocent activities are on this exclusion list in your travel insurance policy.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that you can find excluded in some policies:  skiing, scuba diving, climbing (eg. Mt. Fuji), snow scooter trips, and more.

Many of those activities are covered if they’re done as a guided tour but we advise, once you have fixed all your plans, to check them with your travel insurance policy to be sure you’re covered.

What’s the best travel insurance for Japan

It’s not easy to point out the best travel insurance for Japan since a lot will depend on what’s important to you and the activities you want to do. 

When we looked for insurance ourselves, we came across the insurance of World Nomads and Safety Wing. 

Both companies offer policies for a single trip, allow you to purchase or extend your policy while you are traveling and have 24/7 support. 

World Nomads travel insurance 

World Nomads is an Australian travel insurance company founded in 2002 by Simon Monk, a passionate traveler himself.

The idea for this business arose when he was traveling through Australia and China.  His original plans were to travel for only a few months but he extended his trip only to find out later that the end date for this travel policy was set in stone.

He founded World Nomads to do things differently, to offer freedom to his clients.  The freedom to extend travel policies if they change and the freedom to take out the travel insurance if you’re already abroad.

Safety is another important value and World Nomads covers a wide range of more adventurous activities to ensure that you cannot only take pictures of your destination but also experience it at its fullest.

Not only do their policies fulfill all the above-mentioned requirements, but they are also endorsed by big companies such as Lonely Planet, Tourradar, National geographic, etc. 

World Nomads Trustpilot reviews

Reviews about World Nomads on Trustpilot

Pros and cons of World Nomads

Below we list the pros and cons of World Nomads travel insurance.

Pros of World Nomads
Available to people from 130 countries

World Nomads travel insurance can be subscribed to by people from 130 countries.  It’s available in the US, Canada, Australia, a lot of European countries as well as many Asian countries such as Indonesia,  India, Singapore, etc.

World Nomads uses different insurance providers depending on your home country.  This means that items such as insurance price, benefits and the terms & conditions of the policies vary depending on where you live.  

Make sure to check the specific terms and conditions of your policy as this is what counts when you should ever need to file a claim.

Competitive Pricing

They provide a lot of coverage for a fair price. You can choose between the standard package and the slightly more expensive but also more extensive explorer package. 

You get a detailed quote that clearly shows what’s covered.

Family policies

Families traveling together can take out a family policy.  These policies cover up to two adults and 8 dependants.   Dependants are children or grandchildren who live with you and are in full-time education.

World Nomads uses different underwriters and the age limits and conditions vary by country so we refer to the policy writing of your contract for the exact details.

Odawara Castle Hakone Japan

Odawara Castle

Flexibility

Sometimes plans change.  World Nomads allows you to upgrade your cover online while you are traveling.  They also allow extending your plan if you’re enjoying your vacation so much that you decide to postpone your flight back home.

You should only extend your travel policy online if it’s absolutely needed.  If you know you will be traveling for 4 months it will be much cheaper to pay for those 4 months upfront than to pay for 2 now and extend it later for an additional 2 months.

You can even purchase their travel insurance while you are already in Japan.  This is especially handy if you forgot to purchase travel insurance before you left home. 

Easily purchased and renewed online

You can purchase and renew your policy online in a few minutes. You just need to fill out the country, or countries, you are traveling to, your country of residence, the start and end date of your trip and your age. 

After you have entered this information you immediately receive a detailed quote. It couldn’t be easier. 

Covers a wide range of adventure activities

World Nomads travel insurance covers a wide range of more than 150 adventure activities such as skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, hiking and even climbing Mount Fuji. 

Some of those activities might require an upgrade of your package. Make sure to check the list of activities in the policy wording to see what is included in your country, the activities that are included depend on your home country.

24-hour assistance services

World  Nomads has a 24-hour assistance hotline.  The number can be found in the online portal once you have taken out their insurance.   

You can call this number anytime to get a list of recommended doctors, hospitals or dentists.

Cons of World Nomads

You will find plenty of bad reviews regarding just about every travel insurance company.  This is mostly because those people have the wrong expectations about their insurance.  They take out insurance, they don’t check the policy in detail, and they expect that they’re covered for everything.

We don’t want you to have a bad experience so we want to set those expectations straight. 

This is a list of things that are not covered and can be seen as negative for World Nomads.

  • You may have to pay extra for certain adventure activities

If you plan on doing what are considered more extreme adventure activities, you may have to upgrade your travel policy to be covered.

  • When you take needless risks you aren’t covered

World Nomads covers a wide range of adventure activities but one condition is that you never put yourself at needless risk during these activities.

  • Drugs or alcohol injuries and illnesses aren’t covered

This is not different from any other insurance.  Drugs and alcohol are a big no.  If you have an accident, injure yourself or somebody else when you are under the influence you will not be reimbursed.

  • Non-emergency treatment that can wait until you return home

Any treatments or surgeries that can be reasonably delayed until your return home are not covered.  Routine or non-emergency treatments which are not directly related to the illness or injury which necessitated your admittance to the hospital are not covered.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

These are not covered unless they’re contracted through an assault.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions

This is also typical for all insurances.  Any pre-existing medical conditions are not covered under this policy.

  • Ongoing treatment at home

The insurance only covers the costs abroad.  The costs of ongoing treatments once at home are no longer covered by your travel insurance.

  • Low coverage for electronics

World Nomads reimburses the cost to repair your electronics or to buy new ones if they’re lost or destroyed during your trip. 

The limits are however on the low side and probably won’t be enough to cover the replacement costs if you’re traveling with expensive gear. 

Age range

You will not be able to take out insurance from World Nomads if you’re older than 69.  In some countries, the maximum age is 65.  The age limit depends on your country of residence.

World Nomads conclusion

World Nomads offers travel insurance at a fair price in line with the coverage they provide.  If you’re not going to do any adventurous activities, or you’re not traveling with expensive electronics you could maybe also do without such broad coverage.

Get your free quote now: WORLD NOMADS 

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Shinsekai Tsutenkaku Tower Osaka, Japan

The colorful Shinsekai District in Osaka

SafetyWing insurance 

SafetyWing is a relatively new company.  World Nomads is already in the market since 2002, SafetWing only started in 2017.

SafetyWing’s travel medical insurance is underwritten by Tokio Marine, on the of largest and most solid insurance companies in the world. This makes it a very reliable solution if you’re looking for a trusted and affordable insurance.  Even if something would happen to SafetyWing you would still be taken care of by Tokio Marine.

SafetyWing insurance can be taken out as regular travel medical insurance, with a start date and an end date. 

In addition, the company also provides a product for long-term travelers.  They can subscribe to their insurance with monthly payments, similar to subscriptions to Netflix or Spotify.

Both plans are very flexible.  The regular plan can be taken out abroad and can be extended abroad.  The subscription plan can be started and stopped anytime.

SafetyWing is available to people in 180 countries.

Pros and cons of Safety Wing

Pros of Safety Wing 
Available to almost anyone from any country

Almost anyone can purchase SafetyWing travel medical insurance. Only if you are from Iran, North Korea, or Cuba ( or have Cuba as your citizenship) it is not possible.

Competitive Pricing

They cover a lot at a low price.

If you’re under the age of 50 you may find that SafetyWing offers much better value compared to other insurance companies, that is including World Nomads.

Above that age SafetyWing becomes much more expensive and a lot less attractive.

But don’t compare apples with oranges.  SafetyWing is very different from World Nomads.  Adrenaline junkies might find themselves very restricted by the SafetyWing policy as it doesn’t cover most of the more adventurous sports.

If you travel to the US you will also need to pay an additional fee which makes them a little less attractive for these trips.

By default SafetyWing shows a quote for 28 days according to their subscription plan.  You can add an end-date in the second step and then you will receive a proportional price. 

The pricing model is exactly the same, if you travel for 14 days your quote will be half of the price of the 28-day subscription model.

Easy subscription process and flexible

The subscription process is simple and straight forward.  

By default SafetyWing proposes a monthly subscription plan, if you want a fixed end-date for your policy you add it in the second step.  Next you the destinations where you’re traveling.

You only need to add the first destination for your coverage to be valid worldwide but SafetyWing recommends to add all destinations so they can issue visa letters if you would need them.

Next, you add the details of the persons who will be traveling with you.  2 children up to 9 years old can travel with you for free.

That’s all it takes.  Your date of birth and your home country are stored in your profile so you only need to input it once.

You can purchase your travel insurance before or even during your trip.   

Long-term subscribers can pause their plan if they interrupt their trip to say hi to friends and family at home and restart it once they fly back abroad.

Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Japan

The beautiful Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Covers a wide range of adventure activities

SafetyWing does cover a wide range of sports activities.  The list is not as long as World Nomads’ list but they still cover the most common sports such as kayaking, skiing, scuba diving etc. 

Adrenaline junkies who plan on doing more extreme sports might find that their activity of choice is not covered. There’re other minor differences such as this example regarding hiking, World Nomads covers hiking up to 6.000 meters, SafetyWing only up to 4.500 meters. (which is still enough to climb Mt. Fuji) 

You can find a complete overview of sports that are included and excluded in the FAQ on their website.  

You can get travel insurance for a travel companion and/ or children

It’s easy to take out travel insurance for the people who are traveling with you, no matter if they are family or friends.  All can be done in 1 go.

2 children under 10 (1 per adult) can be included with no extra cost under the condition that their parents are traveling with them.

The children must be at least 14 days old.

SafetyWing Trustpilor review

A recent review about SafetyWing on TrustPilot

Cons of SafetyWing

There are bad reviews about every travel insurance company but SafetyWing has a solid 4+/5 ranking on TrustPilot.  Better yet, this is not only from people who had no problems during their trip.  Also, people who had to file a claim share positive reviews.

One concern is that claims cannot be filed online at this point.  They require a pen and paper and take some time to get processed. This is a point that SafetyWing is currently working on and it should be improved in the first half of 2020.

Here are some more things to consider before you take out insurance from SafetyWing:

  • High-riks sports activities are not covered

Most common sports are included but more adventurous sports are not.  Make sure to check the FAQ on their homepage to see if what you’re planning to do is included or not.

When you take needless risks you aren’t covered

World Nomads covers a wide range of adventure activities but one condition is that you never put yourself at needless risk during these activities.

  • Substance abuse

This is not different from any other insurance.  Drugs and alcohol are a big no.  If you have an accident, injure yourself or somebody else when you are under the influence you will not be reimbursed.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases and all diseases related to HIV

These are not covered

  • Cancer treatment

All forms of cancer/neoplasm are not covered

  • Pre-existing conditions

This is also typical for all insurances.  Any pre-existing medical conditions are not covered under the policy except charges resulting directly from an Acute Onset of these conditions.

Snow Monkey - Jigokudani - Yudanaka - Japan

The snow monkeys in Yudanaka

  • No coverage for electronics

Electronics such as phones, laptops, and cameras are not covered.

  • Trip cancellation is not included

This means you lose any costs you might have paid in advance if you need to cancel your travel plans due to illness or injury.

Make sure that costs such as non-refundable airplane tickets and non-refundable hotels are covered by other insurance.  To book those you could use credit cards that come with trip cancellation coverage.

  • $250 deductible

A deductible is the amount the insured needs to pay before the insurance will pick up the tab.  In this case it means that if your hospital bill is $500, you would need to pay $250 yourself and SafetyWing will reimburse the other $250.

There is one deductible per certificate period.  The certificate period cannot be longer than 364 days.  Long-term subscribers who continue their subscription beyond the year get a new deductible in the new year.

The deductible does not apply to all aspects of the coverage.  Some treatments such as emergency dental care and urgent care come without a deductible. 

Check the full policy wording on the SafetyWing website for the exact details.

  • Claims need to be made offline

SafetyWing is working on another, more efficient, solution but for the time being, claims need to be made offline.  One review mentions that this is a time-consuming process and that it takes longer to be reimbursed.

The good news is that there should be an improved claims process in place in the first half of 2020.

SafetyWing Conclusion

SafetyWing is the new kid on the block. 

Their travel medical insurance is cheap and although their coverage is not as extensive as those of other insurances it will be sufficient for most travelers and for the majority of trips to Japan.

SafetyWing would be our first choice for Japan but we can’t repeat this enough.  Don’t take out this insurance just because it’s cheap.  Make sure to verify if the coverage will be sufficient for the things you plan to do.

Get in touch with SafetyWing if there’s any doubt.  If you mail or call you will also get a better idea of how fast and how professional they respond.

Get your free quote now: SafetyWing 

Conclusion

Both World Nomads and SafetyWing are good and trusted insurance companies that are open to the majority of people.

SafetyWing is remarkably cheaper than World Nomads and it’s probably one of the cheapest options available on the market today.

You can do an incredible deal by taking out insurance from SafetyWing.

Above we already mentioned some of the reasons why this is the case and you have to weigh up the cheap price and the coverage.

Here’s a short recap of the most important differences: SafetyWing does not come with trip cancellation, they cover not as many adventurous sports activities and theft or loss of electronics is not covered.

There’s no need to pay for a Ferrari if all you need is a regular car. If those are things you don’t need then SafetyWing is the perfect and reliable solution for you.

World Nomads is for those who plan on doing more adventurous activities during their trip.

Remember that we have written this comparison to the best of our knowledge. We have used the information that was available at the time of writing.  We regularly check and update our articles but it is always possible that these policies have changed and are no longer in-line with what we have written.  It’s your responsibility to check the details of your travel policy.  This comparison is for informational purposes only and we cannot be held reliable if something is different from what we have written.

Categories: Japan