Sweden vs. The World: Travel Insurance

If you have every paid for travel insurance and you are not from Sweden, you might want to stop reading now. Or start packing your bags for a residence-earning stay in Scandinavia. Wyatt Cenac’s segment ‘Stockholm Syndrom‘ for the Daily Show hardly grazed the skin of the reality of living in this socialist nightmare:

“She smells like lavender and free education…” 

Why yes, she does. She also smells like 2.2% home loans, 480 days of parental leave that can be split between parents at their discretion, 27-30 vacation days per year (plus about a dozen public holidays and a vacation pay supplement, so all Swedes can afford to take the fam to the Canary Islands for a week).

But of course you must pay A LOT of tax for all that… right?

Well… no.

I pay 24% on my salary, and I can say my yearly income puts me solidly into middle-class range. I own my apartment (which I bought as a PhD student… and no, I am not independently wealthy), have a shitty old car and I use my athletics bursary from work along with my one hour of working time per week to go and do something active. I am a pretty average Svensson.

Now Sweden definitely has its cons as well, and I’d be happy to rant about any number of them to you over a beer, which hopefully would cost less than the 68 kr ($9.12) I pay at my local pub. But for now I’m going to brag a little about how freakishly easy Sweden has made it for me as a foreigner in their country to put my life on hold and go travel the world.

Travel insurance: weighing my options

One of the absolute musts for long term travel is extended travel insurance. Now, if you’re Swedish, you probably haven’t ever paid for travel insurance since it is usually covered (up to 45 days at a go) on your normal insurance.

This is the coverage I had, for instance, when my computer was stolen in Honduras last spring. It costs me 116 kr / month (that’s $15.56), and covers the insurance on my condo, all of my belongings, travel insurance and what I like to call stupidity insurance. My stupidity insurance means that if I spill tea on my computer, or kick a football into the big screen TV or leave my dad’s camera on top of the car and drive away (this did happen) the insurance will cover it, after I pay my deductible of 1.500 kr ($200).

So from the get-go it is a pretty sweet deal.  But what if I want to travel for more than 45 days?

I started on my research for travel insurance early on this summer. I quickly came to the conclusion that the best deal around is from World Nomads – travel bloggers were nearly unanimous on this. I did a quick price check and found that 12 months of coverage would cost me $1.333 for the extended package (which was necessary to cover two of my favourite activities:  rock climbing and scuba diving). Not bad, right? That’s just over $100 a month – I’d take it.

Insurance in Sweden

Then I thought: Oh – right. I need to call my Swedish insurance and see about covering my condo, which I am renting out while I am away. I also will have some items in a storage unit in another part of town, and I’d like those items to be covered in case of theft, flooding, etc. So I dialed up Länsförsäkringar.

I chatted with the guy on the other end of the phone for nearly an hour, explaining my situation, where I would be (or, more accurately, that I had no idea where I would be), where my stuff would be, who would be in my apartment and details of if I was still covered under the Swedish national health plan. He had to put me on hold twice to check with their lawyer to make sure everything was above board, since I am a foreigner in Sweden after all.

We got it all cleared and then he got me set up with insurance on my flat, as well as a quote for travel insurance.

In the end we came up with a plan which includes:

  • Insurance on my apartment (but not my belongings in it – which are very few since I moved them all to storage.)
  • Insurance on my belongings in the storage unit
  • Full travel insurance for anywhere in the world EXCEPT the USA 
  • Medical insurance for any activity (*except martial arts. It seems I can jump off a cliff and that’s cool, but if someone punches me then I’m SOL.)
  • Full medevac with NO upper cost limit
  • Disability & death insurance because that would suck.
  • Full insurance on all of my belongings while I travel (with no upper limit on the value of any given item, and a total upper limit of $6.700 – World Nomads tops out at $1.500 per item, and a grand total of no more than $3.000… which isn’t bad, but comes short of covering the total value of my laptop, external storage, DSLR camera and lenses, let alone the less-valuable belongings kicking around in my bag.)
  • Full insurance on other people’s belongings while I travel (Seriously. If I borrow your camera then accidentally drop it into the Indian Ocean, don’t worry: it’s covered.)

Everything on this list is of course subject to me paying the $200 deductible. But when a wild pack of orang-utans attacks me in Sumatra, steals my laptop and starts taking selfies with my camera, then break my leg when I request copyrights on the photos and then I have to hire a helicopter from Jakarta to fly me to a decent hospital? I don’t even have to look at the fine print. I hand over $200 and the rest is covered.

And all this despite the fact that I don’t even have a residence permit in Sweden? The lawyer confirmed that I am eligible for this up to two years after I leave Sweden, and maybe even beyond that in certain circumstances.

Now, for the clincher… how much?

I almost dropped the phone, and the guy on the other end even apologised that the cost was so high.

The grand total is $671, of which $486 covers the travel portion, the remaining $185 is for my apartment and stuff back in Sweden.

Sweden, go home. You’re drunk.

**And in case you’re thinking about trying to play Swede to get this deal… sorry, you need a Swedish personal number (personnummer) which I can attest is not easy to come by. You will need a job in Sweden for over a year to procure one – but then you’re in the clear. Sooner or later I will blog about the special level in Dante’s Inferno that consists of getting a personnummer. But that’s for another day.

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