June 22, 2021
In a May post I referred to a helpful civil servant—a career diplomat, in fact—with the South African embassy in Washington, DC who volunteered to make inquiries with his own country’s tourism department back home to determine whether Covid quarantine insurance is still required for entry to South Africa. I asked because the information online is vague and indeterminate. The SA government website says these are the requirements for travelers traveling to South Africa by air:
“All travellers landing at these airports must present a PCR test which is not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa.
“Furthermore, the international travellers should possess a mandatory travel insurance which is supposed to cover the COVID-19 test and quarantine costs. All these travellers will be subjected to COVID-19 screening on arrival. Those who present COVID-19 symptoms which include elevated body temperatures and flu-like symptoms, will be required to take a COVID-19 test which should be covered by the travel insurance. Should the test results come back positive, the traveller will be subjected to mandatory quarantine, which will also be paid for by the traveller or the travel insurance.”
However, other sites make no mention of the need for quarantine insurance any longer. One source told me the requirement was added at the height of the pandemic, but has been dropped or ignored for Americans since widespread vaccinations have become available. Yet the requirement still looms on the official website.
While waiting for the South African diplomats to bring back a definitive answer, I spent a good deal of time researching travel insurance, just in case. I know next to nothing about such insurance. I always considered it a racket. Taking a look, I found travel insurance that specifically covers quarantine cost to be elusive.
After two weeks of silence from the SA embassy fellow, I reached out to ask what he had found. Nada, as it turned out. Neither he nor three of his more senior (First Secretary) colleagues were able to elicit a reply about this requirement from their government. Basically, the embassy guys told me (though not exactly in these words): “Don’t take a chance; buy insurance. We are not sure you need it, but better not to risk it. Sorry, we have no idea what the facts are!”
Which is just one indication of the utter confusion and chaos that seems to increasingly characterize foreign entry requirements for visitors to other countries. I began looking wider to see if such “quarantine cost” insurance was required by other countries.
Some articles, like this Forbes piece, say insurance is a good idea, but not which countries require it (May 13, 2021).
This Reuters story is a little more specific (March 7, 2021), but again not certain.
It only reports that “More than a dozen countries from Aruba to Thailand require COVID-19 coverage for visitors, with Jordan the latest to consider such protections, organizers of an emergency services plan told Reuters.”
I wish Reuters had been more specific.
It said this about the coverage I ultimately chose from Seven Corners Insurance Company:
“Jeremy Murchland, president of Indiana-based travel insurance company Seven Corners, said travelers are now ‘more likely to insure their trips,’ as more countries require COVID-19 coverage.
“A travel insurance plan that includes trip protection, medical expense coverage for COVID-19 and protection for baggage and personal effects typically costs 4% to 8% of the dollar value of the trip, Murchland said.
“In June, 2020, Seven Corners introduced an optional medical travel plan with coverage for coronavirus expenses, Murchland said. By year’s end, the product with coronavirus coverage generated about 80% of total medical travel plan sales.”
Even more discouraging is this from the same Reuters article:
“Rifai, former secretary general of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, said he expects countries will continue requiring coverage as the vaccines ‘will take years’ to roll out globally.”
Back in November, 2020, the NYT also wrote this piece on the uptick in travel insurance requirements.
This site supposedly updates regularly and claims to be definitive of where travel insurance is required.
This one claims to offer insurance that includes quarantine expenses (and includes Safe Travels Voyager that Costa Rica recommends with its super-strict requirements).
This June 11, 2021 NPR piece is very helpful about broad travel planning issues.
NPR says this about travel insurance:
“Bring proof of health insurance. Even if you’re a veteran traveler who knows that your insurance carrier covers you overseas, be sure to check on COVID-19 coverage before you leave. Some countries, such as Argentina, require that you have a notice from your health insurer that specifically mentions COVID-19 coverage as proof that you are covered for the virus. Cambodia requires all foreigners to purchase insurance from the government on arrival: $90 for 20 days of coverage. Also check to see if your policy covers medical evacuation insurance, or consider buying a separate policy if not. Travel specialists say it’s a wise investment during a pandemic.
“The CDC offers great background information on health insurance and foreign travel on its site. If you buy a supplemental plan, the State Department site recommends looking for one that will pay for care directly rather than reimburse you so out-of-pocket expenses are limited.”
The bottom line is that more and more countries are requiring proof of travel (and quarantine) insurance in the wake of the global health crisis, but what exactly is required remains in flux. No standards or stasis yet. After reading these and other articles, I came away even more confused about travel and quarantine insurance requirements foisted upon foreign travelers by Covid. Even career diplomats like the South African guys are baffled.
Given the lack of clarity, I opted to pinpoint insurance that included specific quarantine costs for my upcoming trips to South Africa. But still I found only murky and vague language in travel insurance policy offerings that claimed to cover every cost, including quarantine.
Finally, I made contact with the managers of South Africa’s famous Londolozi luxury private game lodge near the Kruger National Park. Londolozi hosts many well-heeled American guests, as one might expect. One of the regulars has visited Londolozi twice in 2021. She graciously sent me a scan of her Seven Corners policy which has repeatedly been accepted by South African authorities at Johannesburg upon her arrival.
Here is the policy I ultimately purchased for a year to cover not only my three trips to SA, but also planned trips to Morocco and to Italy within the next 12 months:
Per trip insurance with the same policy is also available:
Specifically related to quarantine costs, South African authorities are said to be satisfied with these words in my policy:
“COVID-19 Treatment includes hospital & hotel expenses”
The American tourist at Londolozi arriving with this coverage language has been waved through twice already this year on the basis of this exact wording, which she sent me from her Seven Corners policy. Fingers crossed that will be good enough for me as well!