Travel insurance: for savvy trekkers or suckers?

Travel insurance. It's for the passport-necklace-wearing, commemorative-plate-buying tourist, right? Well, yes. But that Type A in full-body khakis may be onto something. Getting creamed by a scooter in Crete or suffering a toothache in Thailand can set you back thousands of dollars. A case of the common cold can cancel your trip and cost you a plane ticket and hotel stay.

In short, if your domestic provider doesn't cover international travel (and many don't), you should buy travel insurance. Still not sold? Alright. Then we'll lay it all out for you.

What does it get me?

A decent travel insurance policy should cover everything from sending a plane to Medevac you from the Amazon to reimbursing you after a crafty monkey makes off with your camera. Many plans have a 24/7 hotline that advises on travel warnings, lost passports, and legal issues -- unless you're visiting North Korea. And then even Dennis Rodman won't save you.

How much does it cost?

For a short trip, prices start at around $30, while a three-month policy for World Nomad's Explorer Plan costs roughly $250. Everything from your age to your coverage requirements can increase the cost. It's insurance. Somebody's crunched the numbers.

What should I look for?

Medical emergency: From dog attacks and dengue fever to diarrhea, you never know what can happen. Look for a minimum of $50,000 in coverage.
Medical evacuation: This is GTFO - literally. A plane/helicopter/armor-plated stork swoops in, scoops you up, and brings you home. If you're touring Europe or a "Westernized" country, a $100,000 minimum should suffice. Make that $250,000 for more remote locations.
Preexisting conditions: That chronic heart palpitation when you drink Pabst? Some plans will leave you in whatever godforsaken place still serves the stuff -- make sure to double-check.
Extreme sports: Hang gliding, bungee jumping, and even skiing are considered too risky for some providers, so make sure you're covered. Thinking about running with the bulls in a red onesie? Forget it.
Trip interruption and baggage loss: These are nice additions. While not as important as the medical stuff, they can reimburse you for stolen laptops and lost luggage. Keep in mind that proof of ownership is key.
The fine print: Policy jargon is right up there with watching paint dry and a "Real Housewives" reunion episode. At least look for the loopholes.

Where do I get it?

Squaremouth is like OKCupid for travel insurance, but with way fewer awkward messages and much better success rates. Set your parameters and pick a plan that suits you. World Nomads is among the most well-known. Its Explorer plan covers everything from abseiling to zorbing (human hamster-balling). Playing with dragons is (unfortunately) excluded.

What if I change my mind?

Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you impulsively clicked the I-swear-I-read-this-entire-policy checkbox. Either way, most plans have a 10- to 14-day refund policy.