For China, purchase travel insurance with air ambulance or scheduled airline repatriation built in. Be clear on the terms and conditions -- is repatriation limited to life-threatening illnesses, for instance? If you do end up in hospital in China, you may face a substantial bill, and you will not be allowed to leave until you pay it in cash. For insurance payouts, you'll need to claim the expense when you return home, so make sure you have adequate proof of payment.
In general, the cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com.
U.K. citizens and their families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find an annual travel insurance policy is cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com, which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multi-trip travel and medical insurance policies.
Most big travel agents offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain's Consumers' Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (tel. 020/7600-3333; www.abi.org.uk) gives advice by phone and publishes Holiday Insurance, a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (tel. 0870/033-9988; www.columbusdirect.com).
Trip-cancellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip cancellation traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and U.S. State Department advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and the "any-reason" cancellation coverage -- which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won't get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you'll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (tel. 888/885-7233; www.travelsafe.com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia (www.expedia.com) also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air-hotel packages.
For details, contact one of the following recommended insurers: Access America (tel. 800/284-8300; www.accessamerica.com); Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-4919; www.travelguard.com); Travel Insured International (tel. 800/243-3174; www.travelinsured.com); and Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 800/228-9792; www.travelex-insurance.com).
Purchasing travel medical insurance is recommended, particularly if you're traveling to a remote or high-risk area where emergency evacuation might be necessary. Try MEDEX Assistance (tel. 410/453-6300 in the U.S.; www.medexassist.com) or Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828 in the U.S.; www.travelassistance.com; for general information on services, call the company's Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at tel. 800/777-8710 in the U.S.
Canadians should check with their provincial health plan offices or call Health Canada (tel. 866/225-0709; www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated overseas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.