Insurance for Your Volunteering Trip Abroad

There are two types of insurance available for volunteering trips abroad – Travel Insurance and Medical Insurance. I strongly urge you to get both of them.

Travel Insurance covers you for travel-related costs like lost baggage, canceled flights, and travel delays. Medical Insurance covers you for medical expenses like hospital visits, prescriptions, and emergency evacuation.

Where to Start

First – find out if one or more of the following entities will provide you with insurance coverage abroad:

  • Your insurance policy back home
  • The volunteering placement agency
  • The credit card used to book your flights
  • The airline(s)

If you do not get insurance from one or more of the above sources, then you will have to obtain a policy from an insurance company that specializes in travel and medical insurance abroad.

What to look for in a policy

Whether you use an existing policy or obtain a new one from a travel specialist insurance company – make sure your policy provides at least $50k in benefits and covers (at minimum) the following:

  • Trip Cancellation / Delays / Interruption
  • Baggage Delays or Loss
  • Medical Expenses
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation

Make sure to find out also about:

  • Specific coverages
  • Pre-authorization requirements
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • 24 hour hotline
  • Deductibles, co-payments, and refund policies
  • Are payments made abroad – or reimbursed to you

Which company to choose

If you obtain a policy from a specialist insurance company – choose a company that provides one policy that covers both travel insurance and medical insurance.

The U.S. State Department has a list of companies that provides travel and medical insurance abroad:

For all of my trips abroad (including the very first one in 2000), I have used HCC Medical Insurance Services (formerly MNUI). Their website is They are a recognized leader in international health. (Full Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with HCC in any way and don’t receive any commissions)

When you’re abroad

  • Have your insurance card, a claim form, and copy of the policy
  • Leave copies of all of the above with family back home
  • Keep copies of all paperwork like medical charts, prescriptions, boarding passes, and currency exchange receipts
  • Follow the claims-submission process meticulously

Google Glass Policy

This is the world’s first policy on Google Glass.

Google Glass Policy

Cosmic Volunteers prohibits the use of Google Glass by our participants to make audio-visual recordings without the consent of the parties involved in our volunteering abroad programs.

These parties include but are not limited to: the children and staff at orphanages, shelters and day care centers; patients and staff at hospitals; students and staff at schools, host family members, Cosmic Volunteers’ staff, and any other persons involved in our programs.

This policy is designed to protect the privacy of those people abroad who generously welcome our participants and staff into their lives via our volunteering programs.

Background on Google Glass

Released in early 2013, Google Glass is a computer with a head-mounted display and wearable camera. It is being developed by Google. Google Glass provides its wearer with the ability to easily make surreptitious recordings. Google (the company) has the ability to index, tag, and store online indefinitely the identity and spoken-words of everyone in the recording – all without the consent of either the Google Glass wearer or the people in the recording.

Violations of Google Glass Policy

Any violations of this policy will result in the following:

First Violation:

Participant will be warned by Cosmic Volunteers’ staff of the policy violation. Cosmic Volunteers’ staff will ask Participant to immediately delete all audio-visual recordings the latter made without the consent of the parties involved.

Second Violation:

Cosmic Volunteers’ staff will cancel the Participant’s program immediately with no refund. Cosmic Volunteers’ staff will ask Participant to immediately delete all audio-visual recordings the latter made without the consent of the parties involved.

Bringing a Laptop to Ghana

Should you bring a laptop to Ghana? It depends.

It’s a good idea to bring a laptop to use it as a storage and backup device for your photos, or to keep a trip journal.

However, if you are looking to connect to the Internet with your laptop, you will probably experience mostly frustration.

First, public wireless connections in Ghana are few and far between. On one of my trips to Ghana, I was using my laptop at a hotel in Cape Coast hotel when I picked up a free wireless connection from a local Internet cafe. I considered it a small miracle, but it wasn’t very smart on my part because someone could have easily hacked into my laptop.

The good news is that You can bring a laptop and buy a wireless card from one of the telcom providers in Ghana for approximately $100+ USD. However it is dial-up-speed at-best, with intermittent service much of the time.

Most Internet cafes will not allow you to plug your laptop into their Internet connection. Even if one does, I would recommend against it, again because of security concerns. Although it might sound paranoid, there is a possibility of someone gaining access to your laptop’s data and/or stealing your passwords as you type them.

If you really want to upload photos to the Internet during your trip, perhaps try to copy them from your laptop to a flash drive (bring one from home), then see if the Internet cafe will let you copy them from the flash drive to one of their computers.

Do not keep any sensitive information on your laptop in case of theft, such as your bank account information, passwords, etc.

Ghana is a very dusty place, so bring a plastic cover for your laptop, and pack away the laptop when you’re not using it.

When traveling around Ghana, pack the laptop in a backpack that you keep with you at all times (rather than packing it in a larger suitcase that will be stored in a compartment away from you on a bus). Try not to take it out of the bag when you’re outdoors, so as not to attract attention from any would-be robbers.

For the battery/charger, mine actually got fried on my last trip to Ghana, because I didn’t use a surge protector (I plugged it directly into the outlet). So, when you arrive in Accra, ask our Coordinator to help you buy a surge protector. It costs $5-$10 and is well worth it.