Every expat's worst fear is dealing with an emergency back home from far away. My wife and I are US citizens living in New Zealand. For us it's the question of how we would afford travel back home in the case of a family emergency, and would we even be able to get there in time?

The obvious answer is to have a budget and to make sure you keep enough in savings to deal with these kinds of emergencies. We do this, but how much is enough? What happens if we have to deal with a major car repair the day before we find out my sister had a horrible car accident? And really, who wants to be forced into performing the cost/benefit analysis of a $5,000 plane ticket in the context of uncertainty over whether or not a family member is actually in serious condition? If they are in serious condition, you have to leave now. If not, you've just wasted $5,000, but you might not know for certain until it's too late to get there in time.

Are there expat-focused insurance programs which pay for round-trip travel to your home country under certain emergency situations? I know there are travel insurance programs with similar features, but I'd imagine an insurance program focused on just this problem, just for people residing in a foreign country, would have cost benefits over typical travel insurance.

As an aside, I've written a bunch of rhetorical questions in this post. I'm only looking for an answer to the one in bold.

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    Not so sure about the premise that an expat-focused insurance would be cheaper. After all, nearly everybody will lose family members at some point, an insurance could only spread the costs over a few years, not meaningfully pool risk (even more so if you want your insurance to cover you if you go when in fact they were not in a serious condition). Unlike healthcare/accident/legal liability, the costs could not be extremely high either, which makes the “save a budget” approach realistic.
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 7:17
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    The cost of flying internationally, even on short notice, is a pretty predictable cost, making it possible to simply set aside that amount in a savings account somewhere. If you have good credit, you may be able to instead rely on a credit card, line of credit, or other credit service. Insurance really doesn't seem applicable in this case. And doing it yourself (i.e. "self insurance") is almost certainly going to be cheaper than paying an insurance company to hold that money for you.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


There is an service like this in Switzerland from REGA. While this is technically not an insurance but you rather get this service through a yearly donation, the service is essentially flying you back home to Switzerland in case of emergency. They do not fly you back abroad though.

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    That looks like repatriation insurance in case the person abroad needs to go home. I think Ben Burns is asking about a policy that repatriates the person abroad if somebody left at home has a serious illness, which is a different situation. This is normal in many travel insurance policies, but the question is whether such coverage is available long-term separately (outside of travel insurance). It probably also needs to be something a US citizen can get.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:37
  • Yeah, pretty much what Rob said. Also, while I can't accept an answer that isn't available in the US, I'd be happy to upvote them.
    – Ben Burns
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 1:42
  • @BenBurns You might want to update your answer to be more explicit about the country you are looking for. You asked "to your home country" not "to the USA".
    – uncovery
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 2:48
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    This is a regular medical repatriation service for travelers. It's neither geared towards expats nor intended to pay for travels if someone else back home has a problem and does not address the question. It does seem to cover Swiss people living abroad, though.
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 7:04
  • Furthermore, REGA is first and foremost an operator/provider of mountain rescue and medical repatriation. Other insurers would also cover the costs of the service while REGA is not offering much of a guarantee “As a token of appreciation for this support, Rega can, at its own discretion and within the bounds of its resources, waive the costs for the services listed below for patrons, wholly or in part.”
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 7:07

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