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Travel insurance for Australian expats

Yes, you can get travel insurance as an Australian expat living overseas. Find out what options are available and get covered.

If you’re an Australian living abroad or looking to move for work or study, protecting yourself with travel insurance for the duration of your stay is crucial. Getting covered can give you peace of mind for medical expenses, which can be astronomical in some countries, as well as provide benefits such as cover for cancellation costs, lost luggage and valuables, and personal liability cover if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property.

Already overseas? Compare Australian travel insurance brands that will cover you

Brands Product Product Details Apply
1Cover Already Overseas Travel Insurance

Unlimited overseas medical expenses

$1,000 disruption of journey

Unlimited cancellation fees and lost deposits

$15,000 luggage and personal effects

$5 million personal liability cover

Get quoteMore info
Travel Insuranz Deluxe

$10,000 cancellation and lost deposits

Unlimited overseas medical expenses

$7,500,000 personal liability

$7,500 luggage and personal effects

Get quoteMore info
Go Insurance Go Plus Single Trip Cover

$10,000,000 alternative travel expenses

Unlimited overseas medical expenses

$7,500 luggage and personal effects

$5,000,000 personal liability

Get quoteMore info

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Why do I need expat travel insurance?

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, at any given time there are approximately one million Australians living and working overseas. If you’re one of those lucky people, or plan to become one sometime soon, it’s important to have adequate travel insurance cover in place for the duration of your time abroad. Here are some key reasons why it's important:

  • Overseas medical expenses. Medicare and your private health insurer won’t cover you for any medical costs you incur overseas, so adequate cover for your overseas hospital bills is crucial. Without it, you could be left to deal with a huge financial fallout.
  • Cover when you’re already overseas. If you’re already overseas, many Australian travel insurers will refuse to cover you, so expat travel insurance can help you get this vital protection.
  • Cover for short trips. If you’re an Australian citizen temporarily living overseas, you may want travel insurance cover to provide protection when you take short trips from your current country of residence. For example, if you’re temporarily living and working in the UK, you might want to take a holiday around continental Europe.
  • Cover for trips home to Australia. Currently living overseas but planning a quick trip home to Australia to catch up with family and friends? You’ll need to find a policy that covers you for the duration of the journey.
  • Liability cover. If you accidentally injure someone or damage their property while you’re overseas, travel insurance will often include liability cover up to $20 million.
  • Other important benefits. Travel insurance also covers a wide range of other potentially costly mishaps, including cancellation costs when you’re forced to call off your trip due to circumstances beyond your control, and lost or stolen luggage or travel documents.

What types of cover are available for expatriates?

There are several cover options available for Australian citizens living and working overseas:

  • Already overseas cover. A number of Australian travel insurance providers offer cover for Australians already overseas. These policies offer the same level of cover as ordinary travel insurance, but you may need to serve a waiting period before cover begins and most insurers will require your journey to end in Australia.
  • Travel insurance from an international provider. Travel insurers in other countries can provide cover to an Australian citizen living overseas. However, keep in mind that many insurers in countries around the world won’t offer cover to non-residents, so you’ll need to check the fine print closely and shop around for the right policy.
  • One-way cover. This type of policy covers you on your outgoing trip only and lets you make a claim without having to return to Australia.
  • Long-term cover. If your work or study abroad is only for a limited period,a long-term travel insurance policy may offer adequate protection. Some insurers offer “backpacker” cover for journeys up to 18 months long.
  • Cover for other countries. If you plan to visit neighbouring countries while you’re overseas, you’ll need travel insurance that covers trips to those destinations. You may be able to purchase non-resident travel insurance from an insurer in the country where you are currently residing, or in some cases you may be able to include cover as part of the policy you purchase before you first leave Australia.
  • Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. You may be eligible to receive subsidised health care if you are travelling to a country that is part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.
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What should my travel insurance cover?

The most important benefit of any international travel insurance policy is cover for overseas medical expenses. You’ve probably heard horror stories about uninsured travellers being left with astronomical medical bills after unexpectedly falling ill overseas, as the mind-boggling cost of even a short hospital stay in countries like the USA has been well publicised.

With this in mind, it’s essential that any expat travel insurance policy you choose provides ample cover for overseas medical expenses. Access to a 24/7 emergency assistance line to help you find help whenever you need it is also essential.

But that’s not all a travel insurance policy should cover. You should also look for the following benefits:

  • Cancellation fees and lost deposits. If you’re forced to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances outside your control, such as if you suffer a serious injury or a relative dies unexpectedly, travel insurance can cover any cancellation fees you must pay and any non-refundable pre-paid deposits.
  • Luggage and personal effects. If your luggage or personal items are lost, stolen or damaged during your trip, travel insurance covers the cost of their repair or replacement.
  • Travel delay. Trip delayed by circumstances beyond your control, for example cancelled flights or extreme weather? Travel insurance can cover the additional meal and accommodation expenses you incur as a result.
  • Rental vehicle excess cover. If your rental vehicle is involved in a collision, stolen or vandalised, your policy can help cover the costly excess charged by the rental provider.
  • Personal liability. Travel insurance also covers your legal liability if you’re responsible for causing bodily injury to someone else or damage to their property.

Do I need to have a return flight booked back to Australia?

Not necessarily. You don’t need to have a return flight booked back to Australia to qualify for one-way travel insurance, which doesn’t require you to return home to purchase cover. You also won’t need an Australian-bound flight booked if you’re buying a policy from an overseas travel insurance provider. However, depending on the policy you buy, you may need a return ticket to the country where you purchase cover.

On the other hand, if you’re buying already overseas travel insurance, you will typically need to have a return ticket to Australia to be eligible for cover.

Do I have to be an Australian citizen?

Are you an overseas visitor or a non-Australian citizen or resident? The good news is that you don’t have to be an Australian citizen to qualify for cover from an Australian travel insurer.

While some policies are only available to Australian residents, there are other insurers that provide cover for non-residents of Australia who want to travel overseas. These policies include all the benefits you would expect from an ordinary travel insurance policy.

However, you will need to meet certain terms and conditions to qualify for cover, such as:

  • Having lived in Australia for a minimum of three months
  • Being eligible for Medicare or holding valid private health insurance
  • Being on a working visa
  • Being within specified age limits

How long can I be covered for?

You’ll need to obtain travel insurance that covers you for the entire period of your residency in a foreign country. In fact, it’s a requirement of entry to many foreign countries that you hold an adequate level of medical insurance cover for the entire period of your residency.

Most travel insurance policies will only cover you for a maximum of 12 months, but there are a number of “backpacker” policies that provide cover for up to 18 months.

What if my stay will be longer than 18 months?

To be insured for longer than 18 months, you need to renew your 12-month policy. This can be achieved by purchasing a second policy shortly before the first one expires.

If you need cover for longer than 24 months, you’ll probably need a visa to remain in your country of residence and be required to take out adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay. In this case, it’s usually better to purchase health insurance cover instead of travel insurance unless you're planning to travel to other countries.

How to find the best* travel insurance for expats

It’s simply not possible to nominate one single policy as the best* choice for Australian expats, as the right policy for you depends on your cover needs, budget and a number of other factors.

However, to ensure that you find expat travel insurance that is the right fit for you, remember to consider the following factors:

    • Understand your cover needs. What destination(s) do you plan on visiting? What experiences and activities will you participate in during your trip? What risks do you want cover for? How much are you willing to pay for a policy? Answering these questions will help you work out what type of policy you need to look for.
    • Who is the underwriter? Instead of choosing a policy based on the brand that offers it, read the fine print to find out who actually issues the policy. Is it underwritten by a reputable and experienced insurer?
    • Is 24/7 emergency assistance included? Does the insurer provide access to a 24/7 helpline if you need emergency assistance while overseas? It's also worth checking to see if they have an English-speaking customer service panel if you're taking out cover with an international insurer.
    • Don't just look at the price. It's no good saving a few extra dollars if you'll be stuck with a dud policy that doesn't actually give you the cover you need. Take the time to compare a range of options and find out what else you can get from an essentials or comprehensive policy by paying a bit extra.
    • Compare a number of policies. Don’t choose cover based solely on how much it costs; take a close look at the PDS for any policy you are considering. Find out what’s covered and what isn’t, and see how that compares to the cover offered by other insurers.
    • Check cover limits and exclusions. It’s also essential to check the limits that apply to policy benefits. For example, does your insurer cover unlimited overseas medical expenses or only provide cover up to a specified limit? If you’re taking valuable personal items with you, are the policy limits sufficient to provide the cover you need? Also remember to check the general exclusions to get a better idea of when cover is inapplicable, such as a travel warning that may invalidate your ability to make a claim.
    • Check the excess. If you make a travel insurance claim, how much excess will you need to pay? Can you choose a higher excess to lower your premium?
    • How flexible is the policy? Finally, check whether the policy can be tailored to suit your cover needs. For example, you might want additional cover for cruise, skiing or rental car excess cover.

More tips on how to compare travel insurance companies

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What about countries with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

In some overseas countries, Australian travellers are able to access essential medical treatment for no charge. This is due to the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCAs) that the Australian Government has in place with the following countries:

  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Malta
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Norway

Under these agreements, if you visit any one of the above countries then you are able to access subsidised essential medical care if you can provide:

  • Your Australian passport or another valid document that shows you are a permanent resident of Australia
  • A valid Medicare card

Is it worth getting travel insurance if I'm already covered by the RHCA?

It's still a good idea to get travel insurance even if you are visiting a country with which Australia has an RHCA. This is because the cover provided under the RHCA is quite limited, and only provides subsidised cover for medical emergencies overseas. It does not provide cover for expenses such as ambulance costs, treatment that is not immediately necessary, private hospital treatment or medical repatriation back to Australia.

Plus, travel insurance can also provide a range of other benefits, including cover for:

  • Loss, theft and damage of luggage and expensive items
  • Travel cancellation and trip delay from transport carriers
  • Car rental excess charges if you are involved in an accident
  • Stolen money or travel cards

Can I get health cover if I am an Australian overseas in a country that isn’t part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

Yes. Some private health insurers in Australia provide health care plans designed for Australians moving overseas. This option may be suitable if you:

  • Are moving abroad and plan to work or study.
  • Are moving overseas for a prolonged period of time, potentially even to retire.
  • Live and work overseas but move between countries frequently.

Private health cover is available either as a single policy or as a family policy.

Alternatively, if you’re working overseas you may be covered under health insurance provided by your employer. Check out our guide to health insurance for expats for more information on the cover options available.

How does travel insurance work if I'm already overseas?

If you’re already overseas, some Australian insurers have policies that will cover you. Common conditions of these policies include:

      • A waiting period from the start date of the policy (usually between 3-7 days) where claims related to injury or illnesses are excluded.
      • Your journey must end in Australia
      • Your cover will only commence from the date the policy is issued. This means you won’t be covered for retroactive trip cancellations.
      • No cover for pre-existing medical conditions, other than those automatically covered on your policy

If you’re no longer an Australian resident, which is a requirement of Australian travel insurance policies, you will either have to purchase a non-resident travel insurance policy (if returning to Australia) or find an insurer in your current country of residence who will cover you when you are travelling.

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Some final questions you may have

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    William Eve

    Will is a personal finance writer for finder.com.au specialising in content on insurance. While he cannot give personal advice to clients, Will enjoys explaining the intricacies of different types of protective cover to help individuals and businesses find affordable cover that won't leave them underinsured.

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    8 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      rjjspAugust 26, 2017

      Hi,
      I am an Australian living in New Zealand as of Jan 2016 (under 2 years) I am about to fly to Bali for a month with a stop over in Australia for 3 hours going there and 7 hours on my way back. I think most Australian policies won’t cover me because my trip doesn’t end in Australia, or because it will stop once I’m in Australia. Please advise of any travel insurance advice.

      • Staff
        LiezlAugust 27, 2017Staff

        Hi Renee,

        Thanks for reaching out. Generally, Australian insurers provide cover only to Australians who plan to return to Australia. Since you’re living in another country and will only have stop overs in Australia, you might want to consider taking out coverage with an international provider instead. There are a number of insurers offering expat travel insurance to Australian such as the World Nomad, Columbus Direct and TINZ, subject to their policy’s terms and conditions.

        I hope this has helped.

        Cheers,
        Liezl

    2. Default Gravatar
      johnApril 26, 2017

      hi My son is buy a van in the UK and traveling in the UK and Europa. i am after car insurance to cover costs he might in
      cure
      if he has a accident

      • Staff
        ZubairApril 27, 2017Staff

        Hi John,

        Thank you for your question.

        You have contacted finder.com.au a comparison and information service and not actually an insurer.

        Travel insurance doesn’t offer car insurance, it offers cover for car rental excess when you hire a car from a rental company. Your son will need to consider car insurers from the United Kingdom.

        Please make sure though to read the eligibility criteria, features and details of the policy, as well as the relevant Product Disclosure Statement PDS/T&C’s of the policy before making a decision and consider whether the product is right for you. If necessary, speak to the insurance brand to verify any details.

        All the best,
        Zubair

    3. Default Gravatar
      MariaMarch 29, 2017

      Hi,

      I’m wondering if you can help me solve the mine field that is the USA health insurance, complicated by the fact that I’m looking for a comprehensive cover for my son planing to work there on a visa.
      The employer does not cover health insurance.

      I want to be sure that in any event dental or medical, where my son takes ill, in an emergency or otherwise requires investigation, he will definitely be covered.

      He will be working in the hospitality industry.

      Can you please help me with this, as I’m very confused as to best to begin this seemingly endless search.

      Your response will be greatly appreciated.
      Thank you,
      From a greatly concerned parent.

      • Staff
        ZubairMarch 30, 2017Staff

        Hi Maria,

        Thank you for your question.

        finder.com.au is a comparison and information service and we are not permitted to provide our users with personalised financial advice or product recommendations. Additionally, as an Australian brand, finder.com.au does not have access to American insurance companies.

        Depending on the requirements of your son’s visa and the length of his stay, he may be able to look at working holiday travel Insurance.

        You should speak with a visa specialist as they will be able to advise you on these matters.

        All the best,
        Zubair

    4. Default Gravatar
      JohnFebruary 10, 2017

      Hi I am an Australian with private health insurance (HBF).
      My wife also has private health insurance while in Australia.
      My wife is aThai national with Australian resident status and is covered under her children’s government health cover while in Thailand because they all work for the Thai government.
      In the next 12 to 18 months I intend to retire in Thailand and probably spend up to 9 months each year living in Thailand.
      I will need to have insurance cover as I’m not covered under my step children’s government cover. If I am living abroad is it possible to take out insurance that will cover me in both countries as my current insurance only covers me while in Australia. I am 64 yrs old and am a type 2 diabetic .

      • Staff
        RichardFebruary 10, 2017Staff

        Hi John,

        Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, the funds in our panel will only cover you for medical expenses incurred in Australia.

        Cheers,
        Richard

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