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High-Risk Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance for high-risk travellers ... can it be done?

Travel insurance is about providing financial protection against risk, covering everything from lost luggage to overseas medical expenses. For the average traveller getting travel insurance is a cakewalk. But there are those who don’t want to have an average holiday and these people are seen as high risk by insurers.

What makes me a high risk to an insurer?

You could be an adventure sports enthusiast, plan to visit politically unstable destinations or have a pre-existing medical conditions for these reasons and more you pose an increase claims risk to the insurer.

As a general rule, many high-risk activities, destinations and medical conditions are excluded from travel insurance cover. However, depending on your individual circumstances, it can be possible to find an insurer who can offer the travel insurance protection you need.

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Can I get travel insurance for high-risk activities overseas?

The treatment of high-risk adventure sports and activities varies between travel insurers. Insurers will generally fall into three categories:

  1. No cover for adventure sports
  2. Some cover for listed adventure activities as standard
  3. Cover for adventures sports can be purchased for an additional premium

There are some travel insurance brands that specialise in adventure sports travel insurance policies and others that can cover you if you’re competing in specific a professional sporting activities, so it pays to shop around and compare the available options.

If you do find cover for your chosen adventure activity, pay attention to the conditions listed in the policy. Conditions can include:

  • Hiking and trekking. If you’re planning hiking or trekking, some policies include an altitude limit.
  • Skydiving. If you’re planning on going skydiving, cover will typically only be offered if you perform a tandem jump with a licensed instructor.

Conditions vary between insurers and depending on the activity you want to participate in, so read the fine print of your product disclosure statement (PDS) for full details of the cover available.

What activities are generally covered?

Activities that are usually covered in most travel insurance policies include:

  • Cycling
  • Kayaking
  • Horse riding
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Hiking
  • Jet skiing
  • Windsurfing

What activities are sometimes covered?

The following conditions can also usually be covered if you take out adventure sports cover, but conditions and limitations apply:

  • Sky diving
  • Paragliding
  • Rock climbing
  • Bungee jumping
  • Heli-skiing and off-piste skiing
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving

Activities not generally covered by travel insurance

Finally, there are some high-risk activities that you’re very unlikely to find cover for, including:

  • BASE jumping
  • Motorsports
  • Running with the bulls
  • Mountaineering
  • Professional sports

Travel insurance and high-risk medical conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it can be difficult to find an insurer willing to cover any claims that arise from that condition. There are some pre-existing conditions that most insurers will automatically cover, including asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, blindness and deafness.

However, there are some high-risk conditions that are automatically excluded from cover by travel insurers, including:

  • Any form of cancer
  • Any condition which requires spinal or brain surgery
  • Heart or cardiovascular disease of any kind
  • Any chronic or recurring pain requiring ongoing medication or treatment, for example back pain
  • Mental conditions including dementia, depression, anxiety, stress and other related disorders
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Any condition for which you are awaiting diagnosis
  • Any condition which has caused you to be hospitalised in the last two years
  • HIV infection
  • Organ transplant, either if scheduled for the future or if you have already undergone the procedure
  • Any condition for which surgery is planned or scheduled for the future

Read your travel insurance product disclosure statement (PDS) for a full list of excluded high-risk conditions.

If you have one of these conditions it doesn’t mean you can’t take out travel insurance, but it does mean that any claims that arise because of your condition will not be covered.

Can I get travel insurance for high-risk countries?

Some of the most interesting and exciting travel destinations come with a heightened level of risk. This can be due to the threat of terrorism, ongoing political instability, or even a recent natural disaster.

A common exclusion on every travel insurance policy is you will not be covered if you visit a country where a travel warning has been issued. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises Australian travellers whether or not it is safe to travel to various countries. Check the Smartraveller website for up-to-date advisories.

Another common exclusion whether it’s reasonable to expect that you knew a destination was unsafe for travel due to reports in the mass media. It’s important to check with your insurer to find out if they will cover you if you are planning on visiting somewhere that is known to be hazardous.

Other important travel insurance exclusions

Although general exclusions vary between insurers, your claim will usually not be paid if:

  • It arises because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You leave your luggage or personal belongings unattended in a public place and they are stolen
  • You fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent and minimise loss
  • Your claim arises because you were breaking the law or behaving recklessly
  • Your claim is caused by a government authority withholding, confiscating, detaining or destroying anything
  • Your claim is for childbirth overseas, or if you travel any later than 26 weeks into your pregnancy
  • It is for a sexually transmitted disease
  • Your claim arises because you were riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet or without holding a valid licence in the country you are in
  • Your claim is for suicide or attempted suicide
  • Your claim is caused by an act of war, rebellion or insurrection
  • Your claim arises due to error or omissions in your booking or travel arrangements
  • You fail to obtain the appropriate visa for the country you are visiting
  • You fail to follow the road rules in the country you are in

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Richard Laycock

Richard is the senior insurance writer at finder.com.au and is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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