New Zealand travel bubble: Should I get travel insurance?
Find out which insurers offer coronavirus benefits in Australia — and what to watch out for.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will begin on 19 April. The travel bubble will allow Australians to go overseas for the first time in over a year, but travellers need to plan ahead to avoid being hit in the pocket if something goes wrong.
"[T]hose undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware. People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak," Ardern told the media.
We found 5 Australian travel insurers who provide some cover for COVID-19
We analysed 15 different insurance policies and found that only 5 cover some pandemic-related expenses. These brands make direct references to COVID-19 in their product disclosure statements (PDS) or websites.
|Brand||COVID-19 expenses||Cooling off period||Overseas medical expenses||Theft or damage to luggage||Standard excess||Apply|
|15 days||Unlimited||$15,000||$250||Get quote|
|15 days||Unlimited||$15,000||$250||More info|
|21 days||Unlimited||$15,000||$100||More info|
|21 days||Unlimited||$15,000||$250||More info|
|21 days||Unlimited||$15,000||$250||More info|
Trans-Tasman travel insurance: What won't be covered
Travel insurance won't cover certain COVID-19-related travel disruptions within the bubble, such as government-enforced border closures, lockdowns or travel delays.
This means that if you book a trip, you won't be covered for cancellations if a travel restriction comes into place — though airlines such as Qantas will offer flight changes, credits or refunds if a flight is cancelled.
COVID-19: What travel insurance can cover
However, there are still ways that travel insurance can help. According to Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) chief executive Tim Grafton, "some policies may include cover for specific COVID-19 claims such as cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19 and can't travel, costs to return home if a relative gets sick with COVID-19 or costs if you get sick with COVID-19 and need to quarantine while overseas."
Grafton also said some may cover reasonable costs if the person you are supposed to stay with gets the virus and you need to find alternative accommodation.
Of course, this is what the ICNZ are saying. But what about us Australians?
Australian insurers are offering similar travel insurance benefits to their customers. Here's the gist on when you could be covered:
- You're diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical practitioner while on your New Zealand trip (provided it is marked safe by Smartraveller).
- You're diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to your departure and are no longer able to travel.
- You're an essential healthcare worker and your leave is revoked because of COVID-19.
- You are forced to change or cancel your trip because a relative or business partner is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical practitioner and it is considered life-threatening.
- The person you're due to stay with in New Zealand is diagnosed with COVID-19 or made to quarantine and you can no longer stay with them.
- The accommodation or venue you planned to stay at is closed because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
- You are diagnosed with COVID-19 during your trip and are ordered into a period of quarantine or isolation.
- You pass away on your trip due to COVID-19.
These are just the coronavirus-related expenses covered by certain travel insurers.
When you travel to New Zealand, a travel insurance policy will still cover you for all the usual risks, such as lost, stolen or damaged luggage; medical expenses if you get sick or injured; or cancelling your trip for reasons outside of your control.
It can't cover government-imposed travel restrictions, but it can make sure you're not out of pocket for lots of other really common situations.
Pandemic exclusions "a fact of life" with travel cover
Finder's travel expert Angus Kidman commented:
The key lesson is that travel insurance won't cover you for all pandemic-related crises. Don't assume cancellation cover will help if travel between Australia and New Zealand is suspended. Finder's analysis shows that simply isn't the case. Pandemic exclusions are a fact of life with travel insurance.
That doesn't mean zero cover, though. Many policies will cover some health costs if you're infected with coronavirus yourself. It's important to be clear what's included, and check the PDS for your policy before signing up.
And remember – travel insurance isn't just about COVID-19. Cover for lost luggage or other unexpected medical crises is still really important.
New Zealand travel is definitely tempting after months of lockdown, but I won't be setting foot on a plane there without travel insurance and some emergency cash.”