While no one wants to think about things going wrong, a 2016 survey conducted by Smarttraveller showed that over 90% of Australians get travel insurancewhen they go overseas. When weighing up whether or not you need travel insurance, you might want to consider these factors:
You're not covered by Medicare when you're overseas. The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement can cover you for some expenses in some countries, but you could still end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills if something goes wrong.
Even a single night in hospital can be exorbitantly expensive. Will, one of the publishers at finder offers a real-life example: he broke his ankle while travelling in Peru. Two weeks in hospital, surgery and flights home cost AUD$41,000. Check out just how much it costs to stay in different hospitals per day around the world.
Travel insurance can cover you for more than just medical bills. Cancelled flights as well as lost, damaged or stolen luggage and valuables are frustrating and costly. Why risk losing thousands when you can get peace of mind for as little as the cost of a few drinks?
You could end up in serious debt. Hefty hospital bills and repatriation home could leave you and your family hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. The Australian government shared a case study where a woman had to borrow money from her children to cover $90,000 in medical bills.
Travel insurance is compulsory for some countries. You're required to have travel insurance in order to gain entry into some countries, including Cuba, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
The government can't help with your bills. Even though the Australian government offers consular services in countries, they cannot pay for medical services.
Your credit card travel insurance might not be enough. The included insurance with your credit card can often have lower cover amounts, higher out-of-pocket excess amounts and exclude certain activities (such as skiing or adventure sports). Domestic travel is also generally not covered. Check out our list of pros and cons of buying standalone versus credit card travel insurance.
Not sure where to begin? Let our guides help you choose
"Sorting out comprehensive travel insurance should be one of the first tasks on a traveller’s pre-departure checklist."
Source: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), 2017
What are four important travel insurance features?
Here are four key features to review when comparing policies. Don't leave home without them.
This provides cover for emergency evacuation and treatment overseas if you suffer a serious illness or injury.
What am I actually covered for?
Emergency medical, surgical and hospital treatment
Costs of your return to Australia if necessary
Costs of extra accommodation if medically necessary and you are unable to return home
Emergency dental treatment
Daily allowance for hospital stay
When won’t I be covered?
Treatment that can be undertaken back in Australia
Unnecessary hospital costs
Medical losses following cosmetic treatment
Expenses more than 12 months from the date you first received treatment for the injury
Claims related to pregnancy unless related to unforeseen complications
Treatment for a condition you were aware of when taking out cover
Costs for injuries sustained while partaking in sports not covered in the product disclosure statement (PDS)
This provides cover for cancellation fees as well as for prepaid deposits you made for travel and accommodation that you are not able to recover if your journey is cancelled or shortened.
What am I actually covered for?
Trip cancellation insurance will cover transport tickets, pre-booked accommodation and travel agent fees that are not recoverable. You will only be covered if the reason for the cancellation is outside of your control. You will have cover for the following reasons:
You or a member of your family passes away
Your travel operator goes bankrupt
You suffer a serious illness or injury
You are made redundant
You are required to stay in Australia following a natural disaster or burglary at your home or business within 48 hours of when you were supposed to leave
When won’t I be covered?
The cancellation is due to a pre-existing condition (either yours or that of a relative) that you were aware of when purchasing the policy
You have business, financial or contractual obligations (excluding being made redundant)
Your tour operator reschedules because there were not enough people for the tour to go ahead
You failed to obtain the necessary passport or visa required for your planned trip
Specified items listed at the time of your insurance application
Items stolen from concealed storage departments of an unoccupied vehicle
When won't I be covered?
You fail to report the loss, theft or damage to your insurance brand or appropriate authority within 24 hours
Your items were checked in to be held and transported in the cargo hold of a transport carrier
Your items were left unattended when the loss occurred
Your items were being sent unaccompanied
Your items were left in the car overnight
Damage is the result of cleaning, repair or alteration
You do not provide appropriate evidence when making the claim, such as receipts, valuation documents and police reports
This provides cover for delays and cancellations that are beyond your control, such as missing your flight home after your train to the airport was cancelled because of a storm. Travel delay cover can help you manage some of the additional expenses that may arise as a result, such as accommodation or additional transport. You will only be covered for the price of the original fare.
What am I actually covered for?
You miss your flight because you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident
You miss your connecting flight following a natural disaster or extreme weather that has occurred after you have taken out your policy
You suffer a medical condition (non-pre-existing) and are not fit to travel. This must be verified by a medical practitioner
When won't I be covered?
Where your airline is responsible for paying compensation. This may include mechanical delays or if the flight has been overbooked
You miss your flight due to events that could have been reasonably avoided, for example, if you left your bag at the hotel or got caught in traffic
Who are you travelling with? Need a family policy with free child cover or that will also cover your spouse?
Are you travelling with a large group? (You might be able to get a discount.)
Are you not returning home to Australia? Most insurers will require you to depart from and return to Australia in order to take out cover, although a few insurers will provide cover if you are planning on staying on elsewhere.
3. How long are you travelling for? Are you a frequent traveller?
If you travel often, an annual policy might be more affordable and convenient. Just be aware of the maximum period of travel permitted for individual trips (usually 30-90 days).
4. Know what to look for when choosing your policy:
Make sure you check out the range of benefits and the maximum payment for each claim.
How much will you be paid if your luggage or valuables are lost, stolen or damaged?
What won’t you be covered for? There are some countries, sports and activities that are not covered by travel insurance.
Are any medical conditions you have covered automatically?
Already overseas? Only certain policies will cover you if you are already overseas, and there is usually a waiting period of about 7 days before your cover is activated.
How flexible is your policy? Can you amend or extend cover easily enough? Most single-trip policies only provide cover for up to 12 months. If you wish to extend the period of cover, you will usually need to contact the insurer to give your reasons for extending the policy and pay the additional premium.
Really? I could have sworn I was covered for that!
The last thing you need is to be left stranded overseas if your claim is rejected. Know exactly what you are covered for and avoid a nasty surprise at claim time.
Had a few drinks? Jumped on a moped after a few drinks and ended up hitting a ditch in downtown Kuta? Yep, you’re not covered. Insurers do not pay claims that arise while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Renting a motorcycle or moped? You’re only covered if you have a current Australian motorcycle licence and you wear a helmet. Also, the moped's engine needs to be under the capacity specified by the insurer, usually under 50cc.
Hang-gliding or jumping out of a plane? Not all activities will be automatically covered. Each insurer will have a list of high-risk pursuits that are excluded from cover, which are specified in the PDS. Find out what these are and if you need to purchase any additional cover.
Lost an expensive item? Policies will have limits applied to what will be paid for an item, which may not measure up to what it's worth. Consider getting specified cover to protect expensive items.
Had to pay more once you returned home? You’re only covered for expenses incurred while on your trip overseas, not once you have returned home to Australia. For example, Will was surprised to find out his physiotherapist and specialist appointments were not covered by his policy after he returned to Australia.
Ended up in a war zone or a riot? Very few insurers cover claims that are the result of you travelling to a country under a travel advisory issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading (DFAT) or other warning issued by the government or mass media. This may include strikes, riots, bad weather, civil unrest, contagious diseases, epidemics, pandemics, or threats of epidemics or pandemics. Claims that arise while you're in a country under a do-not-travel warning will not be covered.
Left your bag in the back of the taxi? Most insurers do not cover theft if you did not take reasonable care to protect your belongings. Insurers do not cover theft of expensive items that have been left unattended.
Final stages of pregnancy? Generally, insurers exclude cover for complications that arise past the 26th week of pregnancy, although the specifics of cover do vary from one insurer to the next. Some insurers only provide cover for up to 23 weeks while others may cover up to 32 weeks. Always check your PDS before purchasing.
Waited too long before contacting your insurer or making a claim? Most insurers will require you to notify them of any event leading to a claim within a certain time period, some even as quickly as 24 hours after the event. Find out what this period is and the maximum period of time following your journey that you can lodge a claim (usually about 30 days).
Still unclear on a few things? Here are some answers to questions you might have.
1. Purchasing your policy
It's time to think about purchasing your travel insurance as soon as you have booked any part of your trip, so that your prepaid costs and deposits are covered in the event of cancellations or if your travel company or airline goes bust. You will still only pay for the period of travel you have taken out cover for.
Yes. There are a number of insurers that will provide cover if you have already left. A waiting period of about seven days will usually apply.
Yes. There are some policies that will provide cover for children under 18 who are travelling without an adult. Cover will generally be the same price as an adult policy.
Yes. There are insurers that offer cover for one-way trips. The journey will usually have to start in Australia and restrictions may apply for different age groups.
The price shown is for all travellers provided they fall within the restrictions of the total number of travellers allowed for that policy. When you get a quote that lists all the different travellers' ages, the quote shown is for everyone and not just one person.
You can add additional cover such as cover for specific sports, high-value items or extensions such as destination wedding travel insurance on the insurer's website before entering your trip details.
Yes. You should take your policy with you as it provides you with information and emergency telephone numbers that you may need in the event of an emergency that may require you to make a claim. Your travel insurance document can provide the following details:
What evidence you will require for your claim to be approved
Your policy number
What you are actually covered for
Your insurers emergency contact details
2. Choosing the right option
When entering your trip details on the finder.com.au quote engine at the top of this page, you can either enter the countries or cities you are visiting or choose the region you are travelling to. Insurers offer policies by region, not by specific countries. The exception is if you are travelling within Australia, in which case you would choose Australia or Domestic as your destination.
Yes. For example, if you choose “Europe” as the region you're travelling to, you will be covered for all European countries, although you may not be covered for countries that are not considered to be within Europe. You will still only pay what it would cost if you were travelling to just one country within Europe. If travelling in multiple regions, you may want to choose a Worldwide policy.
Some brands offer duo policies, which can be much more affordable and convenient than taking out two separate policies. A duo policy will cover both you and your travelling partner under a single policy. There is usually a reduced amount of cover provided for each cover feature for each traveller.
You will need to ensure that your policy provides cover for every destination that you will be visiting as part of your trip. Not all insurers will cover cruises, so do your research and find out which insurers offer cruise travel insurance. You may need to select the Worldwide region.
If you are taking a cruise in Australian waters, you may still want to get a Worldwide policy with the Pacific region because you won’t be covered for medical events by your private health insurance or Medicare in international waters.
Travel insurance does not cover costs associated with you being involved in a car accident or if the vehicle is stolen. This is a separate policy that you take out with the car hire company.
Conditions around travel insurance for working overseas vary between insurers. Generally, you will not be covered for injuries sustained if the work is labour-intensive or high-risk. It’s crucial to know exactly how you will be covered if you're looking to work overseas.
Yes, all family members listed on the policy will be covered for travel on separate trips by themselves (except if they are dependent children travelling alone).
No. Your insurer won't cover follow-up treatment for injuries or illnesses sustained overseas after you return home to Australia.
Yes, provided you were not aware of the condition and not seeking treatment related to the condition prior to taking out cover. You will be covered for trip cancellation as a result of the condition.
Travel insurance does cover theft, but there are conditions for when a claim will be paid. You must not have left the items unattended, and you must obtain an official police statement within 24 hours of the theft taking place.
Some policies will provide cover for hijackings, but most policies exclude claims related to terrorism if you are travelling to a destination that has been issued with a warning against travel.
5. Making a claim
You should contact your insurer's emergency medical assistance service as soon as possible. This service should be available 24 hours a day. The insurer will work with local medical providers and services to ensure you receive the attention required.
Generally, you should make a claim within 30 days of returning home.
It will depend on the nature of the condition. For major procedures where the bill is significant, you should be able to contact your insurer to authorise payment. Where the condition is not as serious, treatment should be paid and receipted. In any case, you must obtain a medical certificate showing the nature of the condition or illness.
If deemed necessary, your insurer will cover the costs to bring you home to Australia to receive medical treatment. Either Medicare or your private health insurer then covers medical costs.
Generally, the insurer will require you to have some kind of proof of purchase in order to make a claim for expensive items. Such proof may include receipts or valuation certificates. It’s worth checking the conditions around what will be required prior to making a claim.
What companies offer travel insurance in Australia?
Check out our review of various travel insurance providers in Australia, so you can compare and make an informed decision. While we try our best to keep this list up to date, it may not be a comprehensive listing of every single insurance company, and may become out of date as brands merge, new brands are introduced or other changes take place. And although we take all reasonable measures to ensure our published content is accurate, complete and current at the time of publication, information can change quickly, so it's always best to refer to the PDS before buying anything.
Take care not to leave your items unattended while travelling.
Tag your luggage with your contact details appropriately.
Take photos of expensive items to help describe lost items.
Ensure you have travel locks secured to your items.
Find accommodation that offers adequate security for expensive items, such as a room safe or luggage locker at hostels.
Trip cancellation and lost deposits
In the period from July 2013 to June 2014, claims for cancellation fees and lost deposits were the most commonly received claim by Teachers Health Fund Travel Insurance, with more than $170,000 paid out.
Easy Travel Insurance lists cancellations as one of the more common claims it receives.
Figures from the Association of British Insurers also reveal that cancellations represented 34% of all travel insurance claims received in 2012.
Steps to avoid a claim
Take out travel insurance as soon as you make any significant bookings to ensure you are covered for cancellations in the period leading up to your trip.
Keep evidence of any significant bookings made with your travel agent.
Keep copies of transactions made for flight, tour or accommodation bookings.
Overseas medical expenses
Medical expenses made up 37% of claims received by InsureandGo in 2013.
Medical and hospital expenses came in second on Teachers Health Fund Travel Insurance’s list of the top claims from July 2013 to June 2014. Medical claims made up 56% of the total cost of travel insurance claims paid.
Steps to avoid a claim
Be aware of any medical risks such as diseases or unsanitary water and food in the country you are travelling to. Find out what shots are necessary to avoid infection.
Be wise about where you are eating or drinking and avoid local spots where the risk of illness may be increased.
Bring the necessary medication for any pre-existing conditions. You may find it difficult or very expensive to purchase the same medication overseas.
Take necessary precautions to avoid serious injury if participating in sports and activities.
Travel delays and alternative transport
In September 2015, a FlightStats study of 36 major international airports revealed that more than 20% of all departures at 16 of those airports were delayed.
Less than 80% of domestic flight departures in Australia left on time in March 2013, according to figures from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
Steps to avoid a claim
Contact your airline in the days prior to and on the day of your flight to find out if there have been any adjustments to the flight schedule.
If a weather warning is issued, contact your airline to find out if your flight is likely to be affected.
Follow luggage restrictions and get to the airport well ahead of your flight.
Lost or stolen money/cards
Money claims represented 5% of all travel claims received by the Association of British Insurers in 2012.
Steps to avoid a claim
Invest in a travel pouch or wallet to conceal cards and cash.
When travelling on public buses or trains, keep your luggage with valuables secure on your lap.
Keep travel cards separate from one another to ensure you always have a backup.
It’s really not worth leaving out details of an old medical condition or activity you might be doing in order to save a few extra dollars. Insurance companies will take the time to ensure that your claim is genuine and that you were truthful at the time of application.
Read the important stuff
You might not read 10 different product disclosure statements cover to cover, but at the very least read through the exclusions and cover benefits section so you know when you will and won’t be covered. It’s also worth checking out the claims section so you know exactly what you will need to provide and who to contact in the event of a claim. Here's more on how to lodge a successful claim.
Know the excess you will be charged
Excess charges can vary greatly between insurers and will generally range between $50 and $250. You will be charged an excess for each individual claim you make under the policy.
Know what you will be paid for the loss of valuable items
Most policies will have a sub-limit for individual items, such as $500 per item. If you are taking out additional cover for expensive items, make sure you know the maximum amount your insurer will pay for multiple items in the event of a claim.
Keep an eye out for discounts
Competition between insurers for your business means there are some great chances to lock down great savings and bonus gifts.
*Finder.com.au has access to policy discounts of up to 10% with certain providers.
Travel insurer pays claims worth "more than three times the deposit of an average house in Sydney". Read more…
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