Travel insurance guide: Asia
Travelling through Asia? Find travel insurance for your journey through the exotic east.
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Important:Travel insurance rules continue to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re working hard to keep up and make sure our guides are up to date, however some information may not be accurate during the pandemic. It’s even more important to double-check all details that matter to you before taking out cover. Please know that some policies may not be available through Finder at this time. Here are some helpful tips:
- If you're buying a policy today, it's unlikely that you'll be covered for border closures
- If your travel plans go against government advice, your policy will most likely be voided and you won't be covered
Do I need travel insurance for Asia?
While Asia is close destination to Australia, there are many differences in safety that cause an unsuspecting traveller grief. Travel insurance can protect you from the following:
- Emergency medical expenses
- Cancellation fees and lost deposits
- Lost and stolen personal items
- Personal liability
- And more
Continue reading our guide useful safety tips and travel insurance information for Asia, or if you're ready:
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Asia is a made up of a mix of countries with different safety concerns.
- Safety concerns for female travellers. The Department of Foreign and Affairs and Trading (DFAT) has warned female travellers to take caution parts of Asia including India. Travellers to India are often subject to unwanted attention and in some cases serious harassment and assault.
- Risk of disease. Travel to some parts of Asia leave you vulnerable to disease uncommon to Australia. For instance, if you're going to Japan, then it is vital to get a vaccination for Japanese rabies.
- Pollution. Regions of Asia, most notably China are known for severe pollution. Pollution can be impose health risks on travellers, particularly children, the elderly and travellers with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions.
- Food poisoning. Part of Asia, especially South-East Asia, have poorer food standards compared to Australia. Indulging in local street food or even having ice in your drink can lead to food poisoning if you're not careful.
- Political unrest and civil conflict. DFAT warns against travel to particular regions of Asian countries that are currently undergoing civil conflicts. For instance, Southern Thailand close to the border of Malaysia has been reported to have daily violence in recent years including shooting and bombings.
- Strict drug laws. Most Asian countries have strict drug laws, yet drugs are abundant in the black market. The availability of illegal drugs creates a dangerous trap, that sadly many Australian travellers fall into.
So should I avoid travelling to Asia?
There are major safety concerns in Asia, but this doesn't mean you should avoid travelling to this amazing part of the world. Make sure you:
When looking for travel insurance for Asia, you need to find a policy that provides cover in several important areas. These include:
- Medical and health issues. In many parts of Asia, you may only have access to basic health care, so getting professional treatment if you suffer an illness or injury can be hugely expensive. The medical cover provided by your insurer should include things such as emergency cover, inpatient and outpatient care, prescriptions and surgery.
- Property theft or loss. Petty crime such as theft can be widespread in some Asian countries, so you need to insure your belongings in case they are lost or stolen.
- Trip interruption or cancellation. Delays and cancellations can and do happen, particularly in Asian countries such as mainland China, so you need cover that will compensate you if your travel arrangements are interrupted or delayed and you suffer financially as a result.
- Emergency medical evacuation. If you are badly injured or severely ill and need to be evacuated back to Australia, this can cost tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, so medical evacuation insurance is a vital part of any travel insurance policy for Asia.
Asia is famous among Australian travellers for its delicious and varied cuisine. However, some Asian countries have much lower standards of food hygiene than Australia, so it’s not uncommon for visitors to Asia to come down with a bout of food poisoning.
Yes, you're covered for medical expenses
If you're unlucky enough to suffer a nasty case of food poisoning, travel insurance can cover the overseas medical and hospital expenses you incur. Your hip pocket doesn’t have to suffer along with your stomach.
Some policies cover changes to your trip and more
If your doctor advises you to stay in hospital for travel destination for a few days to recover, you can get cover for:
- Additional accommodation costs
- Cancellation fees or reimburse you for pre-paid trip expenses (travel, accommodation, tours etc) you’re unable to use.
- A daily allowance while you are hospitalised to help you cover incidental expenses such as phone calls, newspapers and TV rental.
The unexpected cost of bad food
Australian tourist Craig thought the family-run restaurant in a Hong Kong alley looked clean enough, and the seafood noodle dish he devoured for lunch certainly tasted delicious. But when Craig woke up after a nap in his hotel room a couple of hours later and needed to rush to the toilet, he knew he’d made a big mistake.
With severe vomiting and diarrhoea plus a fever and other flu-like symptoms, Craig was diagnosed with a bad case of food poisoning and ended up spending two nights on a drip in hospital. After being discharged from hospital, Craig’s doctor also recommended that he stay on in Hong Kong for a few extra days to recover, meaning Craig had additional accommodation expenses to cover and also that he missed his flight to Tokyo and two nights of pre-booked accommodation.
Luckily, Craig had taken out comprehensive travel insurance cover for food poisoning before departing on his trip.
- Hospital accommodation: $1,440 (2 nights @ $720 a night)
- Medical treatment: $500
- Hospital incidentals: $40
- Extra accommodation in Hong Kong: $450 (3 nights @ $150 a night)
- Unused airline ticket: $220
- Unused accommodation in Tokyo: $400 (2 nights @ $200 a night)
Total cost covered:
Cost of travel insurance
Purchasing a $110 travel insurance policy ensured that food poisoning didn’t leave Craig more than $3,000 out of pocket.
In order to get travel insurance cover riding a motor bike or a moped, you will need to follow the road laws of the country you're visiting.
You will need an Australian motor bike licence
Asian countries require you to have a licence of some kind to ride a motor bike, usually an equivalent Australian motorbike licence.
Can I just use my car license?
An Australian car licence is not enough, as it must be a motor bike licence and you will need to obtain it before you leave home. Although it's easy simply hire a motor bike from a street vendor without a motorbike license, if you're injured, your travel insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident.
Some countries require a local motor bike license
Some countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam require you to have a valid local motorbike licence as well. In these countries you will need to pay about $40 and pass a riding test before you can head out legally on two wheels.
There’s a misconception among some travellers that travel insurance isn’t an essential inclusion for a trip to Asia. After all, Asia is cheap and does seem like pretty safe destination, right?
Common misconceptions about Asia
1. Asia is safer than most of the world
From petty crime to violent crime, to natural disasters and even terrorism, there are plenty of travel risks you may encounter in Asia.
2. The cost of a hospital will be cheap
Don’t be fooled into thinking hospitals in Asia are cheap. A finder.com.au study of the 20 most popular destinations for Aussie travellers revealed Singapore as the most expensive place in the world to spend a night in hospital. You’ll usually need to provide proof of travel insurance with medical coverage or some guarantee of payment before you will be admitted to hospital.
When you take the risks and potential costs into consideration, travel insurance for Asia really is essential.
Food, accommodation and a range of other items are ridiculously cheap in many Asian countries, so some travellers make the mistake of thinking that healthcare will simply be affordable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Without travel insurance, you run the risk of relying on poor facilities
The quality of medical facilities varies greatly between major cities and rural areas in Asia. If you suffer an injury or illness in some parts of Asia, for example in rural Thailand, the best option may be to medically evacuate you to the nearest appropriate medical facility or even repatriate you to Australia. This can be a very expensive operation.
Travel insurance can cover both:
- Overseas medical and hospital expenses in Asia
- Cost of medical evacuation and repatriation if required e.g. if there's no adequate treatment or facilities in your vicinity
Yes you can. If you don’t want to pay for the broad range of benefits provided by a comprehensive travel insurance policy, consider a medical-only travel insurance policy:
In some Asian countries, theft is a common problem for travellers. According to Smart Traveller, this is particularly true for:
- Tourist hot spots
- Major train stations
These policy features can cover you
Look for a policy that has these features:
- Theft of cash. This covers stolen cash (and credit card fraud in some cases).
- Luggage and personal effects. This covers the theft of items such laptops, cameras (including GoPros), phones, golf clubs and your bags.
Yes, you can get cover for Russia.
Selecting your region
Most policies will typically include Russia in the same region as Asia. You should however always double check before you apply for your policy as Russia may be included in the 'Worldwide' region.
How do I find the cheapest policy?
Here are some easy ways to get cheap travel insurance for Asia.
- Policy coupons and deals. View travel insurance deals on finder.com.au.
- Medical only travel insurance. If you're only concerned about medical expenses, consider a medical-only travel insurance policy.
- Group policies for multiple people. Some policies offer discounts to large travel groups.
- Free cover for kids. Some policies offer free cover for dependents under the age of 21.
You can find more ways to get cheap travel insurance here.
Getting the most out of your policy
Once you have purchased your travel insurance for Asia, you need to make sure you get the most from it, so that if anything untoward was to happen, you would be assured of receiving a benefit when you made a claim. Things you can do to ensure you get the most from your cover include:
- Keeping good records. Records can include listing your personal belongings and valuables, keeping receipts, as they may be required when making a claim and making a copy of your policy and leaving it in a safe place at home.
- Having all the relevant emergency numbers. Keep these in case you need to make a claim while overseas.
- Making sure you get a police report. This report will be required by your insurer if you are victim of crime.
- Checking the latest Smartraveller advisory reports. Travelling against Australian government advice can void your insurance cover, so make sure you follow reports for the destinations you're visiting.
Follow these tips while in Asia
The only thing better than having travel insurance is having an uneventful trip and not having to claim on it. With that in mind, here are some handy tips when travelling in Asia.
- If you are hiring a car or motor bike, make sure you have a licence to drive it in the country you are visiting (either an international driving licence or equivalent Australian licence).
- When driving in Asia, do what the locals do, know where you’re going and know what the road rules are.
- When shopping, leave your jewellery in the hotel safe, as you may attract pickpockets and thieves and it is also harder to get a bargain when you are displaying obvious wealth.
- Avoid too much sun, as the symptoms are similar to ‘Bali belly’ (fever, nausea and diarrhoea).
- Drink bottled water and don’t eat local food from market stalls, unless you are confident about its origins and the way it has been prepared.
- Carry your money in a money belt and your handbag close to your body to prevent bag snatchers and don’t make a show of money or valuables.
- Avoid taxis that have no markings or ones that don’t switch on their meters when you get in.
- If you’re in a bar or club, make sure your drink never leaves your sight to avoid drink spiking.
If you find yourself in an emergency in the Asia, some useful contacts include:
- You travel insurer. You insurance provider will have an 24/7 helpline for claims and medical emergencies.
- Australian Embassies and Consulates. You can find the contact details of Australian Embassies and Consulates in Asia below.
Questions you may still have about travel insurance
Q: What does travel insurance cover?
A: It can cover you for unexpected events, including medical emergencies, lost or stolen luggage and travel delays.
Q: What is an ‘existing medical condition’?
A: Any defect, condition, disease or illness that has been diagnosed or treated by a doctor 90 days or less before taking out travel cover.
Q: Can I get travel insurance if I am pregnant?
A: Yes, you can normally get cover for up to the 26th week of pregnancy, but cover is not provided for childbirth expenses, only for unexpected serious complications.
Q: Does travel insurance cover my luggage?
A: Yes, but you must take all reasonable precautions to avoid any loss or damage, report any loss or damage within 24 hours and obtain a police report before making a claim.
Q: Am I covered by travel insurance if I work overseas?
A: No. Most travel insurance is designed for leisure travellers and does not cover events linked to overseas employment. You would need to take out special cover for this, or ensure you are covered by your employer’s insurance.
Q: Can I get a refund on my travel insurance?
A: If you cancel your policy usually within 15 days of issue you can get a full refund, as long as you have not started your journey or made a claim.
Q: What kind of documents do I need to make a claim?
A: You may need original documents such as medical reports, police reports, invoices and receipts, depending on the nature of the claim.
Get travel insurance for your holiday to Asia in minutes
Travelling to Asia is a life-changing experience for many people. The fascinating cultures, friendly people and incredible scenery draw thousands of Australians to places like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and China every year. And the travel insurance they take out before they leave performs a vital role in helping to ensure that they return with wonderful memories, rather than horror stories and debts they can’t afford to pay.
*Price based on quote for basic policy for a 2 day trip for 18 year old traveller. Please note that prices are subject to change. Price last checked as correct on October 2015.
*The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.
Picture: ShutterstockPicture: GettyImages
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