Travelling through Asia? Find travel insurance for your journey through the exotic east
Asia offers the traveller an exotic mix of cultures, religions, history and cuisine and every year thousands of Australians head overseas to experience the Asian way of life. But while Asia can be fascinating, it can also be unpredictable and you should take some precautions before heading overseas.
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.
Other requirements to be aware of
You will also need to wear appropriate safety gear, including a helmet and protective clothing and not ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or else your travel insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident. You may also need to pay more for motor bike cover, so check your policy carefully before you leave Australia.
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.
Is there a limit on the value of items covered?
Insurers will impose a maximum limit on the amount of cover they will provide for stolen items and also will impose sub-limits on the amount they will pay for certain items such as laptops and cameras, for example:
- A total limit of $5,000 for stolen items
- A sub-limit of $3,000 for stolen cameras.
What if my policy’s cover limits are too low?
Consider purchasing additional high value item cover for specified items you’re taking on your trip.
When won’t I be covered?
Most policies won’t cover you if you leave your camera or valuables unattended in a public place and it is stolen.
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.
Is the cheapest policy the best policy?
Not necessarily. Instead of looking at just price, it pays to ask yourself the following questions
- What are the limits of coverage? Is the cover provided in each of the areas mentioned above enough to pay all the potential costs involved?
- How much is the excess you will have to pay? (the amount you must contribute to a claim). Paying a larger excess to reduce the premium is hardly worth it if the cost of the item being claimed for is less than the excess you must pay.
- Will the policy cover all my activities? If you plan to go trekking in Vietnam for instance, make sure your travel insurance policy can cover the activity.
- Does it cover all of the countries you plan to visit in Asia? If it doesn’t, you could find yourself uninsured in these countries, even if you are only stopping over for a day or two.
- Does it cover frequently stolen items such as cameras and laptops? If so, is the cover provided sufficient to replace them?
These are only a few of the things you should look for when comparing travel insurance policies and it is a good idea to seek professional advice from a travel agent or insurance broker if you are at all unsure about what is and is not covered.
The type and amount of cover you choose for travel in Asia will depend on your particular circumstances, so here are some additional questions you should ask yourself before you buy.
- What are your insurance needs? For example, if you are a student travelling to Asia for an extended period, your insurance needs will be vastly different from a family going to Bali for a week or two.
- What countries are you visiting? The quality, availability and cost of medical services in various countries will determine how much medical cover you will need (Japan is the most expensive).
- Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions? You will need to tell your insurance provider about these and they may cost you more or not be coverable, depending on the insurer.
- Will you be engaging in any extreme sports or dangerous activities while you are away? If so, you will need to take out extra cover for these and some may not be insurable.
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.
When won't I be covered?
Like any insurance policy, travel insurance policies contain exclusions for which the insurer will not provide cover and you need to read these carefully when buying travel insurance. Typical exclusions in travel insurance policies include:
- Theft of unattended luggage – definitions of ‘unattended’ vary with insurers, so the onus is on you to make sure you keep your belongings close by and don’t leave them with people you don’t know.
- Irresponsible behaviour - any reckless behaviour such as acts committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Non-disclosure – having prior knowledge of any circumstance or information that you knew could give rise to a claim that you did not disclose to your insurer when taking out the policy.
- Illegal behaviour – any acts such as ignoring or breaking government prohibitions or regulations, including visa requirements.
- Actions by a government authority – any claims resulting from a foreign government confiscating, detaining or destroying anything.
- Acts of war – any claims arising from war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection or military coups.
- Suicide or attempted suicide.
- Pre-existing medical conditions, unless included in the policy.
- Adventure activities, unless specifically included, such as skiing, sailing, polo, rock climbing, contact sports, skydiving or hang gliding.
- Underwater diving, unless you have an Australian licence or are diving with a licensed instructor.
- Any air travel not in a licensed passenger aircraft.
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.