Do I need travel insurance for studying, working and travelling abroad? A guide to travel insurance for students.
You may be eligible for complimentary travel insurance through your university but what you might not know is that it probably won't cover you for personal travel outside of your study period as well your personal needs. The right travel insurance can give you peace of mind against the risks that arise on an extended stay in an overseas country including:
- Overseas medical expenses. This includes hospital guarantees, daily hospital allowances, dental treatments, and emergency ambulance fees
- Loss or damage to luggage and personal items. Whether you are moving through different countries or staying in an overseas college dorm you can potentially lose or damage your luggage and other valuables
- Trip cancellations. It is common for travelling students to need to cancel pre-made travel arrangements due to unforeseen circumstances resulting in cancellation charges for pre-book flights and accommodation
- Travel money losses. Managing your finances overseas is no small feat. Unfortunately some of the most common losses faced by students travelling overseas are related to their finances including replacing credit cards as well as theft of cash and money orders
- Personal liability claims. Travelling students can find themselves in situations where they are liable for bodily injury or property damage to another person, resulting in undesirable legal costs
- Unexpected returns home. It is not uncommon for travelling students to need to cut their travels short due to unforeseen circumstances back home. Such circumstances can include the loss or serious illness or injury of a loved one
Continue reading this article for an overview of what to look for in your student travel insurance policy or if you are ready to compare policies:
Who offers travel insurance for studying abroad?
1. Default health insurance from your destination school
In most cases, if you’re studying overseas, your destination university will require you to use its own health insurance plan to cover any medical expenses you incur while overseas. This includes cover for medical repatriation and personal liability cover.
2. Additional travel insurance
The main advantage of getting your own travel insurance plan is that it's cover can be extended past your semester of study and to any extra travels you partake in. Combining the two insurance plans gives you cover that meets the universities requirements and lets you have cover for travel after.
|Typical benefits||1. Destination school's health insurance||2. Travel insurance|
|Meets the health cover requirements of your destination school|
|Cover for the duration of your semester|
|Cover for any travel afterwards|
|Medical emergencies and hospital|
|Lost and damaged luggage|
|Personal items and theft|
So is low cost travel insurance cover enough?
In some cases, yes. Basic policies are generally much cheaper and will usually provide cover for;
- Overseas medical expenses
- Loss/damage/theft of luggage and personal items
- Trip cancellation/Lost deposits
The table below shows three policies available through finder.com.au that offer a basic level of cover for the essentials. Please note this is not a complete list of the features provided and conditions for cover may vary between insurers;
|Feature||Go Insurance||Travel Insuranz||InsureandGo|
|Policy||Go Basic - Base||Classic||Bare Essentials|
|Overseas Emergency Medical Assistance||$10,000,000||N.A||Unlimited|
|Overseas Emergency Medical and Hospital Expenses||$10,000,000||$10,000,000||Unlimited|
|Cancellation and Lost Deposits||N.A||$2,500||N.A|
|Luggage and Personal Items||N.A||$2,500||$2,000|
It is important to cross check the with the waiver requirements of the overseas university. For example an American college may require you to have unlimited medical cover, whilst an arts school in Taiwan may only need $100,000 of medical coverage.
What level of cover should I get?
While comprehensive plans will be more expensive in comparison to the basic options they offer additional levels of cover for your money. That being said, some of the features of comprehensive plans such as car rental or domestic pets cover may not be relevant to a student. Taking the time to compare different student travel insurance options from Australian insurers can ensure you find cover that is not only affordable but also still give you an adequate amount of coverage.
You should consider a standalone travel insurance policy and here's why
While Australian universities will provide complimentary cover to outbound students for the duration of their study abroad, it's advisable to consider other forms of cover for the following reasons;
- Included insurance is generally designed for coverage related to your curriculum. The purpose of your trip is linked to the completion of your coursework. This may include clinical placements, student exchange and work experience abroad
- You may not be covered for periods of personal travel. Travel that you take before, during or after the study period, or travel may only be covered for a set duration e.g. 5 months when you are in fact, travelling, for 7 months.
- Limited region's. Universities are limited in the countries that they can provide cover for
- No coverage for multiple parties. Unlike travel insurance from a provider, your travelling companion is not usually covered
- Often restriction placed on period of cover. Most insurers will cover single trips up to 12 months in length
- No cover for sporting and adventure activities. You are generally don't have the flexibility to add adventure sports as an option
Always assess your travel plansIf you wish to be covered for any additional travel you are taking overseas, you should to take out additional cover.
Can I purchase cover for personal travel if I am already overseas?
There are a number of brands that will allow you to purchase cover if you're already overseas. However, most policies will require for your journey to finish in Australia. You will not be able to take out cover if you are just taking a short trip away during the semester break. Already overseas travel insurance may be a suitable option if you plan on taking a trip at the end of semester before returning to Australia.
Travel insurance is a useful asset for student athletes
While travel insurance will only protect you for non-competitive sports medical expenses, it is a useful asset to have as an athlete in case you encounter:
- Travel delays on your trips for competition
- Lost and stolen items
The medical expenses that arise from collegiate and amateur sports participation are generally covered by an athletes health insurance plan from the overseas university.
Take a look at Jarred, a university student from Queensland who heads overseas to California to study and hopefully start his career playing gridiron in the NCAA system. But on the school's second road trip, Jarred finds himself on the receiving end of a crushing tackle at training, leaving him with two broken ribs and a punctured lung.
As expected, the NCAA’s included "Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program" covered Jarred’s total medical expenses of $70,000. After spending a week in hospital, Jared was ready to fly back to the University of Illinois and see his teammates. To his shock however, the flight was delayed and Jarred was forced to spend another two days in airport accommodation. Luckily, Jared's travel insurance was able to cover these additional expenses, allowing him to focus on his recovery as opposed to sorting out bills, upon returning to his college.
It is normal for many travelling students on a budget to try to find some casual work overseas to give them greater flexibility while moving through different countries before studying. Such work may include:
It is critical if you are looking to work overseas that you have a clear understanding of how you are covered in the event you suffer a serious injury while participating in paid or unpaid work as the conditions for benefit payment can vary greatly. Many insurers place an exclusions on injuries that are sustained as a result of work that has been carried out overseas, stating the liability is then given to the employer to cover any necessary costs. Other insurers will cover paid work overseas provided it does not involve any manual labour or duties carrying a certain degree of risk. Is critical that you know exactly how injuries sustained in a working environment will be covered by the insurer.
While it may not be too exciting at the time, it is important to review the exclusions that are applied to your travel insurance policy before signing along the dotted line. Some common travel insurance exclusions that students get caught out by include:
- Dangerous sports and activities. Not all sports and activities are covered. It is worth checking to see what sports are excluded from cover in case you are planning to partake in any of them while travelling.
- Drugs and alcohol. STUDENTS BEWARE! Claims arising from incidents where the policyholder is under the influence of drugs or alcohol will generally not be covered.
- Negligent behaviour. Loss or damage to belongings that could have been avoided had the policyholder taken greater care will generally not be covered. As an example, leaving your laptop bag sitting on the park bench while you went to get a bottle of water will not be covered if a passerby plucks it up.
- Motorcycles and scooters. Looking to hire a moped? Student travellers must be aware that unless they have a valid Australian motorcycle license. If you are involved in an accident and the driver of the motorcycle does not have a valid license, you will not be covered.
- No proof? No refund. In order to pay claims for lost, stolen or damaged personal items, most insurers require some form of proof for the claim to be eligible. Such evidence may include:
There is no quick answer to the question of how much your student travel insurance policy will cost as it will come down to your own travel plans and cover requirements. Travel insurance quotes are based on;
- Duration. How long you plan to spend overseas
- Destination. Where you plan to travel. Trips with a higher level of risk will result in a higher premium
- The policy you choose. The actual policy you choose and its features will impact what you pay:
- range of built-in benefits
- additional cover options selected
- single or annual trip policy.
- Age. The older the traveller, the more expensive the policy
- Pre-existing medical conditions. Any pre-existing medical conditions will generally increase the cost of the cover
These factors combined will determine how much you will eventually pay for your cover. Obviously, extending the cover period while you are away will incur a fee.
- Destination: Europe
- Dates: November 14 2013 - November 13 2014 (12 months)
- Age: 21
- Comprehensive plan: $895
- Basic plan: $655
Without excess and registration of $1200 snowboard
- Comprehensive plan: $1,000
- Basic plan: $680
The example above should only be used as a general guide. Pricing may change significantly based on the insurer and any pre-existing medical conditions of the policyholder.
How can I save money on my policy?
It’s not surprising that with the budget constraints faced by many students, the cost of cover is a huge factor to consider when looking for the right policy. While price should obviously not be the sole factor between the policies you choose, it is still important to find a policy that is affordable and provides adequate cover.
Tips to find affordable student travel insurance
- How much cover am I actually going to need? You may not require the same benefit payment for certain losses than a middle-aged businessman travelling with his spouse. Cheaper policies will generally provide reduced benefit payments that may still be sufficient for your situation. However, it is important to be aware of what you may end up paying in excess in the event of a claim. In addition, you may not require a comprehensive range of benefits and decide that the cover provided under a basic or essentials plan is sufficient.
- What other cover might I already have in place? Assess if you already have any cover in place that you can fall back on. This may include cover from your university, home and contents insurance, transport carrier or health care provider.
- Should I get my policy through my travel agent? Airlines and travel agents are generally restricted in the number of travel insurance options they can offer to clients. What’s more, they sometimes charge a commission that is passed on to you when purchasing. Comparing cover online can ensure you are able to review a range of options from different providers and compare quotes from the ease of your own home.
- Should I look for deals online? The competitive nature of the travel insurance industry means providers are constantly offering exclusive promotions for premium discounts and other great incentives. Keeping an eye out for these promotions could mean you save as much as 20% on your policy.
Students looking to travel abroad will usually be given the option of taking out either single-trip cover or annual multi trip cover. The decision on what option to take out will really come down to the students travel plans and cover requirements.
Single-trip travel insurance
- provides cover for a single trip usually for a maximum of 12-18 months
- policy can be tailored to account for any special cover requirements that the student may have e.g. dangerous sports or cover for pre-existing conditions
- cover can generally be extended provided notice is given to provider at least seven days prior to the policy expiring.
What type of student is this policy for?
Single-trip policies are more suitable to those students looking to take a gap year to work or study abroad.
Annual travel insurance
- provides cover for an unlimited number of trips in a 12 month window
- trips can usually be between 30, 60 and 90 days in length
- one certificate of insurance provided, no need to purchase a separate policy for each trip
- cover for multiple trips can generally not be extended for periods longer than a year
- cover is generally more economical than a single trip policy, provided the policyholder travels at least three times per year.
What type of student is this policy for?
An annual multi-trip policy can be more suitable to students that are looking to take multiple and seperate trips away over a year
Q. Do I need to purchase the student travel insurance that is offered by my university?
A. Many universities will offer travel insurance to students or staff undertaking university business overseas. While this can be a good option, it is by no means compulsory to take out this cover for your trip. It is still worth comparing other options.
Q. Can I extend my policy if I want to extend my trip?
A. Most policies will allow you to extend your policy if you provide written notice before the expiration date. Most insurers will require you to provide at least 7 days of notice.
Q. Can I be covered for longer than 12 months?
A. Yes. There are a number of insurers in Australia that offer long stay travel insurance also marketed as "Backpacker Travel Insurance" that provides cover for up to 18 months.
Q. Can I take out travel insurance just for my belongings or flights?
A. Most insurers in Australia offer basic policy options to travellers that will provide a reduced level of cover. These policies will usually cover medical losses, trip cancellation and loss of valuables/luggage and are much more affordable than more comprehensive options.
Q. Do I need travel insurance from a travel insurance company as well as my university?
A. It will depend on your travel plans. Most university plans won't cover you for personal travel that you take outside of your study period.
Q. Can I take out cover if I am already overseas?
A. Yes. You may choose to take out a policy with an insurance provider you are visiting or take out a policy with an Australian provider. If you decide to purchase cover from an Australian provider, there will generally be exclusions placed on pre-existing medical conditions.
Q. Can I be covered in multiple countries if I am travelling around?
A. Yes. Most policies will allow you to purchase “worldwide cover” so you are not restricted to separate regions i.e. Europe or South America.
Q. When should I purchase my student travel insurance policy?
A. It is not uncommon for people to purchase their policy the day before they leave. That said, it could also be wise to purchase cover from the date you make any major bookings to account for cancellation cover. These are just some of the questions you may have when looking for a policy for your trip. Never be afraid to call your insurer prior to departure if any of the components of your policy are unclear.
Start applying early
The exact procedure you’ll need to follow to apply for exchange will depend on your university, as the application process can differ markedly between educational institutions. Generally speaking, you’ll need to start planning early as the application process can take months to complete.
Research the requirements
Most universities will require you to meet eligibility requirements, such as having an acceptable grade average and, in some cases, have the necessary language skills to study in a foreign country. You’ll also need to apply for one of your uni’s partner institutions and will usually need to have completed a set portion of your degree.
Contact your university
Most universities will allow you to begin your application online, though there are typically several facets to being approved for exchange, including attending information sessions. Contact your university for more details.
Yes, you can with an OS-HELP loan
If you need financial assistance to help fund your overseas studies, applying to the Australian Government for an OS-HELP loan can allow you to access the support you need. These loans are available to Commonwealth Government supported students who want to further their studies overseas - it doesn’t matter whether your study abroad is covered by a formal exchange agreement or not.
What can I use it for?
The loan can be used to cover a range of expenses including airfares, accommodation, and all manner of travel and study costs. One loan is available per six months of study, with each student eligible to access two OS-HELP loans over their lifetime. You’ll need to be an Australian citizen or permanent humanitarian visa holder, have already completed one year of full-time study, and your overseas study will need to count towards the course requirements for your Australian course.
How much can I borrow?
The maximum amount you can borrow with an OS-HELP loan for any six-month study period is:
- $6,362; or
- $7,635 if you will be studying in Asia; and
- An extra $1,018 for students who undertake Asian language study to help their exchange in Asia.
- Keep track of exchange rates. Aim to secure money you when the exchange rate is favourable
- Be aware of conversion fees. Make sure you’re aware of the foreign currency conversion fees that apply to your credit cards and bank accounts
- Avoid international ATM access fees. Sign up for an account with a bank in the Global ATM Alliance
- Change your ATM withdrawal habits. Withdrawing larger amounts less frequently could save you from excess fees
- Use your credit card for as many purchases as possible. The interbank exchange rate you’ll receive is much better than anything you’ll get at a foreign exchange counter
- Open an account with a foreign bank. This is the best way to avoid fees
- Traveller’s cheques. They may seem a bit old-school but they’re still a safe and secure way to spend money abroad
- Avoid cash exchange counters. Cash exchange counters may be convenient but they offer terrible exchange rates
- Take out emergency currency. Visit your bank and take out an emergency supply of cash in foreign currency before you leave as this could home in handy in urgent situations
- Make a budget and stick to it. Planning ahead is the best way to stay on top of your finances
- Make sure you have a valid passport and all the relevant visas. These are the most basic of requirements before you head overseas, so make sure your passport is in date and do your research to find out all the entry requirements you’ll need to satisfy at your destination country. For certain countries this will need to be organised up to 5 weeks in advance
- Visit your doctor. A health check-up before heading overseas is always a good idea, plus you can also make sure that you’ve satisfied any immunisation requirements for your destination. Some vaccinations are given as a series over several weeks and others take some time before they become effective
- Get travel insurance. There’s so many things that can go wrong when you’re away from home and many of them can be quite costly. If you plan to undertake work overseas, it is worth checking what insurance requirements there are too
- Research your destination. Familiarise yourself with the culture, customs, geography and climate of your destination. Doing your research before you go will make it a whole lot easier to settle in when you arrive. Brushing up on your language skills is also a good idea
- Sort out your finances. Planning ahead and carefully considering how you will access your money overseas is a must
- Pack lightly. Make a list of what to pack, check it twice and go. It’s also a good idea to see how much your airline charges for excess baggage - you don’t want to start your overseas adventure with a hefty fee
- Organise your travel money. It is smart to arrive in a country with a small portion of their local currency along with travel cards and backup travel cards
- Make copies of all of your important travel documents. Give one copy to a relative at home and keep the other stored in your luggage. Include copies of your travel insurance, passport, etc
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