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Travel insurance for Asia

Travelling through Asia? Find travel insurance for your journey through the exotic east.

Asia offers the traveller an exotic mix of culture, religion, 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.

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Do I need travel insurance for Asia?

While Asia is a close destination to Australia, there are many differences in safety that could 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

Continue reading our guide on useful safety tips and travel insurance information for Asia.

What are some travel risks specific to Asia?

Asia is made up of a mix of countries with different safety concerns.

  • Safety concerns for female travellers. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has warned female travellers to take caution in 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 leaves you vulnerable to diseases uncommon to Australia. For instance, if you're going to Japan, then it is vital to get a vaccination for Japanese encephalitis.
  • Pollution. Regions of Asia, most notably China, are known for severe pollution. Pollution can impose health risks on travellers, particularly children, the elderly and travellers with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory conditions.
  • Food poisoning. Parts 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 frequent violence in recent years including shootings 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.

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 do the following:


What exactly does travel insurance cover me for?
When looking for travel insurance for Asia, you need to find a policy that provides cover in several important areas. These include the following:

  • 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.

Dodgy food standards in Asia: Am I covered for food poisoning?

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 a few days to recover, you can get cover for the following:

  • Additional accommodation costs
  • Cancellation fees or reimbursement 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.

Example: 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 2 nights on a drip in hospital. After being discharged from hospital, Craig’s doctor also recommended that he stay 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 2 nights of pre-booked accommodation.

Luckily, Craig had taken out comprehensive travel insurance cover for food poisoning before departing on his trip.

Expenses incurred

  • 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:

  • $3,050

Cost of travel insurance

  • $110

Purchasing a $110 travel insurance policy ensured that food poisoning didn’t leave Craig more than $3,000 out of pocket.

* This is a fictional, but realistic, example.

vespaCan I get cover for motorbikes and mopeds?

In order to get travel insurance cover for riding a motorbike or moped, you will need to follow the road laws of the country you're visiting.

You will need an Australian motorbike licence

Many Asian countries require you to have a licence of some kind to ride a motorbike, usually an equivalent Australian motorbike licence.

Can I just use my car licence?

An Australian car licence is not enough, as it must be a motorbike licence and you will need to obtain it before you leave home. Although it's easy to simply hire a motorbike from a street vendor without a motorbike licence, if you're injured, your travel insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident.

Some countries require a local motorbike licence

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 2 wheels.

Shouldn’t healthcare in Asia be cheap?

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 the following:

  • 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)

I’m only concerned about my medical expenses in Asia: Can I buy medical-only travel insurance?

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. You’ll pay only for the cover that you need and save some pennies for your holiday. Medical-only travel insurance covers you for just emergency medical treatment overseas but some policies include personal liability cover as well.

Another option to consider is a basic travel insurance policy. If you’re keen to save money but still want to be insured for a level of cancellation and personal belongings cover, some providers offer a more economical version of their comprehensive cover. These stripped-down policies give you the essentials that you need so you can feel secure on your holiday.

Am I covered for cameras and valuables?

In some Asian countries, theft is a common problem for travellers. According to Smartraveller, this is particularly true for the following:

  • Tourist hot spots
  • Major train stations
  • Airports

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 as laptops, cameras (including GoPros), phones, golf clubs and your bags.

Choosing travel insurance for Asia

How do I find the cheapest policy?

Here are some easy ways to get cheap travel insurance for Asia.

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 were to happen, you would be assured of receiving a benefit when you make a claim. Things you can do to ensure you get the most from your cover include the following:

  • Keep 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.
  • Have all the relevant emergency numbers. Keep these in case you need to make a claim while overseas.
  • Make sure you get a police report. This report will be required by your insurer if you are a victim of a crime.
  • Check 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 motorbike, 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.

Who do I contact in an emergency?

If you find yourself in an emergency in Asia, the following are some useful contacts:

  • Your travel insurer. Your insurance provider will have a 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.

Compare policies for Asia now

Questions you may still have about travel insurance

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.

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