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Travel insurance for volunteers

Many insurers will cover you for volunteer work overseas. The conditions can vary by insurer though, so compare your options below.

Are you planning on volunteering? Has the NGO or not-for-profit you are working with requested you get travel insurance?

Many insurers will cover you for volunteer work overseas. However, there will be conditions – the most common condition being you are not permitted to engage in any manual labour. Below are the conditions for a number of the travel insurance brands in the Finder panel and how they treat overseas volunteer work and travel insurance.

Medibank Travel InsuranceMedibank automatically covers working holidays.
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Freely LogoFreely automatically covers working holidays.
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Zoom logoZoom won't be able to pay any claims for events that occur while you're working - if you slip on some ice behind a bar you're working at,
for example - because your work should cover that. However, they can cover you for claims outside of work.
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Fast Cover LogoYes, cover is provided for overseas charity work, however, you will need to check the Product Disclosure Statement to ensure that the type of work you will be doing is covered under our policies.
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Insure4Less Travel Insurance LogoInsure4less allows you to carry out non-manual, non-hazardous work whilst overseas although there is no cover for personal liability whilst working. There is no cover for claims related to any snow sports activity if such activity results in payment or payment in kind for the insured.
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Travel Insuranz Travel Insurance LogoTravel Insuranz allows you to carry out non-manual, non-hazardous work whilst overseas although there is no cover for personal liability whilst working. There is no cover for claims related to any snow sports activity if such activity results in payment or payment in kind for the insured.
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insureandgo InsureandGo covers conservation or charity work (educational educational and environmental - working with hand tools only). They will not cover you for engaging in any manual labour, humanitarian, missionary related travel or whilst working with animals.
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Tick LogoTick covers conservation or charity work (educational educational and environmental - working with hand tools only). They will not cover you for engaging in any manual labour, humanitarian, missionary related travel or whilst working with animals.
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Covermore logoCoverMore covers Working-Holiday Visa: Manual Work (ground level, no powered machinery) and Non-Manual Work.
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Southern Cross LogoSCTISCTI covers Non-manual work, such as working in an office, attending a trade fair at a conference centre, or going to a training course or business meeting.
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Travel with Kit LogoWorking covered but not any form of manual labour.More info
Travel with Jane LogoWorking covered but not any form of manual labour.More info
Easy Travel InsuranceEasy automatically covers working holidays.
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Note: This information was last updated August 2022

Apply for travel insurance for volunteers

Do I really need cover?

If you're being sent overseas by a not-for-profit organisation, the company may have travel insurance that covers you. If you are heading off on a voluntary working holiday or a private trip, you will need to take out travel insurance for yourself.

Travel insurance for volunteers is similar to regular travel insurance, in that it covers the 3 main areas of risk:

  • Medical and hospital
  • Theft or loss of belongings
  • Trip cancellations or delays

Because it's more than just a holiday, with your participation in activities that have an impact upon others, you may also wish to consider additional cover such as personal accident, public liability and, if you are providing a service or giving advice to others, professional indemnity insurance.

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What is my obligation to my volunteers?

Not-for-profit organisations that send volunteers overseas need to have travel insurance for them as a matter of course. They have an obligation to ensure the people who are helping them are covered against every eventuality.

As well as a moral obligation to protect its volunteers, having insurance should also be part of an organisation’s normal risk management procedures. After all, if a volunteer were to do something on behalf of the organisation that led to a lawsuit, the organisation could be facing a crippling claim that could lead to its demise.

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What am I covered for?

As mentioned previously, travel insurance for volunteers should cover the 3 main areas of risk. Whether it is domestic or international travel insurance, it should protect against loss of deposits and additional expenses associated with flight cancellations and delays. It should also cover lost, stolen or damaged baggage and personal items.

As with most insurance policies, all areas of cover are contingent upon the insured being a participant in an approved activity at the time of any incident. In the case of a volunteer, that would mean performing tasks associated with their voluntary work.

A good policy should protect you in the following ways:

  • 24-hour assistance
  • Accidental death & permanent total disablement
  • Alternative therapies
  • Baggage delay over 12 hours
  • Cancellation costs
  • Clinical psychology after assault or trauma
  • Compassionate emergency visit home
  • Credit repayment for full-time students
  • Emergency dental treatment
  • Emergency medical transport & repatriation
  • Hire of sporting equipment
  • Kidnap or hijack
  • Local funeral expenses or repatriation of remains
  • Out-of-pocket expenses in hospital
  • Overseas medical costs
  • Personal liability
  • Rental vehicle insurance excess
  • Resumption of trip
  • Return of rental vehicle
  • Theft or damage to baggage & personal items
  • Trip interruption costs
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What is generally excluded?

Some exclusions apply to volunteer travel insurance, as they do in any travel insurance policy. Exclusions are instances in which the insurer will not cover the insured and these include:

  • War or terrorism
  • While under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • While training or competing in an organised sport
  • While flying in any craft, other than as a passenger on a commercial airline
  • Suicide or attempted suicide
  • Driving or riding in a race
  • Childbirth or pregnancy
  • Maintenance of a pre-existing medical condition
  • While travelling against medical advice
  • Non-emergency dental treatment
  • Precautionary measures such as vaccinations
  • Loss of personal property left unattended or unsupervised
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Radioactive contamination
  • Irresponsible or illegal activity
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What other insurances do I need?

Volunteer and not-for profit organisations need a range of different types of insurance, just as for-profit organisations do. The fact that they have workers representing them and for whom they are responsible dictates this, regardless of whether they are being paid by the organisation or not.

As well as travel insurance for those workers who travel domestically or internationally on their behalf, a not-for-profit organisation may also need insurances such as the following:

  • Public liability insurance to protect against claims of third party injury or property damage
  • Product liability insurance to provide cover if they sell food or products as part of their fundraising efforts
  • Directors and officers liability insurance to protect volunteer committee and board members from being sued for negligence
  • Property insurance to cover contents and to protect property owned by the organisation against storm, fire and theft
  • Fidelity insurance to protect against misappropriation of funds by employees or committee members
  • Personal accident insurance to cover volunteers for expenses incurred following accidental injury, disability or death while carrying out work on the organisation’s behalf
  • Cyber liability insurance to cover losses suffered and legal liability to others arising from system breaches
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I need some tips before I go, got any?

As well as taking out travel insurance or ensuring that your not-for-profit organisation has taken it out on your behalf, volunteers should also take the following precautions before heading overseas. Due to the political instability and poverty-stricken nature of many countries requiring volunteer assistance, you could find yourself in danger or in trouble with the authorities unless you take certain steps beforehand. These could include:

  • Researching the organisation you intend to volunteer with to ensure it is reputable and that the work you will be doing will be of value
  • Studying the culture and learning the language, laws and customs of the country you plan to visit
  • Obtaining the right paperwork, including visas, work permits and other documentation
  • Reading and taking note of travel warnings issued by the Australian Government Smartraveller website
  • Registering your travel plans with Smartraveller and notifying friends and relatives of your intended movements

Claire didn't forget about travel insurance

11566647853_1e5c6f9026_mSeveral years ago, Claire Standish signed up to do volunteer teaching in India through a not-for-profit organisation. She paid nearly $4,000 to ensure she would be looked after while in India, but when Claire arrived there she found that there was no volunteer work for her to do.

Nothing had been organised by the subsidiary organisation on the ground and there were no students to teach and no school to teach at. Claire returned to Australia out of pocket and thoroughly disillusioned and made a formal complaint to the not-for-profit organisation she had signed up with.

Fortunately, the organisation made some attempt at restitution, sending her on a new volunteer trip free of charge and paying half of her airfares. The moral here is to thoroughly research the organisation you plan to volunteer through and to have adequate travel insurance to cover trip cancellations and additional expenses.

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How do I find a good placement?

  • What am I in for? Make sure that the program is above board.
  • Should I speak with previous volunteers? Yes, finding out first hand from previous volunteers is a great way of knowing whether or not the organisation does what it says it does.
  • Should I go off the beaten track? Staying away from popular tourist destinations will help you have a more authentic experience and help those truly in need.
  • How can I make sure I'm really helping? Find a program that either handles its own projects or is affiliated with a project you are interested in. Avoid those that outsource volunteers.
  • I like working with children, what about helping in an orphanage? According to Smartraveller, you should steer clear of orphanages unless you are able to spend a lot of time there.
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Ready to compare policies?

Hopefully this article has shown that, while volunteering can be a rewarding experience, it needs to be undertaken with due care and planning and with adequate protection in place in the form of travel insurance. And that applies regardless of whether you’re an individual or an organisation with a duty of care to look after your volunteers.

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