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Cost of a hospital bed: Country comparison

A hospital bed can cost as much as $2,260 a day.

Being hospitalised in a foreign hospital, regardless of the country you're in, is a pretty terrifying thought.

It's also incredibly expensive. Many countries provide free healthcare but often only to their citizens – tourists aren't as fortunate.

According to Finder research, spending a night in a hospital abroad can cost up to 28 times more than a travel insurance policy.

Despite that, 20% of Australians are still bold enough to head abroad without travel insurance, according to Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

Key statistics

  • The US is the most expensive country for a hospital bed out of the most popular travel destinations.
  • 1 day in hospital can cost 28 times more than a 2-week travel insurance policy.
  • The UK, Singapore and Japan are also among the most expensive countries for medical care.

The most expensive country for a hospital bed

The most expensive country for a hospital bed is the US, according to an analysis done by the World Health Organization (WHO). We've updated the WHO data based on US inflation figures, then converted them to Australian dollars.

The average cost of a hospital bed in the US is $2,260 a day. That makes it 28 times more expensive than paying for a 2-week medical-only travel insurance policy.

The UK ($1,515) and Singapore ($1,412) were the second and third most expensive countries, followed closely by Japan ($1,145).

Without cover in the US, Singapore or Japan, you could be left thousands of dollars out of pocket. Fortunately, the UK is a little safer thanks to a reciprocal health care agreement. If you're treated in the National Health Service (NHS) system, it should be free.

If you're not an Australian citizen though, it's unlikely to be covered. Even former UK residents may be charged for NHS services, the UK government says.

By comparison, a 2-week policy for a 35-year-old travelling the US will set you back around $170, which is $2,090 cheaper than the price of 1 day in hospital.

Keep in mind this data doesn't take into account changes in healthcare costs in individual countries or the differences in currency exchange rates between 2010 and now.

Finder survey: What is the biggest concern for Australian travellers?

Response
Being hospitalised47.75%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1112 Australians, December 2023

Which countries do we feel unsafe in?

Our data suggests 76% of Australians travelling to the US take out travel insurance. Alongside Singapore, it's the country we're most likely to take out travel insurance for, which makes sense considering its exorbitant healthcare costs.

However, we don't seem to be very worried about travel mishaps in India, New Zealand or Fiji. Under 22% of people took out travel insurance when heading to Aotearoa and only 21% got cover for India.

It's possible that these numbers are lower because Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with New Zealand, giving us access to subsidised healthcare, while many travellers to India are already citizens.

The numbers for Indonesia may be the most concerning. 51% of people travelling to Australia's favourite travel destination (in the last year ending June 2023) took out travel insurance. That means approximately 555,000 Aussies did not have cover.

Australian embassies won't foot the bill

That's right. If you get yourself hospitalised in a foreign country, the Australian government won't bail you out.

A lot of us don't know this. Around half of people think that the Australian government would pay to get you home, according to a Smartraveller report. 43% of people think the government would pay for your medical expenses.

Australian embassies can help support citizens overseas but don't provide financial aid.

In 2022–23, the Australian Consular had to support 1,122 Australians hospitalised abroad, marking a 23% increase compared to the previous 12 months.

Most of these cases were in Indonesia (132), Thailand (116), Philippines (71), Vietnam (67) and Italy (54).

How do I rate healthcare in another country?

Regardless of where you're going, you should get travel insurance. Smartraveller, the Australian government's travel website, succinctly sums up its importance: "If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel".

Nevertheless, it's still worth seeing which countries have the most expensive medical care – this could help you decide what level of travel insurance you need. Most come with unlimited medical cover. However, there are differences when it comes to emergency dental expenses and hospital cash allowance, which can cover non-medical expenses such as taxi fares, parking fees or phone calls.

The table below outlines the standard of healthcare across Australia's favourite holiday destinations. The healthcare rating is based on information from the International SOS risk rating map.

    Low
  • Medium

  • Variable

  • High

  • Very High

Now bring it together

We've combined the International SOS medical risk rating map with data from the WHO to show how accessible medical care is across different regions in the world.

The data shows how Africa has one of the poorest medical risk ratings. This means that you could be more likely to run into medical issues there. Combine that with limited doctors, dentists and access to medicines, this region could be one of the worst places to be caught without travel insurance.

Some things that could land you in hospital

Road accidents

Driving is one of the most dangerous things any of us will do in our lives and is a major reason for hospitalisations.

It killed over 1,200 people in Australia last year and in many developed countries is the leading cause of death for young adults. Approximately 360,000 people aged 15–29 die in road crashes worldwide each year.

Some of the most popular holiday destinations also have the most deadly roads. Out of 36 OECD countries, which includes Korea, Japan, Italy and the UK, the US is the most dangerous. 11.78 people are killed for every 100,000 people. The OECD median is 4.09.

Indonesia has an even higher fatality rate. 12.2 people are killed for every 100,000 people and thousands more are hospitalised.

Thailand, meanwhile, has 32.7 deaths per 100,000 population, according to the latest WHO global report. 75% of the victims are mainly motorcyclists. Most are young people aged between 15 and 29.

Illnesses

Illnesses can occur wherever you travel. However, there are a few countries where illnesses are more common than in Australia.

This may include stomach bugs like Bali belly which affect between 30% and 50% of Australian tourists. For most Australians, they don't lead to hospitalisation but you need to be careful if you're a senior or have pre-existing conditions.

COVID-19 is also still a health risk. There have been 6.9 million reported deaths attributed to the disease up to 11 March 2023.

It accounts for 11% of all claims, according to Southern Cross Travel Insurance data. In most cases though, this was due to COVID-related cancellations and travel disruptions, not hospitalisations.

Carmen's story

Carmen's story

Southern Cross Travel Insurance saved my life and my wallet: During my last holiday, I had a near-death situation that reminded me of the immense value of travel insurance. When unexpected health issues arose, not only did my international comprehensive travel insurance policy save me thousands of dollars in medical costs, but it also provided essential moral support throughout the ordeal. Having travel insurance meant I could focus on recovery without worrying about financial burdens. Don't take the risk – invest in travel insurance for a worry-free and safe journey!
— Carmen Popa – October 2023

Heading overseas soon? Compare travel insurance and get covered before you jet off.

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