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What is travel insurance and why you need it

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is insurance cover for emergencies or accidents that might happen to you or your belongings while you are on a holiday away from home. Travel insurance will cover you for different things depending on whether you are taking a trip within Australia or overseas (see types of travel insurance).

Why do you need travel insurance?

A study by Expedia shows that a massive 83% of young Aussies aged 18-24 plan to take an international holiday in next 12 months. Travelling overseas has become more affordable, with Expedia’s data showing international air ticket prices have declined by 20% over the last three years, driven by increased competition among low-cost airlines. But could you afford it if something went wrong while you were in another country?

The Australian government’s Smart Traveller website recommends travel insurance for anyone taking a trip away from home, especially to overseas destinations. If you don’t have travel insurance and you lose your luggage or have an unexpected accident, medical emergency, or legal incident, you and your family will have to pay for all the costs on your own.

Things like changing flight plans can be expensive, but hospital bills are even worse. There’s no Medicare overseas, so a medical emergency can cost you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars – and chances are you have not brought that much money with you on your trip.

If you have travel insurance, on the other hand, you can travel confidently knowing you can get financial help in an emergency.

What else should you do before you travel?

For overseas travellers, you should also check the Smart Traveller Travel Advice page to see what the risk of travelling to your chosen countries is. If a country is flagged as “do not travel” be aware that you may not be able to obtain insurance for the trip.

Next, you should register your travel plans with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so that someone knows where you’ve gone and how to reach you in an emergency.

Also make sure you have a copy of all your documentation with you – and that you leave a copy of all your documentation with someone back home.

Also keep on had the contact details of the Australian Embassy in your country of destination – just in case you need it.

Types of travel insurance and what they cover

There are two types of travel insurance cover policies.

1. Domestic travel insurance:

According to Tourism Research Australia, domestic tourism is worth almost $70 billion, and about 70% of the tourists traipsing around the country are Aussies. Instead of leaving the country, Australia has become the most sea-loving nation in the world. In 2014, a record high 4.2% of our population took a cruise around the beautiful Australian and South Pacific seas and shores.

Our Canstar Blue research in 2014 showed that 41% of domestic travellers loved a beach holiday in Australia, while 30% preferred urban city destinations. The largest number of people wanted to visit sunny Queensland (39%), followed by Victoria (20%).

Plenty of us are travelling “at home”, but that doesn’t mean that nothing can go wrong. It’s definitely still worth taking out insurance in case you get stuck.

 2. International travel insurance:

Aussies have always been keen nomads, and we’re travelling more than ever before. According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures, Australian residents took almost 9.2 million short-term overseas trips in the year ending June 2015, compared to 9 million in the previous year.

Our most common destinations this year were New Zealand, Indonesia and the USA. We’re also partial to the UK, Thailand, and China. One thing these unique and fascinating destinations all have in common is the fact that your trip there is safer if you go with travel insurance!

+ What does domestic travel insurance cover?

What does a domestic travel insurance policy usually cover you for?

  • Lost or stolen luggage or other items.
  • Cancelling your trip unexpectedly due to illness, accident, holiday leave being revoked, or a natural disaster at home or at your intended destination.
  • Rental vehicle excess you have to pay if you have an accident driving a hire car. Most domestic policies will cover at least $2,500 of your rental vehicle excess. (This is a good thing, because our Canstar Blue research shows that 19% of Aussies who’ve used a hire car have crashed or dented it…)
  • Legal liability; the vast majority of policies researched include coverage for legal liability. Don’t take this as an excuse to break the law though – you may end up invalidating your policy!

What is not covered by domestic travel insurance?

One thing domestic travel insurance does not include is medical cover. However, that’s not a big problem because as long as you’re in Australia, you can still use your Medicare and private health insurance if you have it.

Domestic travel insurance policies also typically exclude certain ‘hazardous pursuits’ from your coverage. If you’re doing dangerous activities on your holiday like skiing, scuba diving, bungee jumping or rock climbing, you need to disclose it on your application. However, even if you disclose it, you still might not be covered for an accident that happens because of that activity as it may be excluded from the policy. Ensure that you read your policy terms and conditions carefully.

What does international travel insurance cover?

What does an international travel insurance policy usually cover you for?

  • Medical or dental emergency. Typical emergency medical cover will include hospital admission, emergency care and medical evacuation to another country’s hospital. If your medical situation is not an emergency, we recommend you telephone your insurer before you have any treatment done, to check if you’re covered for it.
  • Repatriation. If tragedy strikes while you are away, repatriation covers the cost of flying your body and belongings back home to Australia. Some travel insurance funds also include a separate sum for funeral expenses. If you fall sick overseas and need to be evacuated back to Australia for medical treatment, your travel insurance policy should cover that also.
  • Lost or stolen luggage, passport or other items. Replacing luggage and travel documents is the most common claim for travel insurance – and one of the cheapest.
  • Cancelling your trip unexpectedly due to illness, accident, holiday leave being revoked, or a natural disaster at home or at your intended destination.
  • Legal liability if you break a local law and need a lawyer and/or interpreter. Ignorance of the law is no excuse in most countries, so make sure you read up on Smart Traveller for things you should know before you go! For example, in some Muslim countries, it is an offence to wear a bikini on a public beach. If you break a law on purpose, your travel insurance policy will not cover your legal fees.

What is not covered by international travel insurance?

No travel policy will cover you for every single thing that might go wrong while you’re away, so it’s important to read your policy terms and conditions PDS carefully and know what is not covered.

Some common international travel insurance exclusions are:

  • High risk countries. Check the government’s Smart Traveller website for the travel advisory status of your destination. Countries deemed “do not travel” may not be covered under your policy.
  • Risky behavior. Any injury or loss caused by you behaving recklessly while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be excluded from cover. This doesn’t apply to a medication prescribed to you by a doctor and taken correctly according to the instructions.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions. If you have experienced symptoms of a condition before travelling, even if the condition wasn’t diagnosed, medical expenses for it will generally not be covered. Read your policy terms and conditions carefully.
  • High-value items. Many policies have a dollar limit that you can claim for each item, which may not be as much as it costs to replace the item.
  • Notification period. Your policy may specify that you need to notify your insurer of an accident or event within a specified timeframe such as 24 hours. It’s important to be aware of that notification period and call your insurer as soon as you can.
  • Loss of items left unattended. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times. You might not be covered if you leave your wallet and keys wrapped in a towel on the beach, or hidden in a shared room, or even in your checked-in luggage.
  • Hazardous pursuits. Dangerous activities such as scuba diving, bungee jumping and hang-gliding may be excluded, but they can often be added to your policy for an extra fee. Out of the international travel insurance policies we researched, most included the following activities as either standard or optional: motorbike and scooter riding, snow sports, jet skis and water sports. However, most of the policies we researched did not include rock climbing or yachting in international waters.
Cost of travel insurance

How much does domestic travel insurance cost?

The good news is that the cost to insure your trip around Australia is relatively small compared to the cost of your overall holiday. The cost of domestic travel insurance depends on whether you are travelling as a single, a couple, or a family. It doesn’t matter where you’re going within Australia: the price is the same whether you’re going to Alice Springs or Adelaide.

Based on the domestic travel insurance policies analysed by Canstar, insurance for a single for a 5-day trip will cost around $49 on average, while a 10-day trip will be around $63, and a 21-day trip will be more like $86.

A couple can travel for less than twice that amount on average: $94 for 5 days, $120 for 10 days, and $162 for 21 days.

Amazingly, a family of two adults and two kids can travel for almost the same as a couple! On average, travel insurance will cost you $96 for 5 days, $120 for 10 days, or $166 for 21 days.

You can research how much domestic travel insurance would cost you on the Canstar website.

How much does international travel insurance cost?

When you compare it to the cost of your airfares, accommodation, and activities, travel insurance is a tiny add-on that could save you a lot of stress. The cost of international travel insurance depends not just on who you’re travelling with, but on the destination you’re headed for.

For a 10-day overseas trip, an Aussie single can expect to pay average travel insurance premiums of:

  • $80 travel insurance for Bali
  • $93 travel insurance for Thailand
  • $94 travel insurance for China
  • $100 travel insurance for France
  • $96 travel insurance for the UK,
  • $122 travel insurance for the USA
  • $100 travel insurance for Japan
  • $77 travel insurance for Fiji
  • $76 travel insurance for New Zealand

A couple could take out insurance for the same trip for:

  • $147 travel insurance for Bali
  • $172travel insurance for Thailand
  • $175 travel insurance for China
  • $187 travel insurance for France
  • $180 travel insurance for the UK,
  • $231 travel insurance for the USA
  • $188 travel insurance for Japan
  • $143 travel insurance for Fiji
  • $142 travel insurance for New Zealand

A family could take the same trip for:

  • $153 travel insurance for Bali
  • $178 travel insurance for Thailand
  • $180 travel insurance for China
  • $194 travel insurance for France
  • $186 travel insurance for the UK,
  • $240 travel insurance for the USA
  • $195 travel insurance for Japan
  • $147 travel insurance for Fiji
  • $146 travel insurance for New Zealand

You can research how much international travel insurance would cost you for different destinations on our Canstar website.

What affects the cost of travel insurance

Several factors affect how much travel insurance will cost you.

  • Where you go: The country you’re travelling to changes the amount your travel insurance will cost because each country has a different level of risk for various events happening. This doesn’t apply for domestic travel insurance.
  • The type of trip you are taking and whether it involves plane flights, a boat cruise, train travel or bus trips
  • The length of your trip the longer you are away, the higher the cost, generally, of your travel insurance
  • The activities you will be participating in while away: Risky or otherwise dangerous activities can be either excluded from your travel insurance policy or covered for an increased cost.
  • Your age: As you get older, the cost of your travel insurance will tend to rise.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • The level of cover or limits you would like
  • Optional extras: Some insurance providers offer optional extras including cover for:
    • Travel delays
    • Trip cancellations
    • Baggage delays
    • Extreme sports
    • Resuming your journey after cutting the trip short
    • Carrying valuables like iPads, cameras, phones, or jewellery
    • Pet care if your return is delayed while your pet is in boarding

Loss of income due to injuries while travelling

Travel insurance glossary of terms

TRAVEL INSURANCE GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Please note that these are a general explanation of the meaning of terms used in relation to travel insurance policy cover. Your insurance provider may use different wording and you should read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy carefully to understand what you are and are not covered for. Refer to the product disclosure statement from your provider.

Accident: An unexpected, unforeseeable, or unusual event that was unintended and caused loss or harm while you are on a trip covered by your policy.

Accommodation: Any type of dwelling or lodging that you pay a fee to stay in overnight.

Additional expenses: Additional expenses for accommodation and transportation that occur because of events such as illness, natural disasters, loss of travel documents, and transport union strikes.

Beneficiary: The person who would receive compensation from your insurance policy if you were to pass away during your travels.

Benefits: What your insurance provider gives you according to the terms of your policy. Benefits can apply if you make a claim or they can apply if a certain event happens, e.g. during an emergency.

Cancellation or amendment costs: The cost of cancelling, changing, or rearranging your journey because of unforeseen circumstances outside your control such as illness, accidents and extreme weather events.

Claim: A request for your insurance provider to pay certain expenses back to you in accordance with your policy.

Cover or coverage: The extent of protection given to you by your policy. If you are covered for an event, it means that you can claim back from your insurance provider a specified amount of expenses you incurred during that event.

Current market value: The amount of money you could get for an item if you sold it in the current local market. This amount is based on the original cost, the current condition and age of the item, and what it could be sold for in its present state.

Damage: Harm or injury to a person or property, resulting in the property losing value or not being able to be used properly.

Disability: A physical or mental condition that restricts a person’s movements, senses or activities. A disadvantage or handicap, especially one imposed or recognised by the law.

Emergency medical care: Medical care that is needed in an unexpected emergency. This does not include any type of regular medical care or foreseeable medical needs.

Endorsement: Any special condition listed on your insurance policy as an extra reason for you to buy the policy.

Excess: The excess is an amount that you pay instead of the insurer, e.g. “the first” $250 or $500 of a claim. Insurers usually have either a policy with different excess options that you choose between, or separate policies that each have a different excess amount. You can pay a lower premium if you have a higher excess, but you need to be sure that you could afford to pay the excess unexpectedly if you had to make a claim.

Exclusions: Anything that is not covered by your policy. Common exclusions include travel to high-risk countries, dangerous activities such as bungee jumping, risky behaviour such as taking alcohol or drugs, pre-existing medical conditions, and loss of items left unattended.

Existing medical condition: Medical conditions that you have recently had examined by a medical practitioner and/or received treatment for. Your policy will usually list a time limit for the condition to be pre-existing. For example, you have seen a medical practitioner within the past 90 days before you started your journey, or you have been prescribed a medication within the past 60 days.

Home: Your usual place of residence in Australia.

Incidental: Costs associated with an unexpected covered event, which are not directly related to the event.

Inclusions: Any event, item or expense that is covered by your policy.

Injury: Anything that physically harms you and occurs by accidental or violent means, which is covered by your policy.

Journey: One of the terms insurers use to talk about the period you’re covered for, from the time you leave home until the time you return to your home. Also known as a ‘trip’, a ‘voyage’, or ‘your travels’.

Limit / Benefit limit: Policies have a limit on the amount of benefits you can claim per year or per journey.

Luggage and personal effects: Personal items that you own or carry with you on a trip that is covered. This includes but is not limited to: suitcase or backpack, clothing, jewellery, computer or laptop, music players, and other portable electrical devices or equipment.

Medically necessary: Medical treatment that is needed to preserve your health, is suitable to treat your symptoms, and can be safely provided in your current location. This does not include treatment or procedures that are performed in your current location because it is merely convenient.

Natural disaster: An event caused by nature and not by any human activity, including earthquakes, storms, bushfires and floods.

Overseas medical expenses: Expenses incurred overseas for ambulance transport, hospital admission, surgical nursing, and emergency dental treatment.

Period of cover: The time your travel is covered by your policy.

Personal liability cover: Cover for costs incurred for which you are legally liable. You are legally liable if your negligence causes loss or damage to someone else’s property. Personal liability also covers you for injury to a person who is not a member of your family or travelling party. Personal liability cover does not cover damage you caused deliberately or that breaks the law; damage caused by your business or your employee; your ownership or use of a vehicle, aircraft or watercraft; or you passing on an illness to someone else.

Policy: The travel insurance contract you have taken out with an insurance provider.

Refund: Cash or company credit that can be given to you as reimbursement for your expenses, according to the terms of your policy.

Rental car insurance excess: The excess charged if your hire car is damaged or stolen.

Resumption of journey benefit: The benefit you receive if you claim the expense of resuming your travels. You can make a claim if you had to return to Australia suddenly due to a serious injury, illness, or the death of one of your relatives or business partners in Australia.

Sudden illness or serious injury: Illness or injury that occurs during your period of cover and requires immediate treatment by a health practitioner.

Travel delay: Scheduled transport that is delayed by over 6 hours. Scheduled transport can include plane flights, trains, trams, buses, ferries or cruises.

Pre-existing condition: A condition that existed in any form before you signed up for the insurance policy, whether or not you had your symptoms examined by a health practitioner.

Premium: The amount you pay your insurance provider for your travel insurance cover. Your premium must be paid on time for your travel to be covered.

Reasonable: When associated with an expense or cost, ‘reasonable’ refers to what is usual, needed, and matches the standards of your previously scheduled travel.

Unforeseen: Any circumstance that is out of your control. This can include illness, accident, cancelled flights, or natural disasters.

Travel insurance features and providers we research and rate, and who offers travel insurance

Everyone knows you can have an amazing holiday on a budget, and travel insurance is no different. However, you want to be sure that your policy is going to cover everything you could need during an emergency on your holiday.

Not all travellers are the same or have the same requirements. Canstar assesses travel policies designed for the three most common traveller profiles:

  1. A single person
  2. A couple of adults who travel together
  3. A family consisting of two adults and two children

Ratings and awards Canstar gave to travel insurance providers

Canstar’s most recent travel insurance star ratings report (2015) compared 229 domestic and international travel insurance products from 73 insurance providers, and determined which ones offer outstanding value for travellers.

Domestic travel insurance policies we gave a star rating were required to cover the following basic features:

  • Luggage and personal effects
  • Cancellation fees and loss of deposit
  • 24-hour helpline and ability to extend cover while travelling

International travel insurance policies we gave a star rating were required to cover the following basic features:

  • Luggage and personal effects
  • Cancellation fees and loss of deposit
  • Overseas medical and hospital cover
  • Repatriation and evacuation services

Canstar also granted two awards for outstanding value for Domestic Travel Insurance and International Travel Insurance. For insurance policies to be eligible for the awards, they must meet the basic features for domestic or international travel. Award-winning international travel insurance policies also had to cover $25 million or more of family cover for overseas medical and hospital expenses, and $5 million or more of family cover for repatriation and evacuation services.

In 2015 the award winners were:

  • Outstanding Value Domestic Travel Insurance: Downunder Insurance Services and SGIO/SGIC/NRMA
  • Outstanding Value International Travel Insurance: The winners were Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Insure and Go.

Who offers travel insurance?

The following travel insurance providers were included in our travel insurance comparison:

Domestic Travel Insurance Providers

1300 Insurance

1Cover Travel Insurance

AIG

Allianz Australia

American Express

ANZ

Aussietravelcover

Australia Post

Australian Unity

Big Sky

Budget Direct

Bupa

CGU

CHi Travel Insurance

Citibank

Columbus

Cover-More

Duinsure.com.au

FastCover

Flight Centre Travel Group

GIO

Go Insurance Travel

Good 2 Go!

Greater Building Society

HBF

HCF

HSBC

Hume Bank

Insure 4 Less

Insure and Go

Kango Cover

Medibank

MyCover

NAB

National Seniors Insurance

NRMA

OnePath

Online Travel Insurance

People’s Choice Credit Union

Priceline Protects (with AIA Australia)

QBE

RAA

RAC

RACQ

RACV

Real Insurance

SGIC

SGiO

Simply Travel Insurance

Skiinsurance.com.au

St. George

STA Travel

Stella Travel Services

 

Suncorp Bank

SureSave

Travel Insurance Direct (TID)

Travellers Choice

Velocity Frequent Flyer

Virgin Money

Westpac

Woolworths Money Insurance

WorldCare

Zuji

International Travel Insurance Providers

1300 Insurance

1Cover

AAMI

Allianz

American Express

ANZ

Aussie Travel Cover

Australia Post

Australian Unity

Big Sky

Budget Direct

Bupa

CGU

CHi Travel Insurance

Citibank

Columbus

Cover-More

Duinsure.com.au

FastCover

Flight Centre Travel

GIO

Go Insurance Travel

Good 2 Go!

Greater Building Society

HBF

HCF

HSBC

Hume Bank

Insure 4 Less

Insure and Go

iTrek Travel Insurance

Kango Cover

Medibank

My Cover

NAB

National Seniors Insurance

NRMA

One Path

Online Travel Insurance

Ouch.com.au

People’s Choice Credit Union

Priceline Protects (with AIA Australia)

Qantas Cash

QBE

RAA

RAC

RACQ

RACV

Real Insurance

SGIC

SGiO

Simply Travel Insurance

Skiinsurance.com.au

Southern Cross Travel Insurance

St. George

STA Travel

Stella Travel Services

Suncorp Bank

SureSave

Travel Insurance Direct (TID)

Travel Insuranz

Travellers Choice

Velocity Frequent Flyer

Virgin Money

Webjet.com.au

Westpac

Woolworths Money

WorldNomads.com

WorldCare

Zuji

Other travel insurance articles and guides

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Compare Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance Star Ratings

Travel Money Card Star Ratings

Why you need travel insurance

When to buy travel insurance

10 things to pack in your suitcase

Travel exclusions to check before you buy

Customer Satisfaction Ratings from Canstar Blue for domestic airlines, hotels, online accommodation bookings, and hire cars

General articles and guides

Travel Insurance – Benefits, Cover and Why it’s so important!

Tips for a healthy trip when travelling overseas

Three things to take on an overseas trip

Choosing a travel insurance policy

Take Travel Insurance Cover Before You Trek

Pregnant? Flying? Some questions to ask

What a travel agent does and why we still use them

Travel insurance tips for international travellers

Best budget family holidays to escape the winter

Travel Insurance: Six ways to make the claim process easier

10 tips for travelling with your kids

Travelling? 10 things to pack in your suitcase

Check travel insurance exclusions before you book travel

Taking a winter break? Don’t get scammed!

Apps to take overseas

What annoys us on the train

7 great national parks around Australia

 

Best places to visit this winter

Travel Insurance: Buy when you book

Types of travel insurance claims we make

Travelling to Gallipoli

Is an iPhone a “handheld computer”?

When should I purchase my travel insurance policy?

Seven Aussie Places to visit in 2015

Travel Insurance for France

Travel Insurance for Bali

Travel Insurance for Brazil

Travel Insurance for the UK

Travel Insurance for the USA

Travel Insurance for South Africa

Travel Insurance for Japan

Travel insurance for China

Travel Insurance for Thailand

Travelling to Thailand? Check your insurance policy

Souvenirs NOT to bring back home

Travelling? Check the baggage restrictions

5 places to visit next year

Heading overseas for schoolies?

What is Ebola Virus?

What annoys jetsetters?

“Going without travel insurance is dangerous…”

“There’s more to Bali than bogan-infested zones…”

Heading to the snow? Here are 4 things your travel insurance probably won’t cover…

What travellers want

5 travel insurance mistakes that people make

Heading to the Sochi Winter Olympics?

Why you need travel insurance and what to look for

Travel insurance: A life or debt choice