10 Travel insurance tips
Apart from airline fuel surcharges, travel insurance must be the most disliked cost of trip preparation. What you pay for no apparent tangible benefit would buy you a better hotel room along the way or an exit row on your flight. However, as anyone in travel will tell you, travelling overseas without travel insurance can have catastrophic consequences. We all know of the hospital bills that add up to $100,000s in the US but even an emergency flight home after an accident in Thailand or Bali can cost $70,000.
Here are some things to consider – we’d welcome your further suggestions or stories:
1. Policies Vary Wildly
Sorry, apart from the cost, the bad news is that you must read any insurance policy in detail before you take it out. It’s not going to be much use if the insurance policy doesn’t cover you in your most likely situations. The good news is that it can become a fascinating search for the policy that covers “this and this” rather than those that cover “this but not that”. A Google search for “best travel insurance policies Australia” will reveal aggregating sites that show what’s available, and how they rate them.
2. Age Restrictions
If you are of retirement age you’ll find you are excluded from some policies – or subjected to onerous conditions. This is a good starting point to winnow down the options.
3. Australian Cruising
If you are taking a cruise within Australia you may feel protected enough by Medicare. However, if your cruise company is registered overseas it’s possible, even likely, that Medicare may not cover you for anything that happens on the ship. Check rather than presume.
4. Cover for Evacuation
Make sure your insurance policy covers evacuation, if necessary. You may think this is only an issue for mountaineers or explorers. But an evacuation from a luxury Antarctic cruise back to South America will cost up to $50,000.
5. Skiing or Risky Activities
If you are heading overseas to go skiing expect to pay considerably more for your travel insurance. If you’ll be scuba diving, flying in a light plane or motorcycling while overseas make sure your policy will cover it.
6. Credit Card Travel Insurance
Most of our credit cards offer some associated travel insurance. Before you rely on that alone check exactly what it covers – and does it depend on booking all your travel on that card? Many also provide cover specifically for the excess charged on car hire. That can save you a lot. But check it applies if the hire company offers no insurance at all if you don’t pay the (often high) daily insurance rate.
7. In an Emergency
Of course, the first thing to do is to deal with the situation and make everyone safe. However, insurers are very reluctant to pay for services you have opted for before having it authorised by them. So, if something happens, one of your first calls should be to your insurer’s emergency number. As well as a legal requirement it can be both helpful and reassuring to have an expert helping you out. You may want to check if the phone will ring in an Australian or overseas call centre.
8. Don’t Lie
This is self-evident but don’t lie about pre-existing conditions or anything else. Because insurance relies on your statements on your application it has special legal protection against misinformation. Apart from the ethical considerations you are very likely to be caught out if you have to claim.
9. Extended Travel
If you are heading overseas for more than 90 days be aware that many insurance policies won’t cover you. That’s true for most annual policies too. As always, check the insurance fits your travel plans.
10. Work or Play?
If your travel has a work component or you will be carrying professional equipment (cameras for example) make sure the policy will cover you and your gear.
11. Just Buy It
Think of travel insurance as your seat belt on the road. You may have travelled - or driven – for years and never needed it. But when you do need it you’ll be really glad you have it.
12. Get it early
Many people overlook that travel insurance covers you from the moment you take it out. So, let’s say you are booking in February for a trip in June. If you take out travel insurance when you purchase the trip then you are covered if the situation changes. That may be anything from your tour operator or airline going broke to you or a family member falling ill. If you are going to take out travel insurance anyway it makes no sense to leave it until the last minute. If you do you’ll simply pay the same price for less protection.
Do you have a question for our travel guru? Leave your query below, and David will respond.