4 things to consider when buying travel insurance

By Ysabel Tang

6 minutes

16 March 2018

Boys running along the beach
Updated: 15 July 2019

Looking for travel insurance but don’t know where to start? Here are some of the most important things to consider.

When you’re about to jet off on a holiday, deciphering a travel insurance policy is the last thing anyone wants to do. With so many options out there, figuring out if your valuables are covered (your health and your luggage) can be overwhelming.

First off, it’s important to know what’s not covered. Some travel insurers may not cover any change in plans due to terrorism or war. If you put yourself in a risky situation (think quad biking, running with the bulls or excessive drinking), most travel insurers won’t cover that either.

But there are many things travel insurance will cover. And it’s these other risks, like getting sick overseas or having something stolen, that are important to think about when choosing a policy.

Here’s a good starting point to get you on your way to selecting the best travel insurance policy for you:

1. Where are you going?

While people say “It’s about the journey”, when it comes to travel insurance, it’s all about the destination. The things you’ll need covered generally depend on where you’re going.

Take France—sadly, a country once known as the romantic capital of Europe is now on high alert for terrorism.

Being aware of travel warnings is really important, as their timing can affect your ability to claim.

If something happens out of the blue, like a natural disaster or an epidemic (like Zika virus), then your travel insurer will generally cover you up to the limit of your policy if you need to change your plans, provided you took out the cover before the alert or warning was issued.

However, if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) update any travel advice warnings or the media are widely reporting a developing situation or emergency in or around your destination, your travel insurer may not cover you if you ignore these warnings and decide to travel anyway.

Basically, if it was a foreseeable risk, you generally won’t be covered.

When buying travel insurance, the best place to start is to research your destination on Smartraveller.gov.au, where DFAT publish any travel warnings. Just look up your destination and take note of any warnings—then it’s a simple matter of choosing a policy that covers the things DFAT says to watch out for.

It’s also important to make sure your travel insurance covers all your destinations. Even if you’re only staying for one night somewhere, it’s best to play it safe and get a policy that covers you for every place you visit.

2. How’s your health?

While you’d probably take out travel insurance to cover unexpected medical expenses (like a broken leg while skiing), another key consideration is whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions that might cause you problems while you’re overseas.

Pre-existing conditions as common as asthma or coeliac disease, to more serious conditions like cancer, may not be automatically be covered on your travel insurance.

It’s easy to get caught out by pre-existing conditions because it’s not always obvious what you should tell your insurer about. Pregnancy, old sporting injuries, or fitted medical devices like pacemakers are common pre-existing medical conditions that are often forgotten about, but do need to be declared or added to your policy.

You need to think about the last time you went to the doctor, the medical condition you discussed along with any medication you are taking.  Even if your medical condition is being treated and is under control (such as high blood pressure) you still need to advise your insurance company about the condition.

By not declaring a pre-existing medical or dental condition, if you need to make a claim for costs arising from the medical condition, you may find you’re not covered.

But don’t worry – having a pre-existing condition generally won’t stop you from getting travel insurance. You’ll just have to make sure to discuss your health with your insurer so they can get you on an appropriate policy. That way, you’ll avoid any large bills if you need to claim while you’re overseas.

3. How are you getting around?

To make sure you’re properly covered, it’s also important to think about how you plan on getting around. The type of vehicle you’re in and whether you’re the driver or a passenger are all things you need to think about when buying travel insurance.

Say you’re riding a quad bike around – irrelevant of whether you have an Australian motorbike licence, your travel insurance policy may not cover you. That’s because most travel insurers will only cover you if you have the right type of licence for whatever you’re driving, regardless if you do not require a licence to drive a scooter or motorbike in the country you are visiting.

That’s because most travel insurers will only cover you if you have the right type of licence for whatever you’re driving, regardless if you do not require a licence to drive a scooter or motorbike in the country you are visiting.

If you’re on a cruise, travel insurance gets a little trickier. When cruising to or from a foreign country, overseas travel insurance is the way to go. However, if you’re in Australian waters and something goes wrong, Medicare or your private health insurance won’t necessarily cover you. You might need overseas travel insurance even if you’re 100 metres from Aussie soil—it all depends on the ports you’ve visited and your treating doctor.

When buying travel insurance, make a note of how you’ll be getting around. Then just check the policy to see what the conditions of claiming are for that mode of transport.

4. What’s in your suitcase?

Having your luggage lost by an airline is the worst. Waiting patiently by the carousel only to not see your bag come out can bring down the mood for the rest of the trip. Often, people look to their travel insurance to cover this cost—but it in many cases it is the airline that’s responsible for covering you in this situation.

Figuring out what your airline covers versus what your travel insurance covers can get complicated. Check your travel policy to see what is covered when it comes to lost, damaged or delayed checked in baggage.

Travel insurance may cover the cost of emergency purchases (e.g. clothing and toiletries) if your luggage is delayed by the airline. Other things your travel insurance may cover include lost or stolen luggage.

If you do lose any of your luggage or you think it’s been stolen, you must report it to the police within 24 hours and keep a copy of the police report to include with your claim. And remember, most travel insurance policies won’t replace your old things for something new—so depreciation may be factored into any pay-out.

And that’s it! So long as you research your destination, tell your insurer about your health, know how you’ll be getting around and think about what’s going into your suitcase, you can easily pick up a travel insurance policy that you can rely on.

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This article is sponsored by HBF Travel Insurance.
HBF Travel Insurance is issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 (IAL) trading as CGU Insurance. HBF Health Limited ABN 11 126 884 786 is an authorised representative of IAL. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Always consider the PDS available from hbf.com.au/travel-insurance to see if the product is right for you.