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Essential guide to travel insurance

travel insurance guide

The last thing you want to be doing while you’re on holiday is worrying about medical bills, lost passports and missed flights!

Our online travel insurance comparison simplifies the process of buying your cover, so you can spend less time trawling through websites and more time relaxing on a tropical beach or exploring an exotic location!

Many people consider insurance to be an optional extra. The fact is that accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how fit and healthy. That’s why it's essential to at least purchase basic cover for your trip.

Too often we hear horror stories of Australians who go overseas without cover, and end up in hospital with medical fees of thousands of dollars. The best way to protect yourself and your family against massive amounts of debt is to purchase comprehensive cover every time you travel away from home, to guard you against the unexpected.

Travel insurance covers events that may happen before or during your trip such as trip cancellation, medical expenses for injury or illness, theft of valuables, baggage delay or damage and more.

Why compare?

There are hundreds of different providers out there, each boasting the cheapest policies and best cover. Buying insurance through a travel agent can end up costing you twice as much as buying direct online once you include the agent's personal commission, so where do you start?

You can use our comparison engine for free. With one simple form you can easily select your destination, travel dates and the ages of each person travelling, to find a comparison of quotes from 20+ Aussie insurers, along with a comparison of the levels of cover.

Why is it important?

Travel Insurance is strongly recommended by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for all overseas travel. They say "Travel insurance is as essential as your passport, regardless of your travel destination. If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel!"

Situations such as cancelled reservations, lost luggage, diverted flights, missed connections, bad weather, and illness or accident can turn your holiday into a horror story. Your policy will cover the unexpected expenses if disaster strikes while on holiday.

The most important thing to check is your policy's personal liability and emergency medical assistance – this will cover you if you became ill or you’re injured overseas. Paying a few hundred dollars for a policy is going to be heaps cheaper than overseas medical costs running into tens of thousands of dollars. You can easily replace a camera but you can't replace your health.

Hospitalisation, medical treatment and medical evacuations can cause thousands of dollars in medical fees.

The costs revealed…

  • Daily hospitalisation costs in Southeast Asia are over $800
  • Return of remains from Europe costs over $10,000
  • Medical evacuations from the United States are more than $95,000
  • Medical evacuations from Bali come to more than $60,000

Could you afford to cover these costs?

Regardless of whether you're travelling abroad or just within Australia, or whether you travel regularly, travel insurance is essential for peace of mind and will be heaps cheaper than having to pay out of pocket for unexpected emergencies.

How is it calculated?

The cost is based on many factors such as the destination you plan to travel to, how long you plan to stay for, the type of cover you wish to buy, and whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

What are the different types?

There are many different policies around, from backpacker insurance to seniors insurance, from cruise insurance to adventure holiday insurance. Using a comparison site can help you narrow down the options to the best two or three quotes. From this point you can check out the top few insurers in more detail, reading through the PDS (Product Disclosure Statement) and fine print of each company until you find the policy that is best for you.

Policies are usually priced according to destination, with several categories to choose from. If you are travelling to several destinations across different categories, you can usually select the 'highest' category to cover you in all destinations.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition you may have slightly higher premiums to cover the risk.

  • Basic 
    Low cost basic insurance (also known as medical only) provides cover for the essentials, such as overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses, personal liability and sometimes cover for personal belongings and luggage.

  • Comprehensive
    Comprehensive travel insurance is the most common and offers ‘comprehensive cover’ which includes accidental death, car rental excess, and domestic services or home help.

  • Single trip
    Single trip cover is for travellers who wish to take a one trip holiday. It also suits business travellers.

  • Annual multi-trip
    Annual multi-trip trip cover is comprehensive and offers a lot to the traveller who plans to travel a few times throughout the year.

  • Ski insurance
    If you are planning to participate in adventure sports or skiing on your travels, you may need to pay an additional loading to get adequate cover. Make sure you double check with your chosen insurer that your planned activities will be covered. See more information about ski insurance.

  • Seniors
    If you have pre-existing medical conditions or you are a senior traveller, you may be required to complete medical forms or pay additional loadings in order to be covered. Always read the fine print of the policy to make sure that you will have full cover, despite your age or medical history. See more information on seniors travel insurance.

  • Backpacker
    Backpacker insurance is a specific policy suitable for anyone planning a long trip on a shoestring budget.


Most policies will also include an excess fee.

An excess is the amount that the insurer will deduct from your claim. Make sure that you are aware of the excess before purchasing the insurance, as many insurers will offer an excess removal fee so that you will be covered for the full amount of any claim. This is especially important for longer trips, as the excess is generally charged per claim.

Remember that cheap is not necessarily the best for you. Cheaper policies tend to have lower levels of cover and benefits, which may be fine depending on what you are looking for.

Whichever insurance provider you choose to go with, make sure that you read the small print and read their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully. This will explain the ins and outs of what is and isn’t covered and any exclusions in detail.

Not all travel insurance is the same and it is important you understand exactly what you are buying.

What's included?

Here are a few things that a good insurance policy should include:

    • International health and medical coverage, including doctor/office visits, hospital stays, medications, surgery, dental emergencies and any other health or medical related service you might have a need for.
    • 24/7 assistance for travel and medical emergencies.
    • Rescue and transport during a medical emergency. This includes evacuation to another country if the one you are in cannot provide care.
    • Personal liability is very important, especially if you are going to be driving and you might cause damage to another person or to property.
    • Personal Property will cover you for lost or stolen luggage and other personal items.
    • Expenses incurred due to travel delays - like meals, accommodation, alternate flight tickets - in the event your trip is disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances.

What's excluded?

Travel insurance is a safety net in case well-laid plans fall through.

Unfortunately,  thought it cannot cover every situation. It is not there to cover travellers who experience loss or injury by negligence on their part or by partaking in activities that are likely to result in injury or loss.

Most of the non-covered events are common sense things like:

    • Travelling to destinations where the Australian government has issued “Do not visit” warnings.
    • Emergencies created from being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    • Leaving items unattended, or out of your reach, for prolonged periods of time in perceived unsafe conditions.
    • Injuries and death related to extreme sports not covered by the policy. Make sure that you check your intended activity is covered by the insurance company before you go away.

Once you've paid for your cover, you'll have peace of mind while you travel, so you can see the sights and relax, instead of worrying about medical bills and missed flights!

Helpful information and travel resources

Smart Traveller Web site
The Smart traveller website provides travel safety warning for all countries.

Australian Customs Service
Find out all there is to know about Australian customs.

Australian Embassies Locator
This website will let you know where all the Australian embassies are in every country.

Visa Information
Visa information for where you are travelling.

World Health Organisation

The Travel Doctor

We hope you found our essential guide helpful. We would love to hear from you about any suggestions or insurance news you would like information on. Contact us.

Start comparing travel insurance quotes from 20+ of Australia’s tip top travel insurers now.