Australians love to travel, and the majority of us do so safely by purchasing travel insurance. In fact, over 90 per cent of respondents to a government survey said they took out insurance the last time they travelled overseas. However, travel insurance is a complicated business, so choose your policy carefully. To avoid costly mistakes it's important to read the fine print, understand what's covered and make sure the policy you choose is suitable for the type of travel you're embarking on.
Here are a few key tips on travel insurance, and you may be surprised by what isn't included in many policies.
Just as you would at home you're required to take reasonable precautions when travelling, however, not all travel insurance is the same.
The type of cover you will require and the cost of your cover is dependent on a few key factors. These include the destination, and the length and type of travel. For example, it will be more difficult to find cover for travel to countries flagged by the Australian government as dangerous for travellers, which can also affect the difficulty of the claims process should you require to lodge a claim.
We recommend purchasing travel insurance as early in the booking process as possible.
Most policies have cut-off dates, which means that if something unexpected happens - such as an earthquake or volcanic explosion - you won't be able to buy insurance to protect against any disruption from that specific circumstance. The whole point of insurance is to protect you against unforeseen events, so make sure you get your policy in place nice and early.
When travelling to your destination it's important to know the policy exclusions that apply to transit and your baggage.
If you miss your flight, your insurer will look into why this happened when deciding on a claim. If you didn't get on the plane for reasons outside your control such as technical problems with the aircraft or overbooking, the airline usually foots the bill. But if your alarm simply didn't go off that morning, or you didn't give yourself enough time to get to the airport, you won't have good grounds for a claim.
In the same way that you're required to look after yourself, the same goes for your baggage. Even if your belongings are covered for loss, you might not be successful in your insurance claim if you leave them out of sight, or forget them in a taxi.
At your destination
You've made it to your holiday paradise, but you still need to take care of yourself as you would at home.
Being aware of common exclusions from travel insurance policies is a good way to ensure you don't end up out of pocket:
- Binge drinking: Most people enjoy a few beers or margaritas by the pool on holiday, but don't get carried away. Everyone knows that intoxicated people aren't as aware of their surroundings, and injuries caused whilst under the influence are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance.
- Volunteer work: Getting involved with good causes when overseas is highly commendable, but be aware that voluntary work is frequently not covered by travel insurance, and specialist cover is advised.
- Manual labour: Similarly, the majority of insurers won't cover injuries sustained while doing manual labour overseas.
- Plastic surgery: It's best to save any plastic surgery for home as the costs of the procedure, and any resulting medical treatment, probably won't be covered.
- High-risk activities: Adrenaline junkies, pay attention! Many activities such as skydiving, scuba diving and trekking beyond certain altitude limits may require specific cover, so it's best to check with your insurer to confirm whether or not you're insured before jumping in.
- Ignoring road regulations: Activities such as driving on unsealed roads or allowing an unauthorised person to drive can void both travel insurance and any cover you took out with the rental company.
- Riding without a helmet: Motorbikes and mopeds are great ways to get about whilst abroad, and are very popular in countries like Thailand. However, even if the country you're in isn't big on helmets, your insurers sure are, and they're unlikely to pay out if you choose not to protect yourself.
Choosing the right travel insurance
Here are a few other important considerations for purchasing the best travel insurance policy:
- Make sure the company has a 24/7 call desk that can be accessed for free from anywhere in the world.
- Declare any medical conditions you're already aware of.
- Read the small print (hopefully this article has taught you how important this is!), and be aware of what you're actually covered for.
- Check whether it's possible to upgrade your policy at a later date if you find a must-do activity that isn't covered.
- If you have expensive items such as smart devices, laptops or jewellery, be aware that baggage cover usually has a per-item limit, so look into insuring specific belongings.
- Know the claims process, and keep all relevant records that will support yours.
Travel insurance may not be the most exciting part of getting ready for your holiday, but it's vitally important. For more information on travel insurance, or the activities on offer in the country you plan to visit, get in touch with the experts at Hoot Holidays.