Along with your passport and vaccination certificates, travel insurance is your most important document.
Sue Wallace navigates the maze of cover, claims and Covid.
Ask Australians what their biggest travel fear is, and they will tell you: catching Covid and being quarantined in a foreign country.
Ask them what their biggest headache is, and they will tell you: getting travel insurance.
There have been many stories about rising prices and exemption clauses – especially for the elderly.
Lisa Kable from the Insurance Council of Australia insists the pandemic has not significantly impacted premium costs, and travel insurance remains good value given the benefits it provides travellers if the unexpected happens.
She advises travellers to go to DFAT’s smartraveller.gov.au for the most up-to-date information about the status and entry requirements of their stopovers and destinations.
“An increasing number of destinations, including Singapore, Bali, the UAE and Thailand, require overseas visitors to have cover for Covid-related medical treatment,” she said.
Travellers should read their policies carefully to make sure it provides cover for their circumstances and destinations.
“Travel insurance protects travellers for many situations unrelated to Covid, which can include medical cover and assistance, dental cover, changed or cancelled travel plans, lost luggage, and theft,” she said.
“You can’t leave Australia without a passport, and you shouldn’t leave Australia without travel insurance – travel insurance remains essential for all the reasons it was pre-pandemic: to provide protection when the unexpected occurs far from home.”
Gary Hunter, insurance expert at online comparison website Finder, says travel insurance is arguably even more important now than ever.
“Since Covid, we have seen airport chaos, people missing their flights, losing their luggage and last-minute cancellations – travel insurance can cover all of this,” he said.
“Healthcare costs overseas will cost you a fortune, which is the last thing you want to be worrying about if something goes wrong.”
A basic insurance policy typically costs between $10 and $20 per day and if you like, you can reduce this cost by increasing your excess.
“It’s a good idea to organise your insurance as soon as you book your trip,” said Mr Hunter. “That way, if something happens – for example, if you catch Covid – you’ll be covered for cancellation costs. If you take out a policy after something happens, your claim will be rejected.”
A handful of providers, including Cover-More and Easy Travel Insurance, will only accept pre-trip cancellations due to a Covid diagnosis if the insurance policy is purchased more than 21 days before your departure date.
“With travel plans changing all the time, you may want to choose flexible flight payment options – these have been offered by the likes of Qantas and Virgin and should help to reduce out-of-pocket expenses if things go wrong.
“Everyone’s needs and priorities when travelling differ slightly so it’s worth taking the time to find a policy that’s right for you. However, there are some benefits certain travellers should look out for,” said Mr Hunter.
Here are some of Finder’s recommendations.
Domestic travel insurance
If you’re travelling within Australia and you plan to rent a car, look for an insurer that covers the rental car excess.
“It’s much better value than the insurance you’ll be offered by the rental company, for example, InsureandGo’s top policy will cover the rental car excess for up to $7,500 if your car is damaged, stolen or involved in an accident – that’s more than most,” Mr Hunter said.
Insurance for families
Many travel insurers will cover your kids and grandkids on a family policy, but some have higher age-limit caps than others, for example, some policies will cover kids for free up to the age of 21; others up to 25.
“Make sure it still comes with all the usual travel-insurance benefits such as cancellation fees, overseas medical expenses, luggage delay and Covid cover,” Mr Hunter said.
Some standard travel insurance policies won’t cover you for more dangerous activities such as quad biking, scuba diving and water skiing.
“You’ll typically need an adventure travel insurance policy for this: you know what activities you plan to do before you travel, look through the list of covered activities in the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before you buy,” Mr Hunter said.
Points to consider when buying travel insurance
Ms Kable says travellers need travel insurance to cover their specific trip: travel insurance is not one size fits all and research is essential to find the product that best suits.
“Don’t choose a travel policy on price alone,” she said. “Look at the inclusions, exclusions, excess and claims limits and buy travel insurance when booking and paying for big-ticket items. This means you may be covered if an unexpected event forces cancellation”
Not all travel policies will automatically cover Covid – some insurers may have this cover as an add-on for an additional cost and others will include it in the policy as part of the overall price.
Check your destination’s Covid requirements – some countries will require inbound travellers to not only be vaccinated but have a minimum amount of cover specifically for Covid-related medical expenses.
In some countries, hospitals will refuse to provide medical assistance if you don’t have travel insurance or the ability to pay upfront.
Carefully read the terms and conditions if you plan to use the complimentary travel insurance that comes with some credit cards – and consider purchasing additional cover.