Travel safe

By Clare Smith    February 28, 2019

Have you spent some time reading insurance small print and country considerations to ensure you travel safe on your next trip? Every year thousands of Australians travel overseas. It is estimated that 30% are not insured.

The reasons given vary from, “Won’t the government pay for it?” to “I forgot” or “It’s only a cheap trip to Bali – what can happen?” or “I’m visiting family”

The answer is that every day, people are injured whilst on holiday. These injuries can be relatively minor – a cut or broken arm to a catastrophe – falling off a ledge on a cliff, a car accident or even death. Being aware of potential pitfalls for under-insurance can help ensure you’re covered if the worst happens.

Some examples of recent claims and travel costs are:

  • Methanol poisoning in a Bali nightclub – medical expenses of $25,000
  • Alternative hotel required as previous accommodation closed in Nicaragua due to an earthquake – hotel expenses of $11,000
  • Trip cancelled due to a cancer diagnosis – cost of cruise, flights and tours refunded $275,000
  • Heart attack in USA – cost of medical bills, return flights for spouse and injured person $1,200,000
  • Lost luggage $3,600
  • Injured diving into a pool at a resort – medical expenses and air ambulance $125,000
  • Theft of passport and documents – $2,756
  • Motorcycle clipped by truck in USA – medical bills and repatriation after death $350,000 (repatriation can cost up to $20,000 around 900 Australians die overseas each year)
  • Insured suffered an aneurysm – emergency surgery, spousal flight to Hong Kong, hospital costs, hotel costs and return flights – $135,000
  • Appendicitis in Hawaii – medical bills $20,000
  • Fractured hip after tripping on chair in hotel room (required hip replacement) – medical costs $100,000
  • Brain hemorrhage in Spain – medical costs $77,000
  • Pneumonia and collapsed lung to child – medical costs, change of flights, travel delay, hospital cash $715,000
  • Medical evacuation from Bali – in excess of $60,000
  • Medical evacuations from USA – range from $75,000 to $300,000
  • A single night in an intensive care ward can cost between $10,000 and $40,000
  • Fractured femur on cruise ship – air ambulance from Port Vila to Sydney $36,100
  • Brain aneurysm in USA – medical costs in excess of $1,000,000
  • Viral meningitis in China – medical costs, air ambulance from regional hospital to Beijing, flight for family member to injured insured, hotel costs $94,000

There are many different types of travel policies on the market (with varying premiums), some are covered as part of credit cards and others can be purchased at a travel agent, online or through your Insurance Broker.

Whichever policy you choose, you need to be aware of all the limitations and coverage options available to you. Some examples of things to watch out for are:

  • Are pre-existing illnesses covered?
  • What is the age limit of the insured person?
  • Will I be covered for overseas medical expenses? Is it enough?
  • Will my funeral and expatriation expenses be covered?
  • Can I travel to my family member if they are injured overseas?
  • If a family member at home is hurt will the travel costs be covered?
  • If the company goes into liquidation and my tour/flight etc is cancelled will I be covered?
  • Are all natural disasters covered – eg if there is an earthquake and my flight is cancelled?
  • What amount are my belongings insured for?
  • What happens if you or a family member is sick and you have to cancel your trip?
  • Will I be covered to fly home whilst injured to receive on-going treatment in Australia?
  • Are evacuation flights covered for natural events, riots, terrorism or war?
  • Is my spouse/child covered?
  • Is the hire vehicle excess covered?
  • Are all of my activities covered? A lot of Insurers will limit or exclude “high risk” activities – scuba diving, bungee jumping, parachuting, skiing , go-kart racing, jet-skiing etc
  • Does the policy cover kidnap?
  • Always read the conditions and exclusions – for example do you know that if you leave your belongings unattended you may not be able to claim? Are you covered if injured whilst intoxicated? Is pregnancy covered?

Some general travel tips:

  • Register with www.smarttraveller.gov.au
  • Make copies of all of your travel documents including passport and itinerary and leave with someone at home as well as email to yourself – check if you need a Visa
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the areas that you are entering – look after yourself and your personal belongings
  • Never leave your belongings unattended
  • Always carry your ID with you, some countries require that you always have your Passport on your person
  • Check any relevant warnings on the country you plan to visit (via smarttraveller)
  • Ensure that you are dressed and acting appropriately for the country you are visiting – respect local customs, traditions, laws and policies
  • If you are travelling to a remote location, engage the services of a local guide or tour company – check their references and ensure that they are legitimate
  • Ensure that your vaccinations are up to date and you pack any necessary medications (ensure that they are legal in the country(ies) you will be visiting and travelling through)
  • Take photos of expensive items bought throughout the trip (and the receipt) and email to yourself

If you are injured or ill overseas please keep in mind that many hospitals will not allow you to leave until the bill is paid. Sometimes, you will need a “fitness to fly” certificate before the airline will allow you to travel and this will also be withheld until payment is received.

As advised in the above examples, this can be a very costly exercise and mean that you or your family members have to arrange for homes, vehicles or other items to be sold or remortgaged to enable payment to be made. Therefore taking the time to research what’s covered is well worth the peace of mind and reduced risk that results.

Safe travels and enjoy your trip!

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