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Why All Australians should take out travel insurance before travelling - Smartraveller.gov.au

DFAT advises 'if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel'

The cost of travel insurance is based on the type of cover requested, the age of the insured, the destination of travel, length of stay and any pre-existing medical conditions.  It is important to obtain the right type of travel insurance to suit your individual requirements. 

For most Australians overseas travel is a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, however, every day the consular officers deal with human tragedies involving the death, injury or hospitalisation of Australians abroad. Each year DFAT handle over 25,000 cases involving Australians in difficulty overseas. This includes over 1,200 hospitalisations, 900 deaths and 50 evacuations of Australians to another location for medical purposes.

Hospitalisation, medical evacuations, or even the return of the deceased's remains to Australia, can be very expensive. Daily hospitalisation costs in Southeast Asia regularly exceed $800; return of remains from Europe in excess of $10,000. The cost of medical evacuations from the United States regularly range from $75,000 to $95,000 and sometimes up to $300,000. The department has handled medical evacuations from nearby Bali in which costs have exceeded $60,000.

Unfortunately, not all of these cases involved travellers covered by travel insurance. Travellers who are not covered by insurance are personally liable for covering incurred medical and associated costs. As a result, there has been instances where families have been forced to sell off assets, including their superannuation or family homes, to bring loved ones back to Australia for treatment.

One of the key messages to Australian travellers is that proper travel insurance is very important with accidents or illness often unavoidable. Of course the theft and loss of personal belongings is also something all Australian travellers should insure against. The Australian Government does not endorse any particular travel insurance provider. Where Australians cannot obtain travel insurance to cover their personal medical circumstances, they should consider the potential financial risks very carefully before deciding whether to proceed with planned travel overseas.

In choosing a policy, travellers need to be aware that there is no automatic refund when the department raise the travel advice level to "do not travel" or where they provide advice on incidents overseas (for example airport closures).

Please Note: Travel advice notices raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (see Smartraveller.com.au) are designed to keep travellers advised of current or developing situations which may affect their travel plans. Travellers need to contact their travel insurance provider directly to deterine the extent of cover available in the event of an incident occurring which may affect their travel arrangements. Travelers need to be aware that in circumstances where a travel advice notice is raised, there is no automatic refund available under their travel insurance policy. Any refund will depend on individual circumstances and the terms and conditions of the travel insurance policy held.
Travellers need to contact their travel providers, ombudsman or the Australian Consumer Affairs Commission if they have concerns about refund policies.

Following are some examples of the kind of cases handled by the Department:
The reasons for Australians requiring hospitalisation vary. Cases handled by the department have included car and motorbike accidents, a simple misstep and fall at a temple, and side effects from prescribed drugs. In many of the cases it is the traveller's family who have had to foot the bill. 

A young Australian surfer went to the United States for a surfing competition. Although an experienced surfer, he unfortunately chose the wrong wave during a practice session. The wave dumped him on a reef and he sustained serious injuries. He was flown to a local hospital and immediately underwent two major operations. The hospital bill was AUD290, 000. Fortunately the young man's parents had insisted he take out travel insurance before he left Australia. The insurance company covered the bill, and the young man and his family were able to focus on his recovery.

In Bali, 5 Australians were injured in a mini-van accident. Consular assistance was limited to support and routine contact with next-of-kin (NOK). All the Australians involved had travel insurance. The travel insurance company paid their hospital bills and arranged their medical evacuation to Australia. 

A young man worked in a US ski resort for four months, then took time off to travel around the US. He permitted his 12-month travel insurance policy to expire just a few days before his departure for home. He was hit by a car while crossing a road and suffered serious head injuries. He was admitted unconscious to intensive care and required highly intensive sophisticated care until he was able to be flown back to Australia. He was still unconscious and returned on a stretcher. The cost to the family for the medical evacuation alone was $80,000. They have taken out a second mortgage on their house to raise the funds. 

In Bangkok a man was hit by a car while riding a motorcycle. He sustained a badly fractured leg and was admitted to the nearest local hospital. His wife was with him. He did not have any travel insurance, and so had no choice as to hospital or treatment. The hospital did not have the expertise to do anything for him except clean the wound. After 3 weeks his wife asked the Embassy for assistance as parts of the shin bone had died and the fractured ends were not healing. The Embassy assisted in having the man medically evacuated to Australia for admission to hospital, at very considerable expense to his family.

Travel Insurance Tips
Travel insurance covers the policyholder for insurable events that may occur before or during travel, such as trip cancellation/interruption, medical expenses, baggage damage/theft and more.
Regardless of whether you travel overseas regularly, infrequently or on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, travel insurance is very important. 

Important points to note when choosing travel insurance: 
Always read the product disclosure statement and ensure that you understand exactly what your travel insurance covers. Travel insurance is not unlimited. It may not cover you for cancellation or change to travel plans.

Clarify any policy issues directly with the insurer. 
Ensure that medical cover is adequate for possible expenses in the country you are going to visit. In some parts of the world medical costs can be very expensive. 
Ensure you declare any pre-existing medical conditions you may have.
Generally, cover for luggage and personal belongings is limited and expensive items such as cameras, laptops and/or jewellery may have a per-item limit.

Exclusions
Like most insurance policies there are standard general exclusions on most types of travel insurance policies. These can include acts of civil unrest, self inflicted injury, loss/theft of unattended baggage loss/theft of cash and pre-existing medical conditions.
Travellers should also be aware that travel insurance policies may be invalidated where injuries are sustained as a result of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Dangerous Activities
Travel insurance policies may not also cover dangerous or extreme activity, such as snowboarding or surfing. Most dangerous activities, such as rock climbing, kite surfing, hunting, bungee jumping and underwater activities involving the use of artificial breathing apparatus, may be classified as general exclusions in a travel insurance policy. 

Please note: Most policies do not cover cancellation as a result of the Government advising against travel to a particular destination or changing a travel advice.
What you need to do before making a claim:. It is important to have the following information available: Your travel insurance policy number. Your contact and travel details. Particulars of your claim and any supporting documentation. For example: copy of any medical, police or airline reports, the contact details of any treating doctor or hospital you attend, and any receipts for payments made.