Everything you need to know about travel insurance

Travels walk across a floor with a map of Europe. They all have travel insurance.

A modern mantra: “If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel." 

This might sound a bit narky, but travel insurance is actually genuinely important. With coverage available for emergency hospital visits, stolen luggage, and more, the best travel insurance could help protect you from serious financial trouble. 

So if you're planning on travelling this year, whether domestically or abroad, comparing travel insurance policies should be a key part of trip planning. So let’s unpack!

Here’s everything you need to know about travel insurance.

What is travel insurance?

A plane wing over an aerial sunset.
Photo by Louis Magnotti.

Travel insurance covers you for any unfortunate events that may occur when travelling overseas, such as medical illness, cancellations, stolen or damaged valuables, and personal liability. 

Different travel insurance policies will get you different levels and kinds of cover, so it’s important to consider your travel needs when comparing travel insurances. 

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Types of Travel Insurance

A man relaxes at the airport while watching a plan take off.
Photo by jeshoots.

There are a few kinds of travel insurance coverage to choose from when comparing policies, including different levels of cover. The common levels are:

  • Basic
  • Essentials
  • Comprehensive.

Basic travel insurance will usually only get you emergency medical cover and personal liability. Essentials is typically a mid-level offering, depending on the provider. Comprehensive travel insurance is the highest level of cover offered, and will often include cover for flight cancellations, rental car excesses, theft/loss/damage to your belongings, and optional extras. 

Some of the specific types of travel insurance policies include:

  • Family travel insurance. This provides cover for you and your kiddly-winks as you explore the globe.
  • Multi-trip travel insurance. If you're a regular adventurer travelling two to three times a year, multi-trip cover could save you some time, cash, and stress. 
  • Domestic travel insurance. That’s right – even if you’re just exploring the wonders of your Australian backyard, domestic travel insurance could offer you enhanced financial security.
  • International travel insurance. This is the standard guy everyone thinks about when they think of “travel insurance”. 
  • Snow sports travel insurance. Planning on hitting the slopes this winter? Even some of the most common comprehensive policies won’t cover extreme activities like snow sports, so it’s important to look for a policy that specifically includes this as an extra. That way, you could be covered for any gnarly wipe-outs or unexpected snow storms!
  • Backpackers travel insurance. Experiencing the unknown is one thing, being covered for the unknown is another thing all together! Backpackers insurance generally covers you for longer periods of time than standard insurance and can include some extreme sport cover too, so you can bungee-jump and hang-glide without a worry.
  • Seniors travel insurance. Age is just a number. Besides, travel is almost a retirement rite of passage! So if you’re a golden oldie hoping to see more of the world, seniors travel insurance is designed to offer you tailored coverage.
  • Smartphone travel insurance. While often not a specific policy, it’s important to consider if you need extra protection for your electronic devices while adventuring abroad. Some comprehensive policies will have more generous limits than others, so keep this in mind when comparing travel insurances. 

You can learn about a specific policy’s inclusions and exclusions by consulting the product disclosure statement (PDS). With so much choice out there, finding the best policy for you is just a matter of comparing what you need vs. what’s covered.

Speaking of which…

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What does travel insurance cover?

A hand holds a smartphone with a plane ticket on it.

Loads! The goal of travel insurance is to cover you in the event of accidents, illness, injuries, and other misfortunes on your trip, so policies cover a wide variety.

Comprehensive travel insurance policies usually cover:

  • Medical expenses. Travel insurance policies are generous when it comes to medical care with many offering unlimited cover or cover into the millions. However, it's important to note that most travel insurance policies don't cover pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart conditions or diabetes.
  • Dental. Chipped tooth? Emergency dental care is included in the majority of travel insurance policies but any ongoing dental work needed when you return to Australia is not covered.
  • Personal liability. Accidents happen! If you're found responsible for another person's injury while travelling you will seriously need personal liability cover ($2 million is the standard amount).
  • Luggage and personal belongings. Cover usually ranges from $2,000-$12,000 depending on your travel insurance cover. Any wise traveller should keep in mind that there is no cover for unattended personal belongings in a public place or unmanned vehicles.
  • Accidental death and injury. If you are permanently disabled as a result of an accident or you die while away, you or your estate will receive money to pay for repatriation or loss of income.
  • Cash. Not all travel insurance policies include cash reimbursement. The ones that do usually cover $100-$200 and most clauses state that you have to have the money on you at the time of theft. If you’d prefer to go cashless on your holiday, you can browse and compare travel credit cards
  • Rental car excess. If you are planning on renting a car while you're on holiday your travel insurance will usually cover any rental car excess. So DON'T take out that expensive excess reduction insurance with the rental car company!
  • Cancellation and delays. If your flight is delayed or you have to cancel your trip you'll get reimbursed by your travel insurance provider. Generally your flight has to be delayed by over 24 hours for you to receive travel delay reimbursement.
  • Airline and holiday insolvency. What happens if one of your pre-paid holiday companies goes bust? By having airline and end supplier insolvency included as part of your travel insurance, you'll be covered if the tour company goes belly-up and you've prepaid your expenses!

Every travel insurance policy will have its quirks, so the key is finding the right cover and understanding its limitations. These exclusions will vary between providers, but commonly include things like:

Breaching any above could get your travel insurance claim denied. 

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Lastly, it’s important to know the process of how to file a travel insurance claim will vary between providers. You can find out what to do by going through your provider’s website or reading your policy’s PDS.

How to find the best travel insurance policy

A woman dances in ecstasy because she found the best travel insurance policy.
Photo by Brooke Cagle.

Don't just grab the first (or cheapest) travel insurance policy you see. Read the fine print and know what you're covered and not covered for in the PDS. This could save you big bucks, as well as an unnecessary holiday headache. No one wants to get stuck footing the bill!

The best policy for you could also vary depending on your destination or holiday plans. If you’re heading to Europe or Canada, for example, snow sports insurance could be essential, but if you’re just planning a road trip through Australia, low budget options could be more your speed. 

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Find out if the premium reflects what is included in the cover, too! No point paying top dollar if the medical or luggage limits are not adequate for your holiday.

Lastly, make sure you’re comfortable with the excess amounts you'll need to pay in the event of a claim. An excess is simply the amount you’re willing to pay whenever you make a claim (can vary between $0 and as high as $800). Some policies have different excess amounts depending on the claim type. 

If you have any pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy, be upfront about them so that you know you are covered in case of an emergency.

Experiencing wanderlust? Browse international travel insurance policies below.

Compare international travel insurance policies - last updated 17 May 2022

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