Travel insurance Europe

Elevated view of Positano and the ocean, Italy

According to the United Nations, 44 countries make up the European continent. According to the bright-eyed, high school version of myself, there were about 4: Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and Rome. 

These are, of course, cities, as I have since found out. Europe has been a vast and diverse centre of culture for thousands of years, made up of many cities, which in-turn have linked arms to create countries. Many countries. And with all 44 countries to explore in all their vastness and detail, the ultimate travel companion is, of course, a travel insurance policy.

For many Australians, getting to Europe can be an expensive enough task as it is, without worrying about things like cancelled flights, overseas medical emergencies, and lost luggage. So, when budgeting for your European getaway, consider factoring in a travel insurance policy, which could save you hundreds, or even thousands of Euros if something goes wrong. 

Besides, a policy might only cost a fraction of your total holiday cost, which is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

What should my travel insurance policy for Europe include?

The kind of insurance you buy will depend on what kind of traveller you are. When comparing international travel insurance policies, consider how long you are travelling for, what benefits you might need, and if there are any optional-extras you’re interested in.

Whether you’re travelling around Europe in a rental vehicle, backpacking, or sightseeing, an international travel insurance policy should fit your needs and budget. If you’re looking to travel in luxury on the Mediterranean sea, then make sure your policy offers cruise travel insurance as an optional-extra. If you’re after a winter sports escape to the rolling hills of powder in France or Italy, then opt for a policy that offers snow travel insurance

And if you’re travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, make sure that your insurance provider covers your condition. You don’t want to foot the bill in an overseas hospital if your health acts up while travelling. 

Many travel insurance providers will offer different tiers of cover on their international policies. These often range from basic or essential policies, to premium or comprehensive policies. 

Generally, a basic policy will cover benefits like overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses, and personal liability. However, cover for things like flight delays, cancellations, loss of travel documents or cash, might only be available if you pay a higher premium. The question you have to ask yourself is, what can I afford to risk?

Do Australians need a visa to travel to Europe?

If you hold an Australian passport, then you won’t need a visa if you’re travelling inside the Schengen zone for less than a total of 90 days, within a 180 day period. The Schengen Area includes 26 European countries who abolished their internal borders, allowing for the free and unrestricted movement of people between countries.

Which countries are in the Schengen area?

Countries included in the Schengen Area are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Can I get COVID-19 travel insurance for Europe?

According to the Smartraveller website, EU member states and Schengen Area countries have imposed travel restrictions on their borders due to COVID-19. While some countries have reopened their borders to some travellers, Australia was removed from their ‘Whitelist’ of accepted countries on January 17, 2022. 

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to travel to Europe entirely, but you may be subject to testing and self-isolation measures, depending on which country you are visiting. If you want to check what the requirements are for a country on your list of travel destinations, then head to the EU’s Re-open EU website. In order to travel to some European countries, you may need to possess a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate

However, if you’re travelling overseas, your international travel insurance might not cover you for any COVID-19 related claims, depending if your destination is considered high-risk by the Australian government’s Smartraveller warnings. So, before you go booking your European adventure, make sure you check the travel advice warnings for your destinations. 

If your policy does cover COVID-19 related events, it may only provide cover for overseas medical and cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19, and may not cover things like mandatory quarantine or government-mandated border closures.

Travel insurance tips for Europe

Excess fees. When you need to make a claim on your travel insurance policy, you may be required to pay a certain part of the total value of your claim. The rest would be paid by the insurance provider. This amount that you need to pay yourself is called an excess. This excess fee can vary according to your policy. Generally, the cheaper the cover, the more likely your excess fee will be higher.

Pre-existing conditions. Travel insurance providers ask you to declare any pre-existing conditions at the time of purchasing the policy. If you fail to do so, the insurance company can reject a claim you later make regarding that condition. Also, remember that pregnancies are considered as a pre-existing condition.

Unattended baggage. Remember that if your bags go missing while you’ve left them unattended, your insurance provider may reject your claim. In fact, even when you leave your bags with the hotel concierge after you’ve checked out, that’s often considered ‘unattended’ in the provider’s eyes. So, say you check out of your hotel in Florence and take off for a day-trip to Pisa, leaving your luggage at the hotel, your provider could refuse to reimburse for it, if it goes missing. 

Report incidents ASAP. Whether you’ve injured yourself while skiing in Switzerland, or had your purse stolen in Naples, you must report any incident as soon as possible. Again, if you’ve read your policy’s product disclosure statement (PDS) carefully, you’ll know the exact documentation that you will be required to submit with your claim. Generally, these will be doctors reports, hospital bills, police reports, or receipts, depending on the nature of your claim. So, make sure you hold onto these when it comes to contacting your travel insurance provider. 

Driving in Europe. First of all, don’t drive a vehicle you aren’t licensed to drive. Make sure you have the right paperwork when you hire a car in Europe. Also, remember that unlike Australia, most Europeans drive on the right-hand side of the road, which can be a bit confusing to begin with. So take extra care when pulling out of your parking spots, or turning at an intersection. And like in any part of the world, don’t drink and drive – your insurance will not cover you for any accidents while under the influence.

Drink responsibly. It’s all too easy to keep a highly-sippable jug of Spanish sangria close by, but always remember to be responsible with your drinks. If you face a medical emergency or injury while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurance company could refuse to reimburse you for those expenses. The worst type of hangover doesn’t come from red wine – it’s induced by bills.