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What happens if I forget to buy travel insurance before leaving Australia?

A lost tourist checks a paper map while talking on the phone

Travel insurance is the cherry on top of many people’s holiday plans. It takes some of the financial risk away from travelling – whether it's to cover for medical costs, lost baggage or even cancelling your trip. But when you’re busy packing, booking flights, and dreaming of sunset cocktails, this important piece of the puzzle can sometimes be overlooked.

So, can you get travel insurance if you're already overseas? Let's find out...

If you’re overseas when you realise you forgot to purchase a travel insurance policy, you’ll be glad to know: it’s not too late to get travel insurance (even when you're already in another country!). 

There are different conditions for different travel insurance providers and, while some companies don’t give you the option to take out cover once you’ve left Australia, the good news is, there are still options for Aussies who need to apply for cover while already abroad.

The only downside is, you might not be able to get the cheapest travel insurance policy out there, as your choices are limited.

In fact, applying for cover when overseas isn’t as hard as you may think. Your travel insurance policy might only even take a few days to activate, once purchased. Such cover has some specific requirements, with it often only being available to people who are Australian residents and those who have plans to return home to Australia.

Travel insurance which is taken out while abroad can be useful to the following travellers:

  • Those who simply forgot to take out cover before leaving the country
  • People who are abroad that need to extend their policy but their current provider won’t allow them or their current policy has expired

Do I have to have travel insurance? Why is it important?

Why, you ask? Well, you don’t have to take out travel insurance as it isn't compulsory when you travel abroad.

But it could be a seriously handy precaution in many cases, as it can save you from unexpected expenses you may face while travelling overseas.

Each travel insurance provider covers various things that can be tailored to fit your specific travel needs. However, things which could end up saving you big time in the long run like medical treatment, cancellations or delays, lost items, emergency trips and support, and serious injury or death are generally covered to some level under most policies. 

So as you can see, travel insurance could ultimately save you from being personally liable for coughing up a lot of cash for costs you may have not foreseen before you set sail or took flight for foreign lands.

So, what are the conditions of buying travel insurance if you are already overseas?

In order to have the widest range of insurance provider options, it is ideal to purchase travel insurance before you leave Australia. But don’t stress, because there are still plenty of cover options you can apply for if you are already away.

In many cases the cover is the same for policies purchased once you’re overseas as if you had purchased it before you left. Similar conditions apply to things like medical cover, unexpected delays or cancellation and loss of property.

Sometimes, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you will be unable to apply for travel insurance once abroad as insurance providers may require documentation from a medical professional or further medical testing. It can be difficult, or even expensive, to secure documentation like that in a foreign country.

Just bear in mind that while you may be able to purchase a policy of up to 12 months, there could be a small catch. Some companies may take a few days to activate your insurance, so during this period you will not be covered which means you could be personally liable if anything were to happen whilst uninsured.

Wait, will my travel credit card cover me overseas?

Some high-end travel credit cards come with the extra bonus of travel insurance that can cover the cardholder, a partner, spouse or a child under the age of 19 – which means you may actually already be covered!

Generally, credit card travel insurance is activated when you purchase at least $500 worth of pre-paid travel expenses on the card – like flights or accommodation.

This may be suitable for your travel situation and may be all you need instead of a standalone travel insurance policy.

The most common things covered by a credit card with travel insurance include:

  • Flight cancellation
  • Lost or stolen baggage
  • Medical cover
  • Rental car excess
  • Cash cover
  • Loss of income

It is worth checking with your credit card provider to see what is specifically covered, but if your needs are met by that policy, then it may be unnecessary to look elsewhere.

That’s not to say this will work for everyone, because a standalone policy may be the better option for you in your own circumstances to ensure that you are covering all your bases.

That’s why it’s worth comparing all your travel insurance options to guarantee that you make the right choice for you and your travel needs.

Credit card travel insurance and COVID-19 cover

Since the easing of the pandemic, travel insurance providers have started to integrate cover for Coronavirus in their policies. 

While there's no blanket rule for Covid coverage, you might find that your credit card travel insurance covers the spicy cough. 

We've compiled a list of credit card travel insurance policies that either do, or do not, cover you for COVID-19 here.

What if I opt to travel without insurance?

You can travel without insurance if you wish, as it isn’t a requirement under Australian law to take out cover. However, it’s important you’re fully aware of all potential costs you may face if you decide to go without.

According to Smartraveller, even in cases of emergency the Australian Government –  under the Consular Services Charter – will not cover your medical treatment or evacuation expenses overseas.

You will be 100% personally liable for all costs on things like medical, unexpected travel changes or loss of items.

Can I get COVID-19 travel insurance if I am already overseas?

Despite the being different variants of the COVID-19 virus still floating around, Australians who are fully vaccinated and in possession of an international COVID-19 vaccination certificate (ICVC), or proof of medical exemption, are currently allowed to leave the country. You won’t need to possess a travel exemption either. 

If you’re travelling overseas, your international travel insurance may provide limited cover for any COVID-19 related claims, but it differs depending on the provider and the policy. 

Plus, if your destination is considered high-risk by the Australian government’s Smartraveller warnings, then your travel insurance may be void altogether. 

That's why it's really important to red through a policy's product disclosure statement (PDS) before you purchase it. There are often little terms and conditions hidden amongst the insurance jargon that might catch you by surprise. 

Some quick travel insurance tips

  • Read the policy thoroughly. Read the product disclosure statement (PDS) ensure you know exactly what you are covered for and know if there are any catches
  • Check your excess. While the premium on your policy may be low, it’s worth checking the cost of your excess, as it may be more than you expected
  • Check your coverage. Are the countries you are travelling to included in your policy and are you covered for everything you need like medical or extra activities?
  • Compare policies. Find the right policy to fit your budget and needs. You can start by comparing travel insurance policies below.

Compare travel insurance policies - last updated 26 May 2024

Search promoted travel insurance below. Advertiser disclosure Important information on terms, conditions and sub-limits.
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Jack Dona
Jack Dona
RG146
Money writer

Jack is RG146 Generic Knowledge certified, with a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing from UTS, and uses his creative flair to cut through the financial jargon and make home loans, insurance and banking interesting. His reader-first approach to creating content and his passion for financial literacy means he always looks for innovative ways to explain personal finance. Jack's research and explanations have been featured in government publications, and his work is regularly featured alongside major publications in Google's Top Stories for Insurance.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Travel Insurance Awards

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