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

Travel insurance is a staple to many people’s holiday planning as it takes some of the financial risk away from travelling - whether that’s cover for medical, for lost items or for your baggage. But when you are busy packing, booking flights and dreaming of sunset cocktails sometimes it can be easily forgotten. But thankfully it’s not too late!

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

In fact, applying for cover when overseas isn’t as hard as you may think, and your travel insurance policy can become active within a few days of application. 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 is not compulsory when you travel abroad. But it could be a seriously handy precaution in many cases as it can save you from unexpected expenses that you may face while you are travelling overseas.

For many keen world travellers it takes away the worry that comes with the financial risk of holidaying abroad and keeps people’s stress levels down in the rare case that things do actually go wrong.

Each travel insurance provider covers various things that can be tailored to fit your specific travel needs, however, things 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 which could end up saving you big time in the long run.

So as you can see, travel insurance could ultimately save you from being personally liable for coughing up a lot of cash for costs that you may have not foreseen before you went away.

RELATED: Travel Insurance FAQs - all your questions answered 

So what are the conditions of buying travel insurance once you are 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 companies may require documentation from a medical professional or further medical testing.

RELATED: Pre-existing medical conditions and travel insurance: do you know what you’re covered for?

Just bear in mind that while you may be able to purchase a policy of up to 12 months, there may 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. 

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 specifically with your credit card provider to see what is covered, but if it is all you need than it may be unnecessary to buy another policy.

That’s not to say this will work for everyone, because a standalone policy may be the better option for you 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.

RELATED: Credit card travel insurance v stand-alone travel insurance

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 is important that you are fully aware of all potential costs that you may face if you decide to go without.

According to Smart Traveller, 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.

The good news is that travel insurance doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg though. Let’s say you have plans to spend the European summer on the deck chairs of Positano, travel insurance may be worth considering if you want to avoid money being taken out of your own pocket.

For example, for a 25 year-old travelling to Europe for the month of July, basic medical cover could be as low as $80 for the whole trip!

To get an idea of how much insurance would cost for your next holiday check out Mozo’s travel insurance calculator.

Some quick travel insurance tips

  • Read the policy thoroughly- 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, 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 - get a reduced premium to suit you and find the best fit for your travel needs

For more travel insurance advice see Mozo’s Top travel insurance tips or head to our travel insurance hub to compare policies.