Holiday Traveller

INSURING YOUR TRAVEL

Because we offer a free over-the-phone travel health advisory service, Travelvax Australia gets lots of questions about travel insurance.

Do I need insurance for ‘safe’ countries? (Yes, all foreign countries).

Who has the best policies? (Shop around, but check the fine print).

Will the Australian government pay my costs if I get injured overseas? (No. Nor will it reimburse you for lost or stolen luggage, cameras etc).

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, along with some advice to help you navigate the travel insurance maze.

Surely, the government will help me?

No, you’re on your own - you are NOT entitled to financial help from the Federal Government if something goes wrong while you are overseas.

Medical bills incurred overseas are not usually covered by Medicare and western-style treatment is very expensive - everywhere. In countries like the USA, medical expenses can be astronomical.

The federal government’s Smartraveller website puts its position succinctly in an oft-repeated mantra: "Regardless of how well prepared, healthy and fit you are - if you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel.”

Is my laptop covered?

More and more people travel with their computers, smart phones and other electronic devices and thieves target them (just like they do at home!).

These items could take the total value of your luggage beyond the limits of your insurance.Look for a policy that makes provision for cameras, laptops and hand-held computers over and beyond the cover for loss of luggage.

What if I get ripped off?

If thieves strike, notify the local police within 24 hours and get a copy of the police report. This will speed up your claim.

(It’s worth noting that your policy only extends to human thieves, so beware of light-fingered monkeys.)

Is my existing medical condition covered?

If you have an existing medical condition, make sure it is specifically included in your cover. You can then apply for cover for cancellations and additional expenses that arise from it.

You may pay extra and the cover may come with terms and conditions, but it could save you plenty if problems arise.

What if I’m going to a ‘safe’ country?

Just over half people who take out travel insurance do so based on their perception of the country’s safety, according to a survey by Bupa Australia.

However, most of the Australians who claim on their travel insurance each year have travelled to a ‘safe’ country, with most claims relating to lost luggage, travel cancellations, or medical treatment.

I’m over 60. Will I pay more?

For Aussie travellers aged 60 and over, some over-the-counter travel insurance policies can be more than double the cost of online policies. It’s not uncommon for people over 60 to be charged a premium for relatively routine pre-existing medical conditions that should be covered for no extra cost.

Look online at sites for travel insurance to avoid paying extra for age-based premiums.

Is my credit card travel insurance good enough?

If you are planning to rely on credit card travel insurance, get written confirmation that: (1) you are indeed covered, (2) how long the cover lasts, and (3) exactly what’s covered (or not).

Some credit card policies only last three months and once you are overseas, coverage cannot be extended. Some don’t cover business or sporting activities, such as skiing or rafting, either.

Be prepared for action

If you are planning to go snow skiing, rafting or trekking, it is less expensive to take out additional cover as part of your overall policy before you leave. Buying extra insurance to cover activities like these after you land can be very expensive.

Who’s got the best policy for me?

Quite simply, it pays to shop around for travel insurance. Sifting through policies can be daunting, but the time you spend could save you money on this trip, and in the future.

The cost of travel insurance is usually based on:

- The type of cover you request

- Your age

- Your destination

- Length of stay

Look online, ask a travel agent, talk to your credit card provider. Don’t forget to ask well-travelled friends, too (it could save you a lot of leg work, especially if they have first-hand experience of the pitfalls).

Just be sure to read the fine print.

CLAIMS CHECKLIST

If the worst happens, this checklist will help you in making a claim.

- Photograph any expensive items you are taking (i.e. jewellery, handbags, or electronic items) and, where possible, record serial numbers.

- Email images of your valuables and a scan of your passport to a secure location.

- Make sure you have receipts for any valuables you take.

- Check the value of items in your luggage against your insurance policy.  If you need to increase your coverage, call your travel insurer before you travel.

- If you buy something expensive overseas, take a photograph and keep the receipt in a safe place.

- If you are the victim of crime, report the theft to local police and get a copy of their report.

- Your travel insurer should offer a phone number. If you need to make a claim, then contact your insurer while you’re travelling for advice.

- Take your travel insurance policy number with you (load it into your mobile phone and send it to your webmail, along with any emergency numbers).

- If you have to make a claim, include copies of all relevant documentation– the more information that you provide, the quicker your claim will be processed.

-  When making a claim, keep your own copy of all supporting documentation. It’s usually quicker to make a claim electronically, but if you send your claim by post, register the envelope.