Everything you need to know about travel insurance

An industry insider shares tips and advice for choosing a travel insurance policy. 

There’s nothing quite like the natural high of booking an international holiday. Whether through a travel agent or DIY on your computer at home, seeing that first departing flight confirmation come through is a thrill. While you may be inclined to start booking tours and shopping for holiday clothes, there’s one very important task that should take priority: buying travel insurance. 

There’s a golden rule that all travellers should follow: if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel. However, not all travel insurance policies are written equally or thoroughly, and it’s up to the traveller to read the fine print. Craig Morison from travel insurance provider Fast Cover, has provided answers to common questions about travel insurance.

woman sitting on edge of pool holding her hat
© Unsplash/ Cosmic Timetraveler

What is travel insurance?

It is an insurance product that specifically covers unforeseen and unexpected losses acquired while travelling, both internationally and domestically, depending upon which policy you purchase. 

Why do you need travel insurance?

When travelling internationally, travel insurance is just as important as a valid passport. Some countries won’t allow entry to travellers who don’t have travel insurance, such as Singapore or the UAE. Furthermore, if you fall ill or are injured while overseas, the Australian government will not pay your medical bills – but the right travel insurance policy will. A good travel insurance policy will also help in the event of cancellations, delays, lost items, natural disasters and pandemics. Travel insurance policies can also cover domestic travel.

Always read the fine print of a policy

“When discussing travel insurance, you may commonly hear phrases such as ‘everything is covered’.  It is not the case that every scenario is covered. Typically, the intent of travel insurance is for coverage in the event of selected unforeseen and unexpected events occurring before or during your travels,” says Craig. “It’s up to the customers to do their due diligence before purchasing a policy, as no policy covers everything.”

A group of young people laughing
© Unsplash/ Felix Rostig

Benefits of travel insurance 

Craig says a key benefit of travel insurance is that it can cover certain out-of-pocket expenses in some situations. “Whether it’s trip cancellation, trip disruption, or overseas emergency medical expenses, or just having luggage and personal effects lost, stolen or damaged – there is a range of benefits available on different policy options,” says Craig. “There will always be terms, conditions, exclusions, and limits that also apply, so each person should carefully consider and compare policies prior to deciding which policy is right for them.”

How to identify a ‘good’ policy or provider

Craig explains that the difference between a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ travel insurance policy is the ability to tailor it to suit your needs, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. “Studying online reviews can be a great tool as it can help gain insight into other travellers’ experiences, and understanding the level of customer service provided by the provider,” says Craig. “However, ratings are just one of many factors that customers need to consider prior to deciding which policy is right for them.”

When is the best time to buy a travel insurance policy? 

The best time to purchase a travel insurance policy will depend on the type of coverage you want or need, says Craig, as some policies cover particular events or circumstances while others do not. “Bear in mind that the cancellation benefits on certain policies relate to the unexpected and unforeseen cancellation of pre-booked and prepaid travel arrangements and can provide coverage if you need to cancel your trip for a claimable reason before you commence your travels,” says Craig. 

three people skiing in the snow
© Unsplash/ Banff Sunshine Village

What does a travel insurance policy cover?

The incidents, events, costs and circumstances covered by a policy will depend entirely upon the policy you choose, and how you tailor it to suit your needs. Generally speaking, a policy should cover the entire duration of your travel, every country or region you plan to visit, any particular activities you plan to do while travelling, medical emergencies and the items you plan to take with you. However, the Australian Smartraveller website reports some things a policy might include (and you should look for) are:

  • Medical expenses
  • Cancellation and/or delay of flights, tours, ferries, trains, buses, etc. 
  • Lost, damaged or stolen Baggage 
  • Valuable personal items
  • Vehicle hire excess
  • Missing a connecting flight
  • Cancelling a trip prior to departing due to unforeseen circumstances or events
  • Cruises
  • Sports and activities, such as skiing or snowboarding

Why are some claims declined? 

Claims can be declined due to particular items being excluded from a policy, or not specifically mentioned within a policy; because the claim was less than the excess; due to a pre-existing medical condition, or if a claim for a stolen item occurred while it was unattended. 

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