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Travel Insurance – would you go to sea without a life raft?

October 1st, 2012

Travel insurance – who needs it ? A surprising number of Australians think they don’t. Some travellers see insurance as a waste of money. By that logic, life rafts on a boat are a waste of money. (Sometimes waste is a good thing.)

Scary looking hospital ward

Hospital ward in developing world – sometimes going to hospital can make you worse! Travel insurance helps you find reliable doctors.


Travellers say “I’m taking nothing of value“. Yes.. a lost camera is not likely to bankrupt too many people; however medical expenses can cause the instant evaporation of big dollars. Some people rely on Australia’s reciprocal health agreements. These only apply in a few countries. If you are sick or injured in some parts of the world, you can face a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars. No more travel for many years! Good insurance also means accessing better medical treatment.


Some travellers just forget to buy travel insurance. When booking flights over the internet, there may be no reminder. While you are online booking your flight, Google the words travel insurance, and checkout the options. If you arrive at the airport without insurance, it may even be possible to buy some insurance at the airport.

Travel Insurance Loopholes

Even if you have travel insurance, you need to be aware of loopholes. (Insurers are expert at finding loopholes so they don’t have to pay the claim of unwary travellers. )


A loophole is a weakness or exception

that allows a system, such as a law or security,

to be circumvented or otherwise avoided.


A big loophole is a pre existing condition. If you have been in perfect health for your entire life, there is no issue. However, some of us have had a few medical hiccups along life’s journey. The scary thing is that the insurer might consider you have a pre-existing medical condition, even though you may not: e.g. 18 months ago you were knocked out in a car accident, had amnesia for a few days, and now are completely better. To you that’s old news …the travel insurers may see it differently. You do need to read the policy.


What is a preexisting medical condition?

  • Any medical problem that you have seen a health professional about (including dentist or chiropractor), especially within the last 60 days
  • Any condition for which you take prescribed medicine
  • Any condition for which you have had surgery


Another loophole is dates; double check the dates on your travel insurance policy. I had a patient whose travel insurance ran out a few days before he was due to return home. He was in Thailand, and Murphy’s law meant that the day after his insurance expired, he was crossing a road, and was hit by a bus. He suffered an open fracture of his leg. He ould not return get on his booked flight. He could not change his flight either, so had to waste his existing airline ticket and pay for a new one when he was cleared to travel.

Finding reliable doctors using travel insurance

Travelling without insurance is not just expensive, it can mean you may not get the treatment you need. I received a call from a distraught mother. Her backpacking offspring had suffered an accident, and needed evacuation. The evacuation companies would not touch the case, because the young man had no insurance. This caused a great deal of stress and cost to the family. They had to organise medical attention to stabilize the problem, and get him home.


Having travel insurance means help finding a reliable doctor. This might make the difference between life and death. I had one patient who went to 6 doctors in India trying to find the proper rabies vaccine after an animal bite. Rabies is always fatal. It is much easier if you can ring your insurance company and say “Find me some rabies vaccine and get me there today.”


Follow the tips belowso you can concentrate on having a great adventure, .. … Murphy’s law is hovering above us all. Travel insurance is one of those strange things that savvy travellers buy and hope to ‘waste’.



If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel

..Department of Foreign Affairs, Australian Government

Travel Insurance Tips

  • Read the policy
  • Don’t buy the first policy you are offered. Research with Google; type of cover and cost can vary enormously
  • Check if insurers consider you have a pre – existing condition
  • Accidents while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be covered.
  • Adventure activities, even riding a motor bike may void your cover.
  • Double check the dates on your policy – know what happens if you stay longer.
  • Document proof of ownership any valuables you take.
  • Carry the ‘hotline’ phone number of your insurance provider.
  • Travel insurance doesn’t just pay the bills, they are organize evacuations, and find reliable doctors when you need them
  • And may I repeat myself….Read the policy


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