Top 10 travel insurance tips
THE world of travel insurance can be difficult to navigate, with travellers often left in a nightmare situation when buying the wrong policy.
So, to make it easier for you, we've been in touch with travel industry experts and put together this top 10 list of things you might not know about travel insurance - and the things you need to avoid.
1. Australians have no legal entitlement to financial assistance from the Government if something goes wrong while overseas
Medical costs you may be hit with while overseas are not covered by Medicare and can end up being very expensive.
"If you fall ill in countries like the US - with its sky-high health-costs - you will be hit up for huge medical expenses if you don't have adequate insurance cover," Doc Holiday said.
While medical insurance should be a top priority, Government website Smarttraveller.com says you simply shouldn't travel without travel insurance of some kind.
"Regardless of how well prepared, healthy and fit you are - if you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel," the Smarttraveller website states.
2. You can insure your iPhone
The growing cache of iPhones, laptops and other electronic devices carried by Australians has fuelled a surge in travellers seeking extra insurance cover.
"These items not only posed a greater risk of theft, they could also take a traveller's total luggage value beyond the limits of their insurance," Travel Insurance Direct's (TID) Ian Jackson said.
For example, TID's standard policies offer $12,000 luggage cover, including up to $4000 per item for cameras, laptops and hand-held computers, and up to $700 for other individual items.
3. Be prepared to claim
If you get robbed on your trip, notify the police within 24 hours and keep a copy of the police report - this will enable you to claim more quickly, according to travel.com.au's General Manager - Brand, Lisa Ferrari.
Interestingly, you can't claim a personal item that an animal has stolen - so watch out for those monkeys.
4. Medical condition loophole
You can apply for cover for cancellations and additional expenses that arise due to an existing medical condition.
While terms, conditions and an additional amount payable may apply based on your medical appraisal, it's definitely worth checking out and could save you heaps, Ms Ferrari said.
5. Insure yourself in "safe" countries too
A survey commissioned by Bupa Australia - which provides travel insurance under the brands MBF, HBA and Mutual Community - has found that 55 per cent of respondents purchase travel insurance based on their perception of a country's safety.
But Bupa's Shane Williamson warns travellers not to tempt fate.
"Some Australians believe they only need travel insurance if they're running with the bulls, or engaging in daredevil behaviour, which is simply not true," he said.
"The reality is that we processed over 2500 travel insurance claims last year, and the majority of incidents occurred in destinations that were perceived as safe, with most claims related to common occurrences such as lost luggage, travel cancellations, or requiring medical treatment."
6. Don't pay more just because you're old
Some of Australia's most popular over-the-counter insurance policies are more than twice as expensive as online policies for travellers aged 60 and over.
"Travellers are routinely being told they need to pay hundreds of dollars more than they should, simply because of their age," Mr Jackson said.
"Others are being charged extra for pre-existing medical conditions that are relatively routine and should be covered for no additional cost."
Advice? Look online at sites for travel insurance to avoid paying hundreds of dollars extra for age-based premiums, according to a leading insurer.
7. Don't rely on your credit card company
TID claims that thousands of Australians are unnecessarily exposing themselves to enormous risks by relying on travel insurance offered through their credit card providers. Many basic policies cannot be activated without producing a copy of your credit card and do not cover any business or sporting activities, such as rafting.
TID also claims that it's not uncommon for insurance offered by credit card providers to only last three months, and once overseas, coverage cannot be extended.
If you are planning to rely on the travel insurance provided by your credit card, you should, before travelling, obtain written confirmation that you are covered and of what exactly the insurance covers.
8. Work out how the policy is calculated
"The cost of travel insurance is usually based on the type of cover requested, the age of the insured, the travel destination and the duration of stay," Ms Ferrari said.
It's important to figure out exactly what your package includes, and whether what's included is right for you. Always take time to purchase the right policy to suit your holiday - and if you're not sure, ask.
9. Be prepared for some action
Don't shy away from all those action sports and activities while you're away, just make sure you buy travel insurance before you leave.
For example, "if you decide to go skiing in Austria, it could be very expensive to get insurance once on the ground, rather than in your overall policy prior to departure," Ms Moy advises.
Check your policy cover before you go, and if you are going to participate in activities that aren't already covered (including skiing and many water sports), take out additional cover early to save you money.
10. Shop around
It's becoming a cliche, but shopping around for the best insurance policy can pay off. Look online, through travel agents, your credit card provider, and ask your friends what they've used in the past too.
"Although it can be overwhelming sifting through the numerous insurance providers out there, it's important to shop around to find the best policy to suit your specific needs," Nicole Moy, managing director, Contiki Holidays, said.
"A travel agent is a great place to start as they are already aware of what you need to suit your travel arrangements plus have access to a number of great deals."
Make sure the cover provided suits your needs and is valid for the whole time you will be away – and be sure to read the fine print as well.