Travel health guide

Don't let an avoidable illness ruin your long-planned holiday
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03.Travel insurance

It is vital to take out comprehensive travel insurance, as it ensures you’re covered for general medical expenses, any existing medical conditions, hospitalisations and medical evacuation.

Always carry your insurance company’s emergency assistance card with you and contact the company as soon as you need help – most insurance companies provide 24-hour advice to travellers. Often your insurer will make arrangements for you to have treatment.

Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully

The Insurance Ombudsman Service recommends thoroughly reading the PDS and policy wording of your travel insurance policy to get a full understanding of any conditions, exclusions and limitations that may apply, what you need to do in order to make a claim and what’s expected of both you and your insurer. Some common traps include:

  • Claims relating to pre-existing conditions may not be covered. Check the PDS for those pre-existing conditions that are covered and under what circumstances, and also whether an extra premium can be paid for conditions not covered.
  • There may be certain procedures you must follow if you are going to claim medical expenses, such as contacting the insurer as soon as physically possible and obtaining their agreement to pay expenses; using a medical adviser specified by the insurer; having to follow the advice of the adviser (they might advise you get treatment locally, whereas if you’d prefer to go back to Australia your evacuation may not be covered). 
  • Exclusions or restrictions may relate to injuries caused by risky activities such as skiing, snowboarding or riding a motorbike. While you may be able to pay an additional premium to cover these activities, there may be some circumstances where you’re not covered – for example, taking part in racing, riding a motorbike without a helmet or off-piste skiing.

Travel insurance from your credit card company

If you’re planning to use the travel insurance you can get when you buy a ticket on your credit card, obtain a copy of the policy wording from your bank or credit card provider and make sure it meets your personal needs and situation. For example, it pays to check whether the policy covers existing medical conditions, and whether the travel has to take place within a certain time limit of buying the ticket.

Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements

The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Malta and Norway, which cover the cost of any immediate treatment you may require. However, while this provides a safety net for Australians travelling to those countries, an RHCA won’t cover a medical evacuation back to Australia, which can cost, in extreme cases, up to $300,000.

The RHCA also won’t cover any health problems encountered while travelling to and from those countries.


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