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For the savvy traveller, insurance is just as essential as your passport. But for a multitude of reasons many Australians travel uninsured, with some ending up paying (be that financially, emotionally or physically) a lot more for their travel than they bargained for.

What to look for when looking at travel insurance

Type of activities planned - check the classification in each policy; what one insurer might define as ‘high-risk’ could be regarded as merely ‘outdoor adventurous’ with another. And the insurance premium could reflect this difference.

Personal belongings, baggage and specified items - the total sum insured, associated limits and excess amounts will determine the final premium.

Any pre-existing medical conditions? If so, are they covered? Importantly, what documentation or evidence might be required to even obtain the cover, apart from what may be needed in the event of a claim?

With some insurers, if a pre-existing medical condition is not automatically covered in their policy, you may still be able to apply for an extension to the insurance.

Age limits - Many providers do not impose age limits. However, if coverage is needed for a minor (under 18), a parent or guardian may be required to include such detail as part of the manual application.

Cancellation and/or delay - Ensure your nominated amount equals the full cost of your trip, plus any extras, should you have to cancel due to any number of reasons as prescribed in the policy, such as natural disaster, lost or stolen travel documents, pre-departure relative emergency, or missed flight connections beyond your control.

Destination - the world is divided into travel insurance ‘zones’, and if the US is on your itinerary, there may be a bit more to pay for travel insurance given the historically high cost of medical treatment in that country.

What’s generally not covered

Apart from any pre-existing medical conditions, other common exclusions could include loss or injury suffered due to:

  • Acting intentionally or recklessly
  • Belongings being unattended in a public place
  • The influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Undertaking ‘adventure activities’ such as mountaineering, motor biking or off-piste skiing
  • Competing in professional sports.

Again, no 2 policies are exactly the same. Investigation and comparison-shopping could save you a whole lot of grief and money if the unforeseen occurs.

Complimentary travel insurance

Many premium and Platinum-type credit cards offer complimentary overseas travel insurance as standard. But it’s wise to check the conditions around eligibility and exclusions before deciding whether the extent of this ‘free’ insurance will be sufficient to cover your overseas travel plans.

Depending on your destinations and time away, this cover may not fully meet your needs. Find out more about standalone Westpac Travel Insurance.

So shop around, sign up, then keep emergency numbers on hand and remember to retain receipts, police reports, medical certificates or whatever might be needed just in case you need to make a claim.