Ever wondered what the different types of travel insurance are - and what you need?
They can cover vastly different travel experiences. You might come across all of these kinds or classifications of travel insurance products, we’ll explain them all below.
What are the main types of travel insurance?
Worldwide travel insurance.
Theoretically, you’d expect this type of travel insurance to cover you wherever you are in the world. But it’s never quite as simple as the name! There are always some terms and conditions that apply to all insurance policies. The main one to watch for with “worldwide travel insurance” is that some locations will probably be excluded. Each policy is different, but in general locations may be excluded from cover because the government has issued a warning against travel to that region, it’s considered to be a “remote area”, you’re not covered for “blue water” (ocean sailing), places such as Antarctica, if there’s been an outbreak of an epidemic or pandemic, or because it’s an active war zone.
High risk travel insurance.
“High risk travel insurance” policies are designed to cover you either for countries considered to be dangerous destinations, for physically riskier activities such as working as a building contractor, or both such as an aid worker or even a journalist working in a dangerous place. To be sure that you’d be covered for both the destinations you want to travel to, and the activities or work you plan to undertake in them, read the PDS and pay special attention to any exclusions listed.
Generally, because the risk is much greater than a regular holiday under normal conditions, you can expect to pay a lot more. However with this specialist type of insurance, you may be grateful for the peace of mind that cover designed specifically for dangerous locations offers, such as ransom payments if you are kidnapped.
Medical travel insurance.
This can be one of two things. Either you can buy a travel insurance policy that includes cover for medical emergencies (like ours do), or you can purchase medical travel insurance that covers you for medical costs overseas only. That means there’s no other actual travel insurance cover, like cancellation or delay that you normally get with “travel insurance”.
If you want your holiday to be protected as well as your health, then it’s best to search for travel insurance that includes a high level of cover (you can’t go too wrong with unlimited cover!), and allows you to declare and seek cover for any pre-existing conditions you might have. Why? Because if you have pre-existing conditions and you can’t seek cover for them, or they don’t match the exacting lists that the insurance company “pre-approves”, you may get a nasty surprise if something does happen. You can read more about this in ‘What does travel insurance cover?’.
If you’re just after medical cover overseas, don’t just presume that a product called “medical travel insurance” will cover you for every medical cost you encounter overseas. There’s no avoiding it, you’ll need to read the PDS carefully to find out what situations you’d be covered for, what the excess is (find out what an excess is here), and what pre-existing conditions you need to declare or medical reports you need to provide in advance. It’s also unlikely to cover any elective treatments or cosmetic surgery, for that type of insurance, you’ll need specialist cover for cosmetic and elective surgery overseas.
Corporate or business travel insurance.
Corporate travel insurance usually covers a year at a time and features similar benefits to a regular travel insurance policy, but can include additional cover for costs to temporarily replace an insured employee if they’re incapacitated or delayed during their travels. If you’re lucky enough to have your work provide travel insurance, you should still do all your own due diligence and make sure that if you have a pre-existing condition it is also covered. And don’t just assume it will also cover you when you go on holiday with your family. Not all destinations may be included in the corporate policy, cover may be restricted to business trips only, and cover may only apply to named employees – which means your family might not have cover.
If you’re self-employed, or with a small business, it can often make more financial sense to buy a travel insurance policy for each individual trip. Often a standard travel insurance policy (such as ours) will cover you provided it’s for work in an office environment, for meetings, or to attend a conference or event. You won’t be covered for physical work including volunteer work overseas though. For that, look for “high risk travel insurance” that will provide cover for your specific circumstances.
Blue water & ocean sailing travel insurance.
This covers exactly what you think it might! Essential for ocean sailors and if you’re lucky enough to be invited to sail in “blue water” or the open ocean. It’s specialist insurance because of the risks involved. But if something happens, and you need to be “medevaced” (that’s an emergency medical evacuation often by helicopter) off the boat – you’ll be grateful you have it!
Professional sports travel insurance.
If you’re performing at such a level you’re travelling and competing internationally – we salute you! We know it takes a huge amount of dedication to reach that level in any discipline. That said, your requirements, expectations and possible fees for travel and the competitions or events you’re attending will be quite different from a regular holiday-maker. Different kinds of risks need to be considered when it comes to your physical health and performance, and there may be specialised equipment that you’ll want cover for when you’re travelling away from home. The message here? Look for specialised cover that meets your needs. The last thing you want to be worrying about when you’re about to perform is if you’ll be covered!
Extreme sports and activities travel insurance (amateur).
You’re a thrillseeker and the world’s highest roller coaster just won’t cut it? If you’re into the more extreme sports and activities such as base jumping, freediving, x-games or even practicing parkour, you should consider travel insurance that’s specially designed to cover the risks of the types of activities you participate in. There’s no way around it, extreme sports and activities have a higher risk of accident. Whilst you may be fearless and have managed to get away unscathed so far, if something unexpected happened – it may only be a distraction or external factor that just knocks you slightly off your game – then you’ll be more than grateful for the financial support and access to emergency medical care that good insurance cover will provide you. Plus it might just make your mum slightly less anxious if she knows you’re covered!
Motorbike / motorsports travel insurance.
Motorcycle expedition top of your bucket list? Whether you’re riding through cities, countryside or more remote areas like deserts, you’re going to need some serious travel insurance cover. While a few regular travel insurance policies may offer some cover for motorcycle riding, it will be restricted by lots of terms and conditions.
Your best bet is to investigate motorcycle travel insurance that’s designed to provide protection for motorcyclists overseas on your own bike or a hired bike while you’re on holiday. Look for cover that allows for the size of bike you plan to ride, and the way you plan to ride – that is whether you’re going to be cruising, racing on a track, or going off road. Cover that protects against theft or damage to your bike, leathers, helmets, and gear is important, as is cover for costs to retrieve you and your bike or replace your bike if you’re stranded due to a mechanical breakdown.
Motorsports cover needs to be just as customised to suit your needs, and the risks involved. Don’t risk it, make sure you get specialised insurance that will most importantly look after you in the event of any accident.
Comprehensive travel insurance.
If you’re going on holiday, a comprehensive travel insurance policy typically offers high levels of cover across the main benefits you’d expect to receive with a decent travel insurance policy. So high levels of cover for both emergency medical, and holiday cancellation and changes should feature. It should also include cover for personal liability, rental vehicle insurance excess, luggage delay, some property cover, funeral cover (also called return of mortal remains) and emergency dental.
When it comes to emergency medical cover, many policies (including our’s) offer “unlimited” cover, but you should look for one with a minimum of $5 million. For cancellation cover, we’d suggest you select a policy with $50,000 cover or more. Watch out for the property cover though, sometimes the amount covered looks far more generous than the reality, as no matter what policy you buy property cover is full of ‘fine print’ and loopholes. So if you take a lot of ‘stuff’ with you when you travel overseas, read this part of your policy wording carefully! You can check out our Comprehensive policy here.
Cruise travel insurance.
Going on a cruise? If you don’t buy a specialist cruise policy (you don’t have to), just be sure to declare this when you purchase your travel insurance policy. This is because an additional premium is often required for those going on a cruise to cover the higher risk as nearly all cruise deposits are non-refundable, and they’re large deposits, too! No matter what, the cruise company keeps your deposit and then will sell your (now cancelled) cabin to another traveller, at a deeply discounted rate. Yes, they’re double dipping, selling the cabin twice – so you may as well protect yourself!
If you happen to be on a domestic cruise and need emergency medical cover, contact the travel insurer to find out if they offer that. A few (like us) do, but you will need to contact us first and we’ll tell you how to get that cover applied for a domestic cruise, or an international cruise which includes stopovers in Australian waters.
Ski travel insurance and winter sports travel insurance.
Going skiing? Read your policy carefully if you are going skiing or snowboarding. Whilst we include ski and snow cover as standard with all of our policies (even domestic), many other companies require you to buy an ‘extra add-on’. That’s to cover the higher probability that you will suffer an injury while skiing, and make a claim. It’s true that many people end up with sprained knees, bruised shoulders from a day or two or three on the slopes. So your travel insurance policy’s ‘ski insurance’ add on gives the insurer a bit more premium to pay for all of the physio and clinic visits, and sometimes ER visits when there’s a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), broken shoulder or a serious head injury. So if your chosen insurer requires you to add ‘ski insurance’, do pay the extra premium so you know you’ll be covered! Otherwise, you may be out of pocket.
Budget and backpacker travel insurance.
We know that if you’re travelling on a tight budget, it makes sense to save where you can. Just don’t gamble and go without insurance, as the cost of a policy is insignificant compared to the price of emergency medical care, or even the cost of changing those non-refundable cancelled flights.
So if you want to cut your travel insurance costs, firstly make sure you’re well covered for overseas emergency medical treatment (unlimited cover is safest), then consider how much cover you need for your holiday expenses. Whilst you may have snagged some great deals, if your accommodation, or flights were cancelled – think what the cost to replace them could be when you’re overseas at the time, (you’re unlikely to find a room or new flights at the last minute on sale). Next, take a good look at the policy options and match them to your plans. For instance, do you need property cover if you’re travelling light and not taking an expensive camera? Then compare policies from different companies and check the costs. You may be surprised, sometimes a cheaper policy can be found that offers better cover than another ‘budget’ policy with a lower rate. If you have any pre-existing conditions, it’s also worth checking that you can declare and get them covered under the policy, as not all policies or companies allow that. And as always, thoroughly check the PDS first before you buy, so you know exactly what you’re covered for. You can find out more about our budget policy simply called ‘Essentials’ here.
Domestic travel insurance.
Ideal if you’ve planned to explore another corner of Australia on holiday! If your holiday includes flights or accommodation costs, then probably the most valuable feature of the policy is good holiday cancellation and changes cover. Then there’s often cover included for rental vehicle insurance excess, personal liability, funeral expenses (or returning the body home), and alternative transport to a special event so you don’t miss that important family wedding!
As you’re staying in the country, there’s no cover for medical costs as you’ll be taken care of by Medicare, or your own private insurer. Domestic policies are also unlikely to cover your property, so just keep that in mind if you don’t have insurance for your things already under another policy, like your home and contents insurance policy. To find out more about what we cover with our domestic policy, click here.
International travel insurance.
There’s an abundance of different policies from various companies that cover overseas travel insurance, all with different names and benefits. So where do you start? We’d suggest you start with making sure whichever policy you prefer will protect you and your holiday. So look for a policy with a high level of cover for both overseas emergency medical treatment, and for cancellation and changes. Next on the list see how much cover there is for personal liability, rental vehicle insurance excess, emergency dental, luggage delay, funeral cover (also called return of mortal remains) and your stuff. Then decide what matters to you. You may be willing to compromise on the cost of the policy for a lower rental vehicle excess benefit, or for a higher excess fee.
Whatever you do, don’t just rely on the way the policy is named or the price. A ‘comprehensive’ policy with one company may offer the same benefits as a ‘budget’ policy from another provider, or ‘platinum’ may be comparable to a ‘silver’ or ‘comprehensive plus’. Likewise a higher price doesn’t automatically mean better cover or more benefits. Unfortunately there’s no way around it, if you want to be sure what you’re covered for and that you’re getting a good deal, you will need to spend some time researching and reading the PDS of those you’re interested in.
When it comes time to buy, check that you can declare and get any pre-existing conditions covered under your policy. Finally, do a quick check for travel warnings on the Smartraveller website for travel advisories issued by the government against the destinations you’re planning to visit, and the PDS so you know which of the advisory levels would restrict or exclude cover for any locations. We think you should always know before you go – and before you buy!
Our specialty! Holiday insurance in terms of what the policy ‘covers’ isn’t any different to travel insurance. The difference lies in the way the benefits (or types of cover) are structured, and the service provided by the insurer. We’ve considered your whole holiday, and designed our policies to suit the types of things you would do on holiday, not just the travel components. We’ve planned for your potential problems in advance – so we can help you and your holiday get back on track promptly, if something unexpected does interrupt it.
Key differences? Most travel insurance policies include cover for ‘everyday’ medical costs. If you need to visit a doctor and get a prescription to help you get through a bout of gastro while you’re away, that’ll likely be covered. With our holiday insurance, if you feel sick or your child is ill, you can call our emergency assistance team anytime of the night or day to get advice from a nurse. If you need a trained doctor’s advice, or the nurse thinks they might be able to help you further – we’ll arrange a video or phone consult with a doctor from home for you, within 10 minutes. So you don’t even have to leave your room to get the professional advice and reassurance that can put you and your holiday back on the right track. There is no excess for any medical claims as well – so it’s worth claiming for.
We’ve cleaned up all the extraneous cover elements that are mainly just additional limits for small parts of each benefit. And removed the ‘benefits’ which are unnecessary and never claimed on so you’re not actually paying for cover you don’t need and won’t use. Instead of unreadable policy documents written by the legal team of a corporate giant, we’ve written policies in plain language that you can understand – because after all it’s just about your holiday, not a lifetime subscription to Apple.
For us, providing quality holiday insurance is all about taking extra care and going the extra mile to ensure you and your holiday get back on track as soon as possible.
Single-trip travel insurance.
Exactly what it says it is, single-trip insurance will cover you for one return trip. Perfect for when you are taking off on holiday to a destination you may only travel to once a year – or it happens to be your precious annual holiday!
It’s also worth considering buying cover for each holiday as a single-trip if you travel regularly, but the length of your trips vary a lot. Or if you have a multi-trip policy but have already made a few claims on previous trips, so your cover for any remaining trips is consequently reduced. The main choice you’ll have to make if you’re looking for cover for a single-trip, is whether a comprehensive policy or budget policy will suit your needs best.
Multi-trip travel insurance or annual travel insurance.
Travel lots in a given year? You might consider buying an ‘annual’ or ‘multi-trip’ policy, which eliminates the need to buy one each and every time you travel. If you don’t have any pre-existing conditions, it may save you any perceived ‘hassle’ of buying one each time, but you may lose some of the certainty of knowing that your upcoming trip insurance is confirmed by an email in your inbox and having the latest emergency assistance number at your fingertips. Annual/multi-trip insurers will not know when you’re going, so you won’t have much communication with them at all during your year, unless you claim. You should also keep track of the claims you’ve made during the year, as that reduces the amount of cover for each subsequent trip.
Before you buy, be sure to check the ‘number of days’ limit on any policy, because if your itinerary exceeds that number, you may not have any cover at all. For instance if your policy has a 30 day limit, and your itinerary is for 35 days, you’re not just uninsured for the last 5 days – you’re uninsured for the entire 35 days, because you weren’t eligible for that policy in the first place!
Inbound travel insurance.
Insurance just for those who are visiting Australia from overseas. This type of insurance may come in handy for you if you need to arrange travel insurance for any friends or family visiting you. An inbound visitors policy will generally cover the flight to Australia, and the duration of their stay, ending when they get to immigration at the airport for their return home. All policies offered are different, and you will need to read the eligibility criteria carefully, to ensure their trip can be covered, and their insurance is bought in time.
Inbound travel insurance will likely include cover for medical costs within Australia, there may be some cover for luggage and personal items, personal liability, cancellation and changes to their journey, and rental vehicle excess cover. If you’re applying from overseas and you have any pre-existing conditions, you may not be able to get cover for those, so you’ll need to read the PDS carefully to know exactly what you’re covered for.
Other things to be aware of with inbound travel insurance; some policies cover working holidays or voluntary work while you’re in Australia, but check the PDS to be sure. And if you’re an Aussie and travelling in Australia, look for a domestic policy as you will not actually be eligible for this type of (inbound) travel insurance!
Pregnant travel insurance.
Pregnant travel insurance isn’t actually a thing, however pregnant women will be eligible to buy most travel insurance policies, but will not be covered for any pregnancy complications and some medical expenses once they’re past a certain number of weeks. The number of weeks varies per policy, as does the eligibility, for instance some won’t cover a multiple pregnancy or even a single IVF pregnancy, so do read the PDS carefully.
The other big thing you should know if you’re pregnant and shopping for travel insurance, childbirth at any time, even premature labour is not covered. There’s also no cover for normal pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness or for an antenatal appointment. You should also be aware that if you have a pregnancy complication, you will need to declare it as a pre-existing condition, and see if it can be covered.
Family travel insurance.
Why not save time and insure the whole family with one policy? All policies have limits for the number of people and adults that can be insured under a single policy, however most offer free cover for your children provided they’re travelling with you and aged 17 or under.
You’ll even find a few travel insurers who will allow more than 2 adults on a policy, which means you could include the grandparents. We allow up to 6 adults on a policy – so it could be that you, your partner and 4 adult children all travel on the same policy.
There are some terms and conditions around who can be included on the same policy, usually it’s that all travellers must travel together and follow the same itinerary for the whole trip, but read the PDS carefully so you can decide if it’s the right travel insurance for your situation.
Group travel insurance.
You don’t have to be related to get a travel insurance policy to cover you and your friends or colleagues as long you’re travelling together. Different insurers allow various numbers per policy, so you’ll need to check what the limits are with your insurer. The only trick with organising travel insurance for ‘everyone else’ is that it’s your responsibility to answer all questions on behalf of ‘everyone’, so you also need to have their permission to agree to all of the terms and conditions of the policy on their behalf. It can get trickier if anyone has pre-existing conditions, as they’ll need to disclose all of that information to you, or be with you to answer the relevant questions to seek cover.
The upside is that whether you’re a teacher accompanying a group of students on a trip, or a sales and marketing manager travelling with your colleagues, or simply a group of great friends travelling together – you can coordinate your travel insurance. Which will make it much easier if there are any changes of plan or cancelled flights, as you’ll be able to make one claim that can be sorted efficiently instead of waiting for several individual insurance companies to get back to each one of you.
Credit card travel insurance.
If you happen to have the equivalent of a ‘gold’ or ‘platinum’ credit card, it may include ‘free travel insurance’. It’s ‘free’ in as much as you pay an annual fee to the bank, of which around 25-35% gets passed on to the insurer of the policy. So it’s not exactly ‘free’. But what you really need to know, is how to ensure your travel insurance covers your next trip, what you’re covered for and what the conditions of cover are.
If we start with ‘activating’ your travel insurance, that has to be done before you go and it’s different with every bank. So do your homework, get the details from your bank and find out if it’s a percentage of your entire trip you need to spend on your credit card, or just the flights, or if there’s another procedure you have to go through. You might even need to tell them specifically that you’re going away.
Next detail to look for is the length of trip they cover. There’s always a set length of time for the total length of your trip, which could be anywhere from 15 days to 90 days maximum. If you exceed that timeframe – you won’t be covered for any part of the trip. Also, cover for cancellation and changes may only apply for up to 6 months before you go. So if it’s that dream holiday you’re planning for next year, think about that.
Like with any other insurer, if you have any pre-existing conditions, you need to apply for cover and pay an additional premium to get that cover. The hard part is remembering to do that, as there’s no one to ask or remind you with credit card insurance. There are also age limits, so double check that if you’re over 55!
Those are just some of the key things you need to consider with credit card travel insurance, for more check out ‘What do I need to know about my credit card travel insurance?’.
Seniors travel insurance.
Let’s be frank, calling it a ‘travel insurance policy for seniors’ is all marketing. We haven’t found any policies designed specifically for ‘seniors’ yet. That may be due to the fact that being a little more ‘experienced in life’ doesn’t actually make your travel insurance needs any different to someone younger. It’s likely you may have 1 or 2 more pre-existing conditions you need cover for, but if you’re fit to travel, that’s usually where the difference ends.
That said, having been around the block a few more times might mean it’s worth scouting for a company that appreciates your business. One with excellent customer service, and an approach that places your welfare as being the most important thing. Of course you’ll also want to select a policy that you can declare and seek cover for any pre-existing conditions you have, and if you’re travelling overseas, be sure to find one with unlimited medical cover. After that, cover for cancellation and changes to your trip is vital to protect your trip, and some of the smaller benefits like cover for luggage delay can make things a little easier if something happens while you’re away.
Finally, not all companies offer travel insurance to people of all ages. Some do though, like us. So just before you get your credit card out ready to buy, double check your eligibility in the PDS – and if there are any restrictions or limits by age included in the terms and conditions under the benefits in the PDS. And if it all seems like too much of a hassle, why not enlist one of your kids or a helpful neighbour you can trust to read and translate the fine print for you. Then at least you’ll know exactly what you’re buying and covered for!
Cosmetic and elective surgery travel insurance aka medical tourism insurance.
You can get travel insurance cover for both cosmetic surgery and elective surgery, but there are only a handful of companies around the world that offer this protection. If you’re travelling overseas for surgery, some of the main travel insurers will cover your trip, but they will expressly exclude any costs related to complications of your surgery. So we recommend you find a specialist insurer.
To find a provider, start by searching for “medical tourism insurance”, then be relentless as you check your eligibility, their cover and all of their terms and conditions. You don’t want to invest more money in your trip only to find that a particular complication related to your surgery might not be covered! Or if you need a longer recovery time, that the cost of changing your flights and additional accommodation is not covered either.
Even whilst your procedure may be called ‘cosmetic’ or ‘elective’, any surgery is a big deal. So we’d urge you to make sure your best interests are looked after and supported by excellent insurance cover, so you can relax and focus on your physical recovery without any unnecessary worries.
If you’re thinking of buying travel insurance…
We only give general advice, which means we are not able to consider your individual needs, objectives or financial situation. So please read the PDS (which includes the terms and conditions of cover), and consider any advice we give you carefully before you buy, to help you decide if this product is right for you. If you’re considering another provider, we recommend you read the relevant PDS carefully before you buy too.