Travel Insurance for Australia: What to Know Before you Buy

Travel insurance Australia

If you’re going down under, you have probably worked out that it’s a very long way from home. Australia is the world’s largest island and has a reputation for being both the friendliest and the most inhospitable place (thanks to some nasty critters down there)! The natural beauty will take your breath away, from Uluru to swimming with whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef. You can hit the shops in the cities or go to any number of its famous beaches, like Bondi. Known for its scorching sun, you know that you need to take sunscreen, but don’t forget your travel insurance for Australia either!

Travel insurance for Australia

Australia has a very good standard of healthcare. It operates a dual system of public and private hospitals. Australia is blessed with a universal health system, which means all permanent residents and citizens have access to medical care. At the heart of this is a scheme called Medicare, which the federal government runs and funds.

You’ll be pleased to know that if you have a British passport (and are living in the UK), you are entitled to some health services provided under the Medicare scheme. This only applies if you are visiting (e.g. not studying) and treatment is medically necessary. Other exclusions include pharmaceuticals if you’re an out-patient, ambulance services and medical evacuations. In fact, residents are charged for ambulance services in most Australian states too. These services are usually very expensive, so it’s important that you have good travel insurance for Australia.

On average, each day there are 17,300 people hospitalised in public hospitals and 11,800 in private hospitals across Australia. Recently, there have been a number of incentives provided to promote people taking out private health insurance. Always be sure to read your travel insurance policy, because it may stipulate that you are only covered in certain medical facilities.

Remember, Australia is a huge country and where you are will dictate what level of service you get and how fast you receive it. If you are in between towns, there might not be much around you. If you are in regional or rural Australia and need emergency treatment, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides health care using aircraft. While you might think you don’t need travel insurance for Australia because it’s part of the Commonwealth too, repatriation back to the UK is never covered (unless you have travel insurance). If you need to come home after an emergency, you would be looking at two very long flights and an even longer bill.


Things you should look for when buying travel insurance for Australia

Valid in Australia: The policy you purchase must be valid in Australia. You should enter the country details when you run your quote, if it’s a single trip policy.

Cancellation coverage: Accomodation costs in Australia are not cheap, and neither are flights. For this reason, it’s essential that you have the necessary cover in case you can’t fly and have to miss your holiday.

Full medical coverage and evacuation coverage: While we love to think of Australia being the quintessential land of chill, you won’t be sitting still there for long. With so many people from the UK visiting the great outback and flocking to other adventures, medical cover is the number one priority you should have when choosing your travel insurance for Australia.

Lost, stolen or damaged gear or luggage: The level of crime in Australia is no higher than the UK. However, when you’re traveling, you can appear like a target to eager thieves if you don’t take precautions. Being so far away, it’s rare someone goes to Australia for a weekend trip. Most people take a lot with them. This means you have more to lose so make sure all your precious belongings are covered.

Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: Many travellers visiting Australia will need an extra layer of protection for sports, even if they don’t consider their activities ‘dangerous’. Insurers have different interpretations of high-risk activities so make sure you check your policy thoroughly for all sports, even the likes of surfing, hiking, and skiing (yes, you can ski at 16 ski resorts in Oz!).

Insurance case study: a case of the seven-year itch!

A 32-year-old lady was travelling to Australia with her boyfriend to check out the great down under after looking forward to it for years. The couple had a fabulous time - they visited all the most famous beaches, went snorkelling in the Whitsundays and went shopping in Sydney and Melbourne.

It was the last few days of their holiday and they were sad to return but excited to show off their tans! Then disaster struck. The lady had started feeling itchy a few days before and had been scratching her skin anxiously. Thinking it was mosquito bites, the couple figured it would subside. But her skin started turning the wrong shade of red and they could do nothing but seek out medical help.

It turned out she had scabies, also known as the seven-year itch. It’s highly contagious and she was quarantined in Australia for three weeks and missed her flight home. Luckily, she had travel insurance so was covered for extra accommodation costs and a new flight home. Sadly, the tan had faded by then, but at least she wasn’t out of pocket.

Travel insurance tips for Australia: watch out for the water

When you picture Australia, the famous white sand beaches are sure to spring to mind. While you might imagine a tropical paradise, the ocean’s waves can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Swimming in Australia can be a far cry from paddling in the Mediterranean Sea. Surfers race to the beaches because of the waves and these can be less desirable for some travellers.

a person on a beach

On top of waves, there are other safety factors to consider when swimming in Australian waters. At certain times of the year, and in certain areas, you can find stingers (aka jellyfish) in the water, whose tentacles can be painful, or even deadly.

Also, beware of rips. These are currents which can pull you out to sea very quickly. Always swim at patrolled beaches between the flags. Lifeguards are trained to spot these rips and can help you out in a tough situation.

While most people don’t experience any problems swimming or surfing in Australia, occasionally things go wrong. From 1 June 2018 to 30 June 2019, there were 860 drowning related incidents. Of these, 276 were fatal (6% of these victims were from overseas). For many who are rescued, they still require medical attention and this can be costly, so always take out high-quality travel insurance for Australia.

Price comparison of travel insurance policies for Australia

We have compared prices across a random selection of travel insurance policies to give you an indication of what’s on the market. There are literally hundreds of travel insurance policies for Australia. With so much choice you can be sure that there’s one for you.

We ran some quotes for a 35-year-old travelling to Australia (correct as of October 2019). We did not declare any pre-existing medical conditions or request any optional extras.

Provider Cost for Single Trip Policy Cost for Annual Policy Standard Benefits Limits
Admiral (Admiral Policy) £8.51 £26.03
  • Medical care: £10 million
  • Baggage: £1,000
  • Cancellation: £1,000
Cedar Tree (Lite Policy) £9.76 £31.75
  • Medical care: £15 million
  • Baggage: £1,000
  • Cancellation: £1,000
Holiday Extras (Basic Policy) £9.85 £29.60
  • Medical care: £10 million
  • Baggage: £1,000
  • Cancellation: £750
Cover for You (Emerald Policy) £10.50 £36.50
  • Medical care: £15 million
  • Baggage: £1,250
  • Cancellation: £1,500 (Economy Policy) £11.59 £19.99
  • Medical care: Unlimited
  • Baggage: £1,000
  • Cancellation: £1,250

While price is important, we guide you to never choose on price alone. Always consider the benefits that are most important to you (e.g. medical expenses).

Travel insurance policies can be full of jargon you may not understand. That’s why we created this jargon-busting glossary to help you master the most common terms.

Travelling to Australia: good to know

No matter what type of holiday you have planned, some basic preparation is always wise. Here are some important factors to consider:

 Drinking Water - In all Australian towns and cities of a reasonable size, the tap water is safe to drink. Additionally, if you ask, many restaurants will bring out tap water in glass bottles at no additional cost. The further away you go from a city, the less likely you’ll find safe drinking water. If you are planning on visiting the outback, you should check before you head out whether there are shops or farms where you can buy bottled water.

 Vaccinations - The UK government recommends visiting for information before you travel to any country. As of October 2019, there are no special vaccinations required to visit Australia. However, there are strict custom policies on bringing in certain foods, including fresh or packaged food and fruit.

 Visa - People holding a British passport need a visa to travel to Australia. There are two ways to go about this. You can apply for the eVisitor visa direct from the Department of Immigration & Border Protection (no fee applies). The other option is to apply for the Electronic Travel Authority (ATA) from your travel agent or airline (A$20 applies).

 Emergency Services - if you need to call the police, ambulance or fire brigade in an emergency, the number to phone is 000.

Data and information correct as of October 2019.

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