The Top 5 greatest Travel Insurance myths busted

Over 9.9 million Australians travelled overseas last year, but new government research shows almost a third don’t prepare for the unexpected.

The survey, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and shared with Travel Weekly by Fast Cover insurance, found an alarming 31 per cent of Australian travellers risked an overseas trip without insurance in the last 10 years.

What’s more surprising is that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of these uninsured travellers acknowledged they exposed themselves to significant or devastating debt by travelling without insurance.

This, according to Fast Cover, shows that Aussies aren’t stupid – they know the risks, but they just choose to take a major gamble by travelling without insurance.

Our news is full of unlucky Aussies running into trouble overseas, whether it’s getting too close to the wildlife, adventure activity mishaps, or tragic motorcycle accidents.

So why do we do it? Below, Fast Cover busts some of the most common myths about travel insurance that may be partly to blame.

 Myth 1: Travel insurance is a waste of money!

We get it. Travel insurance is a grudge purchase for most travellers.

A certificate with some phone numbers on it seems like a pretty poor return on investment if you’ve just forked out hundreds of dollars for a policy. But if something unexpected happens on your overseas holiday (or even before you leave home), that piece of paper may end up being the best investment you ever make.

As well as the financial benefits, a travel insurance policy usually also includes access to a 24-hour emergency assistance team who can help you out in a huge variety of different scenarios.

It could be something as simple as directing you to the nearest consulate or government embassy, helping to arrange alternative transport if you’re stranded due to a natural disaster, or providing an allowance to tie you over if the airline loses your luggage.

At the other end of the scale, the emergency assistance team are also trained to assist travellers in more complex situations like coordinating an emergency evacuation or liaising with hospital staff to manage your medical care.

 Myth 2: It will never happen to me!

Accidents can happen anywhere at any time. Smart Traveller reports that a quarter of all travellers experienced a loss on their most recent overseas trip that would have been covered by most travel insurance policies. A survey commissioned by Fast Cover also found similar results, with one in five respondents requiring medical assistance overseas.

Claire*, a 72-year-old from the Central Coast in NSW, was a frequent traveller who had never made an insurance claim before in her life. However, while on a luxury cruise in South America she injured her back during rough seas and needed to be airlifted from the ship for emergency medical attention. Claire’s Fast Cover travel insurance policy cost close to $700 AUD for the two-month long cruise, but provided cover for over $190,000 AUD worth of medical and hospital expenses.

 Myth 3: I don’t need insurance because I’m only travelling to ‘safe’ countries.

Perhaps less surprising, the DFAT survey also found almost a third of travellers think it’s okay to visit developed countries without insurance. The logic behind this one is baffling considering accidents, natural disasters, illnesses and other unexpected mishaps happen every day in every corner of the globe. Iceland consistently tops the charts as one of the ‘safest’ travel destinations in the world. Yet volcanic eruptions in 2010 and the resulting ash cloud grounded all flights in and out of Europe for weeks, stranding millions of passengers.

Without insurance already in place, travellers would have had to fork out for extra accommodation and expenses to wait out the travel delays. Anyone due to start their holiday not only copped the gruelling disappointment of missing out, but likely any cancellation costs or lost deposits as well.

‘Safer’ doesn’t always mean ‘cheaper’ when it comes to medical bills either. Despite being a first-world country, a hospital stay in the United States can set you back over $5,000 USD per night and a medical evacuation can range anywhere from $75,000 to a whopping $300,000 AUD!

Don’t even get us started on the case of gastro that would have left one traveller out-of-pocket almost $100,000 AUD in China.

 Myth 4: I’m not taking anything valuable worth covering.

While many people think of insurance as covering material objects like lost luggage or a stolen camera, they’re forgetting the most important and valuable possession of all – themselves!

While it is comforting to know your new GoPro is covered if it gets stolen or knocked off a cliff, arguably the most important reason to buy travel insurance is to ensure your health and safety is covered.

The cost of repairing a broken bone can be much greater than a broken iPhone screen!

47-year-old Kim* from Adelaide was on a retreat in Bali when she slipped down a flight of stairs in the dark and broke her foot. Her Comprehensive policy cost less than $50, but covered over $23,000 AUD in medical expenses, as well as her repatriation back to Australia and the unused portion of her prepaid holiday package.

 Myth 5: Insurance companies never pay claims anyway!

This is a pretty common one!

Contrary to popular belief, the DFAT survey found that in actual fact, 82 per cent of all travel insurance claims were paid in full. We’d hazard a guess that the majority of the remaining declined claims were turned down for one of two reasons.

 One: There wasn’t enough documentation provided to substantiate the claim.

 Two: The claim was for an event or benefit that was not covered by the policy.

We’ve seen everything from backpackers getting into motorcycle accidents while intoxicated, to being gored by bulls in Pamplona, to ‘forgetting’ to mention certain pre-existing conditions and then running into related complications overseas. Our advice? If in doubt, ask the question!

That way you’ll be less likely to face the disappointment of having your claim declined if it falls under a General Exclusion or could have been easily added on to your policy.

It’s most important to have a flick through the travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to make sure you are covered for any activities you want to do and always disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you might have.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Some years ago, I heard of a case where an Australian husband and wife were travelling in the USA and had a major car accident, and both were seriously injured. The wife was covered by her travel insurance, the husband had refused to take out travel insurance, and they were being treated in the same hospital, one covered by travel insurance, the other not, at huge expense to the family.