HOLIDAYS AT FULL THROTTLE: Travelling can be a risky business so make sure you have the right travel insurance.
HOLIDAYS AT FULL THROTTLE: Travelling can be a risky business so make sure you have the right travel insurance. max-kegfire

Be prepared for thrills on holidays

The bags are packed with bikinis, sarong and sunscreen, and the surfboards have been bubble-wrapped in their travel bags.

Your head is filled with images of scooting around Bali on a moped, surfing Uluwatu Beach or Padang-Padang Beach and soaking up the sunshine.

The last thing you made sure to tick off your to-do list before heading to the airport was taking out travel insurance.

Travel is a risky business. And for many tourists, frequent-flying businesspeople and those whose families live abroad, travel insurance is just another one of those things you need to organise.

We don't want to fork out the money for it, but we can't afford not to have it - just in case.

Anyone who has lost their luggage in transit or had to cancel part of their trip because of "Bali belly" and made a successful claim knows its importance.

But just having travel insurance isn't good enough.

Understandinsurance.com.au spokeswoman Lisa Kable says only the right travel insurance that covers your specific circumstances is good enough.

Understand Insurance is the Insurance Council of Australia's education and advice website for all things "insurancey". The website isn't aligned with any products or insurance companies.

So the organisation has a vested interest in ensuring consumers receive good advice and act upon it.

You'd think that in addressing a room full of seasoned travellers in the form of the Australian Society of Travel Writers' annual convention in Thailand this year that Lisa would be preaching to the converted.

Not necessarily so.

Some of her home truths sent shivers down the spine of those present when considering the "what-if" situations that tourists may not be covered for in the event of a travel insurance claim.

Even being pregnant on holidays (as a pre-existing condition) can have its travel insurance issues when needing to make a claim.

First to the statistics.

Data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics (January-November last year) and the 2016 Survey of Australians' Travel Insurance Behaviour for smartraveller.gov.au and understandinsurance.com.au found some concerning trends.

Of the 10,500,000 travellers who departed Australia last year, 9,943,000 (92 per cent) had travel insurance.

But 840,000 (8 per cent) left Australia without travel insurance.

Why didn't they insure themselves?

Lisa says 28 per cent said they just didn't think about it, 21 per cent were uncertain if they needed it, and 14 per cent just didn't get around to it.

Only 20 per cent said it was too expensive.

Lisa says we could be voiding our travel insurance policies without even realising.

A total of 436,000 without insurance engaged in a risky activity.

And 4,620,000 (44 per cent) of insured travellers admitted to engaging in at least one risky activity that was unlikely to be covered by their policy in the event of a claim.

In addition, 735,000 insured travellers didn't declare a pre-existing medical condition, which means a claim could be denied.

Risky behaviours can include:

  • Riding motorbikes, mopeds, scooters, quad bikes.
  • Skiing and snow sports.
  • Water sports.
  • Extreme sports including polo and hunting.
  • Consuming excessive amount of alcohol or taking illegal drugs.
  • Cosmetic surgery.

Some policies also consider sailing on a private vessel in international waters as risky.

While it may come as no surprise that the 18-29 age group were most likely to engage in risky behaviour (about 75 per cent do), Lisa says there's no excuse not to have the right travel insurance as many of the risky behaviours can be covered, often as an add-on.

"Take a 19-year-old surfer travelling to Bali for three weeks," she says.

"A $85.90 comprehensive cover plus adventure pack of $21.70 is $107.60, or $5 per day.

"The going rate for a night in a Bali hospital is upwards of $900.

"Pay $5 per day (for the right insurance) or $900 per night?"

These are some of the activities and behaviours Lisa says may lead to a travel insurance claim being declined:

  • Excessive use of alcohol.
  • Use of illegal or illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs.
  • Carelessness (leaving items unattended or unprotected).
  • Undeclared pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Undertaking an illegal activity.
  • Undertaking behaviour considered risky without the appropriate insurance cover (such as adventure sports or snow sports).
  • Travelling to countries that have a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) do-not-travel warning.
  • Lodging a claim for an item or event not covered, for example stolen skis or golf clubs, which count as specialty items on some policies.
  • Motorbike or scooter riding without the necessary permits and licences (many policies exclude riding a motorcycle, moped or scooter).
  • Not wearing the appropriate clothing or equipment for an activity: such as not wearing a helmet on a motorbike.
  • Not all destinations were included on the policy (stopovers need to be included as a destination on the policy).
  • Making a claim for an event that took place after the policy expired.
  • Claims not made within 30 days of returning to Australia.

Claims on policies can be denied if travellers can't produce:

  • Supporting paperwork such as police reports and receipts.
  • Evidence of a financial loss.
  • Proof of ownership.

Lisa says choosing the right travel insurance requires some thought and research.

1. Be honest, declare mental health and pre-existing medical conditions, including pregnancy. It may cost more but travellers will pay even more if assistance is needed overseas.

2. Think about the activities and the style of holiday you'll undertake and invest in the right product and level of cover. Don't be swayed by price, because if the right policy isn't bought or if it doesn't cover the traveller for their specific trip needs, it's the same as not having insurance - only more expensive.

"I know researching travel insurance - any insurance for that matter - can be time-consuming. Product Disclosure Statements can be long and complex, but it would be remiss not to do this important research," Lisa says.

"To encourage research and awareness of policy inclusions and exclusions, insurers are designing their websites and products to be straightforward and easy to understand.

"Comparison tables are visual and simple to read, as are add-ons available for high-risk activities.

"Insurers want people to travel with the right cover for their trip.

"Travel insurance isn't good enough. Only the right travel insurance is good enough."

To stay better informed, visit www.understandinsurance.com.au and www.smarttraveller.com.au.


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