Whatever you do; Do not travel outside your home country without travel insurance. It is difficult to buy any type of insurance cover once you are on the road and after your homeowners’ insurance coverage has expired. Even if the risk of an accident is small, the costs of one can quickly become overwhelmingly high. Breaking a leg in Asia can cost tens of thousands of dollars in health care fees and transport fees back to your home country.
General information about travel insurance
Most homeowners’ insurance includes a basic protection, so if you’re just going off on a short tourist trip, this might be enough. Check what is included in your homeowners’ insurance and decide if it gives you enough protection during the trip. Homeowners’ insurance, for example, often gives you compensation if you are robbed on the trip, but make sure that it also contains a proper health insurance since emergency treatment in a foreign country quickly can become very expensive.
Travel protection usually includes a paid return trip if someone in your family becomes seriously ill or if property in your home country is seriously damaged, but the conditions of the various insurance companies vary – so be sure to check your protection before leaving on a trip.
Australia have a reciprocal agreement with (at time of writing) eleven other European countries guaranteeing that those citizens travelling in Australia will receive free emergency medical care on the same terms as Australian citizens (humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements/visitors-australia/medical-care-visitors-australia).This only applies to care that is absolutely necessary (so-called medically necessary treatment) and you cannot expect to get a free operation if it can wait until you return back to your home country.
Nevertheless, you should supplement with your own insurance since the agreement does not cover ambulance care (to be retrieved by ambulance in Australia can cost several hundred up to a thousand Australian dollars). For those of you who also will travel to Asia, it is especially important to have a health insurance, since you are not entitled to any compensation in those countries if you need medical care. You must therefore pay all your medical expenses out of your own pocket.
For most people travelling to Australia, their home country does NOT have a reciprocal health agreement with Australia, which means that you are NOT entitled to free emergency care. You must pay all your medical expenses in Australia out of your own pocket, unless you are covered by an insurance company. So, getting the right one, or an additional one to your homeowners’ insurance is strongly recommended.
If you are using a bank or credit card that will give you an automatic travel insurance when you purchase tickets with your debit card, make sure to find out what is included and not.
Many travel agents are trying to sell expensive travel insurances for an Australian trip, especially if it is a long journey. Before you buy an insurance through your travel agent, I recommend contacting your regular insurance company (if applicable) where you or your parents have a homeowner’s insurance or similar. Investigate what it would cost to buy an extended travel insurance under your regular insurance (a so-called travel supplement). Depending on how long your trip is, you might find that you can save money by extending the travel protection of your ongoing homeowners’ insurance instead of buying a more expensive separate travel insurance.
A separate travel insurance is often purchased for longer trips, or in case you do not have a homeowner’s insurance with travel protection included. To purchase a separate travel insurance you can, for example, contact your local insurance company or try using a comparison site online to get an idea of prices between the different insurance companies in your home country.
Insurance for working or studying in Australia
A standard travel insurance applies only to tourists. If you go to Australia to study or to work, for example as an au-pair or on a working holiday visa, you must have a special insurance that lasts longer and covers more than what is included in a standard tourist insurance. You need a more comprehensive insurance that includes things like a liability insurance (if you would be liable), legal protection and assault protection. You can use an online comparison site to compare your local insurance companies’ covers and prices.
To study in Australia, one of the requirements is that you must have a student insurance, a so-called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/student-500) (unless you fall in one of the exemption categories, applies only for students from Norway, Sweden or Belgium). You can read more about getting an OSHC on PrivateHealth.gov.au (privatehealth.gov.au/health_insurance/overseas/overseas_student_health_cover.htm).
Insurance for those staying in Australia for over a year
If you become a resident in Australia, you will eventually end up in a situation where you no longer need a travel insurance, instead it will be better and cheaper with an Australian local insurance cover. To arrange a local travel or health insurance, you can benefit from using local comparison sites such as Compare the Market (comparethemarket.com.au) and iSelect Australia (iselect.com.au). Also, consider getting a bank or credit card that will give you an automatic travel insurance when you purchase tickets with your debit card.