Travel insurance and COVID-19: what you need to know

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on

COVID-19 has changed the way we travel. Between border closures, testing policies, and quarantine requirements (just to name a few), it can be difficult to keep on top of what you need to know before you set off on your trip.

Fully vaccinated Australians who have an international COVID-19 vaccination certificate can now travel out of the country without an exemption.

And now, perhaps more than ever, travelling means being prepared for your plans to be disrupted or changed, often with little to no notice. One of the ways in which travellers should prepare for this is to purchase travel insurance, just in case things don’t go to plan.

When buying travel insurance, it’s important to consider COVID-19 and what kind of pandemic-related cover an insurer provides. With different levels of cover available across the market, you should know exactly what you are - or aren't - covered for, so that you can be a safer, smarter traveller.

A young, blonde woman wearing a mask standing in an airport terminal and looking to the side. She's holding her passport and boarding pass and is wearing a backpack, purse, and has her hand on the handle of her suitcase.

Is it necessary to have travel insurance?

Smartraveller and the Insurance Council of Australia say that for overseas trips, travel insurance is as important as a passport. There are also many countries that require you to have travel insurance to enter, with more making it mandatory in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some countries, such as Singapore and Thailand, require overseas visitors to be covered for COVID-related medical treatment. Even if it’s not a requirement for your destination, it’s still highly recommended to have it.

In addition to taking out travel insurance, you should also think about whether your destination is safe to visit before you make any travel plans.

Does travel insurance cover COVID-19?

There are now a number of travel insurance providers who will provide at least some level of cover for certain COVID-19 related events, such as:

  • Medical expenses if you contract COVID-19.
  • Expenses related to having to unexpectedly quarantine.
  • Costs incurred if you have to rearrange your trip if you or your travelling companion contract COVID-19. A travelling companion is sometimes defined as someone travelling with you for at least half of your trip and who isn’t your dependant. Check with your insurer to find out exactly what they consider to be a travel companion.

Some will also cover you for:

  • Medical evacuation and repatriation, if your insurer decides that it's medically necessary.
  • When the accommodation you’re planning on staying at is closed for cleaning due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Extra travel costs if you’re denied boarding transport because you’re suspected to be infected with COVID-19.
  • Childcare costs if you get COVID-19 during your trip.
  • Care for your pets at home if you get COVID-19 while you travel.

While an insurer may provide cover for COVID-19 related events, the types of benefits and benefit limits vary between policies. Many policies only cover you up to $2500 for cancellation.

The level of cover you receive and the amount you’re covered up to will depend on the policy. Always check an insurance provider’s product disclosure statement (PDS) for all the details of the cover - including inclusions, exclusions, and limits - before you purchase insurance.

Can I get COVID-19 cover with domestic travel insurance?

If you have a trip within Australia planned, then there are some insurance providers who offer domestic travel insurance policies with some level of COVID-19 cover.

Cover More Travel Insurance, for instance, covers amendment or cancellation costs up to $2500 on their Comprehensive+ policy if you or your travelling companion get COVID-19.

There are also some insurers who may not cover claims associated with COVID-19, but will give you the option to cancel your insurance and get a full or partial refund if you can’t travel or have to change your plans due to border closures or quarantine requirements.

Can I get COVID-19 cover for my cruise?

Travel insurance policies don’t always provide cover for cruises. The Australian Government advises Aussies to get an insurance policy that covers you for your cruise as well as activities you do on land. This is the case regardless of whether or not the cruise leaves Australian territory.

There are a small number of insurance providers, including Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Worldcare Travel Insurance, that offer cover for COVID-related events on a cruise.

What won't travel insurance cover?

Most standard policies won’t provide cover for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s ‘Do not travel’ destinations, and only some will cover you in ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ destinations. You should check the status of your destination on the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website as well as which destinations your insurance provider will cover you in.

Of course, you should look into a policy’s specific exclusions and limits before you buy it. Cancellation policies may cover expenses for quarantine costs if you get COVID-19, but not all will cover expenses if you’re deemed a close contact overseas and need to quarantine because of this.

Often insurers also won’t cover:

  • Cancellation if there are wider travel restrictions, such as lockdowns at your location of departure or your destination.
  • Quarantine that’s required for everyone (and not required because you contracted COVID-19 or were deemed a close contact) when returning to Australia or travelling interstate or internationally.
  • Any costs if you are travelling against the advice of your doctor.
  • An event that you were aware could have led to a claim prior to purchasing your policy.

A man wearing a mask sitting down in an airport terminal. He's holding a passport and has a black suitcase next to him.

Tips for before and during your trip

  • Before you travel, find out what you should do if you test positive to COVID-19 while overseas. You should have a good understanding of the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 in your destination, particularly if you have particular health requirements that may not be easily met overseas.
  • Check and double check testing requirements for your place of departure, your destination, and any stopovers you may have.
  • Bring your mask. Masks are mandatory in all Australian airports, and many airlines and international airports have mask mandates.
  • Get written confirmation of any changes to your plans. For example, if there’s a COVID-19 outbreak at the hotel you’re planning on staying at, something in writing from the hotel to confirm this may be required for you to claim money back.
  • Consider booking flexible flights and accommodation that can be changed or cancelled.
  • Follow local rules when you travel, as often places have strict penalties for flaunting public health orders. Any insurance claim you make may also be voided if the insurer finds that you were not acting responsibly.

To compare travel insurance and different insurance providers, you can read Travel Insurance reviews to see what other Aussies have had to say.

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