What doesn't travel insurance cover?

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on

If you’re going overseas, you should get travel insurance. But travel insurance providers won’t always cover you for the costs that you haven’t planned for.

In this article we look at some of the most common travel insurance policy exclusions that often aren’t known to many holiday goers, leaving many in the lurch when the unexpected happens.

A woman consulting a map while leaning on the hood of her car in a National Park.

Breaking the law

Your insurer will probably deny your claim if it arises from you breaking the law or any relevant rules and regulations at your destination.

Some examples include:

  • Ignoring local road and driving rules.
  • Trespassing.
  • Not having the correct visa for your trip.

Some insurers may set out certain rules for their cover that while not being against the law, may affect your claim. For example, hiring a car is common for many holidays, but driving on unsealed roads or letting an unauthorised person drive the car may void your insurance.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Getting medical care overseas can cost you tens of thousands of dollars if you don’t have the right cover. Many policies don’t provide cover for overseas medical care for a pre-existing medical condition, however, there are a few that do.

Commonly excluded pre-existing conditions include:

  • Bone and joint conditions
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Disabilities
  • Heart conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory and lung conditions
  • Viruses and diseases

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should seek out a policy that provides adequate cover for this. This will usually entail getting a medical check-up before your trip, declaring your pre-existing medical conditions to your insurer, and having them agree to cover you if you need urgent medical care during your trip.

If you neglect to tell your insurer about your pre-existing medical condition, you may not be covered for any claims relating to it, even if your policy covers the issue. You may also not be covered if you travel against medical advice.

Travel insurance providers also usually won’t cover claims relating to mental health conditions.

Read reviews of travel insurance providers

To get a better idea of customers' experiences when lodging claims, read travel insurance revews. Reviewers discuss whether their claim was approved, the transparency and customer service of the insurance provider they used, and whether they thought the policy they bought represented good value for money.

Travel against government advice

If you’re travelling to a region against advice from the Australian government, your insurer won’t cover you for that destination. Stay in the loop and check government advice on your destination on www.smartraveller.gov.au in the lead up to your trip.

Some destinations are on a ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ list, and while insurers may provide cover for these places, if circumstances change (such as escalation of political unrest), then they may be moved to the ‘Do not travel’ list.

Incidents that arise from reckless behaviour

If your claim has arisen from an incident in which you were engaging in “reckless” behaviour, such as excessive drinking or taking recreational drugs, then your insurer may reject it. This could include claims relating to medical care, your belongings, liability, and more.

Some examples of situations where an insurer may reject your claim include:

  • You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident.
  • You rode a motorbike or scooter without a helmet.
  • You went scuba diving without the necessary certification.
  • You ignored a tour guide’s advice during a tour or activity.

Depending on the insurer, there may be an exception to this if you were trying to save someone’s life.

Make sure you read the fine print about what constitutes reckless behaviour and how it may affect your eligibility for a claim. Some insurers may have grounds to refuse your claim if you’ve had just one drink.

A group of happy friends at a mountain range.

Activities not commonly covered by standard policies

You won’t be covered if you make a claim resulting from a sport or activity that isn’t covered by your policy. Some common activities, like skiing and snowboarding, aren’t usually covered as standard.

Ensure that all the sports and activities you’re planning on doing are covered by your policy. If they’re not, you should either upgrade your policy or look for a different one that does cover them.

Use ProductReview.com.au's filters to find what you need

You can use the filters on the left-hand side of our travel insurance guide to search for policies that offer specific inclusions as either standard or extras, such as Snow/Ski, Adventure/Extreme Sports, and Cruise cover.

Claims that arise from carelessness

Most travel insurance policies will cover you for lost or stolen belongings, but they probably won’t if you’ve left them unattended, in an insecure location or with a stranger.

Make sure you keep your valuables with you at all times, or have them locked in a safe at your accommodation. If you do make a claim, you’ll likely need to obtain a police report that outlines the incident and the items that have been stolen. Some insurers require you to alert the police or relevant authorities within 24 hours of finding out.

There are also some situations that may be considered “careless” by an insurer, but not by most people’s standards. For example, you may be denied a claim if your belongings are stolen from a locked car if that car is parked on the street and not in a garage.

Changing your mind

There aren’t many travel insurance policies that will approve claims resulting from you changing your mind about travelling. If you fail to get your documentation in order (such as a passport or visa) and this affects your travel plans, you also probably won’t be covered.

Other common exlusions

It’s important to check with your travel insurance provider to find out other policy exclusions. Some other common exclusions include:

  • Claims that you’ve already been compensated for (such as from another insurance policy or if your medical treatment was covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement that Australia has with 11 other countries).
  • A terrorist attack affected your travel plans.
  • Your hotel or tour operator went out of business.

How to check what you’re covered for

To find out what your insurance policy does (and doesn’t cover), read the policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This document outlines the policy’s inclusions, exclusions, limits, terms and conditions, and other details, so it’s important to go through it carefully to find out exactly what you’re covered for.

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