With much of the world reopening borders and easing travel requirements for vaccinated visitors, there is also a huge surge in travel-thirsty Australians heading overseas. The numbers, however, are still well below the pre-pandemic peak reached in late 2019, according to government figures.
The latest provisional data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown that there were about 972,590 departures from the country in July as the lifting of travel restrictions triggered a rise in Aussies taking overseas trips. The number was a dramatic jump from the 335,240 departures recorded in March, which was already a more than ten-fold increase from six months prior during the height of the country’s border closures.
Before COVID-19 struck, Australia registered a record-high 2.24 million departures in December 2019, coinciding with the annual Christmas holidays.
Since then, the pandemic has reshaped the way people travel, with those planning on travelling overseas forced to consider additional factors, including airline requirements, coronavirus regulations in transit and destination countries, and arrangements for their safe return.
The situation has made securing travel insurance even more important, according to industry insiders.
Among them is the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), which has reminded Australians that travel insurance is as essential as their passports if they intend to go abroad.
“You can’t leave Australia without a passport, and you shouldn’t leave Australia without travel insurance,” said ICA chief executive officer Andrew Hall in a statement. “Travel insurance remains essential for all the reasons it was pre-pandemic – to provide protection when the unexpected occurs far from home.”
Travel insurance plans protect the policyholder from certain financial risks and losses they may encounter while on their trips, both domestically and overseas. These losses can result from minor incidents, such as delayed luggage, or major occurrences, including last-minute trip cancellations or medical emergencies.
The good news is Australians can choose from a wide range of policies that fit their travel needs. Here are the most common types of travel coverages available:
Most travel insurance policies also come with a cooling-off period within which a policyholder can cancel coverage and get a refund. Depending on the insurance provider, this may last for a few days or weeks, although travellers are often required to cancel the policy before the trip starts.
To find out which travel insurers in Australia provide the best coverage, the comparison website Finder analysed the policies from several of its partner brands using a range of metrics, including premium prices, COVID-19-related benefits, and inclusions. The firm then picked the top travel insurance providers in five different categories.
The company added, however, that “there’s no single best travel insurance policy that suits everyone,” and often the right coverage is the one that fits a person’s unique needs.
These are the comparison website’s choices for the top travel insurance providers in Australia. The list is arranged alphabetically.
Head office: Sydney, NSW
Year established: 1986
Key benefits: On-trip cover for COVID-19, unlimited overseas emergency medical expenses, luggage cover, existing medical conditions cover
Zurich-backed travel insurance specialist Cover-More is Finder’s top pick for adventure holidays as its policies cover up to 142 adventure sports and activities – the most out of all providers evaluated. Some of these activities – including abseiling, backpacking, biking, and sledging – are automatically covered in standard plans. Thrill-seekers can also add coverage for riskier activities through Cover-More’s Adventure Activities and Adventure+ Activities pack. Its Gold and Platinum policies, meanwhile, cover extreme sports such as windsurfing, arctic marathons, and snow parascending.
Head office: Surry Hills, NSW
Year established: 2010
Key benefits: Unlimited cover for COVID-19 medical and hospital, and evacuation and repatriation expenses, up to $5,000 COVID-19-related trip cancellation and disruption cover
About a third of all travel insurance companies in Australia offer coronavirus-related coverage, but only a few provide a detailed list of inclusions like Fast Cover, making it Finder’s top choice for COVID-19 features. The insurer covers medical evacuation, trip cancellation and rearrangement costs, childcare expenses, and trip interruption if a family member back home gets infected or dies because of COVID-19.
Head office: Sydney, NSW
Year established: 2012
Key benefits: Cancellation or trip disruption due to COVID-19
Online travel insurance specialist InsureandGo is Finder’s top pick for domestic trips. The Mapfre Group subsidiary’s top policies cover rental car expenses for up to $7,500 – the highest among all travel insurance companies evaluated. Its Gold policy also features a $50,000 cancellation, $8,000 lost or stolen luggage, and $5,000 COVID-19 cancellation and rearrangement costs.
Head office: Melbourne, Victoria
Key benefits: Medical, emergency dental, additional expenses, cancellation, deferment costs, and luggage cover
With policies covering a total of 43 illnesses, nib-backed Travel Insurance Saver is the top choice for pre-existing conditions. Among the conditions it covers are diabetes, which should be diagnosed more than six months before insurance was purchased, and vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies. The company also provides up $1,000 coverage for emergency dental procedures and 24/7 emergency assistance, a feature not all Australian travel insurers offer.
Head office: Sydney, NSW
Year established: 1963
Key benefits: Medical costs, cancellation, luggage delay, and COVID-19 cover
The top pick for family benefits, World2Cover is the only insurer on the list that covers the policyholder’s children or grandchildren. It offers coverage for dependents up to 25 years old as long as they are still financially reliant and do not work full-time, meaning travellers do not need to purchase additional policies. The insurer also provides free coverage for an unlimited number of dependents, with all the standard travel insurance benefits, including medical expenses, cancellation costs, luggage delay, and COVID-19 coverage.
Although an increasing number of travel insurance providers in Australia offer coronavirus-related coverage, most policies do not provide protection against border closures, lockdowns, or quarantine requirements in a destination country, according to CHOICE, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Smartraveller website. This is why it recommends that travellers purchase plans only with insurers that allow some flexibility in the event COVID-19 regulations change in their destinations.
The website also shared these tips for a safe trip during the pandemic:
CHOICE added, however, that getting travel insurance is not only essential because there is an ongoing pandemic. It noted that with or without COVID-19, there are some things that may go wrong while travelling, including theft, catching other illnesses, or even natural and man-made disasters. Travel insurance can help cover these as well.