Tourism

What to double check your travel insurance for

Lauren Croft

Imagine being on the trip of a lifetime: delicious food, partying, exploring and adrenalin-fuelled adventure activities. Basically every young Aussies dream trip, right? And then you get hurt.

Luckily, you’re one of the 45 per cent of millennials that have travel insurance. Unluckily, your travel insurance won’t cover you, due to ‘exclusions’ in their policy.

That’s almost exactly what happened to Troy Markides and his girlfriend, Katie Van der End, when they were injured in a motorbike crash in Thailand recently. Because the couple was riding a motorbike, their travel insurance refused to cover them – and Markides was left stranded in Thailand with serious injuries.

The couple were confused, as they thought their travel insurance included scooter and motorbike cover. But insurance company Columbus Direct’s Marketing Manager, Antje Lauterbach, said travellers who have specific adventure-travel needs can find it almost impossible to get cover.

“Engaging in adventure sports on holiday significantly limits the range of travel insurance options available to Australian travellers.

“Those who engage in more than one adventure activity, or who have complex travel insurance needs, such as pre-existing medical conditions, can find it incredibly difficult to get suitable cover,” she said.

A recent survey by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) shows that over half of Aussie travellers go overseas without decent travel insurance.

It highlights all the travel insurance exclusions – like mental illness and risky activities.

But risky activities can be more than just riding a motorbike through crowded Thai streets. In 2015 Brooke Baldwin, from Sydney, was out and about in Las Vegas when she was hit by a car whilst crossing the road and was in a coma for over three weeks.

Despite making a full recovery, Baldwin was told her travel insurance would not cover her medical costs – because she was drinking alcohol the night of her accident.

The DFAT and ICA-commissioned survey shows that almost three quarters of Aussie travellers aged under 30 engage in risky activities while overseas; and in Balwin’s case, her travel insurance classed drinking as a ‘risky activity’.

The survey also shows that only about half of Aussies double-check their travel insurance for exclusions before they leave – with some not bothering with insurance at all.

Out of all young Aussie travellers between the ages of 18 and 35, almost half don’t take out travel insurance to begin with.

This can be detrimental for travellers wanting to do adventure activities – and a lot of them do. According to travel insurer Columbus Direct’s latest customer survey, over 50 per cent of travellers are either planning adventure activities or have it on their bucket list.

And, with it being the most exciting way to holiday, around 16 per cent have already done adventure sports – like skydiving, hang gliding or bungee jumping.

Miles Cottman is one of those 16 per cent, and a professional skydiver. But last week, Cottman was injured doing an extreme sport called speed flying, a combination of paragliding and snow skiing.

He was going an estimated 120km/h and shattered multiple bones, injuring himself internally and leaving him hospital-bound. Unfortunately, Cottman believed his German permanent residency or his British dual-citizenship would cover him in an accident – and failed to get travel insurance.

With intensive care costing over $4000 a day, his sister has said overlooking travel insurance was a “massive mistake”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

But even if Cottman did have travel insurance, it’s unlikely he would be covered.

Of the 29 travel insurance companies listed on popular comparison site Finder.com.au, only five cover skydiving.

However, Columbus Direct has recently launched a new cover option – addressing the shortage of activity-related travel options. The new cover includes riding motorbikes, rock climbing and skydiving, as well as comprehensive medical screening to give travellers with pre-existing medical conditions (like mental illness) a better shot at getting covered.

Lauterbach said every trip is different and travel insurance should reflect that, and be able to cover a range of different things.

“Travellers should always consider activities as part of their travel insurance selection process. Going on an active holiday without proper activities cover leaves travellers vulnerable to high overseas medical bills.

“So it really should be a no-brainer, before deciding on a policy, to check that all relevant activities are covered,” she said.

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