As keen as Australians are to travel overseas to reunite with loved ones or take a longed-for holiday, it can be easy to forget that some things have changed in the new COVID normal.
Finance experts have called on Australians to double check the fine print of travel insurance plans as international flights resume and borders begin to reopen.
According to Finder, more than 20 per cent of Australians are looking to head overseas in the next 12 months – however, pandemic-related disruptions are still a real concern, and not all travel insurance policies will cover them.
“There’s a bit of a hierarchy on the insurance that you’ve got to look for,” Canstar finance commentator Steve Mickenbecker told The New Daily.
“My first advice would be that if you find a super, super cheap premium, read all the fine print because there’s a good chance that most of these things will be excluded.”
The effects of the pandemic result in far more than just hospital expenses.
Australians returning home must present a negative COVID test result from three days before boarding their flight.
Additionally, most airlines won’t allow a sick passenger to board in the first place.
This means catching COVID near the end of a holiday can cause additional accommodation and rebooking expenses.
According to Finder travel expert Angus Kidman, Fast Cover and Cover-More are among the travel insurance providers that will cover rebooking expenses if you can’t board a flight due to COVID.
“The trick is to use the find tool (Ctrl+F or Cmd+F) and search for the terms ‘COVID’ and ‘coronavirus’ in the copy of the policy,” he told TND.
“Ask your insurer if your policy includes any cover for trip curtailment that’s a direct consequence of your COVID infection.”
Choice travel expert Jodi Bird also said it was important to scout the product disclosure statement (PDS) because many providers only discuss COVID cover in vague terms on their websites.
Choice has teamed up with Smartraveller to create a travel insurance buying guide, which outlines how to read a PDS.
Mr Bird said it was also worth noting that travel insurance policies that do cover COVID-related mishaps aren’t necessarily more expensive than other policies.
“From what we’ve seen so far, there’s not a huge price discrepancy,” he told TND.
Border closures still a risk
“We’re not aware of any travel insurance that will cover you for cancellation due to government travel bans,” Mr Bird said.
“So if, for example, where you live is designated a hotspot and you’re not allowed to leave, travel insurance won’t cover you to cancel for that.
“Same if the destination you’re travelling to says ‘OK, we’re not letting people in because of the COVID situation’, then travel insurance won’t cover that.”
The way to prepare for this, he explained, is to look for flexible flight and accommodation bookings.
Choice recently found that roughly two-thirds of Australians would feel more confident booking an overseas holiday if they were guaranteed a refund in the event of pandemic-related cancellations, such as border closures.
It’s currently up to travel agents, airlines and accommodation providers to ensure Australians can book with confidence.