Ever wondered ‘where do Australian travellers need travel insurance?’ In some countries travel insurance is compulsory for Australian visitors including some of our favourite European destinations and UAE stopovers.
The cost of medical care has skyrocketed, not just here in Australia, but all around the globe. And while we atleast have relatively accessible care under the Medicare scheme for emergencies, free or cheap medical treatment is far from the norm abroad.
So what happens when medical systems that are already taking strain need to cater to foreign travellers? Is it fair to expect overseas hospitals and ambulance services to provide free treatment to travelling Aussies? In many countries the answer is a clear no – they can simply not afford to take care of us, and we simply can’t afford to pay their crazy high medical bills.
In an effort to protect themselves from the financial burden made by medical bills left unpaid by tourists, more and more countries are now requiring visitors to show proof of travel insurance before being allowed to enter.
Countries that require compulsory travel insurance include Abu Dhabi, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Cuba, Denmark, Dubai, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, and more.
What is compulsory travel insurance?
When visiting a country, you may be required to purchase a travel insurance before being allowed to enter, or before being issued with an entry visa. There may even be certain benefit limit requirements, usually around having adequate emergency medical coverage as well as medical evacuation cover.
If you arrive in such a country without the required level of travel insurance, you will be forced to purchase insurance before you may enter – usually available at the airport, or via online purchase. Just remember most Australian travel insurers, including Travel with Kit, can only cover you if your trip and policy dates start and end in Australia.
Apart from country restrictions, many tour operators and accommodation providers need to know that you’re adequately covered for medical emergencies. These include Contiki Tours and Stray Asia tours.
Which countries have compulsory travel insurance requirements?
The list below is accurate as of February 2020. For the most up to date information on which countries required travel insurance as well as the details of the requirement, please visit the Smartraveller website. It’s also a good idea to register your trip details with Smartraveller – run by the Australian government.
Schengen Nations and compulsory travel insurance
The following 26 countries are a part of the Schengen Zone, an vast area of Europe that allows for easy travel between the countries’ borders. In the Schengen Zone, travel insurance is required for stays over 90 days.
While Australian passport holders are exempt from needing visas for short term travel, once you stay in the Schengen Zone for 90 days or more, you need a visa. As a part of the Schengen Visa application process you must have proof of travel insurance.
Your policy will need to include compulsory travel insurance with the minimum medical cover of €30,000 and cover for repatriation back to Australia. Schengen Zone visa cover is available under Travel with Kit’s Comprehensive travel insurance plan.
To visit Belarus, you’ll need a travel insurance policy that meets minimum medical and repatriation requirements. Documents will be checked at immigration. Smartraveller recommends that Australian travellers buy comprehensive travel insurance before they leave for Belarus.
The travel advisory site explains that the standard of health care in Belarus is below that of Australia. Doctors and hospitals will request insurance details or an up-front payment before treating you.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you’ll need to be evacuated to get proper care, and medical evacuation can be very expensive.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
Travelling to Cuba. You’ll need proof of having a travel insurance with emergency medical and repatriation cover before entering this island nation. Along with an entry visa, Cuban customs officials will be looking for your comprehensive travel insurance policy. Carry a printed copy of your certificate of insurance to show to authorities.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and UAE States visa conditions
Planning a long stopover in Dubai? Healthcare is not free in the United Arab Emirates and medical expenses can be staggering. That’s why travel insurance is mandatory should you require an entry visa to any of the states, including Dubai. You need to be able to prove that you have adequate health insurance when applying for your visa, otherwise your application will be rejected.
Qatar and travel insurance
Heading to Qatar for a sports event or trade show? Whatever your reason for visit this UAE destination, Australian visitors must have travel insurance with medical and evacuation cover when visiting or living in Qatar.
USA, land of the not so free medical care
While travel insurance is not officially mandatory, the US is a destination where having travel insurance is strongly recommended. The Australian government’s Smartraveller advisory site even goes as far as urging travellers to visit the States with a comprehensive policy in place. The warning is due to the exorbitant costs of medical care in US hospitals and outpatient facilities.
Medical costs are high. You may need to pay up-front. Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance.
The Philippines, a medi-vac hotspot
The South East Asian island chain carries a similar warning to the States. Travel insurance in The Philippines is not compulsory for Australian travellers, yet Smartraveller suggests the need for cover is two-fold.
Medical costs in The Philippines are high. If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a city or country that can offer you the treatment you need.
Make sure your travel insurance covers this. Medical evacuation can be delayed by limited flights leaving some parts of The Philippines.
Thailand, not yet compulsory but highly recommended
Australian travel fave Thailand has been threatening to introduce mandatory travel insurance for some time now. While travel insurance in Thailand is not yet compulsory, keep an eye out on travel advisories from Smartraveller.
As with the USA, traveller’s are not well looked after in public hospitals, and private hospitals are pricey. Many ambulance and medical facilities will want to know you’re adequately covered before treating you. The need for a medical evacuation out of a remote beach location to Bangkok or Australia, could costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.