Health What you need to know before you go on holiday

On a beach on an island in Papua New Guinea, there is time to perfect everything. The exact angle - so that the boat is "on the beach", the sail leading into the sky.
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Going overseas? Don't head off without checking you're covered with our tips for insurance and more.

Millions of Australians travel overseas each year, but a lot of them are not prepared for an emergency and not covered by insurance if something goes wrong.

Leon Taylor, from CGU Insurance, said the possibility of something going wrong on holiday was often the last thing on people’s minds but the reality was unforeseen circumstances could crop up when people were travelling.

Each year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides consular assistance to tens of thousands of Australians who find themselves in difficulty when they are abroad.

Health problems and other mishaps that occur while on holiday could be extremely costly. Mr Taylor said the best way to avoid massive cost blowouts was to have good travel insurance.

“Without travel insurance, holiday-makers may be liable for expenses ranging from a couple of hundred dollars for a doctor’s visit to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a medical evacuation claim,” he said.

Medical expenses including doctor’s visits and medication were particularly costly overseas and there was no government support available to travellers to offset these costs.

“Medical expenses can be exhaustive,” Mr Taylor said.

“For example, a recent HBF customer on holiday in the US went bushwalking and sustained extensive injuries as a result of a fall.

“The customer needed a medical evacuation, specialist treatment and an urgent return to Australia. A relative was flown overseas to accompany him home.

“We arranged a medically assisted flight to Australia and an ambulance to a local hospital. The total cost of the claim was $400,000.”

Mr Taylor said often people found they were unable to travel because a problem arose unexpectedly and without travel insurance, the costs of lost flights and accommodation would represent a big loss.

“Another thing people don’t take into consideration is that sometimes they may need to cancel or reschedule their holiday before it even starts, due to an unforeseen incident or illness that prevents them from travelling,” he said.

“Holiday-makers also find themselves needing to replace goods such as cameras and laptops if they are stolen so the cost of going without insurance may be quite significant.

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”

Before you leave home 

Whether you are travelling overseas to visit family, as a tourist, for business or to live, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade encourages you to register your plans with it before you leave Australia. The registration information you provide will help it to contact or find you in an emergency — whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or family emergency. It may also be used to pass other information to you such as important travel advice updates, notice of elections and information on other matters relevant to travellers and expatriates.


  1. Check travel advice and subscribe for free email notifications of any new events which could affect you while you are away.
  2. Get comprehensive travel insurance.
  3. Register your travel plans and contact details online.
  4. Obey the laws of the country you are visiting, even if they seem harsh or unfair by Australian standards.
  5. Make sure you have the right visas.
  6. Make copies of your passport details, insurance policies and credit card numbers.
  7. Check with health professionals regarding recommended vaccines.
  8. Ensure your passport has at least six months validity from the planned date of return.
  9. Keep in touch with family and friends and give them a copy of your travel itinerary.
  10. Check to see if you are regarded as a national of the country you plan to visit and whether dual nationality will have implications for your travel plans.