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How to choose the best travel insurance

Update 10 Feb 2022: If you’re looking for Covid-19 travel insurance cover, I had found a couple of companies who will cover disruptions. See the bottom of this post. BUT as of a phone call I’ve just had, Cover More changed their wording to NO LONGER cover Covid disruption if you are told to isolate. Yes this is sneaky and yes it came into effect AFTER I had had a lengthy conversation last week discussing what the policy covered and recommended you to take out out.

Scroll through to the end to read who I’m recommending now and why.

*This post contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase I will earn a small commission at no cost to you.

I read a heart breaking story in the paper about a young Australian guy who was on his buck’s weekend in Bali with mates before he was to get married next weekend. He had a motorbike accident and his travel insurance did not cover him.

Yes, he was insured, he was also wearing a helmet, but he was not covered for the emergency surgery that his friends had to rustle up now $32,000 for on the spot as his brain was bleeding. It turned out he didn’t have an international motorbike license. Whaaaat?!

Scooter and travel insurance cover
Fast motorbike
Not covered!

I’m not sure who his insurance company is, but as I am based in New Zealand and an affiliate seller of 1 Cover Insurance (and World Nomads – see their free quote tool at the bottom of this post, which is especially great for American and European readers) I gave them a call to find out a few of the things that we might overlook but need to know BEFORE we take out our policy and go.

Personally, (pre-Covid)I took an annual frequent traveller policy. It costs about $450 per year and is comprehensive. I’ve made a couple of claims that went through easily for medical visits when travelling and I’ve been very happy with them.

Are you going on a cruise?

BUT, and I didn’t realise this until my phone call just now, they changed their terms and conditions a few years ago (I just keep renewing without double checking the small print – the dreaded Ts and Cs) and it turns out I have NOT been covered for any cruises I’ve been on for at least a couple of years!

Cruising in Cuba
On my uninsured cruise to Cuba

1 Cover Insurance has an extra Cruise Package that I apparently need to take out when my travel includes a cruise. I can understand this and I’m not bothered. I’m sure a ship medi-vac would be right up there with the most expensive thing that could go wrong while on holiday. So at least now I (and you!) know.

BUT I would also not have been covered if I was riding any motorcycle over 50cc without having a motorcycle license here in New Zealand (or my native country). I also need to be riding legally in the country I was in (e.g. if helmets are required, or a local license is also required etc).

Interestingly for us Kiwis and Aussies who travel to the Pacific Islands like Rarotonga where renting a scooter for a week is pretty much essential, the test you sit there to get your “local license” and be allowed to rent a bike does not mean your insurance covers you if the bike is over 50cc (with 1 Cover Insurance anyway).

We’ve all seen the “Rarotongan tattoo” – a painful red graze on the leg from coming off their bike. It’s the dogs that sit in the roads when you come hurtling round the corner!

I’m not sure if that Aussie guy was on a bike larger than 50cc or if it was that his policy needed an international drivers license (I only ever use my local NZ license when travelling), but do check if you’re going to ride bikes on holiday.

What about bungee jumping, sky diving, hot air ballooning, Scuba diving? What if I injure myself and I’m drunk? Does my insurance cover me?

That’s me standing above the Fly!

Good questions and that is why I rang.

On 1 Cover Insurance they have a page of activities that ARE covered and that does include Scuba if you are with a licensed instructor or you have your certification up to date.

The best thing to do is go straight to the fine print, the policy wording. The back page, if you have an old school paper policy, or the FAQs online. What are the exclusions on the policy you have?

I was relieved to see hot air ballooning is covered too, as I did this last month in the Hunter Valley. And so is bungee jumping and sky diving. Even heli-skiing – but only if you have bought their “winter sports add-on”.

See, that’s why it pays to check.

Oh and if you are relying on your bank’s credit card insurance policy, make sure you check out their exclusions too. Look for pre-existing conditions that you might need to notify them of (since you don’t have to apply for the insurance with every trip, it’s easy to forget the illness you had last year).

Also make sure you have met the threshold of the percentage of your trip that must be paid on said credit card to qualify for insurance cover.

I just hope that young Australian can get enough money from the Go Fund Me page that has now been set up to get home and recover. His expenses are now up to $75,000 I read.

Since I wrote this post I was contacted by who have a ton of in-depth advice and also recommend some travel insurance providers, so click on their link if you want to read more.

Megan on tour in China
My 2019 tour group in China

Covid 19 Travel Insurance

A new kind of headache!

You may know that I host tours. I used to host small groups overseas, but due to the virus, I’ve been pivoting to host domestic tours in New Zealand.

This is helpful advice if you have booked a holiday – and no doubt spent a pretty penny on it – but suddenly you are told via some contact tracing that you need to isolate. Not only is your trip in jeopardy, but who will pay for you to spend 10 days in a hotel?

I am about to host two tours to the South Island. All my guests are New Zealanders and all will be fully vaccinated – which is a prerequisite for some insurance coverage.

Megans tour in Queenstown
My tour group in Queenstown!

I’ve done some phoning around and 1Cover (who I endorsed above) does NOT provide cover for Covid 19 disruption, only if you GET Covid. But as of November 2021, 1Cover DOES provide emergency medical and hospital expenses if you CONTRACT Covid internationally – which is the best you can hope for at the moment.

But don’t worry, I found two companies who do cover self-isolation disruption if you are travelling domestically!

Cover More Travel Insurance, who also own State Insurance, have now changed their policy to NO LONGER cover disruptions due to you being told to self-isolate.

They will only cover you if your plans are changed or cancelled due to you CONTRACTING Covid-19.

Beware though that I have not found any insurance company that will cover you in case of border closures or government mandated lockdowns.

They’ve now changed this wording!

Note, Southern Cross Travel Insurance will NOT* cover Covid 19 disruption, they’ll only cover if YOU get Covid. (*It pays to check regularly on the latest updates on their website).

AA Travel Insurance

For Australian and New Zealand travellers travelling domestically in their own countries, AA Travel Insurance offers the best coverage I have managed to find – so far!

There are some restrictions, and obviously each claim will be assessed individually, but AA Travel covers Covid disruption in form of both CONTRACTING Covid and an official order to SELF ISOLATE but not if say a whole city or region is self-isolating. This would effectively be a lockdown and no insurance companies will pay out for that.

They also say they won’t cover if a whole VESSEL must self-isolate. This could be a plane, bus or ship. However, as each case is assessed on its merits, I strongly advise you wear a N95 mask so if you are contacted you can explain the precautions you took.

I’m also hopeful that in the next few weeks, Rapid Antigen Tests will be a thing and the order for people who are deemed close contacts to isolate will become a thing of the past. (Like the rest of the world!)

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Friday 18th of February 2022

Thanks for the advice Megan, here and on the radio. Now that travel to Australia is starting to become easier again, have you found any companies that cover for travel disruption if you get a positive pre-departure test that stops you flying? AA Travel insurance cover looked helpful, but when phoning them I learned that it's vital to check the website, as if this advises against travel to a country at the time of purchase of your policy you won't be covered. The only place currently 'safe' is Cook Islands. Are there any companies you know of that would cover you when there is a 'Do not travel' advisory warning in place for your destination. Fingers crossed this changes before we travel.

Megan Singleton

Friday 18th of February 2022

Yes, this is an oversight I fear many people will make as AA Travel also covers for Australia domestic travel, but that is not, of course, people from outside of Australia. I believe you can get cover if you GET Covid, but not for general disruption. I'll keep my eye on it and report back here!

Sandra Haycock

Sunday 15th of September 2019

Thanks for that Megan. I will be checking with my insurance tomorrow. And thanks for the air ticket copy, Cheers Sandra

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!