Every time we book a flight or hotel online it asks us, do you want to add travellers insurance? The answer is no. We don’t want to add travellers insurance through you, but yes, we do want to purchase travellers insurance. There’s a reason these websites keep prompting you – it’s like booking your flight or buying a suitcase, there’s just no question that you need it. As the saying goes, if you can’t afford travellers insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

We know it’s tempting to avoid that extra $100, $500, or $1000 but in the end if you’re hit with a bill that is double, triple or quadruple this amount you’re not going to be too happy.

1 – Destination
The cost to get cover when travelling in different countries will vary. For example, Japan, USA and Canada are typically at the top of the list, while getting cover to travel Southeast Asia can be considerably less. When we bought insurance to cover us for a year overseas travelling through Japan, USA and Canada it cost $1000 each. We have just bought our cover for six months through Southeast Asia and it cost $375 each.

2 – Luggage/personal items
Are you travelling with one small backpack and no electronics or are you a photographer with $20,000 worth of camera gear and two laptops in tow? Look at the limit of cover on your luggage and personal items. Also, check the breakdown – the policy may say you’re covered for $20,000 worth of belongings but it actually only covers individual items for a maximum of $2000 each – no good if you’ve got an expensive gear with you.

3 – Cancelled/rescheduled travel
We don’t like to think we’ll get sick or have a family emergency just before we’re supposed to leave for holiday, but these things happen. Check how much you’re covered for in case you have to cancel or reschedule, and what situations aren’t included in your policy.

4 – Overseas medical/transport
You may think that that limit of $100,000 for overseas medical is more than enough, but if you’re travelling to Canada and plan to snowboard for two months, you may very well end up with an injury and a massive medical bill. What if you have to be flown back from Indonesia to receive treatment at home? Private jets aren’t all that cheap these days! Take out the policy with unlimited overseas medical cover to be safe.

5 – Extreme sports
Some policies will cover you for extreme sports but you need to look into this. Things like back country skiing will very rarely be covered because of the risk. There’s no point in having insurance if it doesn’t actually cover the activities you’ll be doing, so check this thoroughly.

6 – Excess
Excess is the amount you have to pay if you do end up claiming. This will normally change the cost of the policy. We prefer to have our excess at $100 because it feels like less of a hit while we’re away rather than $200 or $300. Normally you can lower your excess and only increase your initial policy cost for a small amount. For example, we lowered our excess for Southeast Asia from $200 to $100 and it only upped our policy cost by $75, so if we make just one claim, we’ve saved money.

We’ve only ever bought our insurance through HBF. This is because we are always carrying so much expensive camera gear and we needed a policy that would cover its value – this can be hard to find with other companies. We’ve claimed through them a few times and every time they’ve been extremely efficient – approving the claim quickly and reimbursing us immediately. As long as you have your receipts or a quote for a repair then there’s no questions asked. We highly recommend HBF if you’re Australian, and if you’re a member you’ll also receive 19% off for buying it online. If you’re elsewhere, consider looking into whether your health fund also does travellers insurance.

We’ve heard a lot of good stuff about World Nomads, however we don’t have any personal experience with them. They definitely seem to be the top choice for a lot of travellers.

If you’re booking your flights through a travel agent they’ll almost always try to get you to buy insurance through them. Don’t make a decision on the spot – ask for a copy of the quote and policy and have a good read through it. When we went to Vietnam for two weeks we booked through an agent and luckily I checked their policy before purchasing – finding it was considerably more expensive than HBF and didn’t cover our camera gear.

Shop around, ask questions, read the fine print and make sure you fully understand the policy before you purchase it. Go with a company that has some sort of reputation, that $50 you save won’t be worth it when you have to fight to claim back your expenses.

1 – Print two copies of your policy and keep one in your carry-on and one in your checked-in baggage.
2 – Save a PDF version on your phone or tablet.
3 – Save the emergency assistance phone number for the company in your phone.

1 – Ayesha got Hospitalised in Hanoi while we were travelling Vietnam. Bill: $400 – Excess: $100
2 – The second time we ever saw snow we were so excited that we grabbed out our Canon 5D Mark III and ran down to the beach to photograph it amongst the heavy snowfall. A few months later the camera was giving us error messages when we turned it on – it had been water damaged and had only just started to corrode. Bill: $1,100 – Excess $100
3 – Ayesha was sitting enjoying the view at one of the beautiful lakes that we stopped at while driving through the Canadian Rockies when she went to get up and had forgotten her phone was sitting in her lap…it slid down the rock and two seconds later was sitting in the crystal clear water. Gavin managed to get it out but Siri refused to stop talking to us. Bill: $350 – Excess: $100