The past few weeks have seen a significant number of Aussies running into trouble abroad. Shocking arrests and fatal accidents have blasted local headline and prompted experts to issue words of caution.
The wave of disturbing events included the arrest of 22-year-old Adelaide woman Cassandra Sainsbury, accused of smuggling 18 packages of cocaine across the Columbian border. Just days later Canberra man Baxter Reid was arrested for overstaying his American visa by two hours. And tragedy struck for Sydney woman Ella Knights after she fatally fell off her scooter in Bali on April 27.
The incidents, while all of a different nature, point to a worrying trend in Aussies travelling overseas. According to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the number of Aussies getting into trouble abroad has significantly increased in recent years. The number of arrests leapt up by 23 per cent over the 2015-16 period, while the number of imprisonments went up by five per cent. Robberies and assaults were also on the rise.
Travel troubles: would insurance cover you?As a rule travel insurance strictly forbids acts of ‘recklessness’. This can include excessive drinking, participating in high risk sports and activities, or riding an unlicensed motorbike. Needless to say, breaking the laws and regulations of the country you are in would fall within this category.
Natalie Ball, director, Comparetravelinsurance.com.au says:
“The rate at which young Australians are finding themselves in trouble abroad is deeply concerning. However, from a travel insurance perspective, you are very unlikely to be covered for deliberately putting yourself in positions of danger. It’s your responsibility to act wisely and take all required safety precautions when travelling overseas.”
Millennials fail to take coverDespite the growing awareness of the importance of travel insurance, millennials are the least likely to purchase cover for their holidays. Recent studies by Comparetravelinsurance.com.au reveal that only 45% of travellers aged between 18-35 would ‘always’ buy travel insurance while a staggering 46% said they don't bother every time or at all. A further 9% said they do not understand what travel insurance would actually cover or why they would need it.
While Sainsbury and Reid may not have been covered, Ball warns travellers not to dismiss the importance of travel insurance.
“There are endless circumstances in which travel insurance can completely change the course of your holiday. Huge medical bills, luggage theft or a last-minute cancellation can swiftly eat into your travel budget. When you consider the immense cost of medical care abroad you shouldn’t travel without it.”
Ball recommends that travellers act responsibly and take the time to understand their travel insurance policies. Far from invincible, young people are encouraged to follow the safety measures they would back home.
“Without understanding the terms of your policy, you simply won’t know where you can and can’t claim. Discuss any important exclusions with your insurer and consider any additional activities you may be engaging in overseas. A solid understanding of your cover can ease any concerns you may have and smooth over the claims process.”
safety on scootersIn addition to the death of Ella Knights, a series of overseas scooter accidents further claimed the life of pregnant blogger Sophie Emma Rose and left 23-year-old British man Jake Tonkin with critical injuries. All three tragedies occurred within a few weeks of one another.
Ball says the devastating fatalities reiterated the dangerous reality of riding on foreign roads.
“Young inexperienced travellers are taking to the roads in countries that are heavily congested. Often, these riders take little regard to their safety and fail to appreciate just how risky their actions may be.”
Ball reminds travellers that not all insurers would automatically cover the use of a scooter or moped, and would have various requirements for those wanting to do so.
“Very often, you would require an Australian motorbike license in order to ride bikes over a certain engine size as well as an International Driving Permit. You must also wear a helmet at all times. Neglecting to do so would automatically void your insurance, and could see you facing a fine from the authorities
Tragically, although Ella Knights was wearing a helmet prior to her fatal accident, the chinstraps were allegedly undone. Days earlier Knights had posted a video of herself riding a scooter without a helmet with the caption, "Sorry mum #nohelmet."
Ball concludes, “Ella’s heart-breaking story should resonate with travellers. Many Aussies are guilty of throwing caution to the wind while on holiday. Young Australians should carefully consider the repercussions of their actions when engaging in risky behaviour abroad.”