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Expat travel insurance

08 May, 2019 By Ben Payne

Living overseas can be a fantastic adventure, and more and more Australians are doing it every year. Are you looking for expat travel insurance? Expats living overseas can risk huge medical bills by choosing invalid travel insurance policies over proper expat health cover.

Understanding the differences between travel insurance and medical insurance can help save expats and their families a huge burden down the track.

Do you need travel, already overseas or expat insurance?

Travel insurance is for if you are going on holiday - usually for between one and 365 days, but sometimes longer - and plan to come home to Australia.

If you do reside in Australia, but you're already overseas and forgot travel insurance (or you had a policy which has expired), you're looking for Already Overseas travel insurance.

If you're an Australian but you don't normally reside here, then you're probably looking for expat medical/health insurance, also known as international health cover. Unless you normally reside in Australia, most travel insurance policies simply won't cover you. Even if you successfully buy a policy online, it is likely to be invalid as the policyholder doesn't normally reside in Australia.

Reports from insurers suggest that expat haven and road-accident hotspot Bali is notorious for expats buying the wrong type of policy; lying in a hospital after a motorbike accident is a terrible time to discover you aren't covered. 

Travel and expat insurance differences

If you live permanently overseas, most travel insurance policies will be invalid. The medical component of travel cover only covers for unexpected medical emergencies for people on holiday. Often insurers may also evacuate travellers back to Australia if they believe the medical care will be better or less expensive - which can be a problem if you don't live there anymore! Comprehensive travel insurance also covers for trip cancellations and luggage cover. 

Expat health insurance not only covers for unexpected medical emergencies, but also often includes cover for regular check-ups, medication, and you can often add cover if you'd like to add dental or maternity care, or the option for medical evacuation back to Australia.

Who offers expat health insurance?


General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs.

Beware of bad advice online 

Insurers tell us that many Australians living overseas are buying travel insurance, rather than long-term expat health insurance. Often, expats cite recommendations from friends, social media, and travel forums, as well as the far too common practice of not reading the policy documentation as the principal reasons for buying these invalid policies. 

What happens if my policy is invalid?

Insurers are increasingly using immigration information, social media posts, and even utility bills to determine whether travellers live in Australia, or if they have a policy fraudulently. If you have purchased a travel insurance policy but live overseas, your policy will be invalid, and your insurer will have the right to decline your claim. Don't risk eyewatering medical bills - check the Product Disclosure Statement and make sure the product is right for you.

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Expat Travel Insurance FAQs

What is expat travel insurance?

Typically travel insurance only covers you if you plan to return home to Australia, but if you're permanently living overseas, typical travel insurance won't generally cover you. Expat travel insurance (also known as expat health insurance) covers people who are live permanently overseas for those costs. 

What is expat health insurance?

Expat health insurance is similar to the private health insurance you could buy in Australia, but covers the healthcare expenses of expats living overseas. There are a number of insurers who offer expat health cover above. If you're an Australian resident just going on holiday (not living permanently overseas), you may wish to look into standard comprehensive travel insurance instead.

Can you get travel insurance after leaving Australia?

If you're just on holiday, and you've forgotten to buy travel insurance, there are a few providers who offer cover if you're already overseas. It's important to be aware that most Already Overseas policies are only valid for residents of Australia who intend to return home to Australia, so if you're a permanent expat, those policies may not cover you. If that's the case, consider looking into expat health cover.

Contributor Ben Payne

Ben Payne

With four years’ experience in the travel industry, including two working for an airline, Ben is a thrillseeker, foodie and festival fan who knows more than a few things about travel. He’s a certified Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice customer service wizard, who loves helping travellers find a policy that helps them see the world on their terms. His favourite trips have included surviving a Hawaiian hurricane and visiting Disneyland during Halloween.

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