Travelling abroad? Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance and international roaming

Your existing providers should just be a starting point.
Finance and money expert Effie Zahos

It can be easy to be swept away thinking about cocktails by the pool but don’t forget the practical aspects when planning an overseas holiday. It’s vital to pack the right financial products in your suitcase – and international travel insurance is top of that list.

If you’re wondering, ‘Do I need travel insurance?’ – it’s simple: If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Things don’t always go to plan – you may have to cancel before you go, your luggage could go missing, or you might have an accident while you’re away, so it’s vital to be prepared just in case.

How to get travel insurance

Start by looking at your credit card as it may offer free travel insurance, but you may have to activate your insurance in some way. For example, you may need to use your credit card to pay for part or all of your trip.

And even if you have insurance with your credit card it’s worth seeing how it stacks up against standalone policies.

Sure, the insurance with your credit card might be free, but cost should not be the only factor to consider. You have to look into what your travel insurance covers. Some common exclusions include war, travelling against government advice, illegal behaviour, leaving belongings unattended and pre-existing medical conditions that you may not have disclosed. 

If you’re thinking about rock climbing or bungee jumping they might also be excluded as a “dangerous activity”. The same might go for snow sports. It may be possible to pay extra to have this covered or you could look into a separate adventure policy.

Mature woman rock climbing to represent being prepared with travel insurance

Also, most insurers also won’t pay a claim for incidents caused by alcohol, so if you trip and break a leg while intoxicated it’s unlikely the travel insurer will pay your medical expenses. 

Limits also apply on how much you’ll be paid in the event of a claim. Make sure you find out what they are. There’s no point choosing a super-cheap policy if it has very low payout limits.

Plenty of providers offer travel insurance, so compare prices. It’s vital to find out what is – and more importantly what isn’t – covered when comparing policies. Sure, reading the product disclosure statement may be the last thing you want to do, but you should.

Once you’ve got international travel insurance sorted, another important financial product you need to be smart about when travelling overseas is your mobile phone.

Avoid bill shock with mobile international roaming

Not many of us would take an international trip without our phones. But if you want to avoid a bad case of bill shock it’s vital to have a plan. One option is to see what your existing provider has to offer. 

Vodafone, for example, lets you use your included data, calls and texts in more than 100 countries for $5 extra per day.

An alternative is to buy a travel SIM. Some include calls, texts and data but others only offer data. If you opt for the latter, you’ll need to use the Messenger app or WhatsApp for calls and messages.

Cost will be your key consideration and the price will depend on how much data you want and where you’re going. Consider how much data you think you are likely to use and also the expiry period when comparing plans.

Woman using mobile phone in Athens Greece to represent mobile data roaming bill shock
Young woman traveler using mobile phone outdoor

You might prefer a plan that offers an eSIM. The beauty of an eSIM is that you don’t have to swap out your Australian SIM for a physical SIM card. That means you’ll also be able to receive calls and text messages to your existing number while travelling.

Some providers offering travel SIMs include Airalo, Go-Sim, SimCorner, SimsDirect, TravelSim and WorldSIM. You could also pick up a local SIM when you reach your destination which is often the cheapest way to use your phone overseas. 

If you’re only going for a short time or visiting several countries you may prefer the other choices. Regardless of which option, keep data usage low as you won’t have a lot to play with. 

Here are some tips to ensure you are using your roaming data as efficiently as possible:

  • Turn off automatic updates, location tracking and push notifications.
  • Download movies, shows, music, audiobooks and podcasts before you go so you don’t use up your data streaming.
  • Close apps when finished with them.
  • Use wi-fi where possible, but as public networks may not be secure, avoid wi-fi for internet banking or sending personal data. 

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