Don't skip insurance just because you're visiting family
Rita* (22) was cycling during a visit with family in Malta when she was hit by a car. She suffered abrasions and a broken leg, but overall was not too badly hurt. Unfortunately she had decided against travel insurance, because she felt safe in Malta and was visiting family rather than staying in a hotel and travelling as a tourist. This left Rita, and family in both Malta and Australia, responsible for the costs of her medical treatment and recovery in hospital, totalling more than $4,000.
Understand your policy's exclusions
Jenny* (18) was nightclubbing with friends in Bali when she became ill after drinking a cocktail. Her friends recognised the symptoms of methanol poisoning and rushed her to hospital.
Fortunately, Jenny recovered after two weeks of care, but because she had been drinking alcohol and was under the legal age to drink cocktails in Bali (21), her insurer refused to pay her claim. Her cash-strapped family had to sell their car to pay the $25,000 in medical expenses.
Francesca* (30) was set for a holiday in Nicaragua when a series of earthquakes hit near the capital, Managua. The Nicaraguan Government ordered residents of the area to evacuate their homes in case of further earthquakes, and also instructed the closure of hotels. This included the hotel where Francesca had a pre-paid booking. Francesca's policy did not cover travel disruption/interruption so her insurer didn't accept a claim to cover the costs of deferring her travel until the evacuation orders were lifted. Francesca eventually found alternate accommodation close-by but had to pay an additional $1,800 for a six night stay from her already limited budget.
Sally and Stan
Sally and Stan* were holidaying in Glasgow when thieves broke into their parked vehicle. They took luggage and other items valued at more than $3,000. Their travel insurer refused to cover these items because these items had been left in a public place. Sally and Stan didn't realise that this was a common exclusion in many travel insurance policies.
Declare pre-existing conditions
Bernie* (62) was admitted to hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) with septic shock, cirrhosis and respiration failure. Bernie's insurer declined to cover the cost due to his pre-existing liver disease. Without insurance, or funds to pay for treatment, Bernie was transferred to the very basic hepatitis ward where he had to share a bed with another patient. Because Bernie couldn't pay the outstanding $6,000 in medical bills, the hospital withheld his 'fitness to fly' certificate until his family paid the bill and he could fly home.
Maureen* (69) was on a cruise in the Pacific, but was evacuated from the ship to a hospital in Noumea after suffering complications with her medication. The insurer refused to cover the $60,000 in medical bills because Maureen was hospitalised for a pre-existing medical condition. Maureen lives on a pension and now has to pay the hospital in Noumea in instalments with help from her family.
The Massoud family
The Massoud family* were holidaying in Singapore when 13-year-old Nazreen had a recurrence of severe bronchitis, which had affected her in Australia before their trip. The family's travel insurer refused to pay any hospital bills as Nazreen's bronchitis was a pre-existing medical condition. As a result, the Massouds had to ask their friends to transfer the $17,000 they needed to cover Nazreen's hospital expenses, additional accommodation and the cost of changing flights.
Ensure all your activities are covered
Alex* (22) was taking part in the annual Running of the Bulls event in Pamplona (Spain), but was gored in the back after falling under a bull. After emergency surgery, Alex spent three weeks in hospital and due to the injury to his lung, was not allowed to fly home for a further four months. Alex's hospital bill alone came to $32,000. Alex had travel insurance, but hadn't told his insurer he would be taking part in the Running of the Bulls, so none of his medical bills or costs from his extended stay in Europe were covered by his policy.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.