Travel is exciting, but things can sometimes go wrong, and travellers can find themselves faced with a medical emergency, finding the funds to replace lost luggage, or having to make an urgent trip home. Travel insurance can step in to help if you find yourself in a pickle when you’re on a trip.
Travel insurance is cover you purchase for international trips, whether they're for business or holidays. Most travel insurance provides protection for
- cancellation and loss of deposit
- medical treatment costs
- costs for returning home in certain emergencies
- loss of luggage and personal items
- personal liability (except for deliberate acts or use of motor vehicles).
Travel insurance is also available when you travel around New Zealand. While medical events will be covered by ACC in New Zealand, domestic travel insurance will cover you for things like lost luggage, rental vehicle excesses, cancellations or delays, and personal liability. Travellers should be aware that domestic travel insurance generally doesn’t cover as much as an international policy would so you should read the policy carefully before taking out cover.
For an independent view on domestic travel insurance, check out Consumer NZ's article 'Domestic travel insurance - do you need it?'
Travel insurance is a common extra when you take out a credit card from your bank, but there are some things to be aware of:
- some policies might need to be activated before you travel
- there might be a limit on how long the policy will cover you for
- you might have to book a certain amount of your travel expenses on the credit card before the travel insurance becomes available
- cover may not automatically be available for pre-existing conditions. You will likely need to contact the insurer to ask about coverage for any pre-existing conditions and you may have to pay an extra premium to have them covered.
Credit card travel insurance may not be as comprehensive as some other travel insurance policies, so it pays to read the policy carefully and think about whether you need to take out any additional cover.
Remember that not all travel policies are created equal – just as the premium of some policies costs more than others, some policies have wider cover than others.
If you have a pre-existing condition, are planning to engage in a sport or adventure activity while you’re away, are a non-resident, are pregnant, or are over the age of 65, it's important to contact a number of insurers before purchasing your insurance. One insurer may have a policy that suits your individual circumstances better than another.
Find out more about travel insurance to cover:
- staying in an Airbnb
- pre-existing conditions
- renting cars
- sports and adventure activities
Buy before you fly
You cannot get travel insurance if you've already left the country. You should buy travel insurance when you book and pay for your overseas trip. That way you're not only covered for your trip, but also if something happens before you depart.
Read your policy wording
Make sure you read the policy wording so you understand what you are and aren’t covered for. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask your insurer for an explanation or more information.
Some common exclusions
Like any other insurance policy, a travel insurance policy is unlikely to cover you for absolutely everything that could go wrong. The following list sets out some of the common exclusions in travel policies, but make sure to check your individual policy’s exclusions as each insurer is different:
- war and terrorism
- pandemic, epidemic or infectious diseases
- financial failure of an airline, travel agent or tour operator
- elective medical or dental treatment
- travel in international waters
- being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Travel insurance policies don’t cover ’disinclination to travel’. This means that if, for example, you choose not to travel because you think your destination looks unsafe, but there hasn’t been a travel advisory issued, you will not be covered for the costs you’ve lost.
International students and seasonal workers
While the general rule is that New Zealand insurers don’t provide travel insurance for non-residents, there are some exceptions. If you are a seasonal worker travelling to New Zealand for work (for example, to pick apples during the harvesting season), or if you are an international student coming to New Zealand to study, then you will be able to purchase travel insurance from some New Zealand insurers.
You may need to contact a number of different insurers as not everyone offers inbound student or seasonal worker insurance.
If you're planning on taking part in any sport or adventurous activities on your trip, talk to your insurer and read your policy wording to check whether you are covered. In particular, you should check whether you are covered for:
- skiing, snowboarding or doing other winter sports
- scuba diving
- bungy jumping
- hang gliding
- water skiing
- motorcycling or using a scooter (in certain countries)
- taking some other form of extreme risk which might put you in danger.
Travel insurance policies provide limited cover for vehicles hired overseas. If you have an accident, the cover provided by your travel policy will usually only pay either the excess by the rental car company or the vehicle repair costs, if those costs are less than the excess. To ensure that you have enough cover, you should buy comprehensive motor insurance from the rental vehicle company in the country you hire the car in. If you then have an accident, you will have to pay the rental vehicle directly and claim costs from your insurer.
You need to tell your insurer if you are going to take, or are planning to buy, high-value items on your trip. Many travel insurance policies contain sub-limits on the value of items you can claim for (including electronics and jewellery).
If you're unsure, ask your insurer what value or coverage limits your policy may have.
Check for travel advisories
Sometimes there will already be events happening in the area you’re planning to travel to, when you take out your insurance policy. These are called ’known events’ and are unlikely to be covered by your policy. For example, if a volcano erupts in the country you are travelling to, it’s unlikely that delays or cancellations caused by the eruption would be covered. When you are taking out your insurance, check to see if there are any current advisories which might affect your cover. In New Zealand you can check the government advisory website www.safetravel.govt.nz and trusted media sources – if there are warnings in the media about the place you are travelling to, your insurer may not cover you.
This is another reason why you should take out your insurance cover at the same time as booking your travel. That way your insurer is on risk if an event happens and your travel plans are disrupted before you’ve even left.
Keep your receipts
If you need to pay for something while you’re travelling that you plan to make a claim for (like a lost phone or stolen camera that you had to replace while you were still overseas) make sure you keep your receipts to make the claim process as smooth as possible.
You can still make a claim even if you haven’t managed to keep hold of the receipts, but it’s likely that you’ll need to provide proof of ownership of the lost or stolen item to your insurer.
Travel insurers provide free 24-hour emergency assistance. Keep the details of their emergency assistance provider with you at all times while travelling.
In the event of an emergency, you may need to contact them for medical treatment or advice.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade runs a website that has up to date travel advisories for all countries on key issues like security and health.
Before you travel, you must tell your insurer if you intend to travel to any countries that have a ‘Do not travel’ travel advisory status - as it may not be possible to get insurance cover for travel to countries with this status.
Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz to check your intended destination and any countries you're stopping in or passing through.
While you’re on the website, you can also check out their travel insurance guidance.
Some circumstances may make travel insurance more difficult to find or mean you need to fulfil additional requirements in order to receive cover.
Most travel insurance policies don't provide liability cover for damage to property you're staying at (e.g. an Airbnb or hotel) while travelling. Generally, the Airbnb host will hold sufficient insurance to cover them should a paying guest damage their property, but there is a chance that the host or their insurer could ask you for payment if you were responsible for the damage. This would not be covered by your travel insurance policy.
Some insurers only provide cover for New Zealand residents, so if you are a non-resident, you may need to contact a number of insurers before you are able to get cover.
It’s important to tell your insurer if you’re already pregnant when you book your travel insurance, or if you fall pregnant before you leave. Most insurers offer cover for the first few months of pregnancy as long as there have not been any complications. The length of time each insurer will provide automatic cover for varies so talk to your insurer to be certain you'll be covered. An insurer may also require you to have a medical assessment before providing cover.
If you become pregnant after taking out a travel insurance policy, contact your insurer as soon as possible to ensure you'll still be covered for your travel.
Pre-existing conditions are medical conditions you already have or have previously had at the time you're buying your insurance. They include symptoms you’ve asked a doctor about, even if you didn't receive a formal diagnosis.
Pre-existing conditions are excluded from most insurers’ basic packages. Some insurers have automatic cover for certain pre-existing conditions and others may allow you to buy additional cover for pre-existing conditions, although not all insurers will be able to provide this service.
If you have a pre-existing condition, you should check your chosen insurer’s list of automatically covered pre-existing conditions. If your condition is not listed, you will need to speak to the insurer to find out if you can get cover. They may require you to get a medical certificate before providing cover.
It's important to remember to declare all pre-existing conditions when taking out travel insurance otherwise you may not be covered under all or part of your policy.
Most travel policies do not provide cover for damage caused to a rental vehicle hired overseas. Nor do they cover damage caused to people or property while in control of a rented or borrowed vehicle.
Some policies will provide rental vehicle excess (RVE) insurance but this will only provide cover for the excess on damage to the vehicle that the insured person has to pay — it does not provide any cover for the repairs themselves or any personal liability the insured person has if an accident damages property or injures someone. If a travel policy offers RVE, the cover may only apply to renting cars through a registered care hire company.
If you drive overseas, it's important to get appropriate motor vehicle insurance and personal liability cover through either a vehicle rental company or through a local insurer (if you are borrowing a friend or relative’s vehicle).
The level and types of cover available for senior citizens varies by insurer and may be affected by the age(s) of the traveller(s). In some instances, you may be required to fill out some forms to give the insurer information about your medical history.
To ensure that you will be covered and to find a policy that best meets your needs, you should contact an insurer directly.
Some insurers have a list of sports and activities they will automatically provide cover for, however, there are also a number they won’t cover. If you are unsure whether your intended sport or activity will be covered, you should contact your insurer to check.
If you are planning on doing any sort of sport or adventure activity while you are travelling, make sure to let your insurer know when you take out cover.
ICNZ is unable to provide personal or professional advice. The list of travel insurance providers below is included for your information. Any queries about the specifics of policies or cover should be directed to the insurer.
Other travel insurance may be available through your bank or credit card provider, as well as by contacting an insurance broker.
|1-Cover Direct Insurance||1cover.co.nz|
0800 000 333
|AA Travel Insurance||aa.co.nz/travel/travel-insurance||0800 500 444|
|Air New Zealand||insurance.airnewzealand.co.nz||0800 500 248|
|AMI||ami.co.nz/travel-insurance||0800 500 425|
|Amex Travel Insurance||americanexpress.com/nz/content/insurance/travel-insurance/||0800 743 699|
|AMP||0800 161 810|
|Chubb Travel Insurance||chubbtravelinsurance.co.nz||0800 422 346|
|Cigna||cigna.co.nz/travel-insurance/||0800 900 047|
|Cover-More||covermore.co.nz||0800 500 225|
|Easy Way Travel Insurance (for travel industry employees only)||easyway.co.nz||+64 9 377 4146|
|flightcentre.co.nz/extras/travel-insurance||0800 500 225|
|FMG||fmg.co.nz/what-we-cover/travelinsurance/||0800 366 466|
|Kiwi Holiday Insurance||kiwiholidayinsurance.co.nz||0800 101 007|
|State||state.co.nz/travel-insurance||0800 500 325|
|Tower Travel Insurance||tower.co.nz/travel-insurance/cover4travel||0800 379 372|
|Trip Cover (car rental excess insurance only)||tripcover.co.nz||0800 630 117|
|Westpac||westpac.co.nz/insurance/travel/||0800 550 325|
|Worldcare Travel Insurance||worldcare.co.nz||0800 553 550|
|World Nomads||worldnomads.com||0800 666 237|
You can download the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel insurance guide from their Safe Travel website.