No travel insurance? Here’s what you need to know about overseas hospital visits

There’s a saying out there in travel-land. ‘If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.’ Nowhere is this more true than the costly world of overseas healthcare.

Travel insurance protects you from the possibility of having to pay for horrifically high hospital or repatriation bills, should you have an accident or fall ill overseas. It means you can rest easy knowing that the treatment you receive is going to be paid for by someone else.

What if you don’t have travel insurance? Can you still go to hospital if you need to? Yes, you can (and you should). But it will cost you.

First step if you need medical care

If you or a family member falls ill or has an accident overseas, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recommends that you either call the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra on 1300 555 135 (or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas), or call the nearest Australian embassy or consulate.

They will be able to give you advice about your treatment options, including the quality of medical care in the country you are in.

Whether to stay or go?

Some countries have very basic medical facilities. If you fall ill or are injured in one of these countries, you may be advised to get on the next plane home or fly to a nearby major city with adequate hospital facilities to receive the treatment you need. Going to hospital in some countries could make you sicker than staying away.

Medical evacuation isn’t cheap. For example, an emergency flight home from Indonesia could cost more than $100,000.

In many countries on travellers’ itineraries – across Europe, North America and some parts of Asia – the hospitals are fine. Their medical systems are on par with, or even better than, Australia’s.

But receiving medical treatment in overseas hospitals isn’t cheap, either. Depending on where you’re travelling, you could face hospital bills in the thousands … per day. In America, a simple trip to the GP could set you back hundreds of dollars!

Stories abound of people who have needed emergency surgery overseas, and then had to re-mortgage their home (or their parents’) to pay for it. It’s not a situation you’d want to find yourself in on holidays.

What about reciprocal health care agreements?

If you are going to Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden or the UK, you may be entitled to receive free or discounted treatment in hospital (you’ll need to do your research).

This is because Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with them, which cover the cost of essential medical treatments. The agreements vary from country to country, and not all types of treatment are covered. You should check what is covered and bear in mind that it is still recommended that you take out travel insurance.

The bottom line? Wherever you travel to, medical help is at hand – even if it comes in the form of an emergency flight to the nearest hospital. But without travel insurance, this help can come at a price.

No travel insurance? Here’s what you need to know about overseas hospital visits

This article is based off general information. Before making a decision on travel or health insurance, we recommend you consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and assess whether the selected travel insurance product is appropriate for you and your travel.


Shannon Clarke - Editor, The Wild Hideaway
Shannon Clarke - Editor, The Wild Hideaway

Shannon is a travel and lifestyle writer with a keen taste for global adventure – whether it be snorkeling in the waters of Fiji, or exploring the art and architecture of Barcelona. When Melbourne calls her back home, she spends most of her time exploring and planning weekend road trips. To fund all of her trips, Shannon is a freelance writer and marketer – she was named the Australian Young Marketer of the year in 2017!

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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