Ultimate Guide To Travel Insurance


to travel is to live!

There’s no better feeling than escaping the daily grind; the wind in your hair, not a care on your mind. But travel is not all rest and relaxation! On the contrary, heading to new and distant regions can throw you any number of curveballs. 

Kiwis are keen travellers who love to explore every corner of the globe. But adventure shouldn't come at a cost. If you've taken a spill on the sidewalk, been mugged in a market or picked up an exotic disease, our resident travel insurance guru Eugene Wylde can help to get you back on track quicker than you can say ‘happy holidays!’

In this guide you’ll discover:

What’s included in a typical policy and the type of cover you could expect. You can find the top reasons for buying travel insurance and learn which six steps to keep in mind when choosing cover for your trip. Looking for top-notch insurance? We also provide you with some terrific tips to help you find the best cover available for your holiday. If travel insurance exclusions are what you’re after, we’ve got that too! Finally, if your holiday takes a nosedive (although we certainly hope it doesn’t) we’ll show you the ins and outs of making a claim.  

Although you shouldn’t bank on the worst possible scenario, it’s hardly worth taking a gamble on your travels. Start reading to find out more and use the guide menu above to navigate your way around. Prefer a helpful handout? Click here to download PDF version.

Ultimate travel insurance guide for dummies

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is insurance that covers you for an array of sticky situations and any subsequent losses incurred when you're travelling in New Zealand or overseas. A typical comprehensive policy will cover you for:
Medical and hospital expenses

Medical and hospital expenses

Cover in case you are injured or become sick while overseas. Includes hospital stays, surgery & dental.

Luggage and personal effects

Luggage and personal effects

If your baggage and personal items are lost, stolen, or damaged you would be reimbursed or have the items replaced.

Cancellation cover

Cancellation cover

Includes cover for prepaid travel and accommodation expenses in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Travel delay expenses

Travel delay expenses

If you're delayed due to an unforeseen reason, your accommodation, meals & transport costs will be covered.

Personal liability

Personal liability

Provides protection for you being legally liable for injuring other people or causing damage to their property.

Rental vehicle excess

Rental vehicle excess

If you hire a car and have an accident, you won't have to pay the excess (this could be as much as $7k!)

Family emergency

Family emergency

Cover for travel expenses if a close relative, or your travel companions becomes seriously ill, injured or dies.

Alternative transport arrangements

Alternative transport

If your transport is cancelled on your way to a pre-booked event alternative transportation will be provided.

What is travel insurance?

Why buy travel insurance?

We’re not silly, we know that plenty of Kiwi's go on holiday and have an amazing time exploring new and exciting places without buying travel insurance. But taking a gamble on your much needed break can be risky. Here’s why!

exxy medical costs

If you buy a policy for just one reason this is it! Falling ill or being injured while travelling overseas can be extremely costly. Daily hospital costs in the USA can reach up to $10,000, while emergency transport home can easily exceed $100,000! 

disasters can strike

Picture your dismay if you had to cancel last minute. Travel insurance covers you for lost deposits and pre-paid travel arrangements for unforeseen circumstances like severe weather, accidents or illness.


your stuff is important

Loss, theft or damage to your prized possessions can be a common, yet gut-wrenching experience. If your personal belongings go AWOL the right policy will pay to replace or repair them. Win!

because family matters

Imagine you’re mid-martini when bad news breaks. Should you need to return home, you’ll be covered for unforeseen events like injury or illness of a close relative.

People get sued

Imagine you are involved in an accident overseas or cause at-fault damage! Have peace of mind that your travel insurance policy will cover you for legal liability - usually up to at least $2 million. Phew!

You Deserve To Relax

Travel insurance will take a load off so you can get some R&R. A comprehensive policy will cover you for an array of sticky situations while you're travelling.



Whats in it for me?

Six steps to buy travel insurance

There are hundreds of companies in the market from supermarket giants to niche travel insurance brands all offering cover. So where do you start? You can jump online and compare quotes online using a comparison site like ours, go direct to the insurers, or even buy over the phone. Whichever method you decide is right for you, you still need to follow the same steps. From where you're going, to what you're going to do when you get there...we take you through the six steps to buy travel insurance.

1. Where are you going?

When quoting, some insurers ask you to select the countries you are travelling to and others ask you to choose a region. Hover over our uber cool interactive map to pick the right region for your trip.


Means anywhere in the world


Generally means Asia and the India subcontinent excluding Japan

New Zealand

Means domestic travel within New Zealand


Means all European countries, including UK


Means the South West Pacific including New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia/Bali, Fiji

If you’re travelling to multiple destinations in different geographical regions, you must select the highest / furthest away region so that your policy will covers travel in all the closer regions. Good news, you don’t need to select stop-over countries if your stop-over is less than 48 hours.


Perhaps you're taking a cruise...

Are You Going On A Cruise?
Are you going on a cruise in New Zealand waters? once your ship has left port, you’re no longer covered for hospital or medical expenses by Medicare (or your usual private health care provider). So even if you’re going on a domestic cruise you’ll need to purchase a Pacific policy.

2. How long for?

When buying travel insurance online you’ll need to enter your start and end travel dates. The start date should be the day you leave home (not the date you land in your destination if you’re flying) and the return date should be the date you return from your trip. If you travel often you may save some cash by purchasing an annual multi-trip policy rather than a single trip each time you go away.


3. who are you travelling with?

You’ll need to select the number of travellers to be included in the policy, and enter the names and dates of birth for each traveller. In most cases kids are included in your policy at no additional cost as long as they’re named on your policy under 21 and not in full time employment. Yippee!


4. What are you doing when you get there?

It’s easy to get caught out by participating in 'extreme' sports before realising you’re not covered! Quite a few sports and activities are excluded from standard policies, so it’s always a good idea to check the fine print before leaping into the abyss!

Activities that are usually covered:

Cycling covered
Kayaking covered
Swimming covered
Trekking Covered
Recreational sports covered
Recreational sports
Surfing covered
Zorbing Covered
Horse riding covered
Horse riding

Activities that are sometimes covered:

skiing sometime covered
abseiling sometime covered
rock climbing sometime covered
Rock climbing
heli skiing sometime covered
sailing sometime covered
bungee jumping sometime covered
Bungee jumping
scuba diving sometime covered
Scuba diving
white water rafting sometime covered
White water rafting

Activities that are typically never covered:

skiing off season never covered
Skiing off season
base jumping never covered
Base jumping
fundraising trips never covered
Cross country charity
motorbiking never covered
motor racing never covered
Motor racing
professional sports never covered
Professional sports
running with bulls never covered
Running with bulls
shooting hunting never covered

5. what are you taking with you?

Watch out for single item limits within your cover. If you’re taking your Louis Vuitton luggage, surfboard, DSLR camera, golf clubs, laptop, or even your wedding rings you should make sure your policy covers these high value items. You can increase the amount you are covered for by paying an additional premium.

what can you take bagwhat can you take golf clubswhat-can-you-take-wedding-ringwhat can you take surfboardwhat can you take camerawhat can you take laptop


6. do you have any medical conditions?

Travel insurance exists to cover the unforeseen, not medical conditions you’re already aware of. Medical conditions that exist prior to purchasing your policy may not be covered. Whether you’ve broken your arm, undergone hip replacement surgery, or suffered a bout of bronchitis, you’ll need to disclose any injuries, illnesses and major procedures to your insurer. Depending upon your condition, you might have to fill out a medical declaration signed by your doctor and have it assessed by the travel insurance company before you buy your policy. Pre-existing medical conditions apply to everyone listed on the certificate of insurance. So, the person who buys the travel insurance policy, travelling companions, and close relatives must all be accounted for. In the instance of cancellation, it also applies to close relatives that aren’t necessarily travelling with you.

Best travel insurance

There’s no such thing as the best travel insurance, but here’s six tips to help you find the right policy for your trip...

1. Pick the right policy

Single trip policies cover you for one trip (from one day up to 18 months and can be extended from overseas). Annual multi-trip policies cover you for as many trips as you make over the course of a year ( internationally and domestically).

2. Choose your level of cover

Most insurers have 3 levels of cover to choose from: Basic, mid-range and comprehensive. You should pick the cover that best suits the type of holiday and activities you have planned. Remember that not all adventure activities are covered automatically. 

3. Go with a reputable brand

A good way to find a decent policy is to ask friends and family who they’ve bought from before. Reading past customer reviews is another excellent way to get the inside story - there’s no sugar-coating the truth!

4. Shop around

Just as you might compare flight prices, you can compare insurance policies too. Travel insurance policies vary in price and benefits. A comparison website is an easy way to digest all the information in one place.


5. Be honest

Don’t tell porky pies. It’s important to be honest with your insurer when you purchase. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions be upfront about them so that you know you’re covered.

6. Buy early 

If your trip is cancelled or delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, you’ll be covered for any pre-paid expenses. As soon as you’ve booked your holiday- travel insurance should be next on your list!

What is best travel insurance

Typical exclusions – what’s not covered?

Travel insurance is a must have for any holiday, but like any type of insurance it’s important to realise there are cases where you will not be covered. Because holidays don’t always go to plan, it’s a good idea to understand your policy before you head off. Keep reading to find out the most common travel insurance exclusions. You’ll find a full list of general exclusions within your chosen Product Disclosure Statement.

Unattended items

In a nutshell, look after your stuff! Anything you leave out of reach, that isn’t properly supervised, or isn’t safely locked away will be considered unattended and (most probably) won't be covered if you try to claim for it being lost or stolen. E.g. you wouldn’t be covered if you left your phone in the back of a taxi, or on the table in a restaurant. Luggage that is left in a storage room of a hotel once checked out is also considered unattended!

whats not covered luggage
whats not covered being wreckless

Being reckless

We know that travel is all about new and exciting experiences, but if you deliberately put your life in danger (like jumping off a cliff into the sea) you wouldn't be covered. Injuries or loss when alcohol or drugs have been involved may not be covered either. Not too many piña coladas now!


High risk activities

Hey there adrenaline junkie! Many high risk activities and extreme sports (e.g. American football, boxing, skydiving, competitive cycling , rock climbing, polo and motor sports) are not covered. Always check whether your planned activities are covered before you go jumping out of a plane (for example).


Travel supplier financial default

Does your tour operator sound a bit dodgy ? Travel insurance does not always cover for insolvency of travel agents, tour wholesalers, tour operators or booking agents. Make sure you’re confident in the operater making your travel arrangements.

whats not covered high risk activities

Countries With Travel Warnings

whats not covered travel warning

If you visit a destination or region that Smart Traveller has issued a travel warning for you would not be covered for an incident relating to that warning. This can range from natural disasters, terrorist threats and riots. Similarly, if you are heading to a natural disaster zone or region of civil unrest, you would no longer be able to purchase cover for those events (once they are reported in the media).



Some Cancellations

Cancellation covers you for transport and accommodation expenses if you experience delays or need to cancel your travel plans due to illness, accident, or another unforeseen event such as a sudden natural disaster. You can’t just cancel your trip due to a change of heart and be reimbursed. You also won't be covered if your flight is cancelled due to a mechanical fault, overbooking or airline company closure. It would be the airline's responsibility to sort you out.

whats not covered cancellation

Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions that exist before you travel won’t be covered. But having a pre-existing condition does not mean you'll have to forego cover altogether. You can still buy a policy with all the other travel insurance benefits, and you'll be covered for any illnesses or injuries that are unrelated to your pre-existing condition.

Conditions that are usually covered:

conditions that are usually covered asthma
conditions that are usually covered cataracts
conditions that are usually covered diabetes
conditions that are usually covered DVT
conditions that are usually covered high blood pressure
High blood pressure
conditions that are usually covered high cholesterol
High cholesterol
conditions that are usually covered migrane
conditions that are usually covered osteoporsis

Conditions that may require a medical assessment:

conditions that require medical assessment awaiting surgery
Awaiting surgery
conditions that require medical assessment cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis
conditions that require medical assessment epilepsy
conditions that require medical assessment heart problems
Heart problems
conditions that require medical assessment lung problem
Lung problems
conditions that require medical assessment organ transplant
Organ transplant
conditions that require medical assessment pacemakers
conditions that require medical assessment stroke

Conditions that are typically not covered:

Conditions That Are Not Covered blood thinning
Blood thinning meds
Conditions That Are Not Covered child birth
Child birth
Conditions That Are Not Covered alcohol addiction
Alcohol or drug addiction
Conditions That Are Not Covered elective surgery
Elective surgery
Conditions That Are Not Covered mental illness
Mental illness
Conditions That Are Not Covered STD
Conditions That Are Not Covered surgery complications
Recent surgery
Conditions That Are Not Covered terminal illness
Terminal illness



A few insurers consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition, so it’s sometimes trickier to get cover in the later stages. Most insurers will provide cover up until 26 weeks, but some exclude cover for pregnancy altogether. Find out who offers travel insurance while pregnant.


Unlicensed travel

Travelling in a vehicle that you (or the driver) are not licensed to drive is not covered. Riding a motorcycle or scooter without the correct license in Thailand or Bali will jeapordize your cover. Make sure you wear a helmet too!


What’s the deal with claims?

From time to time holidays don’t go to plan, baggage goes missing, flights are delayed or people are unwell, all of which mean you can claim on your travel insurance policy. Here's some tips to keep in mind when your holidays don't go to plan.
claims familiarise yourself

Read your policy docs

Understand what is covered and what is not, paying particular attention to exclusions and how to make a claim.

claims evidence

Have evidence

Like receipts, bank statements, photographs, photocopies or serial numbers so you can prove ownership of your belongings.

claims written proof

Get written proof

Get letters from your airline of flight delays & cancellations, and medical certificates for hospital stays  - all written proof helps to back up your claim.

claims report incidents

Report incidents asap!

It is vital that you report any loss, theft or damage to your insurer, the local police, transport provider, or the relevant authority within 24 hours, or ASAP!

claims be honest

Be honest

When you buy your policy and disclose any pre-existing conditions. If you lie about your medical history and become ill overseas your insurer may deny your claim.

claims know who to call

Know who to call

All insurers have telephone numbers to call in an emergency. It is a good idea to keep this number on you, along with your policy details.

vaccine planning tips
Our travel insurance comparison helps you save time, worry and loads of money!