China is truly a land of extremes. You have the breathtaking space-age style of Shanghai, the constant bustle of Hong Kong and then the natural beauty of the Li River and Yellow Mountains. China has the largest population of any in the world, and each region is truly like a country all on its own.
Because of this, you need to account for every situation on your travels, so let’s take a closer look at how travel insurance can protect you against the unexpected.
Do I need travel insurance for China?
To answer this, you should ask yourself whether you can afford to travel anywhere without travel insurance, because trouble has a habit of striking when you least expect it! What happens if you break your ankle climbing the Great Wall of China, lose your passport in transit or your flight from Chengdu to Guangzhou gets cancelled due to bad weather? You could be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of pocket in medical bills and other expenses.
Travel insurance is specifically designed to provide financial protection when things go wrong, so you can enjoy your trip when things go right. You can’t put a price on peace of mind!
Here are a few fundamental reasons you should consider travel insurance for your trip to China.
If you require healthcare services while in China, you’ll be grateful to have a travel insurance policy to shoulder the cost, especially if you need medical evacuation or repatriation (which can cost thousands of dollars upfront). An international travel insurance policy will keep you covered in the event of a medical emergency.
It’s important to keep in mind that while hospitals in major cities occasionally have departments specifically for foreigners, you may struggle to find English-speaking doctors and nurses in rural areas, and medical care in those areas may be less than adequate.1
Furthermore, you should be aware of the health risks in China, which can include:
- Japanese encephalitis
- Avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’
- Hand, foot and mouth disease.1
You may want to consider getting vaccinations before departing Australia. Consult a doctor or visit a travel health clinic a month before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Another important note to make is that exclusions may apply to any existing medical conditions you have, depending on your level of cover.
Roads in China are notoriously busy and can be in poor condition,1 which could increase your likelihood of getting into a car accident. If this happens, your rental car company would usually charge you an excess to cover repair expenses.
Travel insurance can help pay for this excess if your rental car is damaged or stolen, although this depends on your level of cover.
Before driving in China, you’ll need a Chinese driving license; mainland Chinese authorities don’t accept International Driving Permits and foreign licenses.1 If you’re going to China for less than 90 days but are still interested in obtaining a licence, you might be eligible for a provisional license. Ensure you check these licensing requirements if you hire a car.
Theft and loss of belongings
The risk of potential theft in China is the same as in other bustling countries. This means that getting your mobile phone stolen on the train by an opportunistic pickpocket isn’t improbable, and neither is the likelihood of losing your suitcase in transit. That’s where travel insurance comes in; it could cover your luggage, travel documents (e.g., passport) and personal belongings from theft, damage and loss.
Keep in mind that you should always keep your passport on you in case you’re asked by authorities to present it. However, passers-by then have a chance to snatch your passport, so be precautious and keep this document out of sight whenever possible.
Cancellations and cost of delays
Despite the increased capacity at Chinese airports, flight delays are common. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, delays are currently improving, with data revealing that the average length of domestic flight delays decreased to 9 minutes in 2020.2
Travel insurance ensures you aren’t caught off-guard by potential flight delays, especially in population-heavy countries like China. With this is mind, think about what you’d do if, for example, you missed your connecting flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and had to finance an overnight stay in a hotel to catch the next available flight. Comprehensive travel insurance can provide financial protection for trip cancellations or delays (up to a monetary limit) before you even take-off.
What should my travel insurance policy for China include?
Usually, you can choose between single-trip and annual cover travel insurance. Single-trip policies cover a singular trip (and potentially layovers as well) from the day you purchase the policy until you return to your residence in Australia.
An annual or multi-trip policy, on the other hand, generally covers any number of overseas expeditions taken within a year. However, the policy will stipulate what the maximum trip length is for each journey. This maximum trip length will vary – some policies could be as low as 15 days, some as high as 90 days. It’s important to ensure that your longest trip doesn’t exceed the policy’s stipulated maximum trip length.
Generally, travel insurance can provide cover for:
- Overseas medical and hospital expenses
- Trip cancellation, amendment and delay costs
- Lost, damaged or stolen luggage and personal belongings
- Theft of cash
- Additional expenses (e.g., accommodation costs if your flights are unexpectedly cancelled)
- Rental car excess
- Some sports and activities
- Personal liability (e.g., your actions result in someone’s injury and you owe compensation)
- Permanent disability and loss of income
- Accidental death
- Dependents under 21 years of age (e.g., your children)
- 24-7 emergency assistance.
Your travel insurance cover is subject to the limits, terms, conditions and exclusions outlined in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). Not every policy covers all the above, so be sure to read the PDS to know what you’re covered for.