The Middle East is rich with historical sights, cultural experiences and exquisite culinary journeys, where you’ll find both ancient and modern cities dotted throughout enchanting deserts and incredible mountains.
If you plan on visiting the Middle East, you should take out travel insurance so you can enjoy your holiday to the fullest while having a financial safety net if something goes wrong.
Will travel insurance cover me for the Middle East?
Depending on your travel plans, needs and budget, you can get travel insurance for a number of countries in the Middle East. However, if you decide to travel against the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) recommendations, you may not be covered for any claims you make.
How do I know if a country has an active travel warning?
DFAT’s Smartraveller website contains up-to-date travel warnings for countries around the world, as well as information about that country and advice if you’re travelling there, such as:
- Health concerns
- Laws and customs
- Dangerous areas and crime
- Other useful travel tips.
If a travel warning is put in place after you get travel insurance for a country in the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you may be covered for cancellations.
The terms and conditions around trip cancellations may vary significantly between insurers. It’s vital to check the level of coverage a travel insurer may provide for a country if an active travel warning arises. You can find out more by reading the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) provided by your insurer.
Is the Middle East a popular travel destination with Australians?
While the Middle East isn’t the most popular travel destination for Australians, it’s still home to a number of incredible sights and experiences that attract many travellers each year, one of these being the birthplace of the ANZAC legend, Gallipoli.
It has many well-travelled destinations such as UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (Türkiye), not to mention that many travellers stop over in Dubai’s airport on their way to other destinations. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) notes that from June 2021-2022, there were 80,840 Australian residents that returned from trips to North Africa or the Middle East.1 This includes:
- UAE: 27,470
- Turkey (Türkiye): 19,580
- Lebanon: 17,060
- Iran: 13,460
- Israel: 10,390
What should my travel insurance for the Middle East include?
Travel insurance can give you peace of mind by providing financial support in the case of unexpected events. Different insurers will offer policies that can cover a variety of circumstances, so it’s vital to know what’s covered before embarking on your holiday.
To ensure you know what you’re purchasing, always read the PDS of any policy you’re considering for your trip. When travelling to the Middle East, you may want to check that your travel insurance includes coverage for the following.
Medical expenses and 24/7 assistance
Imagine you’re visiting Petra, Jerusalem or Istanbul, and you trip and roll your ankle and need medical attention. While it’s unpleasant to think about, events like this could potentially derail your trip and leave you with a large medical bill.
Australia doesn’t have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with any countries in the Middle East, so any medical expenses have to be paid from your own pocket.
Travel insurance can help cover hospital expenses and medical costs, including evacuation or repatriation back to Australia if necessary (which can be very expensive). Your medical care may even include injuries that occur during a hijacking or terrorism incident.
Cover for medical expenses and 24/7 emergency assistance is essential for any holiday and is often included in all levels of travel insurance.
While you may get a refund if your flight or accommodation is cancelled, you can still lose deposits or even the full amount you paid for other bookings. Whether your camel riding experience or your entire Middle Eastern adventure is in jeopardy, travel insurance can provide cover for cancellations that are out of your control.
From your clothing, camera and personal devices to travel documents and passports, travel insurance can cover the cost of replacing lost or stolen goods up to a set value.
This can also cover luggage lost in transit or wallets and cash stolen by crafty pickpockets while you’re shopping in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili bazaar. The level of cover you receive, and what you’re covered for, will vary among insurers. It’s important to read the fine print of any policy you’re considering purchasing before you buy travel insurance for your trip.
Common travel exclusions to watch out for
Travel insurance can provide cover for a range of scenarios, but it won’t cover everything. Exclusions can differ between insurance providers, but some common ones may include:
- Terrorism and armed conflict. While you could be covered for medical expenses if you’re hurt in a terrorist attack or hijacking incident, you may not be covered for any lost, damaged or stolen belongings. Furthermore, travel insurers generally don’t cover any events relating to war, invasion, armed conflict or civil insurrection. While terrorism and armed conflict can happen anywhere, the risk is higher for several locations in the Middle East.
- Breaking the law or reckless behaviour. Laws in Middle Eastern countries may be more strict than Australian laws. If you break them or act recklessly, you’ll likely invalidate your travel policy, and your travel insurer won’t cover any claims.
- Failing to look after your belongings. Keep an eye on your belongings. While travel insurance can cover theft, if you’re careless and fail to secure your bag (by leaving it on the seat of a hire car, for example), you might not be covered.
- Travelling to a country with an active travel warning. As mentioned previously, travelling to a country with an active travel warning will likely invalidate your cover.
- Pandemics and epidemics. If you’re travelling to a country with a current pandemic or epidemic, or one occurs after you arrive, you’re not likely to be covered. However, some comprehensive policies now offer COVID-19 cover.
Our safety advice for travelling to the Middle East
1. Check Smartraveller for visa requirements
You’ll likely need a valid visa for every nation you plan on visiting in the Middle East. You can check Smartraveller’s guides for visa requirements, entry restrictions, updated travel warnings, safety information and advice.
2. Be aware of danger zones
It’s important to keep a lookout for possible threats. Be cautious in or around government buildings, national borders, military checkpoints, places of worship and high density areas such as markets, as these can all be targets for terrorist attacks.2
3. Plan your trip ahead
Planning your journey can help you prepare for activities and sights you want to see, but don’t forget to plan how you’ll get there too! This can be especially helpful if you plan on crossing international borders to visit other countries in the Middle East, as some countries may close specific borders due to military unrest.
4. Respect the local culture and laws
Depending on which countries you visit, you’ll encounter different laws and customs. In some places, public displays of affection, especially between unmarried couples and same-sex couples, can be frowned upon or even illegal.
Dressing modestly and covering certain areas of the body may also be a legal requirement in certain countries. Throughout the Middle East, it’s generally seen as respectful to avoid showing too much skin. Punishments for disobeying the law can be severe, so be sure to visit Smartraveller for advice on local laws in countries you plan on visiting in the Middle East.
5. Stay hydrated and sun-safe
While this might seem like a given in any travel destination, it’s especially important when travelling to the Middle East. Temperatures are known to reach over 50 degrees Celsius,3 so you can be at risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion if you don’t keep yourself cool by drinking water and staying out of direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. You should also wear sunscreen to protect your skin from being burnt.
Top travel insurance tips for the Middle East from our expert, Stephen Zeller
- While many insurers are providing cover for COVID-19 (coronavirus) related losses, in most cases, you’ll need to purchase their top tier or comprehensive policy for COVID-19 cover to be included. Look for the COVID-19 icon when you compare products.
- Compare and purchase comprehensive travel insurance as soon as you make a booking and pay any deposits. That way, you’ll have cancellation cover from the start should you need to cancel your trip before you even depart.
- Before you travel, consider what you need to cover in terms of medical expenses, cancellation fees, luggage and rental vehicle excess, not to mention any additional cover you may need for cruise or ski holidays. Keep all this in mind when shopping for a policy to make sure you have enough insurance to potentially cover all these things.
- If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, search for products that allow you to declare these conditions as part of your application to your chosen insurer. It’s important to have a conversation with your insurer about your pre-existing conditions to understand whether they will be able to provide you with the medical cover you need, and there are no surprises if you are injured or become ill.
- In parts of the Middle East, the security and safety of locals and visitors are volatile and can deteriorate with little warning. Due to this and several conflicts in the region, most insurers will not cover Australians travelling to several of the region’s countries.
Planning a trip? We can help you sort out travel insurance
Whether you’re planning an adventure to the Middle East or elsewhere in the world, we can help you get travel insurance so you can get back to planning your itinerary.
In only minutes, you can compare a range of travel insurance policies with us, all in one convenient location. Our free travel insurance comparison service compares a number of insurance providers and policies, with filters and tools to help you weigh up available quotes based on price, coverage and excess.
You’ll also be able to view the PDS of any available policy before purchasing, so you have the details you need at your fingertips.
Want to get more info on other destinations? We have a list of international travel insurance guides here.