Fancy a spot of adventure? New Zealand may be the ideal locale for you. Picture it – breakfast in the morning in a cosmopolitan cafe, by midday you’re driving across rolling green hills. And at night, you reach mountains that stretch well beyond the horizon.
More Australians make the trip across the Tasman to visit this lovely country than any other on earth (as of 2015),3 but it would be foolish to do so without some protection. Yes, even when you travel to a country as similar to Australia as New Zealand, travel insurance is a smart idea. Here’s why.
It’s true, some incidents may be few and far between that require help from an insurer. For example, out of the 1,237,500 Aussies who travelled to New Zealand in 2014/15,3 there were a paltry 93 cases of missing passports.2
However, there are a wealth of things that can go wrong that travel insurance will be a lifesaver for. For example, one local insurer noted that 13,000 people made injury-related claims for skiing or snowboarding alone in 2013.10
Let’s take a deeper look at how you can avoid any financial pain.
You have access to subsidised healthcare if you incur medical expenses for essential treatment, thanks to this reciprocal agreement between our country and New Zealand.1 This agreement does not cover you for all medical expenses, just essential ones. If you incur any additional accommodation, evacuation, or repatriation (i.e. transport back to Australia) expenses, you may have to pay those yourself…unless you have travel insurance.
For broader coverage, an insurance policy is your best bet to avoid significant costs. It’ll also mean you can visit a doctor to treat a stomach bug, pick up prescription medications, and more – at little to no cost. You should be mindful, however, that any pre-existing conditions you have will not be covered by your insurance policy.
You may want to try jumping off an Auckland tower tethered only to a chord, or use the world’s biggest swing near Queenstown. Perhaps you want to be truly daring and go white water rafting, or attempt some mountain climbing. Whatever it is, you’ll need to ensure the activities on your itinerary are covered by your travel insurance policy, just in case.
However, you’re more likely to be travelling to New Zealand for a…cooler adventure. We’re talking about skiing. New Zealand is skiing and snowboarding nirvana. If you choose the right time of the year, you can spend days in the mountains racing down pristine white slopes with the sky forever surrounding you. Skiing is a somewhat risky activity (especially if you were to bump up the thrill factor and try heli skiing), which is why insurers usually single it out on their policies as a risky activity, and some policies may outright exclude it from coverage. Because of this, you’ll need to be certain that yours does cover this activity – even if it’s as an extra feature you need to pay for. If you’re not sure, call the insurer and ask.
Losing your belongings can quickly ruin a perfectly nice holiday, but if you take out insurance before you leave, you should be able to get some cash back on your loss. That being said, keep in mind that there are circumstances where you’ll be unable to claim, for example, if you leave your luggage unattended.
Looking at our previous example, you could claim some money back on emergency passport application fees (even though you collect the actual document from the Australian Consulate in New Zealand).8
New Zealand is blessed with some truly outstanding scenery across the north and south islands, and equally imbued with awesome driving roads for you to access them from. Hiring a car is a popular option for tourists wishing to explore as much of the country as possible. In the event you’re in an accident, and have to pay an excess to your rental car company, your travel insurer (depending on the circumstances and your level of cover) will cover the excess payment.
Go ahead and use your Australian driving licence to drive in New Zealand, because the limit is a whole 12 months!4 Just be careful of ice, snow, and other weather conditions you may not typically experience in Australia. Typically, you need to be over 21 years of age to rent a car in New Zealand.9
If your airline cancels or delays your flight, and you miss a bunch of tours, you would normally be out of pocket with no recourse for getting your money back. Provided your delay was out of your control (e.g. a snowstorm in Otago, or an uncovered vehicle defect that means the airline needs to put you on a new flight), your insurer may be able to cover those costs for you – up to a certain value.
In the event you have to cut your trip short, you may be able to get covered for losses you incur. The chief reasons an insurer will consider for this will be (i) you or your partner have developed a serious medical condition, or (ii) your business or home in Australia has been seriously damaged or destroyed.
No country on Earth has been spared it’s share of natural disasters, minor or major. New Zealand is no different, having been particularly badly hit by earthquakes over the last few years, especially in Christchurch. The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (or GNS Sciences) records 15,000 earthquakes per year in New Zealand, although only 150 of them are severe enough to be felt by the locals.5
In addition to geothermal activity, you may also experience heavy snowfalls if visiting mountainous regions of the country (and, in particular, Canterbury and Otago) at certain times per year.6All that being said, New Zealand typically experiences 2,000 hours of sunshine per year, so there are plenty of good reasons to drop in as well!
If you do run into issues abroad because of the weather or natural disasters, your policy may pay for some of the medical expenses you incur. It’s not something you can plan for, but hopefully this gives you a little peace of mind.
Check the SmartTraveller.gov.au website before you leave to make sure there aren’t any existing current warnings for the region you plan on travelling to.
The good news is you may not need to take out an additional policy to cover them, as many insurers include coverage for your kids under your adult policy (provided they’re younger than a certain age) – just let your insurer know they’re coming with you.
If they’re travelling by themselves, however, you’ll need to get them insured with their own policy.
If you have an accident, do as you would in Australia and contact emergency services. The number is 111. Once the situation has been resolved, get in touch with your travel insurer (ideally within 24 hours of the incident) and let them know what happened. They may be able to help.
Finally, you can contact the Australian High Commission in New Zealand for consular help (e.g. you’ve lost your passport, you require emergency legal representation, etc.) Call them on (64 4) 473 6411.
The best time to visit New Zealand will greatly depend on what you plan to do when you get there. If you’re aiming for ski season, you’ll want to travel between June and mid-October.6 If you’re not interested in skiing though, September through to April are much more comfortable, although keep in mind it gets busy during the months of school holidays.7
Depending on your level of cover, activities can be covered by travel insurance, however, check with your insurance and read your PDS to ensure that you have purchased the right level of cover that will protect the activities you wish to partake in. You can take out basic travel insurance and just get covered for basic medical expenses, or you can upgrade to a mid range policy for policy protection from lost/stolen luggage and belonging, or comprehensive for the top level of cover with additional options to purchase extras cover.
What is and isn’t covered will vary significantly from insurer to insurer, which is why it pays to compare between a number of them. Don’t worry, we’ll help you do just that. And if you fancy travelling somewhere different, our guide to travel cover per country can help you out.
Always read your PDS as limits, sub-limits, exclusions and restrictions may apply.
N.B. Please refer to or speak with you insurer about limits, sub limits, restrictions, limitations and additional cover options.