Explore Travel Insurance

North America is home to the USA, Canada’s icy summits, Mexico’s serene coastline and the excitement of New York. Travel insurance can protect you against financial losses when you explore North America, especially if you purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

Do I need travel insurance for North America?

Purchasing travel insurance that covers you on your trip to North America can provide peace of mind. Accidents, illnesses, trip interruptions or cancellations, and other unexpected situations can be covered. Financial and other support is frequently included and is invaluable if you’re in an emergency situation in North America.

The entire North American continent is a lot to cover in a single trip. Luckily, travel insurance also offers annual multi-trip policies that cover you for multiple trips within a 12-month period, up to a maximum number of days for each journey overseas.

Theft and loss of belongings

Theft can generally happen anywhere, including North America. As long as you keep an eye on your belongings when in public places, travel insurance can provide reimbursement for your lost or stolen items up to the limits listed in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This can include personal belongings, cash, credit cards and travel documents, such as your passport or ID.

Natural disasters

North America can experience earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters. Travel insurance may help cover the cost of cancelled accommodation, bookings and flights if a natural disaster spoils your plans, or the price of a new ticket and extended accommodation if you need somewhere to stay before your flight home.

Medical expenses

You should consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance so you have medical cover when heading to North America, as the Australian Government and Medicare will not pay for any overseas medical costs. Having medical coverage doesn’t just involve covering costs for hospital treatment for illness and injury; it also extends to medical evacuation and repatriation.

A comprehensive travel insurance policy can be helpful if you have a medical emergency in North America as, without it, you may have to pay thousands for the USA’s medical care.

You could also be at risk of catching insect-borne diseases such as West Nile virus or encephalitis throughout North America, so you may like to ask your GP about vaccinations.

Trip cancellations and travel delays

If cancellations and delays impact your flight and you aren’t eligible for a refund from your airline, travel insurance may cover additional costs such as emergency accommodation.

By purchasing your policy, as soon as you book your flights or make any deposits, you may be covered for cancellations before you even leave for your trip overseas.

Rental car hire excess

Some USA states only require you to have a valid Australian license while others require an international driver’s permit (IDP), if you’re driving in North America.

Travel insurance may help cover the cost of your rental vehicle’s excess if you have an accident. If you hire a car, find out what you are covered for by reading your PDS before you hit the road.

If you want to ride a motorcycle in North America, you will also need a licence and may need to upgrade your travel insurance cover, depending on your insurer. Ensure you read the travel insurance PDS to see if you are covered for losses when you hire a motorcycle.

Montreal, Canada city view

Common travel insurance exclusions to watch out for

Travel insurance covers a lot but it doesn’t cover everything. Read your PDS before you go (and indeed, before you purchase a policy) to see what you are and aren’t covered for. Some exclusions include:

  • Incidents that happened before you purchased your policy. You can’t claim for something that happened while you weren’t covered.
  • Claims for pre-existing medical conditions. Although some travel insurance plans cover certain pre-existing medical conditions, you still need to disclose these to your insurer before taking out a policy so they can assess your application.
  • Unattended luggage. Luggage and belongings that were stolen or damaged while you weren’t keeping an eye on them in a public space are generally excluded.
  • Disregarding government travel advice. If you travel to an area in North America where a Smartraveller travel warning applies, your policy might not cover you. Check your PDS to see which warning levels are excluded by your policy, and keep an eye on Smartraveller leading up to your trip.
  • Being under the influence. If you were intoxicated by drugs or alcohol when you were injured or caused damage, you generally won’t be covered by your insurance.
  • Driving without the required license. Driving and motorcycling are common in North America, but you need to hold the appropriate licence to do these activities. Accidents or injuries that result from unlicensed driving aren’t likely to be covered.

Learn more about travel insurance exclusions.

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Is North America safe?

Typically speaking, North America is safe. Metropolitan areas of North America may have higher crime incidents than more isolated areas. You might also be worried about gun crime. Smartraveller advises that you familiarise yourself with unsafe areas, emergency evacuations and active shooter drills if you’re concerned about encountering gun violence in North America.1

There are other dangers to look out for in North America as well, such as:

  • Pick-pocketing and petty theft in areas popular with tourists
  • Swimming at unpatrolled beaches
  • Large animals on the road
  • Bears in some parts of Canada and the USA.

What do I do in an emergency or incident?

If you find yourself in an emergency, you can call 112 (the international emergency number) or the country-specific emergency number. Alternatively, contact the local police or relevant authority in a non-urgent case. Your travel insurer will likely have a 24/7 emergency hotline that you can contact for assistance, and to start your claim.

Make sure to contact your insurer after an incident within 24 hours of it occurring and that you have documentation like police or medical reports to support your claim.

Remember that you also have support from the Australian Government through consulates and embassies should you find yourself in need. However, the government can’t help you in every situation. The Consular Services Charter (available on Smartraveller) can help you understand what they can and can’t do for you when you’re overseas.

Yosemite National Park mountain, USA

Top travel tips for North America

1. Be aware of local laws and age limits

In the USA, the drinking age limit is 21,1 while it varies from province to province across Canada2 so check the local laws of each North America country you’re planning to visit. Remember, travel insurance may not necessarily cover you if you’ve been drinking. Don’t hesitate to check your PDS for possible exclusions to your policy.

2. Get ready for big portions

Food portion sizes overseas can be bigger than the Australian standard, particularly in the USA. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t have a big appetite, it’s often possible to share one meal between two.

3. Don’t forget to tip

Tipping is an essential part of life in North America. Whether you’re dining at a restaurant, diner or a dive bar, add an extra 10% to 20% to the bill or tip your server in cash.

Adrian Taylor, Executive General Manager

Top travel insurance tips from our expert, Adrian Taylor

  • If you’re concerned about needing COVID-19 (coronavirus) cover while overseas, many insurers now offer coverage for COVID-19 related losses as part of their comprehensive or top tier cover. When comparing products, look for the COVID-19 icon.
  • As soon as you make a booking or pay any deposits you should purchase comprehensive travel insurance so you have cancellation cover if you need to cancel your trip.
  • Consider what things you might need coverage for, such as medical treatment, cancellations, personal liability, luggage and rental vehicle excess, before you travel. Depending on your travel plans you may want to purchase additional cover for cruise or ski holidays.
  • Don’t leave your possessions unsupervised as most insurers won’t cover those losses. You should also always lock your car and accommodation to reduce the risk of theft.

Compare travel insurance

Looking to get a quote for travel insurance to protect you on your next North American adventure? Our travel insurance comparison service is a good place to start. It’s free to use, and you can compare policy features, benefits, cover levels and more for a range of policies.

If you’re unsure where to travel in North America, you can browse our destinations hub or go straight to our Canada and USA pages.


1 Smartraveller – United States of America. Last updated October 2022. Accessed November 2022.

2 Smartraveller – Canada. Last updated September 2022. Accessed November 2022.

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