So, you’ve decided to holiday in Thailand. It’s an absolute jewel of a country, with bustling markets to explore, great beaches to relax on, and plenty of delectable food to devour. And with such a holiday comes a tiny bit of risk. The risk that you get food poisoning during a culinary adventure at those markets, perhaps you slip on some rocks by the water before going for a swim, or lose your luggage at the airport before you even have a chance to explore.
Getting travel insurance for your trip to Thailand is a smart move. That way, you can get back to what you do best on holidays, whether that’s adventuring, relaxing, or even just shopping! Here’s everything you need to know about getting covered.
Travel insurance for Thailand tourists
Why take out a policy?
The first thing many travellers ask themselves is, “Do I really need travel insurance? I’ve never needed to claim before.” It’s a fair question, and one that is easily answered.
More than 1 million Australians visited Thailand in 2014. Of those, there were 163 hospitalisations, 91 passports were lost, and – tragically – 146 deaths.8 In total, there were 663 cases where the Australian consulate had to intervene overseas in Thailand. You can bet that some of these tourists had to utilise their insurance policies.
SmartTraveller elaborates on the importance of insurance:1
“Type the name Sean Kenzie into YouTube. Sean thought he was covered by his insurance when a taxi knocked him off his scooter in Thailand.
“But riding a moped was an optional extra he hadn’t opted for. Instead, the hospital in Bangkok refused him full treatment because he could not afford his $20,000 bill.”
You may never need to claim, or you could run into similar issues abroad. Why risk it when travel insurance is so affordable? The story illustrates just how important it is to understand your travel insurance policy. Don’t worry; everything you’re covered for is detailed in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
What you can get covered for
Here are some typical things you may need to claim on when overseas in Thailand.
- Cutting your trip short. Something may happen on your trip, or back at home, that may force you to abandon your holiday. If this is the case, your insurer may cover the trip back. Your policy may also cover a host of cancellation and amendment fees. Here are two examples where you’d be covered:
- You or a partner cannot continue the holiday due to a serious medical condition, or
- Your business/home in Australia is seriously damaged.
- Theft of luggage and cash. If your belongings are stolen, you can make a claim to get some or all of your money back, provided your report the incident within 24 hours to the insurer and the police. You will be limited in how much you can claim back, which will be outlined in your PDS.
- Hospital expenses, emergency assistance. Australia has no reciprocal health care arrangement with Thailand7, meaning you cannot access subsidised healthcare in this country. However, your travel policy will ensure you can be treated for health conditions without having to worry about any medical costs!
- Rental vehicle excess. You may have to pay an excess if you get in an accident with your rental vehicle. However, your travel policy may look after (or contribute to) paying the excess payment, so that’s one less thing you’ll need to worry about, depending on your level of cover.
- Travel delays. If for any reason you’re delayed and miss something important on your itinerary – whether it’s a trip to the Wat Phra Kaew temple or scuba diving in Ko Tao, your policy may cover the cost.
- Loss or theft of travel documents & credit cards. Don’t stress too much if you lose your credit cards or passport, because it’s included in many insurance policies.
If your kids are travelling with you, your insurer will most likely cover them to the same effect as you are – all you need to do is let the insurer know they’ll be accompanying you. If your kids are travelling alone, you will have to take out cover (probably an adult policy) for them.
Be on the lookout for some common exclusions in your policy 2, 3
- Excluded activities. Perhaps you want to go motorcycling, or scuba diving, or even something as simple as scuba diving. You need to check that these kinds of ‘adventure’ activities will be covered by your policy, or else risk not being able to claim. Even something as simple as ‘trekking’ may not be covered! If you do want to partake in these activities, they can sometimes be included in your coverage as extras. Ask your insurer what options are available as extras before departing.
- Unattended belongings. If you’ve left your belongings unattended, your policy may not cover the loss. In fact, some insurers policies won’t cover the theft of certain items if left in a motor vehicle! Keep an eye on your stuff at all times, and make good use of hotel safes.
- Pre-existing conditions are generally not covered by travel insurance, nor are illnesses you contract by failing to get properly vaccinated before you leave or taking the right medication while you’re there.
- Actions undertaken while under the influence. If you’re intoxicated, or have taken drugs, you may automatically be exempt from claiming. Keep it clean while you’re over there and you won’t have to worry about this.
Is Thailand safe?
Generally speaking, Thailand can be a fairly safe place to visit if you exercise some common sense. Here are a few things you should keep in mind during your stay.
- Hiring jet skis and motorbikes in Thailand is a pretty common practise for Aussie tourists. However, Aussies have reported being harassed or threatened with violence by operators (or gangs), who demand compensation for seemingly damaged hired goods. Additionally, any accidents you have as a result of driving these vehicles may not be covered under your policy – and let us tell you, driving on roads in Bangkok is an experience not for the faint of heart! Take photos of any vehicle you hire beforehand.
- Petty theft is common in Thailand, especially in cheap accommodation, and busy areas like markets. Keep valuables locked up, safe and out of sight (e.g. hotel safes), and be constantly vigilant when in transit.
- Drink spiking is common in the night-time entertainment zones in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, and during the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan4. Under no circumstances should you accept a drink from someone you don’t know.
- Speaking of the Full Moon Party… It can be a lot of fun to kick back with a few beers on the beach with your mates and enjoy the island nightlife. While alcoholic buckets for only 200 baht, ‘shroom shakes’, and the burning skipping rope may sound like great adventure stories for some, they can easily end with a trip to the hospital. Read more about how to keep yourself safe at these parties.
- In the war on drugs, Thailand has taken a hardline approach. “Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty,” according to SmartTraveller. Possession or supply of even ‘soft drugs’ can result in lengthy jail sentences. Whether you agree or disagree with that, you’re bound by their laws while travelling.4
- Look out for several Thailand scams, because tourists are easy to spot for anyone looking to make a dishonest dollar.9
- Fake airport taxis
- Jet ski scam
- Corrupt cops
- Gem scheme
- Stolen hire scooter
There’s plenty more, so read up on some of the more popular scams before you arrive.
If you have an accident, call emergency services (e.g. police, ambulance), and then your insurer. You can also contact the Australian Embassy in Thailand if you get into any particularly thorny issues.
When’s the best time to visit Thailand?
The peak tourist season for Thailand is mid-October through to late February,6 when it is hot, but much less rainy and humid. This is also when hotels fill up and bookings become difficult, so you’ll want to make plans well ahead of your trip!
Here are some general tips to keep in mind while you’re overseas.
- Don’t deface or defile any image of the king (even on their money). It’s considered a crime, and could get you thrown in jail.
- Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took control of the country in a coup in 2014. Martial Law is still in place in several regions, so exercise caution, depending on where you travel.
- Drinking in public isn’t permitted by law. There are plenty of great bars and hotels to visit, so there’s no need to drink out on the streets.
- Never allow your passport to be used as a deposit or guarantee for a hire/lease. There are several reported scams (such as the Jet Ski scam)4 where they may take your passport as part of the deposit when you lease a jet ski. Upon return, they claim you damaged the vehicle, and demand compensation – holding your passport hostage until you pay up. As a blanket rule, be extremely careful who you hand your passport to.
- Stick to your Visa limits. As of 20 March 2016,4 Thai authorities are penalising those who overstay their visa. You could be banned from re-entering the country later, and pay a daily fine of 500 baht (up to 20,000). You can enter the country via an international airport on an AUS passport for up to 30 days, even if you don’t get a visa beforehand, and is known as a visa exemption. If you cross the border, it’s 15 days. Be especially wary of companies offering visa extensions. You may be refused entry if you attempt to enter the country on a passport expiring within 6 months.4
And, as always, register your trip on SmartTraveller.gov.au before leaving. If you’d like to travel elsewhere, check out our destination guide for travel insurance.
N.B. Please refer to or speak with you insurer about limits, sub limits, restrictions, limitations and additional cover options.