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If you fall ill or are seriously injured overseas, getting emergency medical transport to a better medical facility or back to Australia can be extremely expensive. However, many travel insurance policies can cover this cost on your behalf.

What does medical repatriation mean?

Repatriation is being transported to your home country from overseas. When it comes to travel insurance policies, repatriation typically refers to a medical evacuation that gets you home in a time of urgent medical need.

You might need to be repatriated because you’ve fallen seriously ill or been grievously injured, and the medical facilities abroad aren’t adequate. In the worst of circumstances, repatriation also includes covering the cost of bringing your remains home should you pass away.

Medical evacuation and repatriation back to Australia can be costly, but most basic and comprehensive travel insurance policies will include this cover. You should check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for the specifics of your policy so that you can have peace of mind in extreme situations.

two tourists taking photos in a jungle with travel insurance covering medical evacuation repatriation

Do I need cover for repatriation in my travel insurance policy?

The Australian Government won’t take care of your medical treatment overseas, so unless you’re covered by travel insurance, all medical bills will have to be paid out of pocket.

Only 11 countries have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with Australia. This means that if you’re travelling outside those destinations, you will incur these medical costs. However, with travel insurance, these costs can be covered.

According to the Consular State of Play 2021-22 report, there were 911 Australian cases of illness and hospitalisation overseas and 56 non-COVID-19 related medical repatriation cases.1 Repatriation costs can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, so if you require emergency evacuation back to Australia for surgery to save your life, you could be majorly out of pocket.

What will travel insurance with medical evacuation and repatriation cover include?

Depending on your insurer and level of cover, you may be covered for the following:

  • Emergency medical evacuation from your location via air or ground ambulance to a nearby hospital or back to Australia.
  • Airfares on a medical flight, either an air ambulance (fitted with intensive-care medical equipment and a medical team) or a commercial flight (typically patients on a stretcher can take up to six seats).
  • Emergency medical treatment, which may include hospital and surgery bills.
  • Needing a nurse or medical professional as your medical escort to monitor your health during the trip.
  • Transporting a family member or loved one to your location to stay with you if you’re unable to return to Australia as planned.

In what circumstances could medical repatriation be denied?

There are some instances where your travel insurance may not cover medical repatriation and your insurance claim will be denied. While these can differ between insurance providers, some common exclusions include:

  • If you contracted some form of contagious disease
  • If you committed a crime of some sort, which would typically void cover
  • If you were intoxicated (consumed illegal drugs or too much alcohol)
  • If you weren’t wearing a helmet or qualified to ride a vehicle (like a motorcycle or scooter) when the incident occurred
  • If your claim is related to a pre-existing medical condition you didn’t disclose, or could not be covered
  • If you need repatriation for COVID-19 related reasons and you haven’t purchased COVID-19 cover
  • If you need repatriation from a cruise ship and you haven’t purchased cruise cover
  • If you need repatriation due to a winter sports related incident and you haven’t purchased ski cover.

Medical rescue helicopter in the Himilayan mountains

What if I or my travel companion pass away overseas?

It’s not something anyone wants to think about but being mindful of the possibility of death while you’re out of the country is worthwhile. The cost to transport a body can be significant, which is one thing an emotionally distraught family shouldn’t have to deal with.

Sometimes referred to as ‘death cover’ in travel insurance policies, repatriation can pay for the costs of getting the body back home.

You may feel that ‘death cover’ and repatriation is something you only need to worry about when you get older or if you have a pre-existing medical condition. However, it can be comforting to know you can embark on your adventure and not worry about creating problems in the future, should the worst happen.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get repatriated in an emergency?

The first thing you need to do in an emergency is contact the relevant services and authorities. This means an ambulance or hospital for a medical emergency and the police in the event of a crime, for example. Once you’ve sought immediate emergency help, you then need to contact your insurer.

Most travel insurance providers (or their underwriters) have a 24/7 emergency worldwide assistance hotline for their customers to call when they’re in need. Your insurer may operate this hotline through their own internal emergency assistance team or by a global assistance company that they’re partnered with for situations like these.

They can assist with organising your care, including:

  • Rescue by helicopter, car, ambulance, boat or plane – whatever suits your situation
  • Transport to a medical centre or hospital for emergency care
  • Medical repatriation to take you to the nearest or most appropriate hospital if there are no such facilities nearby or in the country you’ve travelled to

Does medical-only travel insurance cover repatriation and emergency evacuation?

Medical-only travel insurance can include repatriation and emergency assistance, but not every medical-only policy will. It’s essential that you check the PDS of any travel insurance policy before you buy, whether it’s cancellation-only, medical-only or a comprehensive policy.

Can I be evacuated to another country besides Australia in an emergency?

Yes, you can be transported to another country should the need arise. In some cases, this may be vital to ensure you receive adequate medical care for your needs. If you’re taken to another nation, once you’re in a stable condition, you may then return to Australia.

What if I’m on a cruise and need to be repatriated?

Cruise ships have their own infirmaries and sick bays, but these facilities might need help with severe situations. Should you need to be evacuated, your insurer can arrange an airlift and travel to the nearest adequate hospital.

However, a standard travel insurance policy won’t be enough to ensure you’re covered for medical treatment and evacuation on a cruise You’ll need to check you add cruise cover to your policy, which most insurers offer as an optional extra.

What if I was travelling with friends and family?

If your travel companions are listed on your policy, they’ll also be covered should something happen. If one person in your group is ill or injured, travel insurance can cover the costs of other listed persons’ altered travel plans.

Can I be repatriated without a return ticket?

If you’re travelling overseas without a return date planned and paid for, you may still be repatriated by your insurance should the need arise. However, the cost of your return ticket may be deducted from the benefits your insurer pays towards your treatment and repatriation, so you might end up paying for this cost yourself.

Adrian Taylor, Executive General Manager

Top travel insurance tips for medical repatriation from our expert, Adrian Taylor

  • 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. Not all conditions can be covered, so it’s important you understand the cover available to you.
  • While many insurers are providing cover for COVID-19 related losses, in most cases you will need to purchase their comprehensive cover for COVID-19 cover to be included, as a standard travel insurance policy won’t. Look for the COVID-19 icon when you compare products.
  • Consider taking out additional cover if you’re planning to go on a cruise or ski holiday, as a standard travel insurance policy won’t cover you for these activities. Make sure you understand the benefits, limits, conditions and exclusions of your policy before you purchase.

Shop around for travel insurance with repatriation cover

It’s one thing to appreciate the value of comprehensive travel insurance – it’s another to find a policy that suits the needs of your trip and your budget. But remember, if you can’t afford adequate travel insurance for your trip, you should reconsider whether you can afford to travel at all.

We’re here to help you look for a happy medium between great coverage and competitive pricing. Use our free comparison service today to compare quotes based on price, what’s covered, excess amounts and additional features, all within minutes. Simples!


1 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government. Consular State of Play 2021-22. Published November 2022. Accessed January 2023.

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