Medical travel insurance – getting the right one for you.

Medical travel Insurance has long been a debatable topic …. until your actually experience a medical mishap overseas.

This was me last year. A medical mishap that I am still paying off because my travel insurance wasn’t the right cover for me!

As you can see from this blog I travel a lot. I decided a few years ago to get an annual travel policy that covered me in all countries for all conditions and that way I knew when I traveled I was covered. It worked out cheaper in the long run and less hassle getting insurance out every trip.

In June last year I decided to go to Bali. I had been four times over the last 8 months so another trip seemed easy to my “new second home” and I was looking forward to it.

I also realised at the time of booking the trip (using rewards points for one of the legs) that my new credit card came with complimentary travel insurance. It seemed pretty straight forward and seeing as I was doubling up on travel insurance I cancelled my other annual one.

This was to be a mistake.

I arrived in Bali and my boyfriend at the time picked me up on his proper rental bike to take me to the beach. He had just purchased a helmet and it seemed very James Dean and exciting! Off we went from the airport and I had a sense of adventure and exhilaration that I recognised and loved. This was going to be FUN… so I thought.

Literally 500 meters from the airport another bike ran into us. We weren’t doing any thing wrong except hesitated when we should have kept driving forward.

The impact of the other bike crushed my foot against our bike’s exhaust pipe. I knew instantly that my foot was crushed and broken.

medical insurance bali
my fractured toes in Bali

It was funny, they say things slow down in adversity and it did…. I remember calmly thinking, “my toes are crushed in multiple places and this is going to be an operation or plaster at the minimum.”  Unfortunately, after looking down and seeing my bone sticking out I knew an operation would be necessary.

We found our way to the nearest hospital (which is a story in itself)!

Once at the hospital I was ushered in and made to sign lots of paper work. Apparently fracturing your toes on a motor cycle is common in Bali (and as it turns out good money for the locals).  I thought I had insurance so we rang back home to Australia to inquire about how to fill in forms and inform them of the accident.

“You are not covered!” we were told. “WHAT?!”I quizzed. What do you mean I am not covered? I always have travel insurance.

It turns out with most credit cards you must spend a minimum of $500 AUD on the particular trip (and call them before leaving the country to notify them of your travels) to activate the cover.

Medical insurance Bali
Recovering in Bali hospital

Of course, as fate would have it, I had only spend $450 towards this holiday on that particular card.

Lying there with multiple fractures toes, and open wound that needed debridement and cleaning I didn’t feel I had much choice but to pay the hospital fees.

I sent messages back to doctor friends in Australia who confirmed it would need a general anaesthetic to clean the open fracture and that I was at a high risk of osteomyelitis (bone infection) which can lead to amputation. I didn’t feel I had a choice. I signed over $10,000 on credit card to have the operation.

An operation that would have only cost $5000 in Australia in a private hospital.

Clearly white tourists are a healthy source of income for the locals.

I had the operation, was wheeled back to the Emergency Room, never offered food or water and was discharged from the Emergency bed. They did want to keep me for three days to give me intravenous anti-biotics but I chose to come back in morning and night for these over the three days.

Toe fractures Bali
Recovering after my operation in Bali

All in all a very expensive lesson about medical travel insurance.

Since coming back to Australia I have resumed my 365 day policy and will never replace it again. I do not trust credit card insurances as they are an added-on upsell and often have so many clauses that it’s not adequate cover.


Check it out properly and make sure you are covered.

You need to know the following:

  • your excess
  • what you are covered for (flying back to your home, hospital bed stay, operations, etc
  • are you covered for incidentals (physio, pharmaceuticals etc)
  • what is your minimum spend to activate the insurance (VIP for credit card insurances)
  • are you covered for adventure activities (most don’t cover bikes over 200ccs etc) and if you are planning on rafting, abseiling, etc you may need additional cover
  • find out if your health issues are considered “pre-existing” . Once I was denied a claim for pneumonia because I was diagnosed with asthma as a child. If you have a pre-existing condition you will need to fill in additional paper work before leaving your home country to make sure you are covered

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