Travel Insurance and Safety Advice for Visitors to Australia
Visiting Australia is a travel goal for anyone who wants to see the world. The Australian government welcomes visitors with a 90-day visa, offering plenty of time to see the country. Yet Australia’s wonders and adventures do bring some risk to traveling there. You’ll get the most out of a trip Down Under with travel insurance that includes visitor health cover for Australia.
Learn what you need to know about travel insurance and safety for an Australian journey, including our top seven tips for safe travel.
Do I Need Travel Insurance for Australia?
You are not required to have travel insurance to visit Australia, but it is strongly encouraged. Australia’s government travel authority says, “If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.”
Medical care in Australia can be expensive for travelers and visitors. A doctor or dentist visit can cost hundreds of dollars. Most hospital stays, for emergencies or illnesses, cost a visitor several thousand dollars – often more. Visitor health cover for Australia is worth the investment if you get sick or injured.
Read the fine print of your travel insurance before you sign up for a plan. Try to match the insurance coverage with your trip plans and coverage needs. If you are scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, for example, make sure appropriate adventure sports insurance is included when considering travel insurance policies. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, make sure those will be treated with the coverage you select.
Some Countries Share Reciprocal Health Care with Australia – and Their Visitors Still Choose Travel Insurance
People from some countries can receive coverage for emergency health care in Australia as part of a reciprocal health care agreement. These countries include the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy, and Malta.
However, travelers from these countries still purchase travel insurance with comprehensive health coverage for visits to Australia. Travel health insurance provides many more benefits than basic emergency care. These can include repatriation support or special travel accommodations after an emergency.
What Vaccinations Are Required for Travel to Australia?
As of November 2021, travelers to Australia must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Here is what you need to know to confirm your vaccination status before you travel. For the latest information about COVID-19 and travel from Australia, visit the Department of Home Affairs.
You may have already confirmed your vaccination status to book your flight to Australia. You also need to confirm your COVID-19 vaccination with Australia's government using your Australia Travel Declaration. It’s easy and free to complete this Declaration, 72 hours before you board your flight. With your Declaration, you upload your vaccination certificate (or medical exemption) and a very recent negative PCR test that shows you have tested negative for COVID-19. Learn more about the Declaration and how to complete it here. You also need to bring proof of your COVID-19 vaccination when you check in for your flight. Your vaccination certificate must confirm you have been vaccinated with a vaccine approved or recognized by Australia’s TGA.
Travelers who have been in a yellow fever danger zone within six days before their arrival in Australia also need to show proof of vaccination against yellow fever.
You may want a rabies vaccine if you plan on outdoor activities, like caving or conservation volunteering, where you might get bitten by a bat. While Australia is rabies-free, its bats can carry the closely related illness Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), which the rabies vaccine also protects against. Get the rabies vaccine two weeks before you travel, and bring proof of vaccination with you.
Bring Your Necessary Medications and Prescriptions
You need to bring your own medications to Australia, and it’s helpful to bring printed copies of your necessary prescriptions. When packing your medication for your trip, leave all medication in its original, labeled container. Try to bring enough to cover your entire trip. For any medications you need, also bring a prescription and note from your doctor containing the generic name of the drug and an explanation of why you need the medication.
Some drugs found over-the-counter in your home may need a prescription in Australia. These include oral contraceptives, asthma medication, all antibiotics, and medicine for pre-existing medical conditions.
Get Online Travel Insurance Quotes for Australia
You should have travel insurance that includes visitor health cover, as well as cover for theft, evacuation, repatriation, and trip interruption. We have two recommendations for the best travel insurance for visitors to Australia.
For most travelers to Australia, we recommend the Atlas Travel Insurance plan for affordable global coverage. For US citizens traveling to Australia, we recommend GeoBlue Voyager Insurance. This is a premium option with a high level of coverage for a slightly higher rate. Get quotes for each of these options here.
- COVID-19 coverage outside your home country
- Choose between the basic and more extensive coverage
- Meets Schengen visa insurance requirements
- 24/7 worldwide travel and emergency medical assistance
- For U.S. citizens up to age 95
- Coverage for COVID and pre-existing conditions
- 24/7/365 service and assistance
Seven Top Tips to Travel Safety in Australia
Here are our top seven tips for safe travel and travel insurance in Australia. With common sense and good travel insurance, you can be prepared for every adventure Australia has to offer.
1. Be Sensible Around Personal Security
Australia is a relatively safe destination for personal security. Take special care when out late at night in city centers. Enjoying the nightlife? Have fun, but don’t leave drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers. And only get rides from licensed taxis or rideshare providers.
If you are staying in a quiet rural area, lock your doors, and keep valuables and luggage in your lodging, not in your vehicle. Tourist rental cars sometimes get broken into at remote parking lots for natural attractions. A travel insurance plan with theft and loss coverage will support you if this happens.
2. Stay Informed With Australian Travel Warnings and Updates
Australian emergency services provide travel warnings and updates. Check the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for reports about weather and, in summer, bush fires.
In 2019 and 2020, extreme bush fires in Australia made international news. If you are visiting an area and a bush fire breaks out, follow local evacuation orders. Travel insurance can support you if your plan covers evacuation and accommodation around emergencies or travel delays.
3. Prepare for Weather Extremes – Sun and Heat, Dryness and Rain
Out of all the outdoor perils in Australia, you are most likely to encounter the harsh sun. The saying Down Under is "slip, slop, and slap" – slip on a shirt, slop on lots of sunscreen, and slap on a hat. Even schoolchildren wear hats and long sleeves to go outside at recess. Sunscreen is required, too. Australian high-SPF sunscreens, starting at 30 SPF, are made for Australian conditions. A good visitor health plan will cover you if you need emergency care for an extreme sunburn – but you’ll still have to deal with discomfort and inconvenience.
Australian weather can be extreme. A warm day can cool down to a chilly evening. Summer days in desert areas like Alice Springs can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The intense sun can be dry and thirst-inducing one day, and the next day can bring monsoon-like rains. When you go on night-time tours, it can get extremely cold. Bring layers of clothing to wear, and accessorize with your favorite hat and water bottle.
4. Watch Out for Wildlife
Australian wildlife is famous for being venomous, poisonous, and dangerous. You are most likely to encounter the smaller venomous animals. Snakes often bask by roadsides, in parking lots, and on hiking trails. Spiders love to sneak into human bathrooms and surprise you at night. To avoid both, wear shoes or sandals, and shake out clothes and footwear before you put them on. In the water, watch out for jellyfish. Australians nickname them "stingers" because of their often powerful and occasionally fatal sting. Beaches that have a lot of jellyfish usually post warning signs.
Most people are wary around sharks and crocodiles in Australian waters. Swim securely at beaches with lifeguards and other people around. Lifeguards will warn you if they see or hear about risky creatures. Lifeguards can also provide first aid and get you to help. A beautiful beach with no swimmers and no lifeguards may conceal dangerous creatures!
The smallest animals in Australia can make you very uncomfortable. Insects like mosquitos, ticks, and sandflies are major pests. Mosquitos can carry diseases, including dengue fever, encephalitis, and Ross River virus. Sandfly bites are notorious for being very uncomfortable.
Protect yourself from insect stings. Wear long sleeves and full-length trousers. Sleep in rooms with screened windows. And invest in Australian insect repellent with at least 20% DEET, even if you wouldn't use it normally. If an insect bite is swollen or infected, get emergency care for the reaction. This will be covered by a good travel health insurance plan.
5. Swim and Boat Safely
Australia is full of beautiful beaches and idyllic rivers. The first point of being safe around them is, again, to swim at beaches with lifeguards and other people. If a beach or a river is empty of people, there is often a good reason for that: contaminated water, dangerous currents, or the presence of sharks and crocodiles.
Visitors often rent jet skis, kayaks, and other boating equipment. Follow the safety instructions and laws when you hire these and go out on the water. Always wear a life jacket, and never go out on unfamiliar waters alone. If you’re planning on jet skis and kayaks, boost your travel insurance with adventure sports coverage.
6. Driving the Outback? Be Prepared
Adventure-minded travelers love to hit the road in Australia. In Australia, the road rules are to drive on the left side of the road. Not familiar with this? Take some time to practice in a quiet area. A car rental location can often tell you a good area nearby to practice Australian driving.
For long rural drives in Australia, know that you are driving through remote deserts. Bring extra gasoline, water and food in your vehicle. Let someone know when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you expect to arrive. If you are looking at Google maps and you don’t see any small towns or buildings, that means no places to buy food or fuel. So be prepared!
Roads in the Outback are often unpaved, dusty and stony. Watch out for rocks damaging axles and stones chipping windscreens. If it rains, you can suddenly be driving in a stream bed. Most distressing of all, if you don’t drive carefully, you might hit an animal, especially at night. Kangaroo-and-car collisions are very common. Make sure that you have comprehensive vehicle insurance so that all these things are covered – even the kangaroo collision.
7. Get Ready When Hiking or Tramping
Hiking or tramping in the Outback, or in natural parks like the Blue Mountains, calls for extra safety, too. Here are some of the basics for hiking safely in Australia. Planning to hike? Definitely learn more before you go.
Again, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. You may ask a local if anything unusual has happened in the area where you plan to hike, such as a forest fire. Bring more food and water than you need, and first aid supplies. Dress for the extremes of the weather where you are going. Serious hikers can rent a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon in case of emergency. Consider buying Emergency Evacuation Insurance which will transport you to the closest medical facility able to handle your injury or illness.
The best safety aid in the Outback is an experienced guide. Guides will provide first aid, communication help, and knowledge of the country. Hiring a local guide is an excellent way to support Australia’s many indigenous communities. A good guide makes your Outback journey far safer and truly special.