Travel insurance helps cover you if something happens to you or your belongings while travelling and can include cover for illness, accidents and flight delays.

When you need travel insurance

It's best to buy travel insurance as soon as you make your first booking – this ensures you're covered if you need to change or cancel any of your plans before your departure date.

What travel insurance covers

Most travel insurance will cover you for:

  • cancellations and delays due to unforeseen circumstances – like bad weather, an accident that means you can't continue your trip, or the death of a close relative at home
  • medical treatment if you’re injured or get sick – including travel home if you need it
  • lost or delayed luggage
  • damaged or stolen personal items
  • accidental damages or legal expenses you incur while overseas – except for motor vehicle accidents, which need to be covered with separate rental insurance.

Travel insurance won't cover you if you just change your mind about your trip, including if you want to cancel because there's been a terror attack at your destination.

You also won't be covered if a 'do not travel' advisory is issued for your destination, or to embargoed countries and you choose to travel anyway.

Travel advice levels(external link) — SafeTravel

Your rights

Choosing the right travel insurance from an insurer, travel agent or bank

You can buy travel insurance directly from an insurer, or through a travel agent or through your bank.

If you have a premium credit card (for example a 'gold' or 'platinum' card), it may come with built-in travel insurance. It’s important to read policy terms and conditions carefully and weigh up whether comprehensive travel insurance is a better way to go.

The cost of the insurance will depend on:

  • how long you'll be away
  • your age – cover can cost more if you're older, and some policies include dependent children for free
  • the excess you want to pay if you need to make a claim – some insurers let you pay more for a lower excess, or vice versa
  • the activities you're planning while away – some insurers charge extra for ski or snowboarding trips, and some won't cover things like scuba diving or rock climbing
  • the type of policy you choose – a comprehensive policy will cost more than a budget one, but will provide you with more cover.

Getting the travel insurance you need so that everything is properly covered

Every policy is different. Read the policy wording and check the limits carefully before you purchase – and if you're not sure about anything, ask your insurer for more information.

Cover specific to international travel

New Zealanders are entitled to free emergency medical care in the UK and Australia.

Medical care and expenses

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing illnesses or injuries are not usually covered by travel insurance.

Some insurers have a list of pre-existing conditions that they automatically cover. If your condition is not on the list, you may still be able to add cover for an extra fee – talk to your insurer to find out more.

Medical expenses

Travel insurance covers the cost of treatment if you're injured or get sick while you're away. It may also pay to get you home if you're unable to continue your trip. Check your policy to find out what you're covered for and when – a comprehensive policy will give you more cover than a basic one.

Dental treatment

Travel insurance usually only covers dental treatment for repairs or pain relief if you injure healthy teeth.

If you're injured in an accident overseas, ACC may be able to help with treatment costs once you're back in New Zealand.

If you're a New Zealander injured overseas(external link) — ACC

Personal liability

Personal liability covers you for accidental damages (and any related legal expenses) incurred while you're overseas. Personal liability cover usually only comes with comprehensive travel insurance policies – check your policy to find out what you're covered for and up to what amount.

You won't be covered if you were found to have committed the damage:

  • on purpose, or
  • recklessly – including if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Personal liability doesn't cover you for motor vehicle crashes – including for scooters or mopeds over a certain capacity (often 200cc). You'll need separate insurance for any vehicles you rent. (Some policies may cover the rental insurance excess, though.

What's not covered?

You're not covered:

  • if you just change your mind about wanting to travel – even if there's been an act of war or terrorism at your destination, unless a 'do not travel' advisory has been issued
  • for medical expenses related to Covid-19 if you get it either in a destination that has a 'do not travel' advisory issued because of COVID-19 risks, or you haven't followed the vaccination and testing requirements of the airlines you're flying with and the countries you're visiting
  • for elective medical or dental treatment (treatment you choose to have, rather than treatment you need)
  • if an accident happens while you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If you're staying in an AirBnB or holiday home rather than a hotel, check your policy wording – some insurers won't cover you for any accidental damage you cause while you're there.

Making a claim

  • Call your insurer as soon as you can if you need to make a claim – you may need to get big expenses like hospital bills pre-approved.
  • If you've lost belongings or they've been stolen, report the loss to police straight away. Insurers often require paperwork to show you've done this within a set time – check your policy.
  • Keep all receipts and documents related to a claim so you can send them to the insurer. You can't claim for something if you don't have evidence.
  • If your claim is declined, follow the steps below – especially if your claim falls into a grey area, for example whether or not you left your bags 'unattended'.

Steps to take to ensure your travel insurance claim is successful

Complain to your insurer

Many people can sort out their problem directly. Your insurance company will have a complaints process, for example, if you're unhappy with the outcome of a claim, a different assessor will look at your case.

Tips when complaining:

  • Be clear it's a complaint: To make sure your issue is dealt with following your insurer's internal complaints process.
  • Stick to the facts: Explain the problem in detail and provide any evidence you have.
  • Tell them what you want: Be clear what you expect to fix your concern.
  • Take time out, if needed: If the conversation is getting heated or you need time to consider their response, call or email back another time.
  • Take notes: Write down the date you formally complained. Insurers must acknowledge your complaint in 5 business days and respond to it in 10 business days. For your own records, it may be best to put your complaint in writing, especially if it is complicated.

Contact the insurer's dispute resolution scheme

All insurers must belong to a disputes scheme. Contact them:

  • for guidance before talking to your insurer
  • if you and your insurer are finding it hard to agree.

Their services are free.

Dispute resolution schemes are neutral — meaning they look at facts from both sides. They might help you and your insurer settle your complaint by talking it through, for example, with mediation. If this isn't possible, they will make a recommendation — sometimes calling on another expert, such as a loss adjustor, for extra advice.

Your insurer must act on whatever the scheme recommends. But you don't have to accept their recommendation if you don't agree. Speaking to a lawyer would be your next step if this were the case.

There are two dispute resolution schemes who look at insurance-related complaints:

Take it further

Commerce Commission

Report your insurer to the Commerce Commission if you think:

  • you have been misled
  • they have said something untrue, such as telling you the policy covered something it doesn't
  • they have pressured you into taking out a policy you did not want.

The Commerce Commission can't investigate every complaint, or solve your individual problem. But they can warn or prosecute the business. Your information helps them assess which consumer issues are causing the greatest harm.

Make a complaint(external link) — Commerce Commission

More help

Get support at any point from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
  • Community Law Centre — offers free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Find a CAB(external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres