Australia international medical insurance and visa guide
April 01, 2019
Adventure travel, Australia style
Of all the off-the-beaten-path destinations that world travelers rave about, Australia often tops the lists. The vast country is filled with stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife that begs travelers to try the Aussie life and go deeply off the grid to escape to pristine natural scenes unlike anywhere else in the world. For a lot of travelers, exploring Australia's untouched nature and wilderness has always been on top of their bucket lists but whether you are looking for a nature escape or just want to discover new cities, it is always a good idea to cover yourself against unexpected medical costs or simply just travel hiccups. Consider buying travel medical insurance and protection to lean back and relax on your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Dive into Australia’s outback — and more
Whether you're a backpacker, a nature enthusiast, or simply checking unique experiences off your travel map, Australia travel offers no end of must-see destinations, including:
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park: a World Heritage-listed national park and home to the sacred Ayers Rock and the Olga rock domes, with activities ranging from guided walks to stargazing (including accommodations that let you sleep under the stars).
- The Kimberley region: home to prolific wildlife, beehive-shaped rock formations, waterfalls, gorges, and rivers. Guided tours allow you to explore by foot, on 4WD vehicles, or via boat.
- Kakadu National Park: one of the largest Australian national parks is also a World Heritage site for its natural and cultural significance, with archaeological sites that record the way of life of Aboriginal peoples over tens of thousands of years.
- The Ningaloo reef: a UNESCO World Heritage-listed destination, the turquoise lagoons of this reef are amazing places to swim with and experience marine life, home to more than 500 species of fish, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and whale sharks.
Wondering what people do once they venture into the wilds of Australia? There is no end of ways to see the country, whether you’re a first-time backpacker, a gap-year student, or a die-hard thrill seeker.
- Explore the great barrier reef: the largest coral reef in the world offering a plethora of water-based options, from snorkeling to scuba diving plus helicopter tours, glass-bottom boats, whale cruises, and swimming with dolphins.
- Laze on world-famous beaches: some of the most popular beaches in the world are in Australia, including Bondi Beach, Surfer’s Paradise Beach on the Gold Coast, and Stokes Bay.
- See wildlife firsthand: guided tours ensure you encounter the local fauna without disturbing their habitat — including trips to watch kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and wombats.
- Try out adventure sports: if you’ve always wanted to try surfing, skydiving, white water rafting or other adventure sports, Australia offers something for everyone.
- Indulge your city side: Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane all have their own unique personalities, with historic districts, restaurants, and local culture city-lovers to discover.
Before you go
Much of Australia is easy to navigate and typical of international norms: eye contact and handshakes are local custom. One exception: tipping is not expected except in special circumstances.
International travel details
Required travel documents are a valid passport and a valid visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). Visas are generally required upon entry into Australia for everyone except nationals of New Zealand and permanent residents of the Norfolk Islands. Short-term tourists or business travelers can apply for an ETA prior to arrival depending on their country of origin. Business Traveler Cards (BTC) are available for travelers from selected Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Prep for the wild side
What you’ve seen on TV is true: Australia is home to a large population of sharks, crocodiles, and venomous snakes and insects. However, the threat of these predators is very low unless you put yourself in harm’s way. Depending on the environment, visitors should consider shaking out and inspecting clothing prior to wearing as a preventive measure.
Travelers encountering a creature that they cannot identify should leave it alone and, if necessary, contact an animal or pest control unit for assistance. Note that there are freshwater sharks and crocodiles in many interior waterways throughout Australia — you can steer clear of these animals by being attentive to warning signs and asking experts for advice if unsure. Avoid swimming in the early morning and late evening hours.
If you’re headed to the outback, be sure to understand the scale of Australia’s land mass as well as the extreme weather conditions and prepare accordingly. Always have plenty of water on hand, and work with local experts to pack and plan properly for the adventure you have in mind. Take precautions when hiking: always let someone know where you are going and make sure to take plenty of proper gear (including insect repellent, sturdy shoes, etc.). Seek immediate medical care if you get bitten by a spider or a snake.
You need to have your wits around you for an adventurous trip in a different time zone, so plan ahead to avoid the effects of jet lag. And no matter where your adventures in Australia take you, pack sensibly for any possibility, particularly stocking up on sunscreen. The sun in Australia can be very strong and burn skin quickly
Health care and safety
No special vaccinations are necessary in Australia unless you have transitioned through or coming from a country with a yellow fever outbreak (causing you to need proof of receiving a yellow fever vaccine). For recommended and required vaccinations as well as preventative treatment for travel to Australia, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Know the nationwide emergency numbers: 000 (112 on cellphone). Ambulance services in Australia are very reliable and the quality is high. Ambulances are well-equipped and staffed with medical personnel who are capable of providing advanced life support.
Australia's medical care is of a high standard and major cities offer specialty care that meets international standards. While medical facilities in rural areas may be limited, the country is equipped for medical evacuation to urban hospitals.
Australia's hospitals generally have well-trained physicians, advanced technology, and comfortable accommodations. Payment for healthcare is accepted in cash or by credit card at most facilities, but some may not accept international medical insurance. In such cases, treatment may need to be paid for upfront and an insurance claim can be filed later. Nevertheless, emergency care will be provided even if there are outstanding billing issues.
Australia has a relatively low crime rate; however, petty and opportunistic theft does occur in large cities near hotels, tourist attractions, and in nighttime entertainment venues so keep an eye on your belongings. Travelers are advised to take a photographed copy of their passport and pack lightly when venturing out for daytime excursions. Demonstrations/strikes occur on occasion in large urban areas. Although protest actions do not usually affect the security environment, strikes have the potential to disrupt transportation and other services.
Natural disasters such as wildfires, tropical cyclones, and flooding present a concern in Australia. Tropical cyclone season in Australia typically runs from November through April. Small and medium-sized earthquakes occasionally strike in mainland Australia and in the Timor Sea. Shaking and earthquake tremors may occur in northern Australia but they rarely cause infrastructure damage or disrupt local transportation services.
Whether you’re keeping to the more urban areas and beaches of Australia or venturing deep into the outback, there are precautions you can take to protect your travel investment as well as your health. Travel medical protection plans are important, especially when traveling in less-populated areas — the right plan will not only ensure access to health care but also provide support to help coordinate medical evacuation if necessary or help guide you to a care facility. SafeTrip International Travel Medical ensures you have medical insurance for a sudden illness or an unfortunate accident — particularly helpful if you’re in the wilderness and need extra help.
If Australia is far from home, consider the SafeTrip International Travel Medical Plus plan which includes medical insurance as well as travel protection in case your vacation is interrupted or canceled due to health, emergency or other reasons. SafeTrip from UnitedHealthcare Global even offers specialized Extreme Sports Coverage, giving seasoned athletes and divers as well as first-time adventure travelers a backup plan should anything go wrong.
*Policy availability varies.