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Travel Insurance for the USA from Australia

Given its status in the global economy – and in popular culture – the United States of America is a very popular destination for Australians, either as tourists, or on a business trip. And being a highly developed nation, it is a fairly safe destination, albeit one where enhanced security measures can result in delays, detention, or even denied entry with little notice. Irrespective of where you are travelling to, travel insurance is always a wise investment, and when visiting the USA you can expect it to come in handy for covering the costs of unexpected occurrences.

Travel insurance for the US can look very different for each person, from covering basic medical needs for some, to comprehensive travel cover for others. It’s important to assess your needs before you invest in travel insurance, and to buy cover that meets these needs, and your budget.

New York skyline

What are some important things that should be covered by travel insurance in the USA?

Medical and dental expenses: Most insurers will cover you for any medical and dental procedures that are needed on your trip to the US, with the total benefit depending on your cover. Medical expenses in the US are extremely high, and can add up to thousands of dollars for minor procedures in hospital. Ensure you are fully covered for medical emergencies in the US, including evacuation if necessary. You should talk to your General Practitioner at least eight weeks prior to your trip, about vaccinations and precautionary measures for the US. Some areas in the US are subject to the Zika Virus, which can be dangerous for pregnant women and children - it is advisable to avoid these areas if possible, or seek medical guidance before travelling.

Lost or delayed luggage: Luggage can easily be lost or delayed when travelling, which can result in extra expenses. Your travel insurance should cover most of the costs involved in replacing lost items, or providing emergency items while you wait for your delayed luggage.

Delayed or cancelled flight: With terrorism a reality in the US, together with extreme conditions, there is always a possibility for flights to be delayed or cancelled. Your airline could reimburse you for this, but having travel insurance as a backup is necessary, for any expenses incurred over and above.

Rental vehicle excess: Every state in the US has different road laws and road conditions. Some areas can be extremely dangerous to drive through, with roads often being unfit for travel or high caution required. If you are involved in a car accident in the US, your travel insurance will cover most of the excess required for your rental vehicle.

24/7 emergency assistance: Don’t be left stranded in the US with no emergency backup. Choose an insurer that offers 24-hour emergency assistance to come to your aid, wherever you are in the US.

What are some things that are not covered by travel insurance in the USA?

Reckless and negligent behaviour: Lost or stolen belongings as a result of negligence, will not be covered by your insurer. The same goes for reckless behaviour where drugs and/or alcohol are involved - you will not be covered for any damages caused or medical emergencies.

High-risk adventures: Certain high-risk activities, such as hiking in the Yosemite National Park, biking around Lake Tahoe, California, base-jumping in Twin Falls, Idaho, or bobsledding in Utah - might not be covered by your insurance. Speak to your insurance provider about what activities are covered for your trip to the US, and if you will need additional cover.

Terrorism and natural hazards: The US has been subject to many politically motivated terrorist threats in recent years, and because of this, certain states can at times be unsafe for travel. Likewise, many parts of the US experience extreme weather conditions and natural hazards, such as wildfire, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, volcanoes, and heavy snow. There are often warnings about travelling to certain parts of the US, and if you are caught up in a dangerous situation, despite advance warnings, your travel insurance will not cover you. You can sign up for terrorism and natural hazard alerts and updates for the US through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). You can also read about terrorist-related news for the US through the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS).

Pre-existing medical conditions: Some insurers will not cover you for any pre-existing medical conditions, that you are currently receiving treatment for. Always declare any conditions to your insurer to find out if you are covered, or if you will need additional cover for those conditions.

Is it safe to travel to the US at the moment?

The Smartraveller website, operated by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, should always be checked ahead of any foreign travel for the latest advice. In the absence of any major incidents or natural disasters, visitors to the USA are generally advised to exercise normal safety precautions. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida - also known as the Gulf States - along with portions of the East Coast, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are sometimes severely affected by hurricanes, which can affect travel.

Taking out an appropriate level of travel cover is strongly recommended for travel to the US, if only to cover the usual risk of lost or delayed luggage, theft, and changes to travel plans due to severe weather.

Do I need a visa for the US from Australia?

Australian passport holders are eligible for a visa waiver for tourism and business stays up to 90 days. Australian residents need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) well in advance of their departure date. If your ESTA application is denied, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 2011, you will need to apply for a visa. Australian passport holders with a criminal record should always get advice from a US Consulate or Embassy before travelling.

Do I need an international driver's license in the USA?

In addition to having a valid driver's license for your country of residence, some states in the US require foreign nationals to also have a valid International Driving Permit (IDP). If you intend renting a vehicle and driving during your trip to the US, it would be better to apply for an IDP anyway. An IDP can only be issued in your country of residence, and having one will save you from having to check the requirements for each state and/or car rental agencies. Although many travel insurance policies include cover for car rental excess, check the value of the benefit beforehand so you can decide whether or not you need additional car rental insurance. You should also check the travel insurance policy for any exclusions on medical treatment relating to driving accidents.

How to get medical treatment in the USA?

You are not immune to accidents and illness when travelling, and while some might be minor enough to treat yourself, others may require professional medical intervention. Healthcare in the US is usually of a very high standard, but it is also prohibitively expensive. If you require medical treatment while visiting the US as a tourist or on business, you will need to visit an emergency room or healthcare facility, and they will all generally require payment upfront. Visitors to the US can call 911 in the event of an emergency, but the cost of the ambulance, and any care that follows will also be for your own account. Without travel insurance, requiring medical treatment in the US is sure to spoil the rest of your trip.

How much is travel insurance to America?

The cost of travel insurance is always influenced by a number of risk factors, including your age, current health, your destination, and any high-risk activities you intend participating in. Using a service that allows you to compare travel insurance policies is often the easiest way to find the right cover for you, and at a price you find affordable.

24-hour Australian Consular Emergency Helpline

Within Australia:

1300 555 135

Outside Australia:

+61 2 6261 3305

SMS:

+61 421 269 080

Australian Embassy, Washington, DC

Applies to: Alabama, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia.

Australian Embassy

1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20036-2273

Telephone: +1 202 797 3000

Fax: +1 202 797 3331

Website: usa.embassy.gov.au

Australian Consulate-General, Chicago

Applies to: Indiana, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wisconsin.

Australian Consulate-General, Chicago

123 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1330

Chicago, Illinois 60606

Telephone: +1 312 419 1480

Facsimile: +1 312 419 1499

Website: chicago.consulate.gov.au

Facebook: facebook.com/AusCGChicago

Australian Consulate-General, Honolulu

Applies to: Hawaii

Australian Consulate-General, Honolulu

Penthouse, 1000 Bishop Street

Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Phone: +1 808 529 8100

Fax: +1 808 529 8142

Website: usa.embassy.gov.au/honolulu

Australian Consulate-General, Houston

Applies to: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma or Texas.

Australian Consulate-General, Houston

3009 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 1310

Houston, Texas 77056

Phone: +1 832 962 8420

Fax: +1 832 831 2022

Website: usa.embassy.gov.au/houston

Australian Consulate-General, Los Angeles

Applies to: Alaska, Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, southern Nevada or Utah.

Australian Consulate-General, Los Angeles

2029 Century Park East, 31st Floor

Los Angeles, California 90067

Phone: +1 310 229 2300

Fax: +1 310 299 2380

Website: losangeles.consulate.gov.au

Australian Consulate-General, New York

Applies to: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands of the United States,

Australian Consulate-General, New York

150 East 42nd Street, 34th Floor

New York, New York 10017-5612

Phone: +1 212 351 6500

Fax: +1 212 351 6501

Website: newyork.consulate.gov.au

Australian Consulate-General, San Francisco

Applies to: Northern California, Idaho, Montana, northern Nevada, Oregon, Washington State or Wyoming.

Australian Consulate-General, San Francisco

575 Market Street, Suite 1800

San Francisco, California 94105

Phone: +1 415 644 3620

Fax: +1 415 536 1982

Website: usa.embassy.gov.au/san-francisco

We also offer insurance for other destinations such as New Zealand

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