Travel insurance Asia

A hiker looks out on Mt. Fuji and the lake. They have travel insurance.

As Earth’s largest and most populous continent, Asia has it all. From sprawling landscapes to diverse cultures and deep, complex histories, there’s so much to explore and experience. 

Traverse the famous Mongolian steppe, or behold the magnificent snowy heights of Tibet. Relax on Vietnam’s pristine beaches or bask in the colourful vibrance of India. Metropolitan areas like Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo bustle with iconic vistas and nightlife. If the point of travel is to experience something new, there’s something new for everyone in Asia.

However, such a wide cross-section of life brings uncertainties and specific travel requirements that can be as varied as they are tricky to navigate. The right travel insurance policy could make a significant difference to your security, financial protection, and peace of mind while abroad.

Here’s our guide to comparing travel insurance policies for your trip to Asia. 

RELATED: Everything you need to know about travel insurance

What should my travel insurance policy for Asia include?

Tiered rice paddies, aerial view.
Photo by Jason Cooper.

Different international travel insurance policies will offer different levels and kinds of coverage. When comparing policies, you should take in account your needs, including any pre-existing conditions you may have, where you’re travelling and for how long, and what benefits you may need (including any optional extras). 

Remember, don’t just go for the cheapest policy: instead, go for a more value-based mindset. The best travel policies will have adequate coverage for your journey, and could reimburse eligible claims, such as unexpected emergency medical costs, flight cancellations, or lost/stolen/damaged belongings – all of which can be elevated risks when travelling around Asia. 

If you’re jet-setting in a rental vehicle, backpacking, or just sightseeing, an international travel insurance policy should suit your needs and budget. Make sure your policy offers cruise travel insurance as optional extra if you’re sailing the sapphire coastlines, or check out seniors travel insurance if you’re of a certain age. Some providers also offer activity specific extras for motorcycle/moped travel, snorkelling, snow sports, and more. Compare your itinerary with what’s offered in your policy’s PDS.

Optional extras usually come as add-ons for comprehensive travel insurance policies, which often give you the maximum level of coverage available with a specific provider. Policy tiers range from basic or essential to premium or comprehensive. 

Generally, a basic policy will cover benefits like overseas emergency medical expenses and personal liability. However, cover for things like flight delays, cancellations, loss of travel documents or cash, might only be available if you pay a higher premium. The question you have to ask yourself is, what can I afford to risk?

Risk is generally what travel insurance tries to mitigate, so it's important to take into account the specific warnings and dangers that may apply to your destination. Asia is no stranger to earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods, so keep in mind that trips booked after an event has been made public knowledge generally will not be covered by travel insurance. 

Different exclusions will also apply based on your behaviour abroad. Unattended belongings, adventure activities like bungee jumping undertaken without an instructor, illegal activities, drunk driving, and so forth won’t likely be covered by your provider. 

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What is the safest Asian country to visit?

Asian writing on a black stone temple, cherry blossoms.
Photo by Galen Crout.

One major concern for your travel insurance policy in Asia will be to keep official Australian government travel advice in mind. Because there are so many varying political/health situations in Asia, some countries are safer to visit than others. 

For a few years running, Japan and South Korea have been considered the safest countries to visit. However, due to the prevalence of COVID-19, even these edens are considered to carry a degree of risk. Exercise normal safety precautions as you would in Australia. 

Travel insurance will generally cover destinations listed by Smartraveller as Level 1 or 2. Anywhere categorised as Level 3 or 4 will automatically be excluded by most if not all travel insurance policies.

  • Level 1 - Exercise normal safety precautions.
  • Level 2 - Exercise a high degree of caution.
  • Level 3 - Reconsider your need to travel.
  • Level 4 - Do not travel.

At the moment, most Asian countries are listed as Level 2 (“Exercise a high degree of caution”), with varying degrees of safety and health risk among them. While many places are peaceful and safe, with undoubtedly beautiful landscapes and thriving culture, others can be particularly dangerous for foreigners and come with added need for caution. 

In Asia, there are several countries currently experiencing elevated levels of conflict and risk, including political unrest, mass demonstrations, severe weather, COVID-19 outbreaks, etc. which make them ineligible for coverage in the eyes of most travel insurance providers.

Asian countries Smartraveller advises AGAINST travelling to include:

Do Not Travel (Level 4)

  • North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
  • Afghanistan
  • Myanmar
  • Russia

Reconsider Your Need to Travel (Level 3)

  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan

Some Asian countries where travellers experience elevated risk or province-specific travel warnings include (but are not limited to):

  • China. In the past, travellers have been arbitrarily detained or been caught in the crossfire of political unrest and security incidents, particularly in the border regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. Travel to Tibet can only be conducted through an authorised tour, and you will need special permission from the Chinese government to visit. Currently, severe lockdown restrictions in Shanghai, Beijing, and other large cities have resulted in limited access to medical facilities, transport, and food security, so travellers should be wary of these locations for the time being.
  • Nepal. While the Himalayas still experience border disputes with China, Nepal also has a relatively high crime-rate against international travellers, as well as limited medical facilities. If you’re seriously injured, you will need to be medically evacuated, so it’s important to get travel insurance that covers this.
  • Philippines. COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat, but Smartraveller still advises exercising a high degree of caution due to high levels of crime and terrorism. Several Philippine regions are listed as 'Do Not Travel'.
  • India. While COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat in India, there are several regions experiencing high degrees of terrorist activity, violent conflict, and crime. Do not travel to the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir or the India-Pakistan border. Reconsider your need to travel to Assam (except Guwahati), Nagaland, Manipur, Chhattisgarh and the border areas of neighbouring states.
  • Bhutan. In addition to elevated levels of COVID-19, travellers should exercise a high degree of caution within 5km of the border with China/India due to the potential for armed conflicts and border disputes.
  • Thailand. While the country on the whole is Level 2, certain provinces have been listed as “Do Not Travel” due to extremely high levels of violence (Yala province, Pattani province, Narathiwat province, and Songkhla province).
  • Tajikistan. An overall warning is in place due to potential terrorist attacks and civil unrest. Visitors are advised not to travel to the border region with Afghanistan, as well as to reconsider their need to travel to the border regions with the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, and the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO).
  • Laos. Visitors are advised to reconsider their need to travel to the Xaisomboun Province, east of Vang Vieng, due to risk of armed violence.
  • Indonesia. Reconsider your need to travel to the Poso Regency in Central Sulawesi and to Papua Province due to violent demonstrations.
  • South Korea. While among the safer Asian countries, North and South Korea are still technically at war and the situation can deteriorate without warning. Check South Korea’s “Emergency Ready” app to stay up to date.
  • Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz Republic experiences the potential for civil unrest, threats of terrorism, and high levels of crime, in addition to the impacts of COVID-19, so travellers are advised to exercise a high degree of caution. Reconsider your need to travel to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border area, the Kyrgyz-Tajik border area, and Ferghana Valley due to security instability, violent crime, threats of civil unrest and terrorist attacks, and the ongoing risk of landmines.
  • Kazakhstan. Violent protests have outbroken this year, and terrorist attacks remain an ongoing threat. Tensions with the Kyrgyz border have also made border crossings unsafe and sometimes impossible for travellers, so exercise a high degree of caution.
  • Timor-Leste. Travellers should exercise a high degree of caution due to sudden and pervasive civil unrest, harassment, petty crime, and natural disasters/animal attacks (especially during the wet season in November-April), as well as COVID-19.
  • Bangladesh. Ongoing threats of terrorist attacks and COVID-19 mean travellers should remain cautious while touring Bangladesh. Travellers should also reconsider their need to travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts region due to the threats of political violence and kidnapping.
  • Malaysia. Reconsider your need to travel to the coastal region of eastern Sabah, including the islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities due to the high threat of kidnapping. There is also an ongoing threat of terrorism in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities.

Do Australians need a visa to travel to Asia?

Golden buddha statues sitting on a row.
Photo by Taylor Simpson.

Depending on the specific Asian country you’re travelling to, you may need an entry visa. Different countries also have different border requirements surrounding COVID-19 testing/entry/vaccination certificates, so it’s important to check the policies in place for your destination through either the government/embassy website or Smartraveller.

RELATED: What travel documents do I need? Pre-trip checklist

Can I get COVID-19 travel insurance for Asia?

An Indian temple at twilight.
Photo by Siby.

Because COVID-19 has such a strong presence in many Asian countries, your travel insurance provider may not cover pandemic-related claims while you’re overseas. Before you book your adventure, make sure you check the travel advice warnings for your destination(s). 

If your policy does cover COVID-19 related events, it may only be for overseas medical, cancellation, or evacuation costs if you contract COVID-19. It may not cover claims for mandatory quarantine or government-mandated border closures.

Different Asian countries also have different entry requirements in lieu of coronavirus, with some limiting inbound travellers based on whether they have a:

  • Valid vaccination certificate.
  • Entry declaration form.
  • Negative PCR and/or Rapid Antigen test result from within 24-72 hours of arrival.
  • Plans in place for hotel quarantine.
  • An existing and adequate travel insurance policy for COVID-related claims.

In general, the Australian government highly recommends unvaccinated travellers avoid international travel at this time, especially to countries with high incidence of COVID-19.

RELATED: Are you covered for Coronavirus under your credit card travel insurance?

Travel insurance tips for Asia

A Japanese torii gate overlooking a peaceful twilight lake.
Photo by Tianshu Liu.
  • Excess fees. Many insurance policies will offer cheaper premiums if you’re willing to pay a higher excess per claim. If you’re going to a relatively risk-free destination, this could be a good way to keep your premium low. However, keep in mind that you may have to pay more out of pocket if you need to file a claim, and different policies will often charge you multiple excesses for each claim.
  • Pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions have highly variable coverage under most travel insurance policies. While asthma, common allergies, and disabilities such as mobility, cognitive, or sensory impairments are usually automatically covered, other conditions like mental ill-health and pregnancy are not. No matter what, you should declare any and all pre-existing conditions to your provider, otherwise you may not be covered if you experience an emergency related to your condition while abroad. 
  • Unattended baggage. Loss or damage to your valuables is one of the most common claims for travel insurance policies, which is why providers try to wriggle out of paying up as much as they can. Anything left unattended (i.e. by the pool, by your back, on your restaurant table while you go to the bathroom) is considered to be unnecessary risk and usually won’t be approved by your provider.
  • Report incidents ASAP. Unless you have official documentation to support your claim, your travel insurance provider is unlikely to approve you. Report any incidents to the local authorities, even if you just lost your sunnies on the beach, and get a copy of the paperwork. This will come in handy when you file your claim later (which you should also do within thirty days of landing).
  • Driving in Asia. Different Asian countries have different laws surrounding foreigners and their eligibility to operate motor vehicles, so check your destination’s requirements before you travel, and make sure you take a copy of your valid Australian driver’s licence with you. (Consider getting an International Driver’s Permit, too).
  • Drink responsibly. Providers frown on claims related to incidents occuring while you were under the influence, so imbibe responsibly while abroad. You should also be highly cautious in Asia of accepting drinks, gum, or drugs from strangers, as there is a high prevalence in many countries of spiking and sexual assault.
  • Heed official travel advice. Again, travel insurance won’t cover trips to countries with strict warnings in place. You can monitor changing advice through the Smartraveller website.
  • Dual citizenship. Some countries, such as China, have varying recognition for dual citizens. If something happens, Australia may not be able to intervene on your behalf. Make sure you’re aware of the rules where you’re going, and keep the contact details of the Australian embassy on hand. 
  • Travelling alone. While many Asian countries are relatively safe for solo travellers, many can be dangerous for singles (especially after dark). If appropriate, arrange to travel in groups and only book accommodation/transport through officially vetted companies.
  • Emergency medical services. Many Asian countries have limited or inadequate medical facilities despite having high levels of disease (rabies, HIV/AIDs, malaria, cholera, COVID-19, gastroenteritis, etc.) and natural-disaster prone areas (mudslides, avalanches, flooding, typhoons, tsunamis, etc.). If you experience a medical emergency in a dangerous country, be sure your travel insurance covers medical evacuations and emergency services so that you can receive adequate care. Before you go, you should also make sure you’re up to date with any vaccinations, boosters, or medications you may need for your destination. 

Planning on visiting Asia soon? Compare international travel insurance policies below.

Compare international travel insurance policies - last updated 18 August 2022

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