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Top Long Stay Travel Insurance

A passport and insurance papers on the table with the text Best Long Stay Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance can be one of the most costly and not fun things you need to consider when traveling. You’ve probably secured travel insurance for shorter vacations in the past.

However, when you’re traveling to Australia on a working holiday visa means you could be there for an entire year or potentially three. So you might find yourself asking, what are the best long-stay travel insurance options?

Do not stress any further, I have created this comprehensive guide that gives you the best options and answers to your questions.

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1. Do I Need Travel Insurance on a Working Holiday Visa?

If you are traveling overseas it is always a good idea to have some form of insurance in case something happens. 

You can get cover for the following situations:

You can see why many choose travel insurance however it is not a requirement to have travel insurance if you are entering Australia on a working holiday or student visa. So it is a personal decision. 

However, while it does not appear to be a strict requirement to have healthcare coverage if you are applying for a working holiday visa it may be helpful particularly if you are from a country that does not allow you to get Medicare (see 3.1 below).

One of the questions on the visa application is “Do you hold health care insurance to cover your stay in Australia?”.

Before you purchase any travel or health insurance it is worth noting that some countries have reciprocal agreements for Medicare and healthcare with Australia that allows you access to heavily discounted or free medical treatment in Australia. Continue reading
Section 3 for more details about this.

1.1 Why Purchase Travel Insurance as a Backpacker

As mentioned above, not having Insurance can affect your application. 

But not all travel insurance is created equal. In fact, most travel insurance is designed for tourists and not backpackers who need coverage for things like outback adventures, surf lessons, and especially manual work which a holiday work visa often leads to.

I have used World Nomads and so do many others here at Jobaroo. One of our team members even had to make a claim and wrote a review about it. To see how it can cover your adventures, you can easily get a free quote on their website.

Yes, I have learned the hard way. But long before that, I have been on a mission to find insurance that meets the needs of backpackers like me who need flexibility in the length of stay but also want to choose the activities that are covered without paying too much. I also wanted coverage for the things that really mattered such as activities and maybe my laptop.

Additionally, what options are there for coverage in case of a lost or damaged passport right before a flight—as happened when I accidentally washed mine?

2. Top 5 Tips - What a Backpacker Needs in Their Insurance Policy

When you are shopping for travel insurance you will be confronted with long lists of what is covered and what is not – especially if you read the fine print. What do you really need to look out for? Here are the top five things that I believe are important.

  1. Flexibility in Duration of Stay. Second and third year visas, along with the side trips mean that backpackers need flexibility. Find a policy that covers you for the length of time, like 1 year but also enables you to extend the policy for however long you want and charge you for only that period.

The reality of long-term travel in Australia especially with the potential of getting a second-year visa means your need is unpredictable – maybe 1 year or just a few extra months, you will never know.
Many policies will have limited options. Some annual insurance policies only enable you to renew yearly. Ideally, you should be able to choose the number of extra months after your initial agreement and be able to change this easily. An infographic list of top 5 inusrance coverage for backpackers

  1. Adequate Emergency Medical Including Transport. Some nationalities are covered by the subsidized public healthcare system in Australia (Medicare) and this does have some advantages for those who can get it. However, if you plan to travel internationally (like New Zealand, Thailand, or Indonesia) Medicare will not cover you for those trips.

Also, emergency transport such as road or more often – air ambulance in the outback is not covered by Medicare. Therefore, it is important to ensure your policy contains a medical transport component.

  1. Adventure Sports. Choosing the sports or adventure activities you need coverage for without paying for the ones you don’t is the key here. Most insurance policies have two levels of coverage, basic and premium coverage for “adrenaline sports”. However, what I found is even the premium coverage does not actually cover travelers for many activities they are likely I want to do and the basic coverage is far too restrictive.
  2. Destinations. As a general rule, your policy should enable you to choose the specific destinations you need coverage for. In general, if you are not traveling North America, insurance should be significantly cheaper.
  3. Personal Items. Your passport, iPad, cameras, and laptop, apart from the clothes on your back, can be expensive to replace and easy to lose while travelling. You may want to consider insurance that enables you to replace these highly prized items. That said, I have found that adding on personal items can be expensive and for long stays it just doesn’t make sense.

    At the end of the day it’s up to you but my point is – do the math and ask the questions, “If I lost this item, would I need to replace it?” and “Could I replace it without the insurance money?”

3. How Does Medicare and Travel Insurance Work Together (or not)

For some long-term travellers to Australia, you can get access to the country’s national healthcare system called Medicare.

3.1 Who Can Apply for Medicare in Australia?

If your home country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia, you are entitled to Apply for Medicare. The following countries currently have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia:

If you are from one of these countries, that’s great news – you will have access to Medicare Services here in Australia. If you are not, unfortunately, you will not be covered for medical expenses, so you should consider getting travel or medical insurance, or both.

3.2 Applying for Medicare

If you are from one of the countries listed above that have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement you can Apply for Medicare.

Receiving a Medicare card is as easy as applying on the government’s Medicare website which will enable you to access Australia’s public health system. However, there are some exceptions so be sure to check out the RHCA page.

If you apply for Medicare, do this as soon as you arrive in the country. It is an easy process which you can do here. You will get access to the system through a temporary number immediately and then a card is posted out to you. If by chance you need to go to a Doctor or hospital in the meantime, you will be charged for the service but you will also be able to get a refund once you have applied.

3.3 What is Covered by Medicare in Australia?

As I have already pointed out, if may be helpful to get medical insurance if you are applying for a holiday work visa but if you can get Medicare it means that you do not have to make claims while you are in Australia such as a doctor’s visit and public hospital care. There is also subsidized prescription medicine available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme PBS. There is a long list of what is covered on PBS

Of course if you do get really ill, Medicare does not cover you to get back home whereas Medical Insurance often does.

3.4 What is Not Covered by Medicare in Australia?

If you are eligible for Medicare please be aware that many things are not covered by Medicare and indeed most Aussies have private health insurance to fill the gaps.

Some things not covered by Medicare that you may need:

It is important to note that travel health insurance often does not cover you for many of these things either although emergency transport is in our “Top 5 things backpackers need” list. The purpose of travel insurance is to get you through emergencies so that you can get longer-term care in your home country if you need it.

Note: “Reciprocal Health Care Agreements aren’t designed to replace private travel health insurance for overseas travel”*

*Source: Human Services Government Website Australia

3.5 What if you Decide to Stay in Australia Indefinitely?

You may not have considered this but it happens to many people who come to Australia and end up falling in love with the country and want to stay after they have completed their three years of Working Holiday Visa.

If you wish to stay in Australia indefinitely, Private Medical health insurance for Australian residents is what the many have in addition to Medicare. For most travelers, Private Medicare Health Insurance is seen as an unnecessary expense. However, if you decide to stay for a longer term then you might like to make the switch from being a traveler to getting insurance that covers being a resident.

4. How Much Insurance Cover Do I Need in Australia?

The most important part of a travel health insurance policy is coverage for your emergency medical expenses.

As a general rule, most policies will cover you for $2 – $5 million. Although it is possible (though highly unlikely) that you will need more than $1 million, the reality is that less coverage will most likely not save you much.

For backpackers, a lot of travel insurance offers simply do not work – you end up paying too much for coverage you do not need OR don’t have the coverage you do need especially in the case of adventure sports.

At a bare minimum, you should consider the activities you are likely to want to engage in and make sure you are covered for those. Beyond the basic emergency medical needs like transport, we recommend you make a little list of things that are most important to you. That way you can compare insurance companies based on your requirements.

For example:

4.1 Our Top Pick for Travel Insurance

World Nomads – Simple, Flexible Travel Insurance Made for Backpackers

Finally, a company that has recognized the needs of “real” travelers. World Nomads are a clear standout amongst their competitors who prefer to focus on the tourist crowd.

World Nomads focuses on the needs of backpackers:

Best of all, because they only offer insurance online they are able to keep costs lower and pass the savings on without compromise. You see a full review here including what happened when one from our team made a claim.

5. Having a Holiday Outside of Australia - Travel Insurance

Whilst you are in Australia working hard for one to three years you might feel like a holiday and want to go outside Australia for a short period.

With Australia being located close to many Pacific Islands, South-East Asia, and New Zealand you have a great opportunity to buy a short and usually relatively cheap flight to these countries that are usually quite far and expensive from Europe or North America.

Many backpackers take advantage of the close proximity and cheap flights every year, so what to do about your travel insurance you might ask?

I ran through the quotes on World Nomads using a range of scenarios, based on a 1-year travel insurance policy and have summarized the best options for you below.

Note: Once you have created your policy you cannot add countries to your policy so there are a few options to consider let’s go through them.

  1. The simplest option is to include worldwide cover when you create your policy, however, this is roughly 30% more expensive than just taking out travel insurance for Australia.
  2. Another option that works out relatively cheaper than above is to get a policy just for Australia for 1 year and get a new policy that covers you for the few weeks you are on holiday. You will be paying for two policies at the same time but it still works out a lot cheaper than having a whole-year policy worldwide because premiums for Travel Insurance in Australia are a lot lower and a short policy for the period you are in Southeast Asia is relatively cheap. This option is also useful if you are still determining when and where you are going or planning a spontaneous trip.

It is worth noting that I ran through a quote scenario for worldwide and a separate quote including Australia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, and the quotes were the same.

  1. Another option if you are only planning a Pacific Island holiday is to get travel insurance for Australia and the Pacific for 1 year. This worked out only slightly more expensive than an Australia-only policy and a lot cheaper than a worldwide policy.
  2. The last option which you might have considered but we do not recommend would be to wait until you are in Australia and have more firm plans about overseas travel and buy a policy.

This option is unlikely to work firstly because you may not have the required insurance to get a visa for Australia and secondly you won’t be covered until you purchase a policy and there is a waiting period of 72 hours usually until you can make a claim (this prevents people purchasing a policy after the event has happened and making a claim). So you won’t be covered on your way to Australia.

6. Final Thoughts

Insurance expenses may not be fun especially when you are on a budget and feel that you will probably not need to use the insurance anyway – well that’s the way I feel. So I am pleased to find at least one company that actually seems to be trying hard to do the right thing. The bible for backpackers – Lonely Planet even recommends this travel insurance company.

Australia is a favorite destination for worldwide travelers and with lots of adventures in store – what could be better than to be worry-free and to explore fully?

Here is more information about travel insurance for Aussie backpackers.


As always, you need to check the fine print when signing up to any insurance. Look for the PDS or Product Disclosure Statement. If you struggle to understand the details, ChatGPT can be helpful in gaining a clear understanding.

Although not necessarily a specific requirement, you may need medical coverage to get a Visa especially if you are from a country that does not have a reciprocal agreement with Medicare. Some countries are eligible for Medicare, see section 4. But even the, as the Aussie government says “Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (ie Medicare) isn’t designed to replace private travel health insurance for overseas travel”*

They also ask you if you have it as part of the visa application.

*Source: Human Services Government Website Australia. 

The beauty of Medicare (if you can get it – see above) is that if you do get a “sudden illness” or “seriously injured” you can go to a Doctor’s office or Hospital and may not need to claim through your insurer. Although medical transport is NOT covered by Medicare. This saves on paperwork but you can also go to the doctor for a minor injury or check-up (which may not be covered) and the Medicare system will reimburse you the cost.

Backpacker insurance is designed specifically for the needs of long-term travel.

There are three (3) important elements:

  1. Coverage for working overseas
  2. Normal activities that would otherwise be seen as high-risk activities (like surfing and diving) are covered or can be covered.
  3. Flexibility in the amount of time you can add on. For example, many people want to stay for weeks or months. Most companies only allow “a further 12-month period”. This is essential for Australia because you may want to get a 2nd working holiday visa or perhaps you simply want to travel in other countries for a while on the way.

There is a huge difference. In overly simple terms, travel insurance covers health from the perspective of being overseas. This may include moving you to a hospital at home and getting your body home if the worst happens. In addition to this, there are many other things you may want coverage for trip cancellation, baggage, and personal belongings.

As you can imagine, a visit to the doctors while you are overseas long term is a very big possibility. If you can get Medicare it may save you the paperwork and hassle of making a claim. You also should consider that most insurers require that you pay an “excess” which you need to pay before the policy takes effect. This means that it may not be worth claiming smaller expenses like a doctor’s visit.

The idea of insurance is to cover you for the unexpected so you will find that you need to declare pre-existing conditions and then any claims made that could be related to those conditions will not be covered. The alternative is to not mention your pre-existing conditions but this is strongly not advised as any checks on your medical records would likely reveal this and potentially make your claims unsuccessful.

Credit card insurance is often a case of, “you get what you pay for”. In general, it is quite limited and will not give you the coverage, especially for long-term travel. Reading the fine print will expose its weaknesses. You also have to consider how easy it would be to make a claim and there may be other conditions like having to pay for the travel with that particular card.

This is where the rubber hits the road! Each company is different. The traditional way was to give you a 24-hour hotline phone number and get you to send receipts. Many make you download a form and print it out for filling out and sending. For backpackers or long-term travellers this can be easier said than done. A handful also offer the ability to upload documents online which is far better for someone on the road.

As far as recommendations go most are focused on Travel NOT backpackers and as we have discussed there are some very important differences. (see above “the difference”)

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