What can I do to stay safe when I travel overseas?
It’s a good idea to do some research on the country you want to visit.
The destination country's political situation
You will want to know if your travel destination is experiencing civil war, terrorist attacks, or other factors which make it a risky choice. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) issues travel advisory notices about the risk levels of various countries.
Also you may need certain vaccinations to protect you from endemic diseases e.g. malaria, dengue fever or measles. You can talk to your doctor or a travel health specialist about what kinds of vaccinations you might need, and they can arrange for you to get the required ‘jabs’. More general advice on travel health is on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trades’ (MFAT) Safe Travel website.
It’s also worth reading travel guides and visiting online travellers’ forums (such as the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree) to find out about local conditions from recent overseas visitors. For example, you can find out whether you need to take extra precautions as a lone woman travelller, and about local customs. You may also find useful information on the websites of the relevant embassies.
It is important that you buy adequate travel insurance, to cover you in case you become ill while overseas, lose your stuff or get injured. Travel insurance is recommended even if you will be visiting Australia or the United Kingdom, with whom New Zealand has a reciprocal health agreement, as the insurance can cover you for events unrelated to medical treatment. You can read more about this on our Travel Insurance page.
Before you go, register with MFAT so that you can be contacted if there is an emergency at home or in the destination country, and find out in advance the location of the nearest New Zealand Embassy, High Commission or Consulate - in case you lose your passport, for example.
More advice and tips, including what to do when things go wrong, are on the MFAT Safe Travel website.
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What happens if I fall ill when I’m overseas and don’t have travel or medical insurance?
You aren’t legally required to purchase travel or medical insurance before you go overseas, but you could be taking a big risk travelling without it. Getting medical treatment overseas can be very expensive, and you can incur other costs as well.
If you are in Australia or the United Kingdom, you may be entitled to some publicly funded non-routine medical treatment under the reciprocal healthcare agreement we have with these two countries.
You can contact the nearest New Zealand embassy for:
- information about local medical facilities,
- help with contacting your family and insurance provider (if you are insured),
- financial assistance (only in very limited circumstances and you must repay it within 30 days).
However you will be liable for your medical costs (excluding those provided free under a reciprocal healthcare agreement), and the costs involved in returning to New Zealand.
More information about how New Zealand Embassies can help New Zealanders abroad is on the Safe Travel website.
If you are injured while overseas (for visits of up to six months) you may be eligible for help from ACC for the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation which you receive on your return. See ACC booklet, 'Getting help if you’ve been injured while travelling' for more details. You can read more about ACC on our Accident Compensation Corporation page.
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If a relative dies overseas with no insurance cover, who has to pay to bring the body back?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the local New Zealand Embassy can offer advice and help you make plans for their return to New Zealand or overseas burial, but the next of kin is responsible for all associated costs.
More information about what happens if a family member dies overseas is on our Death page.