Recreation and community activites: tips for older travellers

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1 Recreation and community activites: tips for older travellers This Sheet provides information for older travellers including: n planning your trip n some important tips n arranging travel documents and travel insurance, and n important contact details for Australians travelling overseas. Planning your trip Places to start your planning and research include: n Get Up and Go n Card or for information and discounts n Lonely Planet n The Australian Senior Newspaper (free from most chemists or call to have one sent to you) n Your local travel agent will have brochures n Visit the Federal Government s website for information and advice, or ring for automated travel advice. Some important tips n Carefully check the details and fine print for your tickets, travel insurance, tours and other arrangements to be sure all the services you need are included in the price, and for their cancellation policies. n If you are not confident booking travel on the internet, check with someone who is, or use a travel agent. n When using a travel agent, check that they are properly licensed by ensuring they display the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) sign, or by calling the Office of Fair Trading on

2 2 n Take out travel insurance as soon as you start to pay any money so you are covered for cancellations. n Get your itinerary, price, insurance and travel documents in writing. n Check your passport is current for 6 months after your intended return date (just so you have a buffer). n Monitor airline security requirements and the Australian Government s travel advisories before leaving home. n Take a mixture of credit cards and travellers cheques if travelling abroad. n If travelling as a couple, avoid one person carrying all the valuables share the load and spread the risk. n Leave copies of your itinerary and details of your valuables with someone at home. Ideally, leave valuables at home where possible. n Follow any tips for your safety, protection of valuables and culturally appropriate behaviour given by your travel guides or representatives. n Accept that things can and sometimes do go wrong. Decide in advance what to do if you miss flights or find a booking is wrong. Being prepared allows you to make these events part of the travel experience and laugh as you relate your travel tales to friends. Travel Insurance Before choosing a travel insurance policy, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) advises that travellers consider the advice outlined below. For more information contact the ICA on or visit their website at n Travel policies cover a range of claims including overseas medical expenses, repatriation expenses, lost luggage, trip cancellation and liability. The wording of your policy will tell you precisely what you are (and are not) covered for. n Certain risks may be excluded from some policies. Be aware of exclusions such as luggage left unattended in a public place, insolvency of the airline, war-like activities and terrorism.

3 3 n Make sure your policy is recognised internationally. In some countries, if a health service doesn t recognise the insurance underwriter, you may not be admitted to hospital. n If travelling overseas, always carry the contact number for your emergency assistance provider. n Declare any pre-existing conditions for both you and any relatives at home. Most insurers will not fly you home early if a relative dies from a pre-existing condition, or if a relative over a certain age becomes ill or dies. A pre-existing condition is any condition for which you (or your relative) have been seen by a doctor or taken medication in the month before you buy your insurance. n You will not be covered if you simply change your mind about your travel arrangements. n Keep receipts for all goods you buy for your trip both before you leave and while overseas. You will need them if you decide to claim against your insurance policy. n If you become ill or injured, contact your travel insurance provider. Collect all medical and other related documentation that will be needed for making your claim. Get a signed statement from the Registrar of the hospital where you were treated. n For travel to the USA, Japan and Europe make sure you have unlimited hospital/medical cover. n Australia has reciprocal Medicare-type cover for some countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. However, if a bed is not available in a public hospital you may be treated and charged as a private patient. n Check that you will be covered for full medical evacuation, in case you need to be transported home in a medical emergency.

4 n Travel insurers will generally cover cancellation due to safety warnings and bulletins that are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but if you re concerned, check that your policy provides this cover. n Your application for travel insurance will be assessed in four main areas: 1. Your age each insurer sets their own criteria so it is essential to shop around for the best value, especially if you are over 75 and require no medication; 2. Destination insurance for countries where medical costs are high will cost more; 3. The length of your stay overseas, and 4. Any pre-existing conditions you may have these will add to your insurance costs, especially if you are aged over 75. Which insurance company? Check the terms for your travel plans with your existing insurance company. Some credit cards include travel insurance but check that it meets your needs. Costs, cover and exclusions vary extensively between companies, so shop around for price and level of cover. Some companies with a reputation for being senior-friendly are: COTA National Insurance Cover AIG Australia National Insurance Or search the internet for Travel Insurance Australia for a more comprehensive list of companies. How will a pre-existing medical condition affect my insurance? Some insurers will not automatically issue a policy if you are 70 years or over, and may ask you to submit a medical assessment form. You must declare any pre-existing condition/s and apply to have them covered. This may mean having a medical assessment and, if your application is accepted, an additional

5 5 premium may apply. Insurance companies also have the right to cover or decline to cover any pre-existing medical condition. Make sure that your policy covers you in all the areas for which you require cover. Where can I have a medical assessment? All travellers should have a complete medical examination before travelling overseas. This should include a medication review as well as an assessment of your general fitness for the particular trip you are planning. You can go to your own doctor (GP) or contact the medical Travel Clinic, which is a nationwide association of medical practices with expertise in travel medicine. They provide travel health care advice, supply disease prevention tips and information sheets for each major destination, and will give vaccinations at a reduced cost. Contact details: Health information line For appointments call or Visit the website Medical tips for travellers n Before travelling, check with your doctor if you have any chronic health problem such as heart disease, an immunosuppressive illness, angina or high blood pressure; if you have had recent surgery or a heart attack; or if you take regular medicines. n If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about any need to adjust your insulin or other doses to allow for differing time zones. n Pack enough medication for your trip and carry a letter from your doctor which summarises your medical history, lists your medications and includes information on how to contact him or her this is important as some drugs which are allowed in Australia may be illegal in other countries. n Carry medication in your hand luggage for easy access and safety, in case your checked in luggage is lost or delayed.

6 6 n Be careful if buying drugs off-the-shelf while overseas the strengths may vary to those you normally take. n Vaccinations such as typhoid and hepatitis A are recommended for some countries (check with your doctor). Older travellers should consider vaccination against pnuemoccocal disease and influenza before travelling. Also check you have had tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations in the last ten years. n If you are travelling to a destination where there is the risk of malaria, take your anti-malarial medication as prescribed by your doctor. n If you rely on a CPAP sleep support machine, check that your airline allows it onboard. n While travelling, if you suffer from diarrhoea for more than 24 hours see a doctor, and be aware that diarrhoea can stop medication from working. Carry preparations containing readily absorbed salts to assist you to regain energy and allow speedier recovery from any attacks. Ask your doctor about the best ones to take with you. Financial aspects of travelling Deposits, pre-payments and cancellations Before you leave a deposit find out whether it is refundable, or if a percentage may be kept to cover the agent s costs. Remember, paying a deposit does not always mean the price of your trip is fixed. When making a booking, get complete details of what you are booking and paying for in writing, and make sure you get a receipt. Take out insurance as soon as you pay any money, and check that your policy covers you for cancellations.

7 7 Travel Compensation Fund The Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) monitors the financial viability of all licensed travel agents in Australia except those in the Northern Territory. The TCF compensates people who have suffered financial loss because a travel agent has not passed on funds for travel arrangements to the relevant supplier. It does not compensate for any money you lose that you have paid directly to a travel supplier rather than through a travel agent. If you need further information contact the TCF on (02) Centrelink pensions If you receive a Centrelink payment, you must contact Centrelink to check on your entitlements and responsibilities whilst overseas. Call Centrelink International s on If you need to contact Centrelink from overseas call Veterans Affairs pensions If you receive a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs you must contact them about your travel plans (on or for rural callers). Your pension will not be affected until you have been out of the country for more than six months. After six months your pharmaceutical allowance may be cancelled. Your Veterans Affairs Gold Card will not cover you for all health conditions while you are overseas, so you will still need travel health insurance. Medicare cover As mentioned above, Australia has a reciprocal health care agreement with specific countries which entitles Medicare card holders to assistance with the cost of medical treatment while visiting. This arrangement does not cover the costs of returning home for medical reasons, so you will still need private travel insurance. For more detailed information about reciprocal arrangements call Medicare Australia on

8 8 Travel documents Visas A visa is a form of permission that allows visitors to enter, transit or remain in a particular country. It does not guarantee entry that decision remains the right of the immigration officials of the country concerned. There are many types of visas and it is essential to obtain the correct one for your intended stay. You must keep your visa current and valid, and comply with any limits the country you are visiting places on your length of stay. Contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on or visit for information on visa requirements. Passports Many countries require you to have at least six months validity remaining on your passport before you enter. Check your passport s expiry date as soon as you re planning to travel and allow enough time to get a new one if necessary. A five year passport is now available for Australians aged 75 years and over, for half the price of a standard (ten year) passport. Application forms are available from Post Offices and online at If you or your parents were born overseas If you or your parents were born overseas you may have dual nationality, which can influence your travel plans. Check with both the other country s embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on If you have an Australian passport, use it to leave and enter Australia even if you have dual nationality. Important overseas contacts Consular assistance (24hrs) For information on the protection and welfare of Australians abroad call (02) or Be aware that, if you use the passport of another country, the Australian Consul may not be able to find or assist you once you are overseas.

9 Australian Customs This service provides information for travellers arriving in or leaving Australia including: n procedures when you leave from, and/or arrive in, Australian ports and airports; n what you need to declare; n how to register expensive items; n tourist refund schemes; n how much money you can carry; and n what to do when travelling with medical prescriptions. Phone: Website: Australian Quarantine and Inspection To find out what goods are prohibited or need to be declared phone or look up the website General travel tips Flying comfort n Avoid dehydration during flights by drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids. n Wear loose, comfortable clothing and take frequent walks around the aeroplane to assist circulation. Most airlines also list exercises you can do from your seat. n Take your medication as recommended by your doctor. n Ask your travel agent about tour operators who cater for older travellers specific needs (eg assistance with luggage, availability of wheelchairs in terminals that require lots of walking and travel arrangements that offer extended rest periods if required). For more information, phone or go to

10 10 Safe eating and drinking while overseas Check with your GP or travel agent about any special care you need to take with local food or drink in the countries you will be visiting. For example, in some countries travellers are advised only to drink water from sealed bottles, or which has been boiled or filtered. When eating fresh food in developing countries, make sure that you peel it yourself. Where food has been cooked, eat it while it is still hot. For more written information Ring the () and ask for the useful publications by Australian Government s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: n Tips for Women Travellers n Tips For the Travelling Senior n Hints for Australian Travellers initiative of the NSW Government Every care has been taken in the preparation of this document and the information it contains is believed to be accurate. does not endorse, recommend or guarantee the services listed in its Sheets, in any other publication or on its website. Before seeking advice or services you should make your own enquiries about the accuracy and reliability of the information provided, and decide whether the product or service is of good quality and is suitable for your needs. The Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care suggests that professional advice be sought wherever necessary. December 2006

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