Medical insurance in Bali

July 6, 2009

One of the conditions required by the authorities for expats to live here is to have medical insurance. This is not only a quasi-legal requirement to obtain a KITAS, it is prudent. I would go so far as to say it is essential.

I’m not talking about your standard expat ailments here like Bali belly, or a hangover where you are afraid that you are not going to die, or your garden-variety sniffles, insect bites or post-village-arak queasiness. I’m talking about appendicitis, dengue fever, avian influenza, motorbike road trauma – stuff that is potentially life-threatening. For such occasions, you need high-level medical help. While this can sometimes be accessed in Bali, it may well be that life-saving treatment may be required in Singapore or Australia. But of course you need to actually get there somehow. Commercial airlines won’t take you, so medical evacuation, provided by private companies at vast expense, may well become a necessity, not an option. Of course, you have put aside a lazy $30,000 – $50,000 USD just for this contingency, right?

Most people I know don’t have a mate with a spare Lear jet, or enough reserve Bintang money lying around in their sock drawer to bail them out of trouble. They get medical insurance.

I looked at perhaps five or six medical insurance plans which covered Bali and included medical evacuation. None were cheap, with annual premiums ranging from about $2,500 – $10,000 USD. The cost didn’t make sense. A cynical person might suggest that the insurance companies looked at their actuarial tables to assess the risk – then increased the required premiums by a whole order of magnitude. Great for companyshareholders; tidak bagus for those who actually need the cover.

Then I saw that there is actually an alternative. Travel insurance covers you not only for inconveniences such as cancellations and lost luggage, but also for medical cover and evacuations. I compared the medical cover component of my chosen travel insurance with straight medical insurance cover and found that there was no effective difference. Bingo!

My plan covers me for travel and medical expenses and medical evacuation anywhere in the world  that I want to travel for 13 months. It is renewable online. It cost me $700 AUD. It is exactly what I need. Security, and peace of mind for emergencies.

As an added bonus, I found out that my Australian Medibank Private cover could be placed in suspension for up to three years while I am travelling overseas, simply by paying one month’s premium and requesting a suspension. No loss of benefits, no waiting periods when you get back. If I’m back in Australia for a visit, I simply reactivate it, then suspend it again when I leave.

It’s good to feel protected while in a different country. If you can do that without paying through the nose, so much the better. Mind you, I’m sure I will manage to whinge about paying $700 AUD if I don’t fall off the motorbike in the next 12 months … !



  1. Vytai, enjoying your blogs,been there, done some of that, hope you get a chance to eventualy lay back and bintang out. Cheers, Gabrys

    • Oh, plenty of time for the Bintangs! 😉

  2. Hmmm, got my KITAS last year with no mention of needing insurance, is this just for retirement KITAS or was I just lucky? Having said that, have been looking into it, so would you mind sharing who you ended up getting your travel insurance from?


  3. I am a South African living in Bali, where can i obtain travel insurance? If i fly to auz and buy a ticket outward bound will i be able to purchase travel insurance or do i have to be an australian citizen to be able to buy travel insurance in auz?I too am sick of the incredibly high priced medical insurance policies i have had to purchase here in Bali for the past 13 years.

  4. J and Debra – thanks for your comments. I have always purchased travel insurance independently of air tickets. I find the bundled products are invariably more expensive.

    After looking at a number of products, I settled on World Nomads (Google is your friend) which had the best policy and terms for my needs, and the convenience of doing everything (including renewals) online. You might also want to follow @WorldNomads tweets on Twitter. Your needs may be different, but it’s worth doing the research!

  5. I am an Australian living in Bali. I want to know more about the medical insurance, where can i obtain the travel insurance?
    thank you

    • Hi Doug – see the comment before yours for my choice of insurance

  6. I took out worldnomads insurance for my Indonesian mother-in-law for when she visited to the UK. She went to the doctors for a routine ‘I’m feeling sick’ appointment, for which the fee was £50 (which buys you a 10 minute appointment with the doctor here in England).

    I got a receipt sent it off, and the bastards refused to pay. They demanded a full medical history to say she didn’t have a pre-existing medical condition.

    She didn’t have major surgery, just a simple doctor’s appointment, and they refused to pay without providing a medical history.

    Insurance companies suck.

    • I hear you, and share your concerns about the way some insurance companies provide their cover.
      However, another way to look at travel insurance is that it is for emergencies, which could be very costly for the uninsured. For that reason, most policies specify that you have to pay the first $100-$500 USD of any medical treatment to discourage minor claims. It is probably unfair to expect those companies to pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions too, so it doesn’t surprise me to hear that they wanted a medical history as proof. I am more than happy to pay for minor medical treatment while in Bali – and to save my policy cover for medical emergencies and/or evacuations that I could not hope to pay for myself from my meagre resources.

  7. hi thanks for the medical ins info. also we are australians wanting to move to bali. we would like to buy a business and house. we also have 1 child to send to internatrional school secondary school. can u help us with any info on who to contact so we can get the ball rolling.

    • Have sent you an email

  8. Borborigmus, thanks for this excellent article on health insurance. All your articles are a pleasure to read.
    If I understand correctly you have medical insurance with World Nomads which insures you while living in Bali and you re-activate your Australian insurance when you visit Australia. Does World Nomads not cover you while you are travelling to Australia or anywhere else?
    If anyone has had a claim with World Nomads I’d love to hear about it. Matthew didn’t have a good experience with them. I’ve always thought the proof of a good insurance company is the response when a claim is made.

    • Interesting. When I applied, I had an Australian address, and yes, there is no cover for the country of origin because technically this is travel insurance. Re the claims service, I couldn’t say – I have never yet had the misfortune of having to claim.

  9. I am confused (a very familiar state of mind). I got a quote from World Nomads for US$2500. for two of us for 12 months. But the quote for coverage said “worldwide except Indonesia” since I had put Indonesia as our country of residence. Is this insurance only available if I also have an Australian address?

    • That seems a lot higher than what I paid. Bear in mind that World Nomads changed their underwriters late last year and this affected all new policies. Mine is valid under the old rules until its expiry – after that, If WN is non-competitive, I will change. My friend, a recent expat, secured a policy for herself and son for around $650-700 AUD recently with Southern Cross Travel Insurance.
      As these types of policies are primarily ‘travel’ policies rather than purely ‘medical’, it makes sense that the country of origin is excluded. It then becomes doubly important to raise the policy before leaving home. In any event, I would argue that the ‘country of residence’ remains one’s home country, because even a KITAS is technically a ‘short stay permit’ (albeit for one year) as far as Indonesia is concerned. A 12 month travel policy should therefore be a completely legal method of covering yourself.
      I stand ready to be corrected by those, unlike myself, who have qualifications in the legal field … 😉

  10. Borborigmus, you’re a gem. I’ve been reading your blogs from the beginning in 6/09. They are such a pleasure and ever so helpful. We are trodding in your footsteps. In June my husband goes to Bali to oversee the building of our house. You understand the definition of “oversee” is to entertain his new best mates on the building site while he knocks back bintang to counter the effects of the tropical weather. I’ll stay in Oz until our dogs are allowed into Bali. Can’t leave them behind.
    Thanks heaps for all the guidance you’re providing and for the help with the insurance.

    • That’s funny – local the ‘overseers’ seem to do much the same. Suspect it is a world-wide issue.
      Re your dogs – that’s the same problem we had with our dog in Melbourne. Leaving the dog behind was just not an option. However, because no dogs are permitted into Bali at all, and probably will not be in the forseeable future, creative measures were called for. It is possible to bring your pooch in, just not legal. It is expensive, but where a family dog is concerned that is often not an issue. You need to allow a month for the rabies shots to take effect and for the dog to be re-tested for the correct level of rabies antibody. There are Australian-based pet transporters who can get the dog to Indonesia (not Bali), then you need to start getting creative to ensure your K9 gets to Bali safely. Email me for details if you want.

      • please reply fast my dog is on the way in the car from jakarta.what do i have to think of entering bali<'

      • I hope you have made special arrangements in advance for your dog’s entry to Bali at Gilimanuk. Without special import, quarantine and transfer arrangements, dogs are not being permitted to enter Bali and some are being destroyed. If you are using an experienced pet transportation firm, the risk is less – but even those will not bring a dog into Bali without all rabies inoculations and health certificates having been provided.

      • Nina, how is your dog travelling to Bali? By car with a pet transport company? Does your dog handler have the necessary vaccination and rabies certificates? If everything isn’t absolutely in order, including a microchip certificate you may want to consider turning back until things are all set up.

        Please keep us posted on your progress and what happens in Gillimanuk. I’ll be very keen to hear about it.

  11. We live in Bali. As with others never heard of insurance being a requirement for kitas. We looked at world nomads primarily for apocalyptic cover ( something requiring air evac) but were told that in the event of evac the policy would cover us but then terminate after care was complete. ie if we were to return to Indonesia after being evacd our policy would no longer be valid and we’d need to buy a new one. We ended up opting for an expat specific policy that covered family of four for around the $3k mark ( with a high excess as basic doc visits here cheap and not worth covering). Really only need it as disaster cover.

    • Really sounds like the terms of the policy have changed with the new underwriters. Bit rugged to have a ‘one major claim and you’re out’ policy though. I would say, for me at least, WorldNomads is no longer competitive.

      • We’re aware of the fact that our longer durations need refining from a price viewpoint. We’re continuing to look to refine this. We’re more than happy to field any questions you may have regarding travel insurance. Please feel free to drop us an email at info@worldnomads.com or follow and pop a question to @worldnomads on twitter.

        Remember, World Nomads is still primarily focussed on providing travel insurance for ‘overseas’ trips, it’s not a full replacement for a domestic health insurance cover that would cover you once you returned to your country of residence.

        Chris Noble
        General Manager

      • Thanks Chris. It would be great if WN returned to its highly competitive stance of last year. Of 12 or so providers I looked at in 2009, it was clearly the best at the time. Now, I can’t help the feeling that it’s getting creamed by the competition. In fairness, if your actuarial stats show that it’s not viable for WN to continue with low premiums and comprehensive cover, then so be it … business is business. Ultimately, price-sensitive consumers need to make their own personal choices.

  12. My friend had a claim with World Nomads that was paid in full.They were excellent.
    However,he travels to Jakarta from the Uk and always has a flight back. ie. he does not live permanently in Jakarta.
    Having read the policy,I do not think it really covers people who are living permanently abroad.

    • Good point. But it hinges on the definition of “permanent”. Even expats in Bali that are here for a year at a time are issued a KITAS – a temporary residents permit. And World Nomads allows a long-term policy of more than 12 months – so I would say we are pretty well covered.

  13. Great article….!!! Nice to know about new things with helping concept.

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