Whether you’re zipping through cobbled laneways in Europe, cruising on a chopper across the United States, taking a motorcycle tour through the spectacular Himalayas, or getting lost in the bustling streets of Southeast Asia, riding a motorbike or scooter while you’re travelling overseas can be a thrilling way to see the sights!
Some of the other benefits of hiring a motorbike, moped or scooter on an overseas holiday include:
- Convenience – You can easily avoid gridlocked traffic and main highways, and take your time exploring the roads less travelled instead.
- Flexibility – It frees up your schedule when you don't have to worry about fitting your travel plans around bus or train timetables.
- Independence – You can come and go as you please with full control over your own travel itinerary.
However, overseas motorcycle riding does also come with some added risks.
Heavy traffic conditions, poor road quality, unfamiliar road rules and lack of experience operating a two-wheeled vehicle are just a few of the many risk factors travellers should take into consideration before hopping on a bike overseas.
Many travellers also don't realise that their travel insurance company may not provide financial cover for emergency medical expenses if you're injured while riding a motorcycle or moped overseas.
Considering a hospital stay in the USA can set you back over $5,000 USD per night, and DFAT reports repatriation costs from Bali can be in excess of $60,000 AUD, we think this is pretty important.
If you're considering riding overseas, read our motorcycle travel insurance guide below to make sure you're covered.
8 Common Motorcycle & Scooter Injuries
- Road rash after falling off the motorbike.
- Concussion after a road accident.
- Severe head injuries if you don’t wear a helmet while riding and you fall off your motorbike.
- Broken bones after a collision – whether that’s with a tuk tuk, bicycle, another motorbike, a person, or something else!
- Being thrown from a motorbike or scooter can result in muscle damage anywhere on your body.
- There’s the risk of biker’s arm – nerve damage to your hands and arms caused by you trying to protect yourself in a fall.
- Leg injuries including shattered bones and fractured knees are also common in motorcycling accidents.
- It’s unpleasant to think about, but there’s also the risk of being paralysed, permanently injured or even dying in severe crashes. This can happen anywhere, including the popular Route 66 in the USA, on a quiet country road in South Africa, or on the bustling streets of Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia or India.
Does travel insurance cover riding motorcycles and scooters overseas?
Just like ski insurance for snow sports or health insurance for specific pre-existing medical conditions, motorcycle insurance for riding a bike or scooter overseas may not be automatically included in your travel insurance.
You may have to pay an additional premium to be provided with cover, or it may not be covered at all.
If you look at a travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) you’ll likely find cover for motorbike riding falls into one of these five categories:
1) Motorcycling is not mentioned
In this case you may not have cover for any unexpected costs related to riding motorcycles or scooters overseas.
Check your insurer’s policy wording to see if your travel insurance only provides cover for specific listed activities and whether cover is provided for motorcycle or scooter riding.
2) Motorcycling is excluded
Travel insurance policies have different exclusions that apply to their policies.
Riding a moped, scooter or motorcycle overseas may be listed as a General Exclusion, meaning you would not be covered for any emergency medical expenses or hospital expenses if you have an accident while riding.
3) A restriction on maximum engine size for the vehicle
This is likely to indicate that cover is provided, but only so long as your chosen motorbike, scooter or moped doesn’t exceed the power limits defined in the travel insurance policy.
The most common engine capacity limit is 50cc for scooters and mopeds, but every insurer is different so you'll need to double check your PDS.
4) Licence requirements
You may have cover for riding overseas if you hold a valid Australian motorcycle licence or licence for the country you’re travelling in.
For example, to legally drive or ride in Thailand you'll need to hold an international driver's permit, as well as a valid Australian motorcycle licence. The licence issuer is also an important consideration, as some travel insurance providers may only cover you if you have a valid motorcycle licence issued by a government authority.
On the other hand, to ride legally in Bali you'll need to hold a local licence which is only available to certain visa-holders by completing a practical test at the Denpasar police station.
5) Other requirements
There may be other conditions or requirements you will need to meet such as requiring you to ride and act in a responsible way, obey the local traffic laws, and wear a helmet.
These are in place to help you avoid an accident, or to at least lessen the extent of your injuries if you do get involved in an accident.
It’s compulsory to wear a helmet while riding a motorbike in Cambodia, Thailand and Bali.
Why do I need travel insurance for motorcycling or scootering?
Riding overseas does come with an increased risk of injuries.
It's important to compare travel insurance policies to make sure you have cover for emergency medical expenses and hospital costs if you are injured while riding a motorbike or scooter overseas. This can include the cost of an ambulance, hospital bills, ongoing medical treatment, an emergency flight home, or even the return of your remains if the worst should happen.
Without travel insurance that provides cover for motorcycling or scootering, you (or your family) would have to pay all of these expenses out of your own pocket.
Does the motorcycle engine size affect my travel insurance?
Some travel insurers will set a limit on the size of the motorbike engine they’ll provide cover for.
For example, if you’re riding a motorbike over 250cc, you should check to make sure your policy doesn’t have a limit for motorbike engine sizes. If they do and you exceed that limit, you may not be covered for medical emergencies while you are riding your motorbike.
What could be excluded in a travel insurance policy?
Even if your travel insurance does provide emergency assistance for motorcycling or scootering, there may be some conditions to keep in mind.
If there's General Exclusions that apply, it means you may not have cover for medical expenses in certain situations.
Some common General Exclusions to look for include:
- Driving without a valid Australian motorcycle licence
- Breaking the road rules in that country
- Not wearing a helmet (for example in Cambodia where it’s the law to wear one)
- Riding under the influence of alcohol
- Riding under the influence of any illicit substance
- Racing (including on a track)
- Intentionally putting yourself in harm’s way by doing stunts or tricks
Before you travel, you should also check that your destination is considered safe to visit on Smartraveller.gov.au.
Smartraveller provides updates on travel destinations around the world, including the risks travellers may come across. It also provides up-to-date travel advice and warnings from the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
This is important because travel to destinations listed as 'reconsider your need to travel' or ‘do not travel’ often fall under a General Exclusion. This means that even if you meet the requirements for motorbike or scooter riding under your travel insurance policy, you may not be covered for riding (or anything at all) within those destinations.
Will my motorbike be covered by travel insurance?
Most travel insurers do not automatically provide rental vehicle insurance or cover for equipment including bicycles, motorbikes and scooters. This may be an optional extra you can add to your policy when you purchase travel insurance.
For example, Fast Cover offers a Bicycle Pack add-on to cover bicycles.
What about cover for rented motorbikes?
Rental vehicles including motorbikes are generally not covered by travel insurance. The same goes for the rental insurance excess, which refers to the amount you’ll have to pay the rental company if the bike gets damaged.
Whether you’re renting a motorbike in Bali, the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia or anywhere else, ensure you read the rental agreement and see how much you would have to pay if it becomes damaged. Your travel insurance will generally provide cover for injuries you sustain while riding, but most likely not for damage to the bike itself.
Would I be covered for injuring someone else in a motorbike accident?
Generally this is not covered by travel insurance.
You would be covered if you are injured (provided you weren’t driving illegally in any way, and subject to the terms of your policy) but you may not have cover for Personal Liability if you injure someone else or damage their property while riding a motorbike, scooter or moped. Check your travel insurer’s policy wording in the Product Disclosure Statement to be sure.
What do you need before you buy travel insurance with motorcycle cover?
People tend to throw caution to the wind when they’re on holiday, which can be exciting in some instances, but downright dangerous in others!
This applies to riding motorcycles overseas. Many people who have no training or experience riding a two-wheeled vehicle at home decide to try it for the first time when they’re overseas, despite the obvious risks this poses.
If you’re travelling to a foreign country it’s best to thoroughly research the riding laws that will apply to you. Your travel insurance will generally only provide you with cover if you’re obeying the law, and that means having the correct licences or permits.
In most cases, the licence also needs to be issued by a recognised government agency.
The two things you'll most likely require to ride overseas are:
1) An International Driver's Permit
In many countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates, you can only legally drive if you have an International Driver’s Permit.
The permit is not a substitute for your licence. It’s proof that you hold a valid driving or riding licence in your home country, and allows you to drive or ride the same class of vehicle covered by your licence in your home country.
So if your motorbike licence restricts the engine size of the vehicles you can ride, you can’t legally ride a scooter or motorbike with a larger engine capacity while overseas.
You still need to carry your Australian driving or riding licence with you when you travel.
Some travellers may be tempted to simply tick the ‘motorbike’ box on their international drivers permit even if they aren’t licensed to ride them at home. When your travel insurer investigates the accident, and finds out you’ve been riding a motorbike illegally, you’ll probably have to pay for your medical care out of your own pocket.
2) A Local Licence
In some countries, such as in Vietnam, you may also be required to hold a local licence.
In a few countries like Laos and Indonesia, there’s also the option of getting a local licence instead of an International Driver’s Permit. Getting a local licence in Bali is as simple as going to the Denpasar police station, completing a short practical test, and paying a fee.
Remember though, wherever you get a local licence, you can’t use that licence to ride a motorbike or scooter outside that country! This would again be riding illegally, and travel insurance may not provide you with cover.
But I was told I didn’t need to worry about a motorbike licence in Southeast Asia?
Thousands of tourists ride motorbikes or scooters in Southeast Asia each year, and many do it without a licence. That doesn’t mean it’s legal or safe!
The shops that offer bikes to travellers may not ask for your licence, but it’s not their responsibility to do so.
If you ride illegally, they aren’t going to get into trouble for it, you are!
10 travel insurance tips for riding a motorbike, scooter or moped safely overseas
We want you to have fun and be safe when you travel.
If you’ve got your licences and permits all sorted and are ready to travel, keep these tips in mind to stay safe on the roads:
Ensure you have the correct licence for your destination
Whether that’s a local or international licence. You should also take into consideration the engine size of your motorbike, scooter or moped.
Wear a helmet
Preferably one that protects your whole face. Remember, it's compulsory to wear a helmet in Thailand, Cambodia and Bali!
Wear protective clothing
This means no thongs and t-shirts! Wear a protective jacket, long pants, shoes that cover your whole foot and gloves too! When you fall, you’ll naturally put your hands out to protect yourself. Wearing gloves will potentially protect you from some nasty injuries. Pack your riding gear or hire some when you arrive at your destination. If you can’t hire protective clothing it may be best to avoid riding.
Stay within the speed limit
Stick to the speed limits and lower your speed in adverse conditions such as rain, night time and roadworks.
Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before driving
As you would at home, respect the law and avoid anything that’s going to impair your ability to control the vehicle. You won't be covered for any medical expenses if you get into an accident while riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Avoid busy streets
Traffic in foreign countries can include hundreds of large trucks, bikes, tuk tuks, buses, pedestrians and even livestock! These can create conditions you’re not used to, so it’s best to avoid these areas, particularly at night.
Be extra cautious and give way to anything bigger than you
In many countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, the road rules can be quite lax. The rule of "might has right" often applies which means bigger vehicles including trucks, buses, cars, rickshaws and tuk-tuks have right of way.
Familiarise yourself with local road rules
Some traffic laws may be the same as in Australia, but there may also be some different local rules. Peak hour in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City is not the time or place to learn. It's better to do some research online before you leave than learn the hard way when you hit the street.
Obey the road rules
The rules may be different, but they’re generally there for a reason. While many travellers report bluffing or bribing their way out of trouble, a run-in with the local police is something you certainly want to avoid.
Avoid road rage incidents
If you make a mistake, be courteous, apologise and avoid confrontation.
A motorbike or scooter is not only a practical way to get around while travelling — it’s fun!
However, accidents do happen so it’s important to make sure you also have travel insurance that provides cover for riding motorbikes and scooters overseas.
To find the best insurance, compare motorcycle travel insurance terms and conditions (not just the prices!), and read the Product Disclosure Statement carefully to make sure that you're buying the right cover before you hop on a bike overseas!
Fast Cover automatically includes motorcycle and moped riding overseas provided you meet a few conditions like having a valid licence and wearing a helmet. See our Activities page for more information.
We have a range of policies to suit all traveller types, ages and budgets, from backpackers trekking across South America, business travellers heading to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East for a conference, to families enjoying a luxury getaway at a resort in Bali.
We also offer an annual multi-trip policy for travellers up to 64 years of age called the Frequent Traveller Saver. This may be a better value for money option if you're planning to take several short trips within a 12 month period, and has the option of adding cover for your partner and dependants.
Both our annual multi-trip and single trip Comprehensive, Standard Saver and medical-only Basics policies all include 24 hour Emergency Assistance and are backed up with a 14 Day Money Back Guarantee.
Get a quote for your travel insurance direct from our website now or talk to us to help you find a policy for your next trip!