Health & insurance
Before You Go
Health insurance is essential for all travellers. You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than requiring you to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later make sure you keep all documentation. Check that the policy covers ambulances and emergency medical evacuations by air.
If you're travelling to Australia from overseas, visit a physician four to eight weeks before departure. Ask your doctor for an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka the 'yellow booklet'), which will list the vaccinations you've received.
Upon entering Australia, you'll be required to fill out a 'travel history card' detailing any visits to Ebola-affected regions within the last 21 days.
If you're entering Australia within six days of having stayed overnight or longer in a yellow-fever-infected country, you'll need proof of yellow-fever vaccination. For a full list of these countries visit Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel).
The World Health Organization (www.who.int) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and polio, as well as hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. While Australia has high levels of childhood vaccination coverage, outbreaks of these diseases do occur.
- acetaminophen (paracetamol) or aspirin
- antibiotics (also bring any prescriptions)
- antidiarrhoeal drugs (eg loperamide)
- antihistamines (for hay fever and allergic reactions)
- anti-inflammatory drugs (eg ibuprofen)
- antibacterial ointment in case of cuts or abrasions
- steroid cream or cortisone (for allergic rashes)
- bandages, gauze, gauze rolls
- adhesive or paper tape
- scissors, safety pins, tweezers
- pocket knife
- DEET-containing insect repellent for the skin
- permethrin-containing insect spray for clothing, tents and bed nets
- oral rehydration salts
- iodine tablets or water filter (for water purification)
There's a wealth of travel health advice on the internet: Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) is a good place to start.
World Health Organization (www.who.int/ith) Publishes International Travel and Health, revised annually and available free online.
MD Travel Health (www.mdtravelhealth.com) Provides complete travel health recommendations for every country, updated daily.
Government travel health websites include:
- Australia (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- Canada (www.hc-sc.gc.ca)
- UK (www.nhs.uk/livewell/travelhealth)
- USA (www.cdc.gov/travel)
Although there are plenty of hazards in Australia, few travellers should experience anything worse than sunburn or a hangover. If you do fall ill, health-care standards are high.
Medicare & Costs
The Medicare system covers Australian residents for some health-care costs. Visitors from countries with which Australia has a reciprocal health-care agreement are eligible for benefits specified under the Medicare program. Agreements are currently in place with Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK – check the details before departing these countries. For further details, visit www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/medicare-services. Even if you're not covered by Medicare, a short consultation with a local GP will usually set you back only $60 or $70.
In remote locations there may be a significant delay in emergency services reaching you. Don't underestimate the vast distances between most major rural towns; an increased level of self-reliance and preparation is essential. Consider taking a wilderness first-aid course, such as those offered by Wilderness Medicine Institute (www.wmi.net.au).
Take a comprehensive first-aid kit and ensure that you have adequate means of communication. Australia has extensive mobile-phone coverage, but additional radio communication is important for remote areas. The Royal Flying Doctor Service (www.flyingdoctor.net) provides a backup for remote communities.
Over-the-counter medications are available at chemists (pharmacies) throughout Queensland. These include painkillers, antihistamines and skincare products. You may find that medications readily available over the counter in some countries are only available in Australia by prescription. These include the oral contraceptive pill, some medications for asthma and all antibiotics. If you take medication on a regular basis, bring an adequate supply and ensure you have details of the generic name, as brand names may differ between countries.
Tap water in Queensland is generally safe to drink. Water taken from streams, rivers and lakes should be treated before drinking.
As per the rest of Australia, Queensland has an excellent health-care system: a mixture of privately run medical clinics and hospitals alongside public hospitals funded by the Australian government. There are also excellent specialised public-health facilities for women and children in major centres.
You'll find GPs (General Practitioners) working in most east coast towns, and hospitals in the larger ones (though depending on your needs, you may be referred/transferred to one of the big city hospitals).