Holiday-makers are being warned to make sure they have travel insurance before jet-setting to the Pacific after one insurance company says it paid out over $340,000 in medical evacuations alone.

Every year more than 255,000 New Zealanders fly to the Pacific Islands for the sun, sea and sand, but if things don't go to plan they can end up forking out for expensive medical bills.

While healthcare facilities in the islands were usually adequate for routine illnesses, the more serious medical emergencies resulted in evacuations to New Zealand or Australia, said Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) chief executive Craig Morrison.

The cost of such an evacuation by emergency air ambulance could start at around around $10,000, but could "escalate to more than 10 times that", he said.


In the last year, the company paid out a number of medical evacuation claims, including $95,000 for an evacuation from Samoa, $67,000 from Norfolk Island and a whopping $180,000 from New Caledonia.

The most common claims from Pacific Island holidays included lost jewellery, rabies vaccinations after being bitten by stray dogs, scooter accident injuries, broken teeth from hard food, cuts from coral, surfing injuries and gastric flu, Mr Morrison said, but medical evacuations are the costliest.

He advised travellers to buy insurance which covers them for the activities they expected to do, as well as pack some basic holiday first aid items such as suncream, insect repellent and antibacterial ointment.

Mr Morrison also warned that tropical storms can "play absolute havoc with travel schedules".

"On average the South Pacific experiences 15 tropical cyclones each year. If travellers have taken out travel insurance prior to the notification of the storm they will be covered for expenses related to that event, disruptions or cancellations."