How to Find the Best Backpacker Travel Insurance
You’re ready to go - you’ve spent hours trying to cram an impossible amount of clothes into your backpack, you’ve agonised over which camera to buy to get the best shots and have your itinerary planned down to the last minute.
However, there’s something that you definitely shouldn’t forget to pack - travel insurance! Although it may be the last thing on your list of priorities, travelling without comprehensive travel insurance could turn your dream trip into a nightmare. Not just any travel insurance will do if you are going backpacking, on a long-term trip or taking a gap year.
Whether you are going to find yourself, connect with primal nature or just eat, pray, love you will need to find a cheap travel insurance policy that will cover you whatever the eventuality.
What is backpacker travel insurance?
Backpacker travel insurance is a special kind of single trip insurance designed to cover people who are travelling for a long time, sometimes more than 365 days, and on a budget. Backpackers normally do worldwide travel, having more than one country on their itineraries and often have unpredicatable travel plans. Long trip travel insurance is generally “no frills” in order to keep costs down but they do make sure that the essentials are covered.
Why is backpacker travel insurance different?
Standard travel insurance is for the masses doing low-risk activities in the same old boring tourist locales. Backpackers are dreamers and idealists that need something more - and this means that they need something more from their insurance.
Long-term travellers and backpackers have completely different needs as they will often be visiting multiple countries, have no set itinerary, may work or volunteer during their holiday and also quite possibly without a set return date.
Backpacker insurance is different from normal insurance as it attempts to compensate for all of these different factors.
Of course, backpacker insurance covers the normal things that people look for in a holiday insurance policy: medical expenses, baggage and trip cancellation. However, there are five key ways in which backpacker insurance may differ from a typical single trip or annual policy travel insurance. You want to check these in your policy documents to make sure you are covered for everything you might encounter during your trip:
You’re heading off on a six-month trip and of course, your MacBook Pro is coming with you to document the journey and update all your followers on your blog. You already have your travel insurance which covers up to £2000 of personal possessions. So, if anything were to happen to your Mac while you were abroad you would be covered, right?
Well, the short answer is no.
There are lots of possibilities for accidents when you are travelling low cost for an extended period of time. You may not have a secure place to keep your technology when you are moving from hostel to hostel and it could get stolen or damaged while you are on the road. Heck, you could even spill a coffee on it while you are in Starbucks writing your blog.
Generally, travel insurance excludes expensive technological items such as mobile phones, laptops and DSLR cameras. However, many backpacker travel insurance policies such as the one provided by World Nomads does provide gadget cover - and with many others, it’s cheaper to add your technology to your policy than with a normal insurance provider.
Return Dates and Trip extensions
You planned to travel for four months and then come back to start a university course after the summer. However, on the road, you’ve met a cool bunch of people and been offered a job working in a ski resort in France over the winter. The offer is too tempting not to take up but will you still be covered?
With normal single or multi-trip travel insurance, you are required to submit your leaving and return dates. This can often be a problem for backpackers and long-term travellers as you often don’t have an exact return date in mind. Likewise, most insurers will only provide you with cover if you are in the UK - that means you have no way to extend your trip abroad should you decide that you just NEED to stay in India for one month more for that life-changing Bikram Yoga retreat.
Backpackers need a level of flexibility that most insurers just can’t provide. Some companies such as True Traveller and World Nomads are much more flexible about this and you can take out cover while you are abroad, modify your policy or extend it. It can also be done online saving you an expensive phone call.
For those of you going to do volunteering, working, WOOFing or doing any kind of seasonal work on your travels you’ll find that most travel insurance policies won’t cover you for any accident that you have while working. Most backpacker insurance policies include some types of work but there are often exclusions such as volunteering which involves manual labour, countries which are on ‘do not travel’ lists or government warning lists and working with animals.
Not every policy is the same, however, and while some companies such as Columbus Direct may exclude working with animals completely, others, such as World Nomads permit this under certain conditions on their policies.
Sadly, the biggest cause of accidental deaths overseas are motor vehicle accidents and looking at how we behave when we are abroad it’s no wonder why! In the UK we’d never think of hopping on a moped or motorbike in our flip-flops without a helmet, nor the correct license and speeding off into the unknown, but that’s exactly what we do when we are overseas.
Be careful with this one! Even backpacker travel insurance policies won’t cover you for driving any moped without a helmet or the correct license and each insurer has its own restrictions on the size of the engines you will be covered for - or not. It’s important to realise that while most backpacker travel insurance policies do provide cover for medical emergencies when it comes to motorbike accidents, there is usually no cover for the bike itself, so make sure you check your policy before you get all Motorcycle Diaries and throw caution to the wind.
Cover in More Dangerous Countries
There are some people who want to travel to countries where travel isn't recommended such as Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and The Congo.
In fact, there are many adventurous travellers who have head off the well trodden path to explore regions that many would deem too dangerous.
However, these kinds of trips do carry their own risks and you should try to make sure that you're protected before you go. It's important to make sure that your policy will cover repatriation and medical evacuation if you happen to have an illness while abroad but some of our recommended travel insurance companies will even ensure your repatriation and medical fees if you are imprisoned overseas unjustly.
Very few insurers will insure you in a country which has travel warnings but some backpacker policies, such as those from First Allied and IATA are prepared to cover you no matter where you want to go. This might affect your decision when you compare quotes.
Best Backpacker Travel insurance
It’s always worth comparing backpacker travel insurance on a reliable comparison site to get a sense of what’s available on the market before you buy.
However, we’d recommend buying direct with the insurer as you will often get better travel insurance quote doing it that way. It won't always be cheaper but cheapest isn't always best. More so than a normal annual travel insurance policy, you want to make sure your cover is comprehensive. We can't think of anything worse than having a sudden illness in a foreign country and then realising that you don't have the appropriate cover.
To help you, we’ve done a comparison of our top picks for cheap backpacker travel insurance so you can see what’s included and an average price for a twenty-five year old woman with no medical conditions travelling to South East Asia for three months.
Each company on our list has specific benefits. Nearly all of the companies mentioned below allow you to buy travel insurance online whether you have already started your trip or not. However, DO pay attention to your policy documents, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions as this is something that is often excluded in long trip policies.
Each person will have their own requirements and necessities but this list is a good place to start looking for the best backpacker insurance for you.
We have reviewed some of the best travel insurance providers to help you make the best decision when it comes to insuring your next trip. All our recommended suppliers provide long-term travel insurance policies or backpacker policies, most of which you can take out or extend while you are on the road.
|Max. Medical Care||Max.Cancellation||Cost Single trip|
|£1 million||100% (In case of bereavement)||£185.73.|
*Prices correct as of November 2018
World Nomads is often thought of as the best backpacker insurance available and provides very extensive coverage. However, this coverage and price comes at a price. Others, such as IATI or First Allied let you travel to little known or dangerous countries, while others give you complete freedom to do "high risk" activities such as trekking up to 6000 meters.True Traveller is great for digital nomads as it has a comprehensive gadget policy.