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Compare travel insurance for backpackers

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What is backpacker insurance?

Backpacker insurance is a type of cover aimed at people who plan to travel for long periods, often to multiple countries in one trip. It offers additional features and benefits compared with standard insurance, so your backpacking itinerary is fully covered.

If you’re travelling on a budget, we’re here to help you find a great-value deal.

Do I need backpacker travel insurance?

Backpacker travel insurance, also known as extended trip insurance, is ideal if you’re planning to go away for several months at a time.

It’s also designed to cover you in multiple destinations.

Backpacker insurance often covers a wider range of adventure activities as standard too. That means you could try scuba diving or go bungee jumping all without arranging extra cover.

As with standard travel insurance, backpacker insurance can help cover the cost of emergency medical expenses while you’re travelling, which can prove costly in some countries. And it could help you recoup your costs if you need to cancel your trip, which could be substantial if you’ve booked round the world flights.

Whether you’re off to Europe, Australia, the USA, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central or South America, getting the right travel insurance policy is key. Always check your policy terms and conditions carefully to see exactly what you’re covered for.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions 

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean any claim you make is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

How does backpacker insurancecover compare withto other types of travel insurance?

Take a look at how backpacker cover stacks up against the features of single trip and annual travel insurance to see which is right for you.

Backpacker insurance

  • For trips to multiple countries lasting up to 18-24 months
  • Option to return home and set off again
  • Includes cover for a wide range of sports activities (but some extreme sports will need extra cover)
  • May cover you if you take paid or unpaid work
  • Great for gap years and career breaks

Single trip

Annual multi-trip

  • Covers multiple trips in one year
  • Has a maximum duration for individual trips
  • Good for frequent travel
  • Minimises the hassle of getting insurance for every trip
  • Limited cover for activities but additional cover for sports and activities can be added.

What should backpacking insurance cover?

When comparing backpacker insurance quotes, make sure you choose a policy that covers you for:

  • Medical expenses and repatriation – this pays for the cost of treatment abroad and emergency flights to get you home, if required.
  • Coronavirus – iin case you can’t travel because you test positive or become ill while you’re away. To compare levels of COVID-19 cover with us, use the ‘more details’ option on the quote results page.
  • Cancellation or curtailment – this could cover the costs of flights, accommodation and excursions, in case you need to cancel your trip due to a reason specified in your policy.
  • Delays and missed departures – this could compensate you for any expenses incurred if your flight’s delayed due to an insured event, such as a strike, or you miss your flight for one of the reasons covered by your policy.
  • Lost luggage – most policies will cover the cost of replacing any lost or stolen baggage. But check that the cover limit is enough to replace everything you’re taking with you.
  • Extreme sports – if it’s likely your trip will involve adventure sports and activities, for example trekking, bungee jumping, or water sports like white-water rafting or diving with sharks, make sure these are covered and stated in the policy wording.
  • The same goes for winter sports, including skiing or snowboarding – check you’re covered before you hit the slopes.
  • Personal liability – this could cover the cost of any damage or injury you unintentionally cause while you’re away. It’s worth being aware that a claim could be invalidated if a doctor or specialist treating you after an injury reports that alcohol was involved.

What's not covered by backpacker insurance?

Like all insurance policies, backpacking insurance has some exclusions that it won’t pay out for. For example, your claim may be rejected if you:

  • Break the law or behave maliciously.
  • Are injured or lose your possessions when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Ignore official advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) or the World Health Organisation.
  • Leave your bags or possessions unattended and they’re stolen. Check your policy carefully as your insurance provider may insist you take certain safety precautions while you’re away. Also, you might not be covered for theft from hostels.
  • Mislead or fail to inform your insurance provider about any pre-existing health conditions or other key details.
  • Try to claim for any medical care in Europe that’s currently covered under the EHIC/GHIC agreement.
  • Change your plans and decide to come home early, unless this is due to Government or FCDO advice.
    If you’re planning on working while you’re away backpacking to help fund your trip, make sure that what you’re doing will be covered. Some policies exclude manual labour or using heavy machinery or particular tools.

How much does backpacker insurance cost?

No two gap year adventures are the same, and the price of backpacker insurance can vary a lot depending on where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, and how long you’ll be away for.

Here are the main things that impact the cost of travel insurance for travellers heading off on a backpacking trip:

  • Where you’re going
    You’ll typically pay less to insure a backpacking trip in Europe than for worldwide destinations such as Australia or Asia. Travelling to the US will likely cost more to insure due to the high cost of medical treatment there.
  • How long you’re going for
    The longer you’re away, the more expensive the insurance.
  • Your age
    Backpackers insurance is often aimed at younger travellers. You may have to pay more if you’re over a certain age.
  • Your health
    You’re likely to pay more if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. But remember, it’s important to be honest about your health to avoid invalidating your insurance and to make sure you can access medical care while abroad.
  • What you’ll be doing
    You may have to arrange additional cover for some high-risk activities such as climbing, winter sports, extreme sports, or some water sports.
  • What you’re taking with you
    If you’re taking expensive sporting equipment or fancy gadgets, you might need to pay more to make sure you’re fully covered for loss or damage.

Where can I compare backpackers insurance quotes?

Start a backpacker insurance comparison with us today and compare features and prices to find a policy that suits your needs.
Remember, the cheapest backpacker travel insurance isn’t always the right option for your needs. Choose a policy that works for you based on where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’re travelling for.

We compare quotes from 43[1] trusted travel insurance providers so you can find great cover for your backpacking trip, at an affordable price. Compare extended trip insurance for backpackers today and get a quote in minutes.

[1] Correct as of March 2024.

What do I need to get a quote?

To start comparing travel insurance quotes, just tell us:

  • Where you’re going – you’ll need different cover for different continents and countries.
  • How long for – backpacker insurance can cover you for trips lasting up to 18 months or up to two years in some cases.
  • What you’ll be doing – do you have any extreme activities in mind? Will you be doing any volunteering?
  • What you’re taking – it may be that you want to insure expensive gadgets or equipment.

We’ll also need to know a bit about you, including your age and details of any existing medical conditions you may have.

Frequently asked questions

Should I consider backpacker insurance if I have a Global Health Insurance Card?

You’ll still need to think about backpacker insurance if you have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is not a replacement for travel insurance. The GHIC is a post-Brexit replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It gives visitors to the EU access to the same state-provided medical treatment as people living in that European country. But your GHIC won’t help you get back home to the UK in a medical emergency, or cover the costs of any private healthcare.

It also won’t cover you for lost or stolen luggage. And it won’t cover you if you need to cancel or cut your trip short due to an unforeseen circumstance like a family bereavement. For that you’ll need travel insurance.

Can I get backpackers travel insurance with a pre-existing condition?

A medical condition doesn’t mean you won’t find cover. But in some cases, your premium could cost a little more.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should always tell your insurance provider. If your provider finds out that a medical emergency you suffered abroad was linked to a condition you knew about and didn’t declare, they might not pay out. That’s why it’s always best to be honest about your medical history.

What should I consider when buying backpackers insurance?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Return visits – can you return home during your trip without invalidating your cover?
  • Working and volunteering abroad – what paid or unpaid work will be covered? If charity work is the focus of your trip, consider volunteer travel insurance.
  • Countries covered – you might have to pay more to visit certain countries, such as the USA, due to the relatively high cost of medical care.
  • Age limits – some backpacker insurance policies won’t cover travellers over the age of 50 or 60, so older backpackers may have limited choice.
  • High-risk travel –you won’t be covered if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has advised against travel to an area due to war, civil unrest or the COVID-19 pandemic.

What else do backpackers need before they leave?

Alongside the right travel insurance, here’s some advice to bear in mind before your adventures begin.

  • Visas – find out if you need a visa and take the  necessary steps to get one if you do.
  • Vaccinations – check with your GP  if you need any vaccinations or anti-malarial medication in plenty of time before you travel.
  • Cash – make sure you have enough money to fund your trip and tell your bank you’re going overseas.
  • Valuables – think about what valuables you need to take with you and how you’ll keep them safe.
  • Show respect – take the time to learn about the local customs before you go.
  • Language –think about brushing up on a few key phrases in the local language before you travel.

When should I buy backpacker insurance?

The sooner you buy your backpackers travel insurance, the better. Ideally do it as soon as you book your first flights or ferries. That means you may be able to recoup some (or all) of the costs if your trip is cancelled due to an unexpected illness, injury or bereavement. Policies vary though, so check the cancellation terms carefully.

Are extreme sports covered by backpacker insurance?

Backpacker insurance can cover many adventurous activities as standard but check your policy carefully to see exactly what’s included.

You may have to buy additional or specialist cover for high-risk activities or extreme sports. It’s worth remembering too that, for insurance purposes, even activities like horse riding or swimming with dolphins could be considered ‘extreme’.

How do I claim on backpackers insurance while abroad?

Make sure you take a copy of your insurance documents (a paper copy or a downloaded version) so you have all the details you need to make a claim.

If you do have to claim:

  1. Speak to the local authorities if necessary. If you’ve been a victim of crime, you need to get a police report within a certain time frame.
  2. Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible – there’s usually a 24/7 emergency helpline you can call. They’ll inform you of next steps. If you need non-urgent medical care, speak with your provider first, to check your claim will be covered.
  3. Keep any evidence that supports your claim, such as bills, police reports or medical forms. If you’re claiming for lost luggage, keep the receipts for any replacement items you buy.
Author image Helen Phipps

What our expert says...

"Don’t risk ruining the adventure of a lifetime. Whether you’re heading out to travel the world on your gap year or taking an extended trip, make sure you’re covered with backpacker insurance.”

- Helen Phipps, Insurance comparison expert

Page last reviewed on 13 OCTOBER 2023
by Helen Phipps