Do I need backpacker travel insurance?
Whether you’re a gap year student or an intrepid explorer, backpacker travel insurance is a worthy consideration. It gives you peace of mind that if something happens to you, your plans or your possessions, you’ll be looked after.
Whether you’re off to Australia, the USA, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central or South America, getting the right travel insurance policy is key.
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 to 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.
From 17 May 2021, a travel traffic light system has been introduced and trips to green listed countries will be legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant local authority, which can be found here.
If a country is on the green list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you're aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and to check travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed at short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for the latest information.
The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to most amber and red listed countries. Should you choose to travel against the FCDO rules, you will not be covered by any travel insurance policy you purchase. Some providers do offer cover for international travel if you’re travelling for essential purposes, however most do not. In all cases, should you have any queries please check the policy wording or contact your chosen provider before purchasing to ensure the cover meets your needs.
Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.Find out more here
Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions
Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers on its Money Advice Service website that may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.
Why do I need backpacker insurance?
Backpacker insurance is designed to cover you on longer trips abroad. It’s ideal if you’re planning to go away for several months at a time. It’s also known as extended trip insurance.
Unlike other types of travel insurance, it’s tailored to cover you in multiple destinations and it often covers a range of adventure activities, as standard.
Backpacker insurance can help cover the cost of medical expenses while you’re travelling, which can prove very costly in some countries.
It could also cover you for lost or stolen baggage, damage to personal items and personal liability.
Always check your policy details carefully to see exactly what you’re covered for.
What should backpacker insurance cover?
All good travel insurance policies should offer similar features, regardless of whether they’re specifically aimed at backpackers.
Make sure you choose a policy that covers you for:
- Medical expenses. This pays for the cost of treatment abroad and emergency flights to get you home, if required.
- Cancellation or curtailment. Useful if your trip is cancelled or cut short. It’s also a good idea to check if you have End Supplier Failure, which will provide some cover if your holiday provider goes bust.
- 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. Also, it’s worth checking if you’re covered for missed departures, as providers have specific guidelines on ‘good reasons for missing a flight’.
- 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 bungee jumping, 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.
How do I compare backpacker insurance quotes?
Start your travel insurance quote with us today and compare features and prices, to find a policy that suits your needs.
Remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. Choose a policy that works for you based on where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’re travelling for.
Compare extended trip insurance for backpackers today and get a quote in minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Should I consider backpacker insurance if I have a European Health Insurance Card?
You’ll still need to think about backpacker insurance if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). As it currently stands, an EHIC will give you access to the same medical treatment as people residing in that European country would receive. But having this card won’t pay to get you home (from Spain, an air ambulance can cost £25,000). Nor will it pay for any other costs linked to a medical emergency.
After Brexit, and the UK officially left the EU with a deal in place, things have changed. You won’t be able to apply for an EHIC anymore, but, if you have one already, issued before the end of 2020, then it’ll still be valid until the expiry date.
However, the UK government has introduced a replacement called the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). If you don’t have an EHIC, or once yours expires, you can apply for a GHIC here, and it should arrive within 10 days. The GHIC will offer the same cover as the EHIC did in EU countries.
It’s worth being aware that while travel insurance isn’t compulsory in Europe, it may be a requirement in other parts of the world. For example, if you’re visiting Cuba you’ll need to show proof of travel health insurance.
Can I get backpackers insurance with a pre-existing condition?
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should always tell your insurance provider. A medical condition doesn’t mean you won’t find cover. But in some cases, your premium may cost a little more.
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 else should I consider?
Once you’ve worked out where you want to go and for how long, there are a few important things to think about:
- Return visits. If life throws you a curveball and you need to come home early (perhaps for a wedding or a family emergency) you’ll be in a much better place if you’ve factored this into your insurance cover.
- Working abroad. While some policies will cover you for injury or illness while abroad, this isn’t always the case when it comes to manual labour.
- Volunteering. Backpacker insurance may cover you for certain types of volunteer work, but you should check your policy carefully. If it’s the focus of your trip, you could consider specialist volunteer travel insurance.
- Countries covered. You might have to pay a higher premium if you’re visiting certain countries. Not all backpacker policies cover you for travel to the USA, Mexico or the Caribbean. This might be linked to the high cost of medical treatment in these countries.
- Age limits. Some backpacker insurance policies have age restrictions if, for example, you’re a mature student or you’ve taken a sabbatical. Instead, you could look for a policy that covers all ages. After all, older people take gap years too.
- Political unrest. Policies often won’t cover you if the UK Government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office has advised against travel. Such advice might be due to war or civil unrest in that area, or because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read our guide to high-risk travel.
Do you have any advice for backpackers?
Here are seven things for backpackers to bear in mind before they begin their adventures.
- Visas – find out if you need a visa and make the necessary arrangements to get one if you do.
- Vaccinations – check with your GP whether you need any vaccinations. If you do, make sure you get an appointment in plenty of time before you travel.
- Cash – ensure you have enough money to fund your trip.
- Safe places – see whether the Foreign Office cautions against travel to any of the regions you’re planning to visit. If you do visit a country or an area with restrictions or warnings in place, you could invalidate your insurance.
- Behave yourself – insurance providers take a dim view of incidents that occur because you were affected by drink and drugs and are highly unlikely to pay out for any claims made. The authorities in some countries can also be very severe if you commit a drug-related offence.
- Respect – understand the local customs and follow them.
- Learn – If English isn’t widely spoken where you’re going, 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 backpacker insurance, the better. It may seem like an inconvenience. But if you buy beforehand, you may be able to recoup some (or all) of the holiday costs, if your trip is cancelled due to an unexpected illness, injury or bereavement. Policies vary though, so check the cancellation terms carefully.
What affects the price of backpacker insurance?
The cost of backpacker insurance depends on:
- Where you’re going. Typically, you’ll pay less to insure a backpacking trip within Europe than for worldwide destinations like 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 and health. Backpackers insurance is often aimed at younger travellers. You may have to pay more if you’re over a certain age bracket. Also, 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.
- What you’ll be doing. You may have to arrange additional cover for some high-risk activities like climbing, winter sports, extreme sports, or some watersports.
- 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.
What's not covered by backpacker insurance?
There are some common exclusions that apply to all types of travel insurance. Backpackers insurance might not pay out if you:
- break the law or behave maliciously.
- are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.
- ignore official advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 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.
Are extreme sports covered by backpacker insurance?
Backpacker insurance may 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 when I'm abroad?
When you go away, make sure you take a copy of your insurance documents, so you have all the details you need to make a claim. It could be either a paper copy or an online version that you’ve downloaded.
If you do have to claim:
- Speak to the local authorities, if necessary. If you’ve been a victim of theft, for example, you may need to get a police report within a certain time frame to support your claim.
- Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible – there’s usually a 24/7 emergency helpline on your documents. If you think you might need non-urgent medical care, it could be worth speaking to your insurance provider beforehand, to be sure your claim would be covered.
- Keep any evidence you need to support 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, as you may be able to claim back the cost.
When you speak to your insurance provider, they’ll inform you of the next steps.
How much does backpacker insurance cost?
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.
Whether you’re interrailing around Europe for the summer, taking a gap year in Australia, or planning the ultimate American road trip, we can help. We’ll compare great deals to help you find the right travel insurance for your adventure.
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 from 60 days to 18 months.
- 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.
Travel insurance expert
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.”
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