Compare travel insurance for backpackers

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

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 Europe, 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 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.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

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.

Travel insurance cover types

How does backpacker insurance compare with other types of travel insurance?

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 the course of a 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 backpacker insurance cover?

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 – in case you can’t travel because you test positive or become ill while you’re away and need to delay your return. When you get a travel insurance quote with us, it’s easy to compare levels of COVID-19 cover. Just use the ‘more details’ option on the quote results page.
  • 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. It’s also 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 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, backpacker insurance has some exclusions that it won’t pay out for. For example 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.

What impacts the cost of backpacker insurance?

The cost of backpacker insurance depends on:

Where you’re going
Typically, you’ll 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.

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 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.

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 Global Health Insurance Card?

You’ll still need to think about backpacker insurance if you have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The GHIC is a post-Brexit replacement for the European Health insurance Card (EHIC) and gives access to the same medical treatment in the EU 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 £18,000). Nor will it pay for any other costs linked to a medical emergency.

If you’ve already got an EHIC, it’s still valid until the expiry date. You can renew up to six months in advance. Use the official NHS website to apply for or renew your free card.

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. Some places where medical insurance wasn’t compulsory have introduced it since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Make sure you understand any rules – as some places put minimum requirements on the amount of cover you need to be allowed to enter the country.

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 could 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 during your trip (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 and Development 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’s a few 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. Depending on where you go, you may also need to take anti-malarial medication too.
  • Cash – ensure you have enough money to fund your trip and keep a close eye on your budget while you’re away so you don’t run out of money. Tell your bank you’re going overseas so they don’t treat foreign transactions as suspicious.
  • Watch your backpack – many favourite backpacker destinations are notorious for bag theft.
  • Be WiFi savvy – with free WiFi, security can be lax. Be particularly careful when carrying out banking transactions.
  • 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.
  • Show 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. Ideally do it at the same time you book your first flights or ferries. 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.

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, being a beach bum in Bali, 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 up to 18 months or two years for some places.
  • 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.
Author image Josh Daniels

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.”

- Josh Daniels, Travel insurance expert