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Student gap year travel insurance

If you’re planning a gap year, the last thing you want to worry about is travel insurance. But just a few minutes of your time could be well spent finding a policy to cover you if anything happens while you’re away.

Here’s what to know about getting the right cover before your backpacking adventures begin.

If you’re planning a gap year, the last thing you want to worry about is travel insurance. But just a few minutes of your time could be well spent finding a policy to cover you if anything happens while you’re away.

Here’s what to know about getting the right cover before your backpacking adventures begin.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
Reviewed by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
29 DECEMBER 2022
4 min read
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What is gap year insurance?

Unlike standard or even annual travel insurance, gap year insurance – also known as backpacker insurance – is geared to covering you for longer periods. It typically includes cover for:

  • 12 to 18 months 
  • Over 60 consecutive days away
  • Travel to multiple countries
  • Returning home, then going abroad again
  • Working holidays during your gap year
  • Extreme sports and adventure activities. 

Policies vary between insurance providers, so always check what they cover before committing.

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 your claim 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.

Why would I need gap year insurance?

As with all good standard travel insurance policies, gap year insurance can cover:

  • Medical expenses – this is vital if you have an accident or fall ill and need medical treatment. Public hospitals in far-flung places are sometimes pretty basic. Gap year insurance can cover the costs of private treatment if necessary, and even repatriation if you need to be flown home in an emergency. 
  • Medical treatment abroad can be shockingly expensive. The Associate of British Insurers (ABI) quotes a £124,000 bill one Briton received after a fall in Spain. Another Brit contracted Covid in Cyprus and it cost £70,000 to get them back to the UK.
  • Having the right travel insurance means that you – and your family back home – can enjoy peace of mind if you run into trouble.
  • Cancellation and delays – the right insurance can cover the costs of your trip if it’s cancelled or cut short. You’ll also receive expenses if your flight is delayed and it’s not the airline’s fault. Read the conditions carefully as insurance providers will only cover what they consider valid reasons for cancellation or delays.  
  • Personal liability – this covers the cost of any damage or injury you unwittingly cause while you’re away.
  • Lost luggage – this may cover the cost of replacing your mobile phone if it’s damaged or stolen. Make sure the cover amount is enough to replace anything valuable you’re taking with you. 

Do I need travel insurance if I’m travelling around Europe?

If you’re heading off to Europe, you can use your Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This is covers medical treatment in state hospitals, just like the NHS.

You can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website.

Even so, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) recommends having travel insurance even if you have a GHIC. A GHIC is useful, but it won’t cover:

  • Treatment in a private hospital
  • Repatriation if you need to be flown home
  • Mountain rescues. 

The right gap year insurance policy could also cover these costs.

What else should I check when buying backpacker insurance?

Gap year insurance policies vary between insurance providers, so read the fine print carefully. Pay attention to:

  • Extreme sports – check what sports and activities are included in your policy. If you’re taking part in higher risk activities such as bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and rock climbing, you may need extra cover or extreme sports insurance. Even if these are included as standard, there may be conditions attached.
  • Return visits home – check your policy covers you if you need to return to the UK before heading back off on your travels.
  • Working abroad – some policies won’t cover manual labour.
  • Age limits – some backpacker policies have age limits. If you’re an older traveller, look for a policy that covers all age groups
  • Travel to the USA, the Caribbean, and Canada – healthcare is notoriously expensive in these countries, so you’ll probably need to pay extra to include them on your policy.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions – always let your insurance provider know if you have a health condition. Your premiums may cost a little more, but if you’re hospitalised because of a pre-existing medical condition you didn’t disclose, your policy could be invalidated. 

Travelling tips

  • Depending on your destination, ask your GP if you need vaccinations or anti-malaria medication.
  • Find out if you need a visa for the countries you’re visiting.
  • If the FCDO advises against travel to a particular country and you decide to go anyway, be aware that your insurance won’t cover you. For the latest information, check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office travel advice pages.
  • If you have an accident or are injured, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurance is unlikely to cover you.
  • For more tips on staying safe during your gap year travels, check the travel advice on the FCDO website

Why compare student gap year insurance?

It’s vital to find a policy that will cover you for everything you want to do on your gap year adventure. And while price is a key factor, you need to choose a policy that works for you based on where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’re away for.

We can help you find and compare a wide range of gap year insurance policies in minutes, so you can get on with planning your trip of a lifetime.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if I decide to extend my trip?

Many providers will let you extend your insurance, provided you let them know before it runs out. If you end up having such a great time that you don’t want to come home, remember to contact your insurance provider.

Should I go for the cheapest quote?

Not necessarily. Remember, the cheapest insurance policies usually have a high excess, which means you’ll have to make a bigger contribution towards any claim. It may be worth paying a few pounds more to get the policy that’s right for you.

How can I get cheaper gap year insurance?

There are a few ways you can reduce the cost of your gap year insurance. One is to shop around for the right deal. You can also choose to pay a higher excess, or avoid countries with expensive healthcare systems, such as the US and Caribbean.

Anna McEntee - Home, pet and travel insurance expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

Learn more about Anna

Rebecca Goodman - Insurance expert

Rebecca Goodman is a freelance financial journalist who specialises in insurance, personal finance and consumer affairs. Rebecca regularly writes for national newspapers including The Independent and The Mail on Sunday on a wide-range of financial topics. She covers everything from money-saving tips and holiday advice to investigations into how energy efficient appliances can cut the cost of household bills and the impact donating money can have on those in need. Along with features in national papers, Rebecca also writes news stories for websites including and The Money Edit.

Learn more about Rebecca

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