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Student gap year travel insurance

Student gap year travel insurance

If you’re planning a gap year, the last thing you’ll want to be worrying about is travel insurance. But just a few minutes of your time could be very well spent in finding a policy that could cover you should anything happen while you’re away. 

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

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
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Posted 31 JANUARY 2020

What is gap year insurance?

Unlike standard or even annual travel insurance, gap year insurance (also known as backpacker insurance) is geared towards covering you for longer periods of time. Typical features may include cover for:

  • From 12 up to 18 months cover
  • over 60 consecutive days away
  • travel to multiple countries
  • if you need to return home, then go abroad again
  • working holidays during your gap year
  • certain extreme sports and adventure activities

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


On 7 September 2020, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated the list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.

For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.

For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.

Why would I need gap year insurance?

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

  • medical expenses – if you have an accident or fall ill and need medical treatment. Be aware, some public hospitals in far flung places can be pretty basic. Gap year insurance could cover the costs of private treatment if it’s medically necessary, and even repatriation if you need to be flown home in case of an emergency. Consider the cost of medical treatment abroad such as £60,000 to treat a road accident injury in El Salvador, and £136,000 for complications following an insect bite in Chile. Having the right travel insurance to cover costs such as these could give you and your family back home peace of mind should the worst happen
  • cancellation and delays – this could cover the costs of your trip if it’s cancelled or cut short. Plus, 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 may cover the cost of any damage or injury you unwittingly cause while you’re away
  • lost luggage – could also cover the cost of your mobile phone if it gets damaged or stolen. Make sure the cover amount is enough to replace anything of worth that 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 apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which will cover emergency medical treatment, just like the NHS. UK residents can use their EHIC after the 31 January during the transition phase of the UK leaving the EU. This means that the EHIC can continued to be used in the same way until the 31 December 2020. What happens to the status of the EHIC after the transition phase will be decided as part of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends having travel insurance as well as an EHIC card. It is useful, but it won’t cover:

  • treatment if you’re taken to 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?

Standard gap year insurance policies can vary between insurance providers, so always read the fine print carefully. Pay particular attention to:

  • extreme sports – check what sports and activities are included in your policy. You may need extra cover or extreme sports insurance for higher risk activities such as bungee jumping, white water rafting and rock climbing. And even if these are included as standard, there may be conditions
  • return visits home – check to see if your policy will still cover you should you need to return to the UK, then head 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 – medical costs are notoriously expensive in these countries. If they aren’t included in your standard gap year policy, you may need to take out extra cover
  • pre-existing medical conditions – always tell your insurance provider if you have a health condition. Premiums may cost you a little more, but if you’re injured as a result of a pre-existing medical condition and you didn’t disclose it, it could invalidate your entire policy

Travelling tips

  • Depending on your destination, ask your GP whether you need any vaccinations or anti-malaria medication
  • Find out if visas are required for the countries you’re visiting
  • If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travelling to a specific country, your insurance won’t cover you if you decide to go anyway. Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice pages for updated information
  • If you have an accident or are injured and you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurance policy will most likely be invalid

For more tips on staying safe during your gap year travels, check out the advice and information on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

Why compare student gap year insurance?

Finding the right policy for you can be time consuming and boring. And while price is an important factor, you need to choose a policy that works for you based on where you’re going, what you’re doing and how long for. 

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

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