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Compare travel insurance for South America

It doesn’t get much more inspiring. Whether you’re visiting the Galapagos Islands, taking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, visiting vibrant Rio, horse riding in Patagonia, or touring Argentina, Colombia and Bolivia, your South America holiday will be hard to beat. But before the fun truly starts, it’s time to get the less exciting stuff out the way. Come on, let’s deal with your travel insurance needs…

It doesn’t get much more inspiring. Whether you’re visiting the Galapagos Islands, taking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, visiting vibrant Rio, horse riding in Patagonia, or touring Argentina, Colombia and Bolivia, your South America holiday will be hard to beat. But before the fun truly starts, it’s time to get the less exciting stuff out the way. Come on, let’s deal with your travel insurance needs…

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
15 JANUARY 2024
6 min read
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Do I need travel insurance for South America? 

Travel insurance may not be the first thing that comes to mind as you daydream about carnivals and coastlines, Mayan remains and Brazilian jungles. And who can blame you? But just imagine if: 

  • your flights were cancelled
  • your luggage was lost
  • your phone was stolen
  • you got sick 

From covering medical assistance to helping replace lost items – if something disrupts your travel plans, travel insurance means all is not lost. That’s why it makes sense to compare South America travel insurance options before jetting off.

How much is travel insurance for South America? 

If you’re travelling to South America, you’ll need worldwide travel cover, which can be a little more pricey than other regions. How much you pay for a policy will also depend on a number of other factors, ranging from how long you’re going to stay, to pre-existing health conditions.

When you compare with us, a worldwide travel insurance policy can cost from £17.30 for a week’s cover[1].

Top tip

It’s usually cheaper to get a worldwide travel policy that excludes the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. So, if you’re not planning to visit any of these areas during your trip, you should be able to keep costs down.

[1] Based on Compare the Market data for a worldwide travel insurance policy for a 20 year old with no pre-existing medical conditions travelling for 1 week. Prices correct as of March 2024.

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.

What will South America travel insurance cover? 

As far as the basics go, a good South America holiday insurance policy should include: 

  • Medical care – if you get ill or injured while on your trip to South America, your policy should cover the cost of your care and transport back to the UK if needed. Don’t be tempted to scrimp on what seems like unnecessarily high levels of medical cover. Emergency medical treatment and repatriation doesn’t come cheap. We’re talking “I could buy a house for that” level expensive.
  • Cancellation cover – if you’re forced to abandon your holiday due to a medical emergency or another reason that’s covered by your policy, you can claim back the cost of your holiday. Just make sure you have enough cover in place.
  • Personal belongings – always check that your luggage is covered for theft or damage, and what the individual item limits are on the policy. This is especially crucial if you’re bringing expensive equipment with you, like a laptop or specialist camera. A word to the wise though, most people underestimate these values because they focus on what the item is worth, not how much it would cost to replace. Those figures can be very different. Read more on baggage cover.
  • Travel problemscancelled, delayed or missed flights can all be covered by travel insurance, which is handy if you plan on hopping from destination to destination. Delayed bags are typically covered in your policy too, but it’s always good to double check before hitting the local shops for new undies and a fresh toothbrush.
  • Personal liability – if you have an accident that inadvertently affects others on your trip, personal liability cover could help if you get sued for damages. It’s a key feature lots of us forget about.
  • Legal fees – you shouldn’t need this. We really, really hope you never do, but it’s great peace of mind to know your travel insurance covers you for legal expenses in case a dispute arises. 

What should my travel insurance to South America include? 

When you’re searching for holiday insurance to South America, it’s a good idea to make sure it includes access to private healthcare. There are public health services in South America, but don’t expect a full NHS spec service. The facilities are often very basic and waiting times can be long. Without sufficient travel insurance, you’d have to cover healthcare costs yourself – which could run into thousands of pounds.

While you’re rummaging through the details, check that the policy you’ve chosen covers you for all the countries you plan to visit. And if you’re a backpacker, planning a trek up the Andes mountains, make sure your holiday insurance covers travel to high altitude.

South America travel insurance exclusions 

Before you commit to buying South America holiday insurance, you should check the policy wording for any exclusions. Providers typically won’t cover: 

  • Medical treatment for pre-existing health conditions that you haven’t declared to your insurance provider. Make sure you’re as honest and accurate as possible when you apply for insurance, otherwise you may find you’re not covered if you need to make a claim. That goes for every named person on your policy.
  • High-risk activities and sports – like rock climbing, diving and surfing – won’t usually be covered by a standard policy.
  • Treatment for illness that could have been prevented with a vaccine ahead of travel – a factor that Covid has helped shed an important light on.
  • Reckless behaviour, drunkenness or drug use – you won’t be able to claim for events that were illegal or injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Travel to destinations against government or Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice. Check this regularly as your trip approaches and while you’re away, just in case.
  • Events such as terrorism, natural disasters, civil unrest and pandemics.

What travel insurance do I need for South America?

Take a moment to consider the experiences you’ll have. Think about what sort of activities you’ll be doing on holiday so you can make sure your travel policy covers you for them. How you plan to spend your time in South America will determine whether you need to add to your policy’s existing features.

These could include: 

  • Extreme sports – this can cover you for activities like climbing in the Andes, diving with sharks in the Galapagos Islands and trekking in the Amazon rainforest. Sounds amazing, but your insurance provider is only concerned about the risks. Get extra cover if you’re even a sniff of a thrill seeker.
  • Winter sports – for skiing in Patagonia or snowboarding in Chile.
  • Golf travel insurance – South America has some of the world’s finest golf courses, from Olivos in Argentina to Brazil’s Olympic course. You can add golf insurance to single or annual trip cover, if it’s not already included in your standard policy.

Do I need a visa for South America? 

If you have a British passport, you won’t need a visa to enter any country in South America as a tourist. But you must make sure you have at least six months left on your passport.

In many South American countries, including Chile, you’ll be given a tourist card on arrival, which you must fill in and hand over to the immigration authorities when you leave. 

If you’re travelling to South America via the USA, however, you’ll need an ESTA to prove your eligibility to enter the States.

Where can I compare travel insurance quotes? 

We can help you find the right travel insurance at the right price for your trip to South America. Whether you’re looking to cover a backpacking adventure or a couples’ escape, we’ll help you compare a range of competitive quotes to get the peace of mind you need.

Frequently asked questions

What travel insurance do I need for backpacking in South America?

If you’re planning on backpacking in South America, it’s a good idea to have backpackers’ insurance, which is aimed at people who want to travel for long periods of time, often to several different countries. If your trip is likely to include adventure sports and activities, you might also need extreme sports or winter sports cover.

What vaccinations will I need for South America?

Every South American country has its own vaccine requirements, including COVID jabs, so always check the FCDO’s entry rules before travelling. In certain places you may be asked to prove you’ve been inoculated against yellow fever and your GP may recommend a tetanus or hepatitis A jab. Your travel insurance won’t cover you if you get ill from a disease that could have been prevented with a vaccine. Get clued up well in advance and arrange a vaccine appointment at least eight weeks before you travel.

When is the best time to visit South America?

South America spans every possible climate and a decent range of latitudes, so this really depends on where you go, but in some countries like Peru, it’s best to avoid the rainy season between January and March. For the most part, South America is a year-round destination – but note that the summer season is from November to February and the winter season lasts from June to August.

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