Taking time out to explore the world while supporting a great cause is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But in order to help others, you need to make sure that you help yourself – and that’s why it’s important to get the right travel insurance

Why do I need travel insurance?

Taking out insurance isn’t about tempting fate, it’s about having a safety net. Some of the key reasons you might need travel insurance include:

- Trip cancellation

- Medical treatment and repatriation (getting you back home if you’re seriously ill)

- Theft of your belongings

- Trip curtailment (the cutting short of your visit)

- Personal liability

Most policies may provide compensation if your trip never gets off the ground, and if you’ve planned to travel the world then you’ll probably have forked out quite a bit up front. That means taking out travel insurance in plenty of time before your trip is equally important as having it in the first place.

“I spent five amazing months in Ethiopia – volunteering with various local NGOs on education and livelihood-related work. Getting insurance felt crucial, especially as I had limited information about where I'd be living, and how secure it would be. And, of course, you can never predict what incidents might happen or what bugs you could catch! I was fortunate to avoid the need to make a claim, but some of the other volunteers lost their belongings; so having adequate insurance would have been a real bonus for them.”

Caroline Atkinson, 30.

How does volunteer insurance differ from regular travel insurance?

When you volunteer, the chances are you’ll be away for far longer than a regular holiday, and you’ll be exposed to more risks – volunteers tend to travel to places ‘off the beaten track’.

As a result, you should look for specific insurance that will cover you for the activities you’ll be doing. These policies often go by the names of backpacker insurance or gap year insurance.

In addition to the specific points mentioned above, you could look into policies that include:

*Legal expenses

*Personal accident cover

*Baggage and personal possessions cover

Also, policies will often offer continuous cover for 12 months. Some will even offer cover for as long as two years, and some policies include a trip back home in case you need to return for any personal reasons.

Volunteer travel insurance

Does the sort of volunteering I do change the insurance I need?

Backpacker insurance often covers some types of work – whether that’s paid or unpaid. The kind of jobs your policy covers will depend on your package and so it’s best to check the detail with your provider.

When it comes to choosing the right package, you’ll need to be clear about the sort of volunteering activities you’ll be doing.
It’s worth checking if the organisation you’re volunteering with has any cover already in place. If so, then it’s just a question of searching for an additional policy to cover the extra things you’ll be doing.

Being open about what you’ll be doing will make sure you end up with the most appropriate policy; holding back on the truth just to save a few quid could mean you end up invalidating the whole policy – it’s not worth the risk.

What else should I consider?

You should tell your insurer about any medical conditions you have. Not telling them could mean they decide not to support any claims you make.

You should also think about whether you’ll be doing any sports – some policies will cover you for regular sports and activities but higher risk ones, such as pot holing, might cost you a bit more to cover.

It’s always best to check with your provider, before doing the activity, if you are unsure of what activities you are covered for.
Also, make sure that all the countries you’re visiting are included in your policy – even if you’re just passing through (because, typically, it’ll always be that one country you pass through without insurance where something goes a bit wrong).

Your policy could also allow you to replace all your personal possessions, so be objective when it comes to costing up your belongings.

declaring pre-existing medical conditions for travel insurance

How do I know I’m getting the best policy?

The policy you choose should suit you; even if you’re travelling with friends to the same places, your needs may be different.

That’s why you should always compare travel insurance, rather than simply opting for the same policy that your best mate has.

Volunteering is all about having lots of new, life-changing experiences and having insurance will give you peace of mind so that you can fully enjoy it.

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