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Volunteer travel insurance

Volunteer travel insurance

Volunteer travel insurance can give you the specific protection you need when supporting great causes abroad. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right policy for you.

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
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Posted 9 DECEMBER 2019

Why do you need volunteer travel insurance?

Taking out travel insurance before volunteering abroad gives you a safety net should something happen to you and your possessions.

It can protect you if:

  • Your trip is cancelled
  • You need medical treatment overseas
  • You need to return home if you’re seriously ill
  • Your belongings are stolen or damaged
  • You accidentally damage someone’s property or injure someone

It’s worth taking out volunteer travel insurance well in advance of your trip. If something goes wrong and it never gets off the ground, you may be able to get compensation for any money you’ve paid out up front.


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.

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

Yes, the travel insurance policy you need may vary depending on the type of volunteer work you plan to undertake. Backpacker insurance often covers some types of work – whether that’s paid or unpaid, but the kind of jobs your policy covers will depend on your package, so it’s best to check the details with your insurance provider. For example, you may want to check how much cover you've got if you need to be flown home in a medical emergency.

You’ll need to be clear about the sort of volunteering activities you’ll be doing to ensure you end up with the most appropriate policy. Not giving full details could put you at risk of invalidating your insurance.

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.

Can I get travel insurance volunteering with animals?

Yes, you can get travel insurance for volunteer work with animals, but you’ll need to let your provider know this is what you’ll be doing before taking out a policy. If you’ll be working with domestic animals, ‘non-big game’ species, or larger animals in animal sanctuaries, you’ll usually be covered under a standard volunteering policy. However, if you’ll be working with more dangerous wild animals, or ‘big game’ species, such as big cats and elephants, you’ll need specialist volunteer travel insurance.


“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 is travel insurance for volunteer work different from regular travel insurance?

As a volunteer, you’re likely to be travelling for far longer than a regular holiday-goer and going ‘off the beaten track’. You should look for specific insurance policies that cover longer trips – for example one that offers continuous cover for a year or even 24 months - and the different activities you might be taking part in.

Some longer policies even offer a trip back home in case you need to return for personal reasons.

You could also look into policies that include:

  • Legal expenses
  • Personal accident cover
  • Baggage and personal possessions cover

What else do I need to consider when taking out volunteer travel insurance?

If you plan to travel to more than one country, even if it’s just passing through, you should make sure they are all covered by your policy – just in case.

You should also think about whether you’ll be doing any sports or extreme activities while you’re travelling. Regular sports might be covered by your travel insurance, but higher risk activities, like pot-holing, may cost a bit more to cover.

You’ll also need to tell your insurance provider about any pre-existing medical conditions you have. If you don’t tell them up front, and you end up needing medical care while travelling, your insurance provider could decide not to pay out.

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