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.

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.

Josh Daniels
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.


The travel traffic light system currently states that trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant government.

Please note: from 4am on 4 October 2021, the current traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries.

Currently, if your destination of choice is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you are aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and ensure travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed with short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red list countries. Most insurance policies purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the FCDO has instructed citizens not to travel to won’t be valid, however, some insurance providers may offer reduced cover if you’re travelling for essential purposes. Should you have any queries, please check the policy wording, or contact your chosen provider before purchasing, to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

Find out more here

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

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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