Backpacker travel insurance

Travel often brings unexpected surprises, but with backpackers travel insurance you can reduce the surprises to your wallet.

Updated

Buying travel insurance before you take off on your adventure is one of the most cost-conscious decisions you can make. You’ll only spend about $2 a day up-front and then you can put it out of your mind – that is until you need cover for those bangups that will inevitably happen on your extended around-the-world adventure.

Gash your elbow surfing? Covered. Greyhound lose your luggage? Covered. Pickpocket swipe your cash and important documents? Covered.

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is very important, especially for backpackers. The biggest reason is the medical insurance. Unless you are sticking to the UK or Australia, both countries that have reciprocal health agreements with New Zealand (more on this later in the piece), you won’t have medical cover. That means if you break your ankle running to catch a train in France, you could be on the hook for a lot of dough to get it treated.

Also consider that you’ll be constantly surrounded by unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. Most people are great, but there are always a few bad apples. So if someone steals your credit cards out of a locker, you’ll be covered for that too.

Travel is unpredictable even for someone with the most organised itinerary. As a backpacker, you open yourself up to a few extra risks including:

  • Being constantly on the move
  • Relying on numerous small, local travel providers
  • Having limited supplies
  • Travelling alone
  • Participating in adventure activities
  • Living with strangers

How to find cheap travel insurance for backpackers

There are ways you can save on backpacking insurance so don’t worry, you won’t have to give up your Contiki tour to pay for it. Here are some tips to help you save money on your insurance:

  • Find a policy with adventure activities built-in. You usually have to pay extra for adventure activities bit some policies will offer some adventure cover for free. For example, you can find policies that will automatically cover you for bungee jumping, motorcycle riding and shark cage diving for free.
  • Get a single-trip policy instead. Most backpacking policies are just singles policies with a new name and the ability to add a few extra months to your trip. But some insurers might offer you worse terms if you select “backpacking” rather than “single trip”. Get quotes for both trip types and see what one looks better. Just make sure it offers covers for all the same activities. You may be limited to one year’s worth of cover, so you’ll also need to find out if they will let you extend your cover from overseas if you’ll be travelling longer.
  • Choose medical only. If you’re really strapped for cash, you can choose a policy that covers you for medical expenses and nothing more. You won’t be covered if someone steals your luggage or if you have to cancel your trip, but you will be covered if you get sick or injured overseas. Medical costs can be astronomical, so medical cover is arguably the most important part of you cover anyway.
  • Do your homework. Prices can vary wildly from brand to brand, so make sure you get quotes from a few providers so that you can get the best deal. Just make sure that you also compare what the policies offer before buying the cheapest one. If the second cheapest one offers much better cover, that’s probably a better choice.
  • Look into reciprocal healthcare agreements (RHA). New Zealand has agreements with the UK and Australia to provide medical cover to each other’s residents. If you’ll be spending a large portion of your time in these countries, it may be worth asking your insurer if they’ll reduce your premium for the time you’ll be there. Just remember that your benefits may be limited (see the section on backpacking in Europe below).
  • Look out for discount codes and sales. We offer exclusive discounts with some travel insurance brands and check each of our partners’ sites to see what offers are available. Available offers are displayed just below.

Travel insurance for people backpacking in New Zealand

If you are backpacking within New Zealand, you’ll need a different type of policy depending on whether you are are an overseas visitor or a New Zealand resident. They’ll not typically be called “backpacker insurance” and they may not extend beyond 365 days, but they will work and you can always renew your policy if you plan on travelling beyond one year.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Overseas visitors

If you haven’t purchased travel insurance in your home country, you will need to buy non-resident travel insurance from an insurer in New Zealand. Some of these policies will cover you for all of your medical and trip-related expenses, while others will only cover trip-related expenses. If your policy doesn’t cover medical, the insurer may decide not to cover you until you can show that you have medical cover from elsewhere. This can be though a reciprocal health care agreement where your country and New Zealand agree to cover each other’s residents; or through Overseas Visitors/Overseas Student Health Cover, two special forms of health insurance for people visiting New Zealand for long periods of time such as those on a working holiday visa.

New Zealand residents

If you are a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand and you are backpacking here, your best bet is to simply purchase a domestic travel insurance policy. You’ll have two choices: a single-trip policy covering the entire duration of your trip, or an annual multi-trip policy if you will be returning home periodically between travels. If you choose the annual policy, each individual trip will be limited to a certain amount of time, anywhere from 15 – 90 days.

Most domestic policies will cover you for everything that a comprehensive international policy will cover you for. Here are some examples where domestic travel insurance will help:

  • Cancellation costs. If you book a side trip for a festival and a cyclone rolls through, you can get your money back for your non-refundable costs like the flights, festival tickets and hotel room.
  • Car rental excess. If you’re road-tripping it up the west coast in a rental vehicle and get into an accident, the out-of-pocket expenses (called your excess) can be sky-high. The right travel insurance will help out with that excess.
  • Lost, stolen or damaged belongings. A domestic policy can pay you back if someone steals your phone out of your hostel or an airline loses your luggage.
  • Family emergency. If you have to go back home for an emergency, such as a family member passing away, a domestic policy can pay you back for non-refundable expenses.
  • Emergency companion cover. If you get injured snowboarding on Ruapehu, travel insurance can pay to have someone travel to be by your side.

Travel insurance for backpacking tours

If you decide to risk it and go backpacking without insurance, you can say bye bye to organised tours with Contiki, G Adventures and other organised tour providers. That’s because most of them require you to have travel insurance before they let you book.

The requirements are different based on the provider so make sure you know what they want before you book. For example, Contiki requires you to have medical and cancellation cover, but G Adventures requires only medical.

If you don’t want to be stuck alone at the hostel while all the other backpackers are off getting to know each other, you’ll definitely want to be covered.

Picture: Getty Images

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