Best travel insurance for backpackers

Heading off on a backpacking trip? Find out which insurer offers the best protection.

So you’ve saved up the cash and you’re ready to embark on your big gap year or backpacking trip abroad.

Trekking around the globe for weeks or months at a time comes with its fair share of risk so getting travel insurance is vital. Yet where do you even begin?

In this guide we look at what types of policies you can get as a backpacker and offer some tips for finding the best deal possible.

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Why do backpackers need insurance?

Whether you’re heading to South America, Australia or Asia, there are a whole host of reasons why backpackers need insurance.

Should you get ill or hurt yourself abroad, medical expenses can be incredibly expensive. Plus you will want protection if you’re taking expensive items like a camera or phone away with you.

Which travel insurance is best for backpackers?

Deciding which travel insurance is best for you will depend on the duration of your trip. Here are a few options you’ll have to choose between as a backpacker.

You might not necessarily have to get a specialist backpacker travel insurance policy. If you’re only travelling for a few weeks then a standard single-trip or multi-trip insurance deal could offer you the protection you need. Here are some key features to consider though.

  • Time limits. Standard travel insurance deals generally only cover 31 consecutive days abroad, although do look around. Some policies can offer you protection for up to 365 days away.
  • Returning home. A regular travel insurance policy will require you to start and end each trip in the UK.
  • Risky activities. You generally won’t be automatically covered for activities like rafting or scuba diving by a regular travel insurance deal. Typically you have to pay a bit extra to get added protection for higher risk activities.
If you’re exploring the world for a couple of months or more, then a specialist backpacker policy is definitely worth a look. Here are some key features to consider.

  • Longer time limits. A backpacker policy can offer you protection for up to 18 months abroad.
  • High-risk activities covered. Many specialist backpacker policies protect you for activities like whitewater rafting or mountain biking as standard.
  • Hop around the world. You can get coverage for travelling to countries all around the globe.
  • Stopping off in the UK. Some insurers will let you temporarily return to the UK for a week or two if you’re planning on coming home briefly before jetting off again.
Another option you might want to check out is long stay travel insurance. This type of policy is similar to backpacker insurance but can offer more comprehensive protection for you and your possessions.

What are the differences between backpacker insurance and regular travel insurance?

The main difference between backpacker insurance and regular travel insurance is time. A standard annual policy will typically only protect you for 31 consecutive days abroad, while a backpacker’s deal will cover you for a year or more.

Yet there is another key difference. A backpacker policy will protect you for risky activities like bungee jumping or white-water rafting as standard, while with a regular deal you’ll have to pay extra if you want to do anything vaguely extreme.

How to get the best backpacker policy

If you’ve decided a backpacker policy is for you, then it’s a good idea to get insurance sorted as soon as you’ve bought any flights. That way you’re covered should you need to cancel your trip.

When buying backpacker insurance, it’s also essential you do the following to get a deal that’s suited to you and your big trip.

  • Get the cover you need. If you have expensive gadgets or jewellery you’ll want a policy that has high cover limits for individual items. If not, then you can afford to take out a cheaper but more basic backpacker insurance deal.
  • Shop around. Never buy the first deal you find. Use comparison sites and get plenty of quotes to ensure you find a backpacker insurance policy for you.
  • Look out for exclusions. Read the terms and conditions before signing up – most policies won’t cover you if you drink or take drugs for instance. Plus you want to make sure any risky activities you’re planning on doing are covered.

How to compare backpacking travel insurance policies

It can be hard to separate the good from the bad when it comes to backpacker policies, so here are some key tips.

  • Medical fees. Make sure you’re covered for a bare minimum of £2 million for medical treatment if you’re heading around the world.
  • Activities. Check that the backpacker insurance will protect you for any risky activities you’ll be doing. Whether you’re hiking or whitewater rafting, you’ll want a policy that protects you when you need it most.
  • Cash. Ask insurers how much they will compensate you in the event that your cash is stolen. If you’re heading to a country with high levels of crime you’ll want adequate protection.
  • Individual claim limits. Planning on taking an expensive item such as a quality digital camera with you? Backpacker travel insurance deals generally have quite low limits on what they’ll pay for each lost, stolen or damaged item, so try to find a policy which will cover your belongings sufficiently.
  • Time covered. Some insurers will cover you for 12 months and others for trips up to 18 months long. Bear this in mind when shopping around.
  • Age limits. Unfortunately, some policies have age limits, so bear this in mind when comparing and contrasting deals.
  • Accepted countries. Not all policies will cover you for travel to places like the USA and the Caribbean due, in part, to higher medical costs. So it’s key you work out where in the world an insurer will or won’t protect you.
  • 24/7 helpline. Try to find an insurer that will give you round-the-clock support; you might need it if you have an emergency on the other side of the planet.

How much does backpacker travel insurance cost?

If you’re going travelling with a friend don’t be surprised if you’re quoted different amounts by the same company. Travel insurers will use a whole host of factors to work out your individual premiums, such as:

  • Destination. If you’re heading to a far-flung country like Australia you’ll have to pay far more than someone backpacking around Europe, for instance.
  • Age. As with all travel insurance deals, if you’re over 30 or 40 your premium will probably be higher.
  • Health. If you have any pre-existing health conditions you might have to pay a fair bit more for cover, as treatment abroad could be more expensive.
  • Your belongings. You’ll want to pay extra for a policy that protects expensive gadgets and other items.
  • What you’ll be doing. Doing activities like bungee jumping and mountain biking comes with risk, and a higher chance you’ll end up in the hospital. This is reflected in the insurer’s costs.
  • Length of your trip. The longer you’re away for, the more you’ll pay in travel insurance. Simple.

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