Backpacker travel insurance

If you’re off on a culture crammed backpacking adventure, make sure you’re covered for any unforeseen predicaments.

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Do I need travel insurance?

It is not uncommon for backpackers to be more attracted to destinations that are typically “off the grid”. Unfortunately, with this comes an increased risk of suffering a loss. Some of the common risks of backpacking include:

  • Constantly moving from place to place
  • Travelling alone
  • Being overseas for a longer period of time
  • Participating in adventurous or extreme activities
  • Working overseas

Travel insurance policy features useful for backpackers

Obviously, no two travellers are exactly the same and the decision on whether to take out a basic or comprehensive plan really depends your trip plans and cover requirements. Always make sure you not only look at the cover option but also what you stand to receive in the event of a claim to ensure it is adequate.

Here are some of the more useful travel insurance features when it comes to backpacking:

  • Overseas emergency medical assistance – 24-hour emergency support.
  • Emergency medical and hospital expenses – cover for any medical expenses that may be incurred as a result of serious illness or injury whilst overseas.
  • Credit card fraud and replacement – cover for replacement costs of credit cards and any fraudulent transactions.
  • Luggage and personal effects – cover for loss or theft of luggage and personal effects including bags, camera, laptop, and smartphones etc.
  • Legal liability – cover for legal expenses incurred following accidental bodily injuries or damages to a third party’s property.

Travel risks backpackers face

There are many potential risks that backpackers face during their travels. Many backpackers choose not take out adequate cover before they travel and can end up being financially devastated. The loss can often be extended to immediate friends and family who are left to provide financial support.

1. Unexpected medical or health costs

One major risk facing backpackers abroad is experiencing a medical emergency and needing to be repatriated back home.

  • Hospital stay. Many backpackers are completely unaware of how high the cost of a hospital stay in a foreign country can be. According to a 2011 WHO Department of Health Systems Financing report, hospitals can charge upwards of hundreds of pounds per day, even in developing countries.
  • Repatriation back home. Depending on the severity of the condition, the cost of returning someone home following serious illness or injury can be financially crippling.
2. Losses from natural disasters

If you are backpacking through a country when it’s suddenly struck by a flood, an earthquake, or tsunami, you could literally become stranded with nothing apart from the clothes on your back. Travel cover can help you get back on your feet again and enable you to continue with your travels unperturbed. It is, however, worth checking the your policy documents as not all policies will provide cover for weather-related losses and natural disasters.

3. Travel delay and trip cancellation

Backpackers travel insurance can cover those out-of-pocket costs caused by delays or cancellations. Note that the majority of insurers will only provide a benefit for trip cancellation if the cancellation is due to events that are out of the policy holder’s control.

4. Liability charges

You have no doubt read of some high-profile cases where travellers abroad have unknowingly broken a local law. In some cases it could be quite an expensive pursuit to prove your innocence and retain your freedom once again. Personal liability will cover the policyholder for bodily injuries or damage to other persons that are the result of a claim that has been made against the insured persons.

5. Theft of cash, credit card fraud and replacement for the loss of personal belongings

It is well-known that backpackers are drawn to travelling in particularly risky areas. If you’re travelling alone, you may find yourself in locations high in petty crime. Travel cover policies should offer cover for theft and loss of cash and personal belongings and transport carriers during travels. It is worth noting that most insurers will require some form of proof of purchase of the item in order for it to be eligible for a claim.

Typical documentation that is generally required for your claim to be approved includes receipts, valuation documents, police reports for stolen items, reports from hotel or transport officials for items lost in transit or during stay.

Am I covered when staying in a hostel or an airbnb?

Part of the backpacking experience is doing things on a budget, which often includes staying at hostels. While these are usually friendly and sociable places to stay, they are not always secure and there is the chance that valuables can go missing.

Travel insurance will cover the loss or theft of belongings from a hostel or any other location, providing you do not leave your items unsupervised. Negligence is a general exclusion in the majority of travel insurance policies. For a claim to be paid, your belongings must have been safely locked away and you must obtain a police report that confirms evidence of forced entry to your hostel room or locker.

Insurance will cover you in these accommodations for medical emergencies, personal liability and cancellations if the need to cancel your pre-paid accommodation following an insured event such as flight delays should arise.

How can I save on my travel insurance?

  • Consider your coverage needs. Think about the level of insurance you need. Comprehensive cover isn’t necessary for everyone. Don’t splurge unnecessarily on the most expensive policy if you only see yourself needing a handful of the benefits on offer.
  • Compare providers. As with most things on the market, there are literally hundreds of travel insurance companies out there. Make sure you compare quotes from a wide range of different providers as opposed to signing up to the first policy you come across.
  • Discount codes and deals. Here at finder, we’re privy to insiders discounts and deals. If there is a discount or offer on travel insurance we will be the first to let you know and help you save.

What am I not covered for?

Every insurer will have a list of restricted claims. It is not uncommon for many backpackers to be surprised to learn that they are ineligible to claim for a loss and are left to cover the expenses on their own budget.
Here are some of the common exclusions to be aware of:

  • Extreme sport activities. Each insurer has their own list of extreme sports that they simply refuse to cover. It might be worthwhile taking out a specialist policy if you are eager to participate in one or more of these adrenaline packed experiences during your trip.
  • Loss of property through negligence. Claims for bags and belongings that were left unattended or lost due to negligence are in general not covered. Pay attention to the policy wording here.
  • Limitations on item amount. Insurers will generally have a sub-limit that will be paid per item in the event of a loss. You may need to register any high-value items on your policy for additional cover.
  • Drugs and alcohol. Claims where the policyholder was under the influence of drugs or alcohol are commonly rejected.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions. Most travel insurance brands will not pay out claims for illnesses or conditions that the insured person knew about prior to their trip.
  • Political unrest. Most insurers will exclude claims relating to political unrest or terrorism. This is a key thing to think about if you’re planning to travel to destinations slightly “off the beaten track”. If you choose to go to any country that has been recommended not to travel to, you won’t be covered.
  • Motorcycle incidents. Claims relating to motorcycle incidents including scooters and mopeds will not be covered if the driver of the moped does not hold a registered UK drivers licence. You will also not be covered if you are the passenger of a motorcycle being driven by an unlicensed driver.

Annual trip or backpacker policy?

Back and forth overseas? Annual multi-trip travel insurance might be a good option. It’s designed for people who travel regularly and allows you to take numerous trips per year and each trip is covered automatically, without you having the faff of taking out a new policy each time.

The only restriction you should note is that you can only travel for a stipulated period each time (usually up to a month) and that you begin and end each journey in the UK. Spending an extended period overseas? Backpacker travel insurance may be more suitable.

Backpackers insurance is different. It is designed for travellers who are taking an extended trip through a number of countries, usually over a period of up to 18 months. So if you are not planning to return to the UK until the end of your holiday, backpackers insurance would probably suit you better than an annual multi-trip policy.

Top tips for backpackers

1. Register yourself with the United Kingdom Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth (FCO) prior to departure

FCO regularly issues notices and warning to keep you informed about any potential political or environmental risks that may be occurring in the area you are travelling to or through. Take a few minutes to register on the website online and you’ll help to ease any concerns your family and friends might have about your welfare whilst you are away.

2. Make copies of important documents before departure

By leave a copy of your important documents at home with a friend or family member means they can access them in an emergency. You should also carry a second copy with you separately to the originals. By doing this you will minimise any hardship in the event that the originals become lost or stolen. Types of documents you should photocopy include:

  • Passport and associated visas
  • Certificate of insurance
  • Flight details
  • Accommodation details such as addresses, phone numbers etc
  • Credit or debit card numbers and driver’s licence
  • Family member/spouses contact details
3. Sort out any visa requirements early on

Don’t leave your tourist visa to enter another country until the last minute. Some countries can be quite slow at handling the paperwork. Vietnam, for instance, can take up to a week to award a travel visa. Make sure you have all this arranged before you set out, or at least a good time before you intend travelling to your next destination country.

4. Complete all necessary vaccinations early

Some vaccinations require a series of injections over a period of time. Others don’t take effect until several weeks after they are administered and some can leave you feeling unwell. For all these reasons it’s important to have them all completed well in advance of your departure date. Malaria is quite common in tropical areas so don’t leave without a good stock of anti malarial tablets if you’re planning to pay a visit to any tropical countries.

5. Planning on working overseas?

If you are planning on working while you are overseas, it is essential you take the time to check out what regulations and restrictions may apply before you leave. You may need to organise working holiday visas before you depart. It is also worth reading up on whether you will be covered for any injuries sustained while working in a foreign country on your travel insurance documents.

6. Back up your iPhone or smartphone

Imagine you are halfway through your trip and your phone is lost or stolen. Yes, your insurance provider may be able to cover the cost of a replacement, but no one can replace the lost memories. Back up your photos and contacts to a cloud storage system to save you the heartache of losing touch with newly made travelling companions, not to mention the potential devastation of lost photographs documenting your adventures and experiences.

7. Sort out your travel money
  • Travel with a smart amount of local currency. You may not always have access to an ATM in more remote locations.
  • Never expose where you are carrying the bulk of any money. It is a good idea to work out how much money you will most likely need for any one day and have that amount available where it is easily accessible.
  • Always carry more than one credit or debit card. If one is lost or stolen you will still have another to fall back on. Keep cards hidden in a money belt under your clothing. Never leave any important cards or documents in your backpack.
  • Remember to tell your bank back home that you intend on travelling. Otherwise if they see a debit arrive from a foreign country it may cause a security alarm and the card could be cancelled for your protection.
  • Keep your currency conversion needs to a minimum. On most occasions when you convert from one currency to another you will lose out as to the true cost because of the differences in exchange rates as well as the charges to exchange. Only convert small amounts when it is absolutely necessary. It is far better to use your own credit or debit card, or a prepaid travel money card where the currency difference has already been calculated.
  • It can be worth travelling with a small amount of US dollars as it is an accepted currency in many locations worldwide.

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