Backpacking Travel Insurance 101

Travel Planning

Backpacking Travel Insurance 101

4 Apr , 2016  

If you never loose your phone, don’t drive a car and you’re not from the USA – you might think that you don’t need backpacking travel insurance, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Let us outline what travel insurance is, how it differs from other insurances, why backpackers need it and what options are available. Here’s our Backpacking Travel Insurance 101.

What is travel insurance?

If you are fully versed in exactly what travel insurance is, then skip right on down to the next heading as this will probably just reiterate what you already know! If you are still very early on in your travel research, then you may not be too familiar with exactly what travel insurance is all about.

While it is definitely not one of the most glamorous aspects of travel planning, it could arguably be considered the most important. Ensuring you are covered and to the right level is crucial to prevent bigger issues if things take a turn for the worst (expect the best, plan for the worst). You may spend a considerable amount of time sifting through the never-ending plans and clauses, but by having the right policy your mind will be at ease, knowing you’re paying a reasonable fee for coverage that will definitely pay out if something goes wrong. We’ve all met people who are paying over the odds and are still not covered for certain activities – don’t be that person.

Things to consider when picking a policy?

If you’re backpacking for travel, you have a couple of things to consider that differ from your average tourist. Here are a few things to consider when selecting your backpacking travel insurance.

What places are you planning on visiting?

As a backpacker, you could well be taking in more than just the one country and you need to clarify this before you start looking for policies. Heading to developing countries, or active war zones – you’ll likely find that your premium rises in line with the risk associated. Quite a few companies offer a ‘world coverage’ policy, one the encompasses the USA and one that doesn’t. Likely down to the insurance-mindset of the USA, the costs will climb if you are heading to the land of the free.

What activities do you want to do when you’re there?

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or not, it’s likely that at some point you’ll want to take part in an activity that some policies just don’t cover. From canoeing to snowboarding, the policy cost is always going to increase – not drastically, that is until you look to add any winter sports into the equation. That stuff costs $$$. If you’re looking to climb Everest or kayak Lake Louise, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered. Yes it’ll mean a little more money, but it’ll seriously be worth it.

Where and when are you going?

Heading off to one country for one month and it’ll be nice and simple. Say 12 countries in 12 months and things get slightly more complicated. It is essential to make sure that you are covered for the entirety of your trip, sounds simple but it is easy to get things wrong – make sure you double check the dates. If you are travelling for longer than 12 months like us, then it can be a little tricky to decide what is the best method for purchasing travel insurance. We’re going to opt for a starter 12 month plan and then attack the problem when it comes to renewal!

What does it cover?

The majority of travel insurance policies have a few basics they cover.

Emergency Medical Expenses

I know from personal experience that you can end up needing hospital treatment when you’re least expecting it. One thing that ranks above all else for both of us is our health and wellbeing – you can’t put a price on that. Knowing that you are covered for medical treatment will really put your mind at ease as well as anyone back home who’s worried about how you’ll fare.

Personal Liability

This one is a little less obvious than the previous, so I’ll try to elaborate. Essentially this means you will be covered if somebody takes legal action against you for any particular reason. For example, you may have accidentally damaged someones property and couldn’t come to an agreement – personal liability insurance will cover the costs should anything like this occur.

Lost or Stolen Luggage

That dreaded moment when you’re asked for your hand luggage to be stowed with the hold luggage becomes slightly less annoying when you know you’re fully covered if anything happens to it. Yes you can use padlocks, but if someone fancies looking in your pack then they will. While it won’t make up for the inconvenience of it all, being able to source replacements without having to double up financially is a definite win.

Cancellations and Delays

This one is not all encompassing, but does cover a fair amount of issues you might run into whilst travelling. For example there may be reasons why you can’t even get on the flight our and have to cancel the trip altogether. If you have already taken out travel insurance then this potential disaster will mean that your bank balance won’t take the hit your heart just took. It also means you can claim if you have to cancel due to delays, or if the flight is cancelled for other reasons.

What is not covered?

Unfortunately not everything is covered by default, so you need to make sure that the policy you purchase is suitable for your travel plans. Firstly, ‘winter sports’ are considered to be dangerous activities by insurance companies and as such they come with hefty premiums. If you’re going on a 3 season skiing jaunt in the alps be prepared to pay accordingly. It’s not just the snow that will elicit the ‘danger’ word; bungee jumping, sky diving and scuba diving are just a few other activities that you need to check are included in your cover if you plan on doing them. Be sure to check the small print to see exactly what you are and are not covered for as you could find yourself out of pocket.

Where to buy it

When you’re on the road the easiest way to manage your policy and make claims if needed is through the internet. With that in mind we recommend you purchase your policy through the internet too. You will also find that you will always get a better rate by purchasing online compared to over the phone.

During our own research into insurance policies for multi-trip travel, we have found that lots of other recommendations are pushing overly expensive providers. Whether this is for personal gain or purely because they’re misinformed, it is important to shop around to get a grounding in what the prices should look like. I have run a couple of quick quotes through Alpha Travel Insurance: for both me and Scott the cost of basic cover, with a ‘level 1’ activity pack is around £70. That price is for 12 months of travel around the world excluding the USA, Caribbean and Canada. If we want the policy to include every activity under the sun (literally) as well as extra gadget cover, worth getting if you have a electronics with you, the cost raises to around £500 for the both of us.

The above costs are for a policy that doesn’t have any excess fees. Make sure you opt for something similar, if you really feel the urge to have some kind of excess make sure you stick to £50 or £100. Anything more than that and claims begin to become more of a hindrance rather than a solution to problems – i.e. there is no point claiming for a £250 bag that you’ve had stolen if you’re excess is £200. Don’t get caught out.

Do I need it?

This is a tricky one. Yes travel insurance isn’t legally required to travel, but it should be seen as absolutely necessary when backpacking. If money is an issue, than put of your plans for another month and save the extra bit of money needed to take out a policy.

If you are travelling in the European Union and have a EHIC – then you can get free/discounted medical treatment. However, this won’t cover private treatment, loss of luggage, cancellations or personal liability – so you are still very much taking a risk. If you’re travelling outside of the EU or don’t have an EHIC then it is even more crucial for you to realise the importance of backpacking travel insurance.

This is very much our opinion and we suggest you do you’re own research before deciding on which policy is right for you. If you have any questions or perhaps suggestions for others, please comment below – we’d love to hear them.

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25, but still just a big kid. Travel enthusiast. Chelsea fan. Beer lover. Developer @

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