Travel insurance for backpackers

Backpacking as a form of travel has evolved over the years, but it is still associated with budget transport and budget accommodation. Whether you’re planning a gap year exploring Southeast Asia, a multi-country adventure through South America, or a classic European backpacking trip, travel insurance is an absolute must-have. This guide will help you navigate the world of backpacker travel insurance in the UK, ensuring you have the right coverage for your unforgettable journey.

What is Backpacker Travel Insurance?

Backpacker travel insurance, also known as extended trip insurance, is specifically designed for adventurers like you who are planning a long-term trip, typically lasting for several months up to a year and a half. Unlike standard travel insurance, backpacker coverage offers several key advantages:

  • Multi-country coverage: Backpacker insurance is geared towards globe-trotting, so it typically covers you for visits to multiple countries throughout your trip.
  • Extended trip duration: Standard travel insurance usually only covers trips up to a month. Backpacker insurance caters to those extended adventures to protect for your entire backpacking journey.
  • Adventure activity coverage: Many backpacker plans include coverage for adventure activities like skiing, snowboarding, or scuba diving. This eliminates the need for expensive add-ons.

What is the Difference Between Annual Multi Trip and Backpacker Insurance?

Both annual multi-trip and backpacker insurance offer coverage for multiple trips throughout a year, but they cater to different travel styles. Annual multi-trip insurance is ideal for frequent short trips, typically covering individual trips up to a month (although this can vary). Backpacker insurance, on the other hand, is designed for extended adventures, lasting anywhere from several months up to 18 months or even 2 years, depending on the insurer.

Annual multi-trip insurance is suited for travellers who take multiple short vacations throughout the year, while backpacker insurance is a better fit for those embarking on a single, long-term adventure in multiple countries during their extended trip. While both offer core coverage like medical expenses and trip cancellation, backpacker insurance often includes additional features such as adventure sports and activities, which might require expensive add-ons with annual multi-trip insurance. Furthermore, backpacker insurance may offer extended coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation back to your home country in case of a serious illness or injury.

We recommend that you choose annual multi-trip for frequent, short getaways throughout the year or backpacker insurance for a single, extended adventure lasting several months to two years.

What Backpacker Insurance Covers

Like standard travel insurance, backpacker policies offer various types of coverage, including:

Medical and Healthcare Cover

The most important feature of travel insurance is the medical cover, although it may cover other areas too. It may be difficult to access medical care in an emergency outside the UK, if you do not have travel insurance. The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) allows you to access necessary state healthcare in many European countries, and some others, just like a resident would. However, it’s important to note that it might not cover everything.

It is advisable to take an insurance policy that provides 24 hour medical emergency services that include air ambulance service for quick repatriation to your home country. Some policies may not include a cover for injuries caused by risky adventure sports like bungee jumping, sky-diving or jet-skiing, but may permit add-ons on extra payment. You would need to add these if you are planning any of the adventure sports.

Possessions Cover

Most backpacker insurance policies would provide cover for loss or damage to personal belongings, but you must check how much would be the cover and if there are any exclusions. Read the fine print before you sign on.

This allows you to get baggage insurance when travelling, as the reimbursement provided by the airlines due to loss or damage to your baggage may not be compensated adequately. Report any theft to the police and get an acknowledgement of your complaint in order to file your claim with your insurance provider. Unsubstantiated claims may not be entertained.

Personal Liability Cover

Backpacker insurance often includes Personal Liability Cover. This is a crucial safeguard that protects you financially if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property during your travels. If you’re found liable for causing injury or damage, the insurance can cover associated legal costs and compensation payouts. This could be anything from a minor bump on the street to a more serious accident.

Personal Liability can apply to various scenarios, such as accidentally spilling a drink on someone’s expensive electronics or causing damage to a rental bike.

Cancellation Cover

Backpacker insurance can include cancellation cover in the policy, even if it has to be an add-on feature, as this would protect you from making payments if you need to cancel any part or the whole travel itinerary. Illness, family emergencies, or even natural disasters can force you to cancel your trip, often at the last minute. Without cancellation cover, you could be stuck footing the bill for pre-booked flights, accommodation, and tours.

Personal Accident Cover

This cover will compensate you, in the unfortunate event of an accident that leads to permanent disability or your nominee, in case of your death. This cover can provide a lump sum payment to help manage medical costs, lost income, or adapting your living situation. Some policies may even cover legal fees if you need to fight for your rightful compensation after an accident. This can be a valuable benefit, especially when you are in an unfamiliar legal system abroad.

In the tragic event of your death due to an accident, Personal Accident Cover can even offer a payout to your designated beneficiary. This financial assistance can help ease the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time.

Can You Extend Backpacker Travel Insurance?

In most cases, yes, you can extend travel insurance, including backpacker insurance. This is possible if you haven’t lodged any claims and your trip hasn’t exceeded the original end date. However, there are limitations to these extensions. Insurers typically impose maximum durations for extensions, ranging from a few extra weeks to a total trip duration of 18 to 24 months, depending on the provider. Additionally, certain restrictions may apply; some insurers set a cap on the extension period, while others may not permit extensions once the trip has commenced.

Generally, no claims are necessary to extend coverage, but it’s essential to be proactive. Contacting the insurer well in advance of the current policy’s expiration allows time to discuss extension options and associated costs. You should anticipate a possible increase in premiums when extending the policy. Moreover, you should disclose any new medical conditions that have arisen during their journey, as these may impact eligibility for extension.

Is Backpacker Insurance Better than Travel Insurance?

Backpacker insurance is best for long, adventurous trips, while travel insurance is better suited for shorter, more relaxed vacations. Here’s a quick decision table to help you choose:

FactorBackpacker InsuranceTravel Insurance
Trip LengthLong-term (multiple destinations)Short-term (limited destinations)
ActivitiesAdventure activitiesRelaxation, sightseeing
Coverage NeedsExtensive coverage (medical, adventure activities, trip extensions)Basic coverage (medical, trip cancellation)
BudgetMore expensiveMore affordable

General Advice:

  • Use insurance comparison site such as Money Supermarket and Compare the Market to find affordable backpacker insurance in UK.
  • Answer all questions asked in the insurance application form truthfully as any untrue answers on your health could make your claim invalid.
  • Always use the services of accredited agents registered with ATOL or ABTA and choose the insurance provider wisely. It is best to do a quality check on them before you sign on.
  • Get a free EHIC card if you are travelling in Europe as this helps you to get medical treatment often free or at reduced costs.
  • It is important to note that insurance providers will not cover you for injuries due to alcohol or drug abuse.