When embarking on a long-term backpacking trip, one of the most essential items to purchase is travel insurance. The insurance market is swamped with different products and with a lot of them aimed at different types of travellers, it can be overwhelming to understand which policy to buy. Having gone on backpacking trips for over a decade now, I want to break down what I think the most important aspects of a travel insurance policy are and determine what the best travel insurance for backpackers is.
Should backpackers have travel insurance?
For a lot of backpackers setting off on their first trip, the perceived cost of a travel insurance policy can often make them doubt whether it’s a worthwhile purchase. After all, a month-long travel insurance policy could mean several extra nights in South East Asia or a splurge dinner at a nice restaurant!
It is important, however, to consider the potential cost of not having a travel insurance policy in certain countries! If you plan on hiking in remote areas and something goes wrong, then the cost of getting airlifted out could be astronomical. Similarly, if your laptop gets stolen, then the cost of the travel insurance premium will be nothing compared to buying a new notebook!
Therefore, for all backpacking trips that I have taken, I have always bought a travel insurance policy and recommend other backpackers do the same. The only situation where buying a travel insurance policy might not be necessary is if you’re already covered by your credit card or a different policy. However, in these situations, it’s worth investigating what exactly the policy covers and decide whether you need any additional cover.
What should backpacker travel insurance cover?
There are four broad categories that your travel insurance policy should cover that I think are essential for a long-term backpacking trip.
1. Health Care Costs
This is the big one. Whether I’m travelling or living my day to day life, I always wanted to be covered for any major health care costs. So a major focus for me when deciding on the best travel insurance for backpackers is to understand if I’m covered for any sudden medical expenses.
Even the most basic travel insurance policies will cover you for at least some basic health care. However, as a backpacker, it’s important to understand what type of activities this includes. For example, if you’re on a four-day trek through the jungle, are you covered if you need sudden medical attention? What about if you’re scuba diving?
There might also be certain types of trips where you don’t need comprehensive health care coverage. For example, as a European citizen, I have access to an EHIC card which allows me to receive health care in any other EU country when travelling that cannot wait until I get home. Whilst this isn’t a direct replacement for travel insurance, I’m generally comfortable with the level of protection that this provides me with, especially if I’m on a short city break rather than hiking through the mountains.
However, having a travel insurance policy that covers health care is crucial for most trips as many countries have extremely high health care costs (e.g. USA) and if travelling in the developing world I would want to be able to seek Western medical care regardless of the cost.
Right up there with health care costs is emergencies when it comes to making a decision about whether to purchase travel insurance. This is a no-brainer when on any trip to a remote area where you will be far away from help if something goes wrong. On a recent trip to Iceland, I bought travel insurance even though I was covered for health care under the EHIC card because I wanted to be protected in case there was any medical emergency when road tripping through remotes part of the country.
Being covered for emergencies is particularly important for backpackers who often go more off the beaten path compared to other travellers.
3. Stolen or Lost Items
One of the decisions you’ll need to make when buying a travel insurance policy is to decide how much cover you want for personal items. Don’t let the media fool you – most places that you travel to are no more dangerous than where you call home today, however, the inconvenience of having your laptop or camera stolen when backpacking can be massive as they can be difficult to replace when travelling.
Therefore, when choosing the best travel insurance for backpackers I want to have the flexibility of covering more expensive electronic items in my travel insurance policy and not pay extra for coverage that I don’t feel is worth it.
Getting a travel insurance policy that covers cancellations means you are covered for any pre-paid expenses (e.g. plane tickets) if you need to cancel for reasons out of your control. Most of the trips that I take I look for the cheapest airfares that I can find so rarely do I see value in paying extra for insurance that covers this aspect of my trip.
One situation where I think this could be worth it is if you’re on a round-the-world trip or have prepaid multiple airfares on a longer trip. This is because if you are already travelling and something unfortunate happens on your trip, you want to be covered for major expenses that you have already incurred.
What is the best travel insurance for backpackers?
I’ve been travelling and buying travel insurance for over a decade now and there’s only one company I’ve ever used and will continue to use – World Nomads.
Not only does World Nomads provide travellers with affordable policy options but there are several other key advantages that are important to me when buying a policy.
- By focusing on what you need and leaving out what you don’t, World Nomads prices are some of the most competitive online. They offer different levels of policy to suit the type of cover you’re after while also allowing you to pay a premium to insure any high-values belongings.
- World Nomads understands the type of activities travellers want to do so and cover a number of adventure sports like scuba diving, The booking process allows you to check exactly which activities are covered before you buy a policy.
- They allow you to extend a policy when you’re on the road or even buy a policy when you’re already travelling. When taking a long-term trip this is invaluable as you can never be quite sure when you’ll be returning home.
- Their claim process is online, straightforward and they have 24-hour emergency assistance should you need it.
- They add a $1 donation (you can opt out or increase the amount) to selected charities around the world so you give back when travelling.
Whilst the travel insurance provided by World Nomads has suited my needs, it’s important that you read the policy details and terms and conditions to understand if this is the right product for you.
You can get a quote from World Nomads using the box below.
When determining the best travel insurance for backpackers it’s important to consider your own personal circumstances and ensure you buy a policy that suits your specific needs.
Whenever buying travel insurance, I have always used World Nomads as they are the company that I prefer. It’s important, however, to do your own research before purchasing to ensure the policy is right for you.
Do you buy travel insurance for your trips? What do you think the best travel insurance for backpackers is? Let us know in the comments below!