A BASIC GUIDE TO BACKPACKER INSURANCE

I’ll start by saying I am in no way a mastermind about travel insurance, and I can luckily say I’ve never had to make a claim. But having been on a few trips, and hearing horror stories from friends and people I’ve met abroad, I’ve picked up a few tips over the years that are worth sharing. No one likes to spend hours searching for travel insurance, but unfortunately it does take longer than you think. A lot of people go for the first cheapest option, without actually reading the small print or what is covered. It can come back to bite you in the ass massively if you don’t, especially if you have an accident abroad.

One thing I get asked quite a bit is, “it it worth taking out travel insurance?” The answer is always yes! It costs an absolute fortune if you have an accident abroad, and you only have to do a quick google search to read stories of backpackers abroad, that have had an accident and have not been covered by their insurance…or didn’t have any.

A lot of people like to make the excuse that they haven’t visited A&E for years at home, or they’ve never broke a bone etc, for not having travel insurance. Those are two very stupid reasons to not take out travel insurance. You’re not doing the things you’re doing backpacking, at home. That’s the whole reason you’re out seeing the world. We don’t have the crazy roads of Bangkok in the UK. We don’t have nowhere the amount of poisonous things that can kill you, like they do in Australia. The world is a lot more dangerous than the comfort of your own home. So yes, get travel insurance!

WHERE TO BUY?
There are many, many travel insurance companies. Picking the right one is down to you and your needs. A quick google search, and you’ll have endless choices of travel insurance companies. The easiest way to do it, is to go on a price comparison website. Compare the Market, Go Compare, and Money Saving Supermarket are amongst the top price comparison websites.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR? 
Firstly, look how much they’re willing to pay out if you have an accident. On average it’s usually around 5 million, which hopefully should be plenty and is a good amount.

Secondly, look what the excess is. Basically this is the amount you have to give them, if you make a claim. So the higher the excess, usually the cheaper the price of the insurance. But if you have an excess of £500, that’s quite a lot for a backpacker to cough up, should you have an accident. I usually don’t like to pay more than £100/150 in excess, but this is completely down to you. Some people like to pay a higher excess to keep the price of the insurance down. But if you have a cancelled flight etc, anything that is a small-ish claim, if you have an high excess, then you’re not going to be able to claim any of your money back, as it’ll be less than your excess amount. So it’s usually worth having a lower excess, incase anything like that happens, where the claim back will still be small, but most definitely worth it. Every penny counts when backpacking.

Thirdly, look at what activities are included. This is basically anything you can do while abroad, and if you have an accident, the insurance company will cough up the pennies for you, and have your back basically. A lot of activities aren’t included. Such as when I was looking for insurance for Australia, a lot of companies don’t cover surfing or sea kayaking. Two things I planned to do while over there. This meant if I did break anything, or had an accident while doing either of those, I wouldn’t be able to claim on my insurance. Meaning any medical bills, I’d have to pay myself, which obviously is costly. Do not panic, a lot of insurance companies offer add ons. So if you can’t see your activity included, you will have the option to pay extra and get it covered. Sky diving & scuba diving are two popular things that backpackers do, and a lot of insurance companies don’t cover them as standard. So if you plan to do either of those, make sure you’re covered. It’s also worth noting a lot of insurance companies don’t cover you for driving a moped. So if you go to Thailand or Vietnam and hire a bike, make sure you’re covered first. This is the number 1 accident with backpackers in South East Asia, and is the number 1 thing that backpackers get caught out with, when it comes to claiming on their insurance.

Next thing you need to check for is your baggage. This won’t apply to everyone, but if you’re taking expensive gear, such as your laptop or camera, then a lot of baggage policies won’t cover you. It’ll say it covers for up to £1000 or £2000. But when you read the small print, it’ll say each item claim up to a value of £250, or something similar. This means you can claim up to the £1000, or £2000, but each item you claim for, you won’t be able to get more than £250. If you have a £1000 camera, this means you’ll only be able to claim £250, minus your excess. I don’t know about you, but if my camera or laptop got stolen, and I could only claim back £250, I would be super annoyed! And massively out of pocket! Some policies also restrict you for claiming against items that are classed as valuables, such as a laptop or camera. So some insurance policies won’t even offer you £250, and will tell you you’re not even covered. You have few options if you’re taking expensive gear. One is check if you’re covered by your home insurance. Luckily my gear was on my parents house insurance, and that covered me while I was also abroad. So should anything of happened, I could make the claim against the house insurance, rather than my travel insurance. Secondly, you could take out a separate insurance policy, that just insures your valuables separately. Make sure the cover is worldwide, and you’re not limited on the number of days abroad. Some may say a trip up to 60 days at a time. You will be asked to show flight details when making a claim, so if you’ve been in the country for over 60 days, your insurance will be void! Thirdly, you can ask the travel insurance company if they can add on your valuables to their policy. This may work out cheaper than the second option. A lot of travel insurance companies are now realising that people are taking expensive gear abroad, and more are offering this. If it doesn’t say on their website, email or ring, and ask them!

And finally, make sure you can extend the insurance, while abroad, if needs be. Chances are if you’ve been on the road for a year, you ain’t going to want to head home anytime soon, unless you have something pretty amazing waiting for you back home. A lot of people extend their trips, then realise they can’t extend their insurance. A lot of policies insist that you’re in the UK when you take out the policy, therefore you can’t extend it while away from home. Some do, but a lot don’t. So if you think there’s the slightest chance you may stay longer than 12 months, ask if you can extend outside of the UK.

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS
Insure and Go – Used these a few times, and they make insurance pretty easy to understand. You know exactly what’s covered and where you stand. They do pretty cheap backpacker insurance too, that covers you worldwide, not to one specific place. So should you decide to take a spontaneous trip anywhere, you don’t have to worry about taking another insurance policy out. You can extend up to 24 months, conditions apply, and you can insure valuables, each item up to £1000. Most activities are also included in their standard backpacker policy. Worth noting that mopeds are not included in their standard policy. Check out their website here. 

World Nomads – You’ll probably have heard of these, as every travel blogger recommends them. I really haven’t got a clue why, because when I asked for a quote, it was twice as much as everywhere else, and their policy didn’t really offer anything different to the others. I’ve heard a few people say this on my travels too. I think their good reputation has come from them sponsoring the big travel bloggers, not because they’re a good insurer. Check out their website here. 

True Traveller – These were recommended by a few friends. Popular as they specialise specifically in backpacker insurance. They let you take out a policy, even if you’re already abroad, so no messing about getting a flight back to the UK. They let you tailor your policy to your needs. So if you don’t want to cover baggage, if it’s already covered by your parents home insurance, they’ll let you remove it, and make the price cheaper for you and save you some pennies. They also cover a wide range of activities. Check out their website here. 

As I said at the start, I am by no means a mastermind when it comes to travel insurance. But I’ve got along just fine with the basic knowledge above. I hope I’ve covered all the basics, but if you do have any questions, feel free to ask below. If you have any travel insurance recommendations, or know who to avoid, then share in the comments below, and help fellow travellers out!

 

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