Choosing backpacking insurance | An independent guide
Choosing backpacking insurance isn’t the easiest thing when planning your trip. It can be the most expensive item you buy before you travel and if you’re travelling for an extended period it can cost more than your flights, which can cause some dilemmas. Here we will try and give you a few pointers to hopefully set you on the right track and save you some time and money.
For the sake of this post we are going to define backpacking as any trip outside your own country that lasts for longer than the usual annual leave and falls outside the remit of the normal holiday insurance policy. So we will say between six weeks and a year.
We are based in the United Kingdom so our advice is based around the choices available to us here in the UK. Having said that the advice should in the main be universal as we are not trying to sell you a particular brand. Which brings me neatly on to my first observation.
As with all websites including blogs we have to declare if we get paid by selling products through affiliate links. We do get paid on this blog if you click through our links and buy the services there in. This post does not get commission, at the time of writing, from any Insurance brokers either first hand or through third parties. This should be the first thing you look for when researching. One very famous provider of backpacking insurance seems to be recommended on nearly every travel blog you look at. This could be because they pay the blogs very handsomely for any referrals.
Age at the time of travel
I’m sixty two, I don’t feel it and you may not think this is important when choosing backpacking insurance. You would be wrong, most insurers have an upper age limit, it’s usually sixty five if you are over this age you will need to seek a bespoke policy from a specialist provider. In some cases it’s lower. In the UK for instance the Post Office can provide Backpacking insurance but only if you are under sixty. So the first thing to do before going through all the form filling is to check that you meet the age criteria.
Fitness to travel
All travel insurers will want to know if you are fit to undertake your planned trip. It is very important that you not only tell the truth when filling in the application form, but also make sure that you understand what they mean by the terms they use for illnesses and conditions that are excluded from standard cover.
For instance I have a condition for which I have to take medication it falls within the accepted conditions for a standard policy without having to make a declaration. However when looking into it more robustly it turns out that this cannot be something that you have recieved hospital treatment for in the last two years. I rang them and discussed my condition and the treatment I had received, it turns out I had no need to declare. By phoning them I now have this confirmation on record with the insurers. Always leave no doubt that you are covered or you are just wasting your money and may end up with large expenses if they will not pay out on your claim.
Length of your trip
All insurance providers will require you to state a length for your trip as we discussed earlier in our case this could be six weeks to a year. Some will limit your term dependant on your age, so in my case being sixty two I found it very difficult to find any term longer than twelve months. If I wanted to stay away longer I would have to start again at the end of the twelve months with a new policy. In general the longer your term, the cheaper it becomes per month as once you have arrived at your destination there is less risk of claims for missed flights and the such.
The more popular choices offer extensions to your policy while travelling. This may look appealing if your not sure how long you will be away but beware it’s a very expensive way of doing it. It is much cheaper to over estimate your travel than to under estimate and extend. You may say this is irrelevant as surely everyone knows how long they will travel for but in our case with it being our first extended trip we didn’t have a clue how long we will be away but in real terms and it was cheaper to buy for long term and trust that we would love it and the money would not run out.
All the companies I could find in the UK start off with a base policy that looks quite cheap. Don’t be fooled this is just the basic cover. You have to check very carefully that what you need is covered. For some companies this is easier than others they all have there own basic policy and they all have their own way of letting you customise to your needs.
Lets look at hiking as an example. If you plan on hiking and want cover you have to take a number of things into consideration which may not be covered in the basic policy. For instance altitude and risk. A basic policy may cover you for up to 3000m if you want to go higher than this you will need to buy an add on some companies do this individually and some add it as part of a pack. If you want to do your hike in winter conditions you will need to check that winter tooling is included as part of your package.
The same rules apply to many other sports and activities you may want to take part in while away. Scuba diving for instance could be limited to 18m in the basic policy. Another thing to look out for are exceptions. If you want to go trekking in Nepal you will have to make sure you know what your cover includes and what it doesn’t. For instance some policies have a large excess for recovery from a trek in Nepal due to the high risk that this will happen.
Is it worth it
Strange topic you may think when choosing backpacking insurance, but in some cases add ons may not work out to be value for money. Make sure you read the small print and work out the cost versus the gain if something goes wrong.
Personal belongings for instance the add on could cost you almost as much as you would get back from a claim. Once you take into account the excess and the maximum total claim it could work out to be poor value for money. Most insurers will only cover your money and personal belongings for a fraction of what they are worth.
Your mobile phone for instance could of cost you over a thousand pounds to replace but by the time you take into account the total claimable amount and the per item amount then knock off the excess and the cost of the add on for personal belongings you will find you get next to nothing back if you claim and you will have spent all day in the police station filing a report to get a claim number. Sometimes it’s just not worth it, I’ve been there and in the end we didn’t even claim we would of got so little back it wasn’t worth it.
If you buy a one way ticket you may not be covered for your flights to get home if something goes wrong. The insurance company may assume that since you hadn’t purchased a return ticket you would of had to buy it anyway. Also if you have bought a single trip policy check you can come home at your own cost and keep the term of your policy.
Some policies end when you get back to your country of origin. Policies can also end if your are repatriated under the terms of your insurance. Check that you can resume your trip if required. For instance if you need to return due to something happening at you home, you fix it in a few days then want to resume your trip this may not be possible under your original policy.
Where are you going
This may seem an obvious one but just to be sure you need to check all likely possible destinations on your trip are covered. For instance some worldwide policies do not included the USA and Canada and some add Mexico to this list also. It’s aways wise just to make sure.
Another important factor when choosing backpacking insurance is government advice. If the country you want to visit is on the excluded list on your country of origins advice your insurance is automatically void for that country always check before you cross boarders as advice can often change overnight.
At the time of writing this post some countries require a proof of cover certificate for covid insurance. Make sure you understand if your policy includes this and how to get the certificate if it’s needed. Hopefully this will soon be less of an issue but for now we need to make sure we have this covered.
I know it’s a ball ache but always make sure you read the small print and understand what your reading. If you don’t, ring them for help or use the little chat box in the corner of the screen when on the website. It is always best to know before you go. This could save you a lot of heartache, money or even your life in some cases. You will also get peace of mind if you know you have carefully researched your options.
Hopefully you will have a fantastic trip and won’t need to claim but on the small chance that you do make sure you know the correct procedure to make a claim. Print this out along with the claim line phone numbers and keep it with you at all times you never know when you will need it.
Ease of use
Last and may be not as important as other items on this post is the ease of use of the websites. One of the most popular companies for backpacking insurance is extremely difficult to use. Making you pick out each individual activity to make sure you are covered to the right degree. I personally believe they do this as a ploy to get you to buy cover you don’t need.
Always check the reviews of each company on a good independent review site such as Trustpilot all those people can’t be wrong. Last but not least I would personally stay away from comparison sites for backpacking insurance they don’t seem to work for this type of cover.
There are not too many sites for UK travellers to get Backpacking insurance but make sure you check them all. Make sure the advice you are using is truly independent. Do your research and don’t worry once your covered, only a very few ever have to claim. Please if you have any further advise use the comment box below to let us know how you got on and if any of our advice was useful to you. Please don’t comment if all you want to do is divert people to your affiliate links not all advice is equal.
Booking resources for your trip
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
Some of the links on this page contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. You will never be charged a fee for shopping through one of our affiliate links. You may even get a discounted rate and we will make a small commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.
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