I struggled through the forest, angry red lines obscuring my vision, the rain soaking my skin. My head throbbed, I was drenched with sweat. Blood sloshed in my boot, I fell to my knees for the hundredth time and continued to crawl. Darkness was coming, was I to die in this lonely jungle? Up ahead, I could just make out a faint light, was it even real or was my fever-addled mind playing tricks on me? With one last surge of energy I pushed myself forwards, struggling through a bamboo door appearing out of the mist and collapsing, it was my first near death experience whilst backpacking. It was not to be my last.
Most backpackers hitting the road are so excited about having crazy adventures that they tend to forget about one of the essentials of any trip abroad; backpacker travel insurance…
What you need to remember is that backpacker insurance is a lot more than just medical protection. Insurance covers you when you drop your rucksack down a cliff, your flight is cancelled, you spend two weeks in a Latin American hospital or you are robbed in Delhi. Don’t think any of that is likely? All of it has happened to me. And I am not the only one.
Insurance is the single most important thing which you should invest in and for the small amount of money it costs per day, usually around the £1 mark, you would be stupid not to get it. When my leg got infected in Costa Rica, I racked up medical bills of over $10,000 and if it hadn’t been for my backpacker travel insurance I really do not know what I would have done.
Picking a good backpacker insurance policy can be pretty confusing and with the huge range of travel insurance plans available it can be hard to know what kind of cover you should go for and why. Given how important travel insurance is to your trip I want to cover the topic in depth. I have met way to many people on the road who have decided against backpacker travel insurance and ended up regretting it.
Travel insurance is something you definitely need when you’re on the road, especially if you are a budget backpacker. If you are travelling the world on the cheap then you will end up taking some risks, such as using dodgy public transport or staying in cheap rooms that don’t lock properly, which you must protect yourself against. Ultimately, when backpacking you never know what can happen and you must be prepared for anything. I never thought I would have my camera broken by an enthusiastic local in India, smash a motorbike to smithereens in Vietnam or get evacuated from the jungle in Costa Rica but when I did my insurance policy was there to help pay the damages and get me back on the road.
Cheap backpacker insurance is something which you hope you never have to use but which you really should invest in all the same. With cheap backpacker insurance available for just a couple of pounds a day, only a real idiot would travel without insurance. If I had traveled to Costa Rica without insurance then my travel career would probably have come to an end… there is no way I could have afforded the massive hospital bill from my misadventure in the jungle.
Travel insurance is without a doubt one of the smartest investments you will ever make, without it you could end up paying to replace cameras, laptops, limbs, bundles of cash from inflation ridden Venezuela, anything that goes missing whilst backpacking, out of your own pocket.
So, let’s talk about how to get the best deal and how to choose cheap backpackers insurance which will properly cover you for your adventures abroad…
How to choose cheap backpacker insurance
What you need to remember is there are hundreds of travel insurance companies out there and choosing a good insurance policy can be pretty overwhelming. Often, in the fine print you’ll find that plans are not as good as you thought, for example some (really!) cheap backpacker travel insurance companies will insist that you pay a high excess on claims for electronics or other personal belongings.
When hunting for a plan, start with the basics. Make sure that your insurer has a high coverage limit on your medical expenses. Many companies provide up to £1,000,000 in medical coverage with more expensive policies providing even more cover. High coverage limits are important because if you get seriously sick or injured your medical bills could skyrocket.
With decent backpacker insurance, you get what you pay for and I recommend steering clear of dirt cheap policies which offer only basic medical coverage. It is easy to find backpacker travel insurance which will fit your budget and also provide the cover you need.
Secondly, you want to make sure you policy covers emergency evacuation. If your trekking at altitude and you break a leg, you will need evacuation cover to pay for the helicopter. If you don’t have it, it’s going to be pretty damn expensive. Crucially, your policy should also cover repatriation back to your home country if necessary; you don’t want to have to pay for a flight home if you end up being too injured or sick to continue your travels.
Cheap backpacker insurance – what should be included
On any good backpacker travel insurance policy, all of the below should be included, if something is missing from your policy then consider looking for a different provider. Your policy should…
- Cover most countries in the world.
- Cover for lost, stolen or damaged luggage, possessions, documents etc
- The option to increase cover of high-value items e.g. a laptop
- Helpline: A 24-hour emergency helpline.
- At least £1 million personal liability insurance in case you injure a person or cause damage to their property.
- A minimum of £1 million of medical cover.
- Repatriation to your home country in the case of serious illness or injury – check the small print, occasionally the repatriation will only take you so far.
- A minimum of £1000 cancellation / curtailment cover so that you can get home fast if there is an emergency such as a death in the family.
- Cover for any legal expenses you may need.
- Extendability: If you decide to travel for longer than originally planned you want to be able to extend your policy easily.
Things to consider before buying backpacker insurance
- Small print: Many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you are injured whilst doing any kind of ‘high adrenaline’ activity so it is crucial you read your policy and understand it. Sometimes even hill walking is classified as ‘high adrenaline’. For an extra premium you can usually add activities to your policy, think about what you will be doing and add accordingly. If you are trekking make sure your policy will cover rescue at your elevation as if you are not covered you may have to pay for the rescue helicopter yourself.
- Alcohol and drugs: Most travel insurance policies will not cover you if you were under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of an accident. Insurance is there to protect you in an emergency whilst travelling, do not abuse it.
- Volunteering: If you are volunteering abroad and will be doing a lot of lifting be aware that you may want to try and get coverage for ‘manual labour’.
- Shop around: The price and type of travel insurance, particularly backpacker insurance, you find will largely depend on how long your trip is and where you are going. I suggest checking out several insurance companies and seeing who offers the best deal. Cheap backpackers insurance is easy to find but finding cheap backpackers insurance that offers quality cover takes a bit more time… I recommend using a few comparison sites.
- Valuables & electronics insurance: Almost all cheap backpacker insurance policies will have very high excesses and fixed limits on the amount you can claim on personal belongings. Ideally, you should pay a bit more to properly insure your valuables. whether you choose to insure your gear is up to you; certainly your overall policy will cost more if you do. You may be better of just keeping a bloody good eye on your valuables and not paying the extra money to insure them.
How to make a claim on your travel insurance policy
If you need to make a claim, get all your documents in order early on. This is the best piece of advice I can give you.
If you have been robbed you will need a police report. Keeping receipts of all the valuables you take travelling is a really good idea – the insurance company will want to see that you actually bought the items in the first place before they pay out. You need to be patient when it comes to actually getting paid as even the best insurance companies sometimes drag their feet. If the first offer that the travel insurance company makes you is ridiculously low then dispute it – the second offer is usually a lot better.
Which Travel Insurance Company to pick
This section needs re-writing – I want each of the three companies to have at least one paragraph about WHY this company in particular is good – i.e. World First are good for Australians in particular. You’ll need to do some research but the point of this article is to give readers three proper choices and we have barely covered the options until the end – please fix this.
WORLD NOMADS PARAGRAPH PLUG – I highly recommend going with the travel insurance provider World Nomads. I have been using them for some time now and they are without a doubt the best, most professional, travel insurance provider I have used. They have an excellent reputation, are endorsed by Lonely Planet and process claims fairly and quickly. World Nomads offer a number of perks; they have an extremely friendly and responsive team, you can renew your policy quickly and easily online and most importantly, they provide some of the most comprehensive coverage available at a good price. If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads.
expand big time on both of below
World First – World First is a pretty reliable and cheap option for backpacker travel insurance. Use my reference BBP3 to get a discount on your travel insurance.
Columbus Direct Insurance – These guys offer some kickass deals on backpacker travel insurance. Be sure to check them out so you know your options.
However, no matter who you choose I always recommend shopping around. It is very unlikely you will ever need to use your travel insurance but if you do then you want to make sure you are confident in the policy you have gone for. Travel insurance is an investment, it is a Plan B. Don’t think you won’t need it, just get the damn insurance. It may be the best money you ever spend.
You can use the booking form below to get affordable backpackers insurance for your adventures and, at not extra cost to you, I will earn a referral fee which I shall spend on beer in far-flung lands.
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