Our beautiful world is fascinating, and nothing can replace experiencing it first-hand. Deciding to travel is one of the best decisions you can make, but not purchasing travel insurance is one of the worst decision you can make.
No one is immune from unfortunate accidents when traveling the world, hell in life itself. From flight cancelations, stolen electronics, and family emergencies to hiking accidents, sudden severe illness, and civil unrest— life happens, and when it does, having the best travel insurance is going to make life a lot easier.
For years, I traveled without travel insurance; I didn’t think I needed it, that is until the day I wound up in a Guatemalan hospital with a punctured eardrum and an out of pocket hospital bill.
You never need travel insurance until you do.
If something happens to you on the road and you do not have travel insurance, then you are simply out of luck (and stuck with the associated cost or worse).
So how do you find the right travel insurance? With so many options out there, where do you even start?
I have assembled this guide to the best travel insurance 2018/2019.
This in-depth review highlights the best travel insurance companies so you can make an informed choice regarding what type of travel insurance you need to cover your specific adventure.
Below I break down the top travel insurance policies, what they cover, how much they cost, and everything else you need to know to be prepared for your next trip.
Quick Answer: Best Travel Insurance of 2018/2019
- Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers: World Nomads
- Best Travel Insurance for Long-Term Travelers: Alpha
- Best Travel Insurance for High-Risk Countries: First Allied
- Best Cheap Travel Insurance: World First
- Top Travel Insurance for Covering Electronics: InsureMyEquipment
Why Do You Even Need Travel Insurance?
You might be thinking why do I even need travel insurance? Why am I wasting my time thinking about travel insurance? Why is it important anyway??
Let’s be honest. None of us wants to pay for travel insurance. That said, nobody wants to lose a ton of money in general… and that can easily happen when you are on any given backpacking adventure.
Buying travel insurance is an investment and a safety net to guard against the unplanned craziness of traveling.
Maybe you won’t use it on your first trip, or your second, or third, but you will eventually need it, and you’ll want to be ready.
Whilst hunting for the best travel insurance can be a pain in the ass, don’t worry, I have done all of the hard work for you (including learning lessons the hard way).
Here are real things that have happened to me on the road…
1. My backpack was stolen with all of my worldly possessions inside.
2. I needed stitches in my head after crashing a motorbike in Thailand.
3. Strikes in Bucharest meant I was stuck in traffic for hours and missed my flight.
4. I spent two weeks in a hospital in Costa Rica after nearly dying in the jungle.
5. I needed to go on an IV in Pakistan after being sick for days.
6. I caught Dengue fever in Thailand and spent a week in a clinic; there was no hospital nearby.
I want to point out that this all happened over nearly a decade of traveling the world. Most of the time, when you travel, nothing goes wrong. But it only takes one poor decision, a misjudged bend in the road, sneaky thief, or plain bad luck to change everything.
What Makes a Good Travel Insurance Policy?
When trying to decide which travel insurance company to go with, you need to first assess your own needs.
Every type of trip and traveler requires a different level of travel insurance. What may be the best travel insurance for you might not be best for the next person.
You’ll need to start asking some questions about your planned destination and what you may be doing whilst your backpacking there.
Do you have high-end electronics you need to protect? Are you traveling to a dangerous country with the potential for civil unrest, political strife, or armed conflict? Do you plan on undertaking risky activities abroad like skiing, mountaineering, or rock climbing? Are you traveling long-term and just need basic protection?
Best Travel Insurance: Company Breakdowns
Below I have organized each of the best travel insurance companies by category, so finding the right company to suit your own needs is easy and straightforward.
World Nomads: The Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers
We at the Broke Backpacker have been using World Nomads for the majority of our backpacking adventures.
I’ll go ahead and save you some precious time and energy: World Nomads travel insurance is without a doubt the way to go, and in my opinion the best travel insurance provider for backpackers on the market.
For 95% of trips, World Nomads is the best choice as your insurance provider.
In the past, I’ve talked about different insurance companies for backpackers, and after analyzing a dozen different insurance providers (and testing out five of them), World Nomads remains my top choice.
World Nomads covers almost every destination you are likely to visit and provides the right level of coverage for pretty much every conceivable problem you may run into.
World Nomads is easy to purchase, provides solid coverage, and is easy to customize based on where you plan to go backpacking and the activities you plan to participate in.
What does a World Nomads Insurance Policy Cover?
World Nomads keeps it pretty simple. There are two plans to choose from: the Standard Plan and the Explorer Plan. Depending on your country of residence, age, and travel destination(s), the prices will vary accordingly. Here is a breakdown of both plans individually:
The Standard Plan
Basic, straightforward travel insurance with enough coverage to make it absolutely worth buying. The average cost for a two-week trip to Thailand, for example, is $78 or about $5.50/day. The Standard plan has you covered for many outdoor activities as well though there is a specific list of things covered and not covered by this plan.
Note: The price per day will go down if you book a longer trip.
Generally speaking, World Nomad’s standard plan covers most activities the average backpacker is likely to get involved with, plus plenty more far-flung activities are also included in the policy such as cave tubing, glacier walking (up to 19,685 feet/6,000 meters), scuba diving, and motorbiking.
Your gear and backpack are covered up to 1,000 dollars in the event of loss of theft.
Emergency and non-emergency evacuations are covered up to $300,000 and $25,000 respectivly.
Note: if you were drunk or on drugs at the time of your accident or injury you will not be covered if World Nomads finds out about it.
The Explorer Plan
The Explorer plan is the slightly more expensive option that clearly gives you the better coverage on just about everything.
In addition to all of the outdoor activities covered under the Standard Plan, the Explorer plan offers more specific protection for dangerous outdoor sports.
Bull riding (should you turn brave, and make a bad choice), rappelling, and cliff jumping are all covered under the Explorer Plan.
The thing is, most insurances companies are so goddamned picky about what you were doing when you got injured that if your outdoor activity is on the wrong list, you simply won’t be covered.
Note again: if you were drunk or on drugs at the time of your accident or injury you will not be covered if World Nomads finds out about it.
If you plan on doing high-risk activities whilst on your backpacking adventure, definitely consult the World Nomads list of adventure sports and the associated coverage specific to each individually.
Lost or stolen personal items are covered up to $3000. If you rent a car or you are driving in a foreign country, you are covered up to $35,000. Tooth issues got you down? Emergency dental treatment is covered up to $750.
The column on the left represents Standard Plan Values. The column on the right is the Explorer Plan.
Cons of World Nomads Travel Insurance?
No travel insurance company is perfect. Here are some of the aspects of World Nomads that I don’t like:
Relatively low baggage and personal effects coverage: If you are traveling with camera gear, lots of fancy outdoor equipment, or other valuable items, then $1000 in coverage (Standard Plan) simply isn’t enough.
$3000 in coverage (Explorer Plan) is better, though if you have a few nice camera lenses plus the camera, the value can be easily over $3000.
If protecting a lot of expensive personal gear is a priority, World Nomads might not be the best option for you.
Editor’s Note: Ana here, I still travel with World Nomads and expensive camera gear. I’ve insured my camera and computer with personal liability insurance in the US (that works worldwide). I have actually had all my shit jacked while traveling, and had to use both my personal liability insurance and World Nomads. World Nomad’s covered all of my stuff in the $1,000 range, and my other insurance replaced my computer and camera gear!
Some customers have complained about poor customer service: Whilst I have not personally had an experience with poor customer service, I think it would be a disservice to other backpackers to say that World Nomads has a 100% positive reputation in terms of customer service.
That said, it is also on you the backpacker to read all of the fine print and have a thorough understanding of the insurance policy you are purchasing.
If World Nomads clearly states that something isn’t covered under a policy you purchased and you try to make an insurance claim on it, don’t be surprised/angry when your claim is denied.
Read the entire policy and familiarize yourself with all of the exact details! This will save you from having major disappointments and realistic expectations of what World Nomads can do for you.
How Much does World Nomads Travel Insurance Cost?
Good news! Each World Nomads policy is customizable for each person. You can choose the exact dates and countries you want coverage for, and bam, you’re insured! Easy.
Price is determined by your age, intended destination(s), length of trip, and what type of plan you go with.
I built an example price quote for a 25-year-old person taking a 2-week trip through France, Spain, and Italy. Here is the cost breakdown:
For the Standard Plan, you’re looking at a cost of $6.75/day. The Explorer Plan costs around $10/day.
As you can see, World Nomads travel insurance isn’t crazy expensive, and it covers all of your basic travel needs including medical emergency, adventure sports, and trip delay.
To get an idea of what World Nomads travel insurance will cost you on your next backpacking trip, simply enter your trip details in the table below and get a quote within seconds.
For even more details regarding what makes World Nomads my top pick for the best travel insurance for backpackers, check out my super in-depth World Nomads travel insurance review.
Alpha Travel Insurance: Best Travel Insurance for Long-Term Travelers
Another great option for backpackers and long-term travelers is Alpha Travel Insurance.
Alpha’s insurance policies provide cover for trips up to 24 months, so you can travel for longer knowing that you are protected. Most providers only cover up to 12 months, so this means you can have double the time to explore the world in all its glory!
With Alpha, you can choose from these insurance policies: Single Trip, Multi-Trip, Long-Stay, and/or Winter Sports. Alpha provides excellent value for backpackers wanting to travel long-term, with policies starting at just ¢50/day.
Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, so if you take the bare-bones policy, expect the associated coverage.
What does an Alpha Insurance Policy Cover?
Since Alpha has a plethora of policies (each of which is customizable), you have plenty of options.
If you plan on taking just one trip this year, going with the Single Trip Policy is the obvious choice.
If you are like me and take multiple trips throughout the year, going with the Multi-Trip policy is the way to go.
For long-term travelers, digital nomads living abroad, and working holiday visa folks, the Long-Stay policy is the best option.
Obviously, the Winter Sports policy is for you if you plan to ski or snowboard (or you will work seasonally on a mountain abroad).
All Alpha insurance policies offer a 14-day “cooling off” period after purchasing insurance. This means if you change your plans after purchasing a policy, you can get a full refund!
Also, all policies offer £10 million in emergency medical coverage!
Alpha’s Multi-Trip Policy
In terms of coverage, the Single Trip and Multi-Trip policies are largely the same. For all Alpha policies, you can choose to pay more initially for your insurance, which will translate into you paying less (or nothing) when the time comes to file a claim.
For example, Rather than reduce cover to provide lower premiums, they calculate your premium based on the level of excess that you choose, £175, £150, £100, £75, £50 or £0. The policies are named appropriately Alpha 175, Alpha 150, Alpha 100, Alpha 75, Alpha 50 and Alpha Zero. In essence, the more you pay up front, the less you’ll pay in the event of a claim, and vice versa.
The main benefit of going with a Multi-Trip policy is that it ends up costing less money in the end if you are traveling multiple times in a year.
Here is a look at some of the coverage details offered by the Multi-Trip policy:
For a complete list of coverage benefits, click here.
Cons of Alpha Travel Insurance?
Low dental coverage: At only £100 of coverage, the dental protection is pathetic. You can basically only get a teeth cleaning for £100 these days (in the west). If you have a serious emergency like needing to get a tooth pulled (which happened to my friend in Kathmandu), a root canal, or some sort of other dental surgery, £100 simply won’t cut it.
Low electronics protection: Like the dental coverage, the electronics coverage is equally disappointing. Just about every backpacker I know travels with more than £200 worth of electronics on them. One positive thing to note is that you can buy a bit more protection (£1000) should you choose.
Must be a UK resident: This is a huge bummer for non-UK residents! Also, coverage is not offered for many countries on the backpacker trail.
How Much does Alpha Travel Insurance Cost?
The main benefit for going with Alpha are the low costs and excellent medical coverage associated with their Long-Stay policy.
This example quote below is for a 12-month trip to Australia using a Long-Stay policy.
For 12 months of coverage, Alpha travel insurance is cheeeeeaaaap. You’d be hard pressed to find another company offering this level of medical coverage at such a low price. For long-term travelers to certain destinations, Alpha travel insurance is truly a great find.
Broke Backpacker readers can get a 20% online discount using the promo code ‘BACKPACK5’!
First Allied: Best Travel Insurance for High-Risk Countries:
Are you in the midst of planning an epic adventure to an off the beaten path country that most travel insurance companies won’t cover? Meet First Allied travel insurance!
First Allied specializes in providing travel insurance to travelers visiting high-risk destinations like Somalia, Congo, Afganistan, and Sudan.
First Allied isn’t for every trip you will take necessarily (though they do cover a TON of countries), but when you need strong coverage for risky destinations, First Allied is without a doubt my top pick for the best travel insurance.
This might sound crazy, but First Allied also provides trip add-ons like ransom and kidnapping insurance. In the time we live in, this isn’t so crazy when you stop and think about it. Most travel insurance companies do NOT cover ransom or kidnapping costs unless the policy explicitly states that.
What Does a First Allied Insurance Policy Cover?
The basic insurance policies offered by First Allied almost entirely focuses on medical/health emergency protection. Policies do NOT cover things like travel delays, loss of gear, or stolen cash.
First Allied provides solid protection for medical issues and emergency evacuation and that’s about it.
You can choose between $15,000-$100,000 personal accident coverage. Coverage for medical issues and/or medical evacuation is offered from $250,000 – $500,000
Like I said, coverage add-ons include: optional crisis response (IE kidnap) and ransom reimbursement.
Cons of First Allied Travel Insurance?
No personal gear protection: If you are needing to protect your stuff in addition to your physical well-being, First Allied can’t really help you. You’ll need to purchase gear protection travel insurance somewhere else (which many people do for high-risk travel).
No trip delay/lost baggage protection: Most of the time if your flight is canceled, the airline will cover your costs (but not always!!). Having trip protection gives you peace of mind, though it isn’t super crucial in my opinion, but remember that First Allied will NOT cover any of your trip delays, baggage loss, etc.
No frills of any kind: Remember, ultimately First Allied travel insurance offers protection for medical needs only.
No insurance coverage is provided in your country of residence: Makes sense since this is travel insurance after all, though some companies will insure you no matter where you are if your policy date is activated.
How much does First Allied Travel Insurance Cost?
Surprisingly, First Allied travel insurance is rather affordable. This is probably due to the fact that they offer little in terms of protection and coverage beyond medical/evac/ransom benefits.
Below is an example quote for a 3-week trip to Pakistan (with maximum medical/medical evac + personal accident coverage).
World First: Best Cheap Travel Insurance
World First is an excellent budget option for UK residents (and they only cover UK residents). Whether you are going on a short trip or a multi-month odyssey, World First offers a decent policy coverage starting at just a few bucks a day.
I appreciate how many different aspects of a trip they cover. Similar to World Nomads, World First offers coverage for a medical emergency, trip delay, lost or stolen cash/gear, legal advice, and dental treatment.
As is the case with budget travel insurance, the coverage benefits are somewhat limited (and I will cover that in the cons).
If you are looking to buy cheap, basic travel insurance to buy yourself some travel protection, or you just need to appease your mother by obtaining insurance, buying World First travel insurance is a great choice.
Sometimes the best travel insurance is the cheapest travel insurance.
What does a World First Travel Insurance Policy Cover?
World First offers a diverse range of policy options. A basic policy covers the categories mentioned above, plus many more including trip cancellation, accidental dismemberment, stolen/lost passport, and natural disaster.
If you plan on participating in certain extreme (or not so extreme) sports, you have the option to add-on activity specific protection; the rates vary.
Also, you can add-on specific protection for your phone or tablet in the case of loss or theft.
Every policy offered by World First can be tailored to your own needs, budget, and intended activities.
You can choose from three different trip protection levels: silver, gold, and platinum (very creative).
Platinum offers the best benefits/protection coverage. One of my favorite platinum benefit details is the personal belongings protection coverage of £4000!
One final benefit is the maximum excess charge (only £50). Your policy carries an excess, and this is the amount you have to contribute towards each claim. All excesses shown for this policy are payable by each insured-person, per section, and for each incident giving rise to a separate claim.
Basically, if you have to make a claim you will only have to pay up to £50 to do so – other companies charge much more in some cases.
Cons of World First Travel Insurance?
Poor dental coverage: Maybe people have tooth issues often whilst traveling because of the lack of sufficient dental coverage seems to be a theme across the board (with World Nomads probably being the best). Even the platinum coverage option only allows for £200 in coverage.
The reimbursement in case of death is minimal: Now nobody plans on dying on any given adventure, but it does happen and it is nice to know that in the very unlikely event of your death, there will be some money coming to your family. The silver policy option pays £5000 in case of death, which to me, seems absurdly low.
Only available for UK residents: Damn you!!! I am sorry to report that if you are not a resident of the UK, World First is unavailable for you.
How Much Does A World First Insurance Policy Cost?
The example below is for a 2-month trip to the USA for someone 25 years of age.
For a little over £1.16/day you can have decent travel insurance. That’s awesome! For what you get in return, World First is an excellent coverage option and certainly one of the best travel insurance providers for budget backpackers.
Insure My Equipment: Best Travel Insurance for Covering Electronics
Insure My Equipment.com is a website providing comprehensive travel insurance for expensive equipment (like camera gear). You can get specific pieces of gear insured so you know exactly what will be covered.
Going with an insuremyequipment.com policy works well in combination with another cheap travel insurance that covers medical expenses. That way you can have the best of both worlds; Completely protect your expensive electronics as well as yourself.
Insure My Equipment policies are excellent for professionals and backpackers with more than $3000-$4000 worth of camera equipment.
What does an Insure My Equipment Insurance Policy Cover?
Insuremyequipment.com gives you the option to insure equipment that is rented or owned. For owned equipment, there is a 750,000 maximum limit!
For any electronics worth under $2000, there is no specific part of your policy attached to it, meaning you don’t have that specific piece of gear ensured, you just have blanket coverage. For gear worth more than $2000, you will have the item clearly inventoried and valued based on its worth. Make sense?
For example, if you have some fancy Canon 5d mark 4 with an insane lens, it is obviously worth more than 2k. For that camera/lens you would take out a policy on that specific piece of gear. The company puts it in terms of scheduling or unscheduling. If the item is worth more than $2000, you’ll need to “schedule it” so that the item is covered. Now you got it!
Cons of Insure My Equipment Travel Insurance?
No medical or trip protection benefits: they offer great equipment travel insurance but little else in terms of overall trip protection.
Not really ideal for the average backpacker/traveler: Insure My Equipment is really good at what they do, which is specializing in protecting really high-end gear. That said, if you’re looking to protect an iPhone or a mid-range laptop, you might find that another travel insurance company will be a better fit for you.
How Much Does an Insure My Equipment Policy Cost?
Each policy offered by Insure My Equipment is tailored to the items and coverage you need.
The best way to find out travel insurance prices for your gear is to build a custom quote on their website. That way, you can find out what the insurance costs are in relation to your own equipment.
For insuring several high-end cameras lenses, a laptop, and other electronic bits, you are looking at between $350/500 a year.
More of the Best Travel Insurance Companies
Now that you have seen my top picks for the best travel insurance, here are a few more companies that are also worthy of praise.
Best Insurance for older travelers: For travelers over 65 years of age, Insure My Trip is one of the best travel insurance companies on the market. Their website allows you to compare quotes and prices from various policies so that you can easily find the one that works for you. If for some reason you are unhappy with a plan you have purchased, you can get a refund.
Best Travel Insurance for Aussies and Kiwis: Since we have covered some UK and American-only travel insurance companies, I thought to give a shout to your Aussies and Kiwis out there! Columbus Direct Insurance – These guys offer some kickass deals on backpacker travel insurance for Aussies and Kiwis. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, be sure to read the terms and conditions thoroughly before taking up the insurance.
Electronics Travel Insurance for UK Residents: Well, that didn’t last long. We are back with another UK-specific travel insurance specifically for protecting your gadgets and electronics. Gadget Cover – Cover specifically for UK residents. Cover your pricy and precious electronics while on the road. Particularly suited for people who take numerous trips per year, returning to the UK often. Gadget Cover’s Total Transparency Manifesto makes understanding their policies plain and simple.
Top Tips for Buying and Using Travel Insurance
How to Make a Claim on your Travel Insurance Policy
This is the best piece of advice I can give you: if you need to make a claim, get all your documents in order as soon as possible.
If you have been robbed you will need a police report. In general, getting a police report tends to vastly speed up payment on your claim. Most insurance companies require a report.
Keeping receipts of all the valuables you take traveling 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.
Point being, the more documentation you have regarding the items you are traveling with, the better. It’s not a bad idea to have a dated picture of all of your stuff before setting off on a trip.
If you do have expensive electronics, register the items with the company. That way, you can easily look up the exact model you had before you broke/lost it. If registering the equipment isn’t an option, write down the serial numbers or barcodes and stash that information somewhere safe.
Jotting down the serial numbers of your phone, laptop, and camera might seem tedious and a bit overkill, but you should only have to do it once. If the time comes when you actually need that information on hand, you’ll sure be happy to have it.
Declaring Pre-Existing Conditions
First off, read all of the fine print of any travel insurance policy you buy. Almost all insurance companies will not issue payment for medical treatment you receive as a result of a pre-existing condition. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, then you should seek out travel insurance that will cover you with full knowledge of that condition.
If you make a claim with a travel insurance company and they uncover your medical history (which they inevitably will), they will almost declare your insurance void and you will be stuck with the bill.
Insurance companies will do anything to avoid paying you. Having a secret pre-existing medical condition that you fail to report is a sure way to get your policy nullified. Be honest. Read the fine print. Do your homework on what is covered and what is not (especially with regard to pre-existing conditions).
Do everything in your power to ensure you get paid by the insurance company when you need to be.
Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Insurance
Shopping for travel insurance is nobody’s idea of a good time. That said, it does pay to research prices and policies and find the right company that will cover all of your needs whilst not breaking the bank.
Travel insurance is just one of those things that is crucial to have. Whichever company you end up traveling with, get to know the policy intimately. I can’t emphasize that enough! The more you know your insurance policy, the more you will know about how and when to use it.
Also, you will have a detailed understanding and a realistic idea of what to expect from any given policy.
As I have said before, my favorite go-to travel insurance is World Nomads. They are affordable, offer solid coverage, and insure backpackers for most destinations in the world. For most travelers, World Nomads is the perfect company to go with.
Having amazing life experiences, discovering new cultures, meeting new people, learning more about the world around you, and having a hell of a lot of fun along the way is why we travel. For when one of life’s unexpected curve balls comes your way, do yourself a favor and be prepared with some decent travel insurance!
I sincerely hope that you stay safe whilst having amazing adventures over the course of your traveling career! Happy travels… see you down the road.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.