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.
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 too 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 all of that shit happened my travel insurance made everything a lot simpler.
Finding cheap backpacker insurance can be tough and let’s be honest, it’s a really unexciting thing to spend money on. I honestly would not travel without backpacker insurance though.
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 many of them are evil.
Choosing a good insurance policy can be pretty overwhelming. Often, in the fine print you’ll find that policies are not as good as advertised, 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 your 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.
What you need to remember is that if your travel insurance company DOES have an out then they will use it to avoid paying – it is therefore really crucial you cover your ass and, if trekking at altitude for example, you get the relevant add on to your policy.
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 backpacking insurance 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. Try to avoid getting breathalysed if you get injured whilst fucked up. For a ton of practical, real advice on staying safe whilst travelling, check out this post.
- 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 ensure your gear is up to you; certainly, your overall policy will cost more if you do. You may be better off 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… In general, getting a police report tends to vastly speed up getting payment out of an insurance company. 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
World Nomads – 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 provide some of the most comprehensive coverage available at a good price. World Nomads is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip. If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. Seriously guys, can’t recommend them more!!
World First – World First is a pretty reliable and cheap option for backpacker travel insurance. They offer great travel insurance right from business trips to worldwide adventures and family holidays. Use my discount code BBP3 to get a discount on your travel insurance. All policies offer coverage for travel delays, luggage loss, legal fees and personal liability, for trips which is a huge blessing considering how screwed up travel plans can get if any of these things get messed up. They even offer cover for travellers affected by up to 1,000 medical conditions including Alzheimer’s, cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes etc. So if you have a pre-existing medical condition, give World first a try. They also cover a ton of sporting activities.
Broke Backpacker Tip: If you’re a long-term traveller, keep in mind that a year-long policy may work out more cost effective for you than buying single trip travel insurance.
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.
Kanetix – Kanetix is great for Canadians travellers. What is cool about this platform is that it lets you compare Canadian travel insurance quotes online in just minutes. Keep in mind though that your Canadian insurance will not work elsewhere so choose wisely! If you are planning on travelling several times a year, it is probably wiser to get a multi-trip quote instead of a single trip quote.
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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