What is the Best Backpacker Travel Insurance? (Updated 2020)

Cheap Backpacker Insurance

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I’ve had to claim on my travel insurance four times over the last ten years of traveling. I’ve suffered everything from infections, robberies, broken equipment, and a couple more things that I’m too ashamed to talk about.

To hit the road without backpacker travel insurance can prove to be a big mistake. Statistically speaking, if you travel enough then something will eventually go wrong – if you haven’t got travel insurance you can end up in a lot of financial trouble.

That being said, there’s no reason you can’t find cheap backpacker insurance out there either. There are literally hundreds of companies out there offering deals, so you have plenty of options to shop around.

In this post, we’ll talk about what you need to look for in a good insurance policy and what you should have at a minimum.

So let’s get to it and look at some of the best travel insurance companies for backpackers!

COVID-19 UPDATE

Most travel Insurers, are NOT covering any claims linked to COVID-19. This includes the costs of any medical treatment related to the virus as well as flight cancellations or trip interruptions.

If you want Pandemic proof travel insurance, then SafetyWing is offering this under their “Remote Health” plan.

For the most up-to-date safety information and what you should be doing to help, please consult the WHO and your local government.

 

Quick answer: These are the Best Travel Insurances for Backpackers

  • SafetyWing – The Best Insurance For Digital Nomads

  • World Nomads – The Best Overall Travel Insurance for Backpackers

  • World First – The Best Cheap Travel Insurance

 

Take my word…

If you’re not convinced that you need travel insurance, then listen to this story of mine.

‘I struggled through the forest, angry red lines obscuring my vision, the rain soaking my skin. My head throbbed, I was completely 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.’

hiking in the jungles with insurance

On another trek, years later in Venezuela

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. Depending on which insurance you get, it can cover quite a bit. These are the must-haves of every insurance:

  • Medical protection (Hospital costs, medicine, etc.)
  • Lost luggage
  • Stolen belongings
  • Canceled flights

Don’t think that anything bad is likely to happen to you? All of it has happened to me and I’m not the only one.

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 travel insurance I probably would have had to sell my other leg to pay the bill.

 

Why do You need Backpacker Travel Insurance?

Picking a good backpacker insurance policy can be pretty confusing. With the huge range of travel insurances for backpackers available, it can be even more difficult to know what kind of cover you should go for and why.

Travel insurance is something you should strongly consider when you’re on the road, especially if you are a budget backpacker. If you are traveling the world on the cheap, then you will probably end up taking some risks, such as using dodgy public transport or staying in cheap rooms that don’t lock properly. If so, then it is a good idea to be protected in all of these situations.

travelling with money in Germany

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. I’m not saying that this is likely to happen to you too, but you’re better off safe than sorry!

Finding cheap insurance for backpackers 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.

 

An Overview of the Best Backpacker Insurance

So, let’s talk about how to get the best deal and how to choose cheap backpackers insurance that will properly cover you for your adventures abroad. Take a quick look at this table, which outlines a couple of my favorites:

    
tbb-table__imageBest Overall Travel Insurance ProviderBest Overall Travel Insurance ProviderWorld Nomads Insurance

  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Easy to extend
  • Professional services
  •  
  •  
  • A range of coverage options
  • Easy to extend
  • Professional services
  •  
  •  
Get Quote
tbb-table__imageBest Cheap Travel InsuranceBest Cheap Travel InsuranceWorld First Insurance

  • Best bang for your buck
  • Cover some pre existing medical conditions
  • Very practical coverage in general
  •  
  •  
  • Good bang for your buck
  • Cover some pre existing medical conditions
  • Very practical coverage in general
  •  
  •  
Get Quote
tbb-table__imageBest Medical Insurance for TravelersBest Medical Insurance for TravelersSafetyWing

  • Easy monthly payments
  • Affordable
  • Covers some medical at home
  •  
  •  
  • Easy monthly payments
  • Affordable
  • Covers some medical at home
  •  
  •  
Get Quote
tbb-table__imageHonorable MentionHonorable MentionAlpha Insurance

  • Includes air ambulance and evacuations
  • Can take out 2-year policy
  • Discount included
  •  
  •  
  • Usually includes air ambulance and evacuations
  • Can take out 2-year policy
  • Discount included
  •  
  •  
Get Quote
tbb-table__imageHonorable MentionHonorable MentionColumbus Direct Insurance

  • For Aussies and Kiwis
  • Be sure to look into medical fine print
  • Cheap travel insurance
  •  
  •  
  • For Aussies and Kiwis
  • Be sure to look into medical fine print
  • Cheap travel insurance
  •  
  •  
Get Quote
tbb-table__imageHonorable MentionHonorable MentionGadget Cover

  • For UK residents
  • Specifically for electronics
  • Transparent company
  •  
  •  
  • For UK residents
  • Specifically for electronics
  • Transparent company
  •  
  •  
Get Quote

 

How to Compare Cheap Backpacker Insurance

What you need to remember is there are hundreds of travel insurance companies out there. 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 and in some cases barely even satisfy your fundamental requirements.

Some (really!) cheap travel insurance companies will insist that you pay a high excess on claims for electronics or other personal belongings.

Comparison sites and aggregator search engines can also be pretty damned useless. For example, I once used a travel insurance search engine. I was going to Pakistan and it suggested a provider who, in the small print, did NOT actually cover Pakistan! So pay close attention to the details.

having backpacker insurance in india

When driving this thing 2000km across India, you’ll want insurance…

When hunting for a plan and comparing backpacker insurance policies, start with the basics.

  • Medical expenses: you want the limit to be very high here. If you get sick and the bill skyrockets, you want to be taken care of – medically and financially. This is definitely worth putting a bit of money towards, as you’re gambling with your own health.
  • Emergency Evacuation: Especially for big adventures, you want the cost of an evacuation to be covered. Being taken in a helicopter from the mountains with a broken leg can easily shoot up into the 4-5 digit numbers.
  • Repatriation to get back home: If you end up being too sick to continue your travels, having an insurance that covers the costs of the flight back home can be a lifesaver – literally.

At the end of the day, 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

We’ve gone over the essentials brought, now it’s time to look at a good backpacker travel insurance in detail. If something any of the 10 points below is missing from your policy, then consider looking for a different provider.

  1. Cover most countries in the world.
  2. Cover for lost, stolen or damaged luggage, possessions, documents etc.
  3. The option to increase cover of high-value items.
  4. A 24-hour emergency helpline.
  5. At least £1 million personal liability insurance in case you injure a person or cause damage to their property.
  6. A minimum of £1 million of medical cover.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Cover for any legal expenses you may need.
  10. Extendability – If you decide to travel for longer than originally planned you want to be able to extend your policy easily.
best travel insurance for trekking

Even cheap insurances for backpackers should have outdoor coverage.

 

Things to Consider before Buying Backpacker Insurance

Small print

Many backpacker 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 too.

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 breathalyzed if you get injured whilst being drunk. Traveling safely will end up beneficial for you!

cheap insurance for backpackers

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.

 

What is the Best Travel Insurance Company?

Now, let’s get to the actual insurance companies. Since there are so many, I’ve filtered out the best ones, but divided them into different categories. Depending on how and where you are going to travel to, the priority factors might be different. Make sure you have your adventure planned so choosing the right Insurance company will be a breeze. Here are my top ones:

World Nomads – The Best Overall Travel Insurance Provider

World Nomads Travel Insurance

  • affordable
  • reliable and professional
  • great coverage

These days, I always use the travel insurance provider World Nomads. I have been using them for some time now and they are without a doubt my preferred, 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 and this is the company I use for my own backpacking travel insurance. World Nomads are in our opinion, the best backpackers insurance we have used.

 

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SafetyWing  – Best Medical Travel Insurance

safety wing travel medical insurance

  • monthly subscription
  • partially covers medical expenses is your home country
  • great coverage of flight issues

For those who just need basic medical insurance for traveling, SafetyWing is one of the best options available. It is easy to set up, affordable and will cover you in most medical situations.

SafetyWing uses a convenient monthly payment scheme that is subscription-based. This means that you can start, stop, and pause your enrollment at any time and don’t have to pay for something that you don’t use.

Paying on a monthly basis instead of all at once can be a wise decision for many travelers. With rates for as low as $37 per 28 days, SafetyWing can be a good backpacker insurance for those who are tight on funds.

Note that SafetyWing does not cover electronics e.g. laptops, cameras, cellphones. As such, we suggest that you insure important personal items using secondary insurance like Gadget Cover.

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World First – The Best Cheap Backpacker Insurance

wold first travel insurance

  • very affordable
  • big coverage of medical conditions
  • coverage of many outdoor activities

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.

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 travelers 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.

Click through on the link to receive a 10% discount on your policy!

Broke Backpacker Tip: If you’re a long-term traveler, keep in mind that a year-long policy may work out more cost-effective for you than buying single trip travel insurance.

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Some More Options…

Alpha Insurance

Alpha Travel Insurance is designed with backpackers in mind and they are one of the few insurers who can cover trips up two years in length (with 2 visits home included as standard).

The £10,000,000 medical cover on all policies includes air ambulance and mountain rescue, so really Alpha Backpacker Insurance is one of the best backpacker insurance providers out there. For an additional 5% off use my Alpha Insurance discount code: BACKPACK5

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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.

GET A QUOTE NOW

 

Gadget Cover

Cover specifically for UK residents. Cover your pricey 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. This is NOT the best backpacking insurance but is a great bolt on to other policies if you have a few valuable gadgets.

GET A QUOTE NOW

 

Tips when Claiming on your Insurance

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 receiving payment from an insurance company.

best Holiday insurance

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 for backpackers 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.

 

Things you can’t Claim with Backpacker Insurance

Zipline, Hot Springs and Water Slide in the Jungle

So many things can happen during your travels.

Most travel insurance companies will not cover the following mishaps:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions – they’ll usually say that’s an issue for your regular health insurance.
  • Knowingly traveling to dangerous areas – most travel insurances will not cover you if you decide to visit areas that are deemed hazardous. This includes armed conflicts, like Syria, natural disaster zones, like Haiti after the earthquake, and radioactive areas, like Fukushima.
  • Pregnancy – I’m not able to bear children but this one is still good to know for our courageous female travelers.
  • Reckless driving – If you have no car insurance, they may try to get out of paying anything if you did anything remotely dangerous. Alternatively, you can purchase a RentalCover.com policy. It covers your car against any common damages.
  • Flights bought with airline miles – that’s like laundering money.
  • Mental health breakdowns – if you claim you did something stupid because you were not of sound mind, they won’t help. This may not be fair and attitudes towards mental health may force a change in the law, but for now, this is how it is.
  • Medical tourism – that’s a great new nose you got there dude but no travel insurance company is going to pay for that.

 

Final Thoughts

We hope you liked our best backpacker travel insurance reviews. 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’ll ever spend.

No matter who you choose I always recommend shopping around and comparing travel insurance providers. It is 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.

Whoever you consider going with, be sure to read the policy terms and conditions yourself, very carefully, to make sue it covers your needs.

Backpacking Thailand budget travel guide

My highest recommended travel insurance company is World Nomads.

You can use the booking form below to get affordable backpackers insurance for your adventures and, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a referral fee which I shall spend on beer in far-flung lands.

 

 

Even if you don’t use the booking form, please get travel insurance from somewhere. Be covered, be safe and have an incredible journey.

Do you have any horror stories from traveling? We’d love to hear about them and what you did stay safe. Please share them with us in the comment section!

 

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

A word on Travel Insurance. Please note that Insurance terms and conditions do vary and may change from time to time. The information provided here is for guidance purposes only. We recommend you check with your policy provider to ensure that you are fully covered before beginning your trip. Please read your policy terms and conditions very carefully.

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.

 


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19 Comments

  • Avatar Gemma Jones says:

    Anyone have any suggestions for backpacker insurance which will cover 1 short trek 4-5 day at 5000m? Most companies make you add on a ‘sports/activity package’ which covers the whole trip (10-12 months for me) which is currently adding on £500 – £700!! I can’t really justify paying all that for a trek that is going to last less than a week of my whole trip! Thanks 🙂

  • Avatar mar says:

    Thx for all the great advice man! One question, I’ve been looking at multiple travel insurance providers and so far, none of them mention Motorcycle riding as an activity that is covered… Do you know if either of the ones you recommend do? Its kinda important while in SE Asia, especially in Vietnam! haha

  • Avatar Lise Robert says:

    Hi Will
    Interesting article and well written!
    My son has been travelling since June 2016. Initially, he wasn’t sure how long his travels would be, so we started with a 6 month policy (Insure & Go Backpacker Gold). He started off in South East Asia and has been in Australia for the past 20 months. We extended his insurance once (1 more year, same company) but then as they don’t insure for more than 18 months, we got him insured by TRUE TRAVELLER for another year (the only company I could find that would insure him on the road, but even then, only for 1 year!)
    So my problem is that he has plans to travel for another year but I cannot seem to find ANY company that will insure him as he is OUT of the UK and been away for longer than 2 years!
    I have always ensured that he has had a really good travel insurance, with all the extra adventure bolt ons etc and he has not had a single claim in all this time (touch wood!)
    Some have suggested that we buy a policy FROM Australia as that is where he has been backpacking and living the longest. Problem then is, should anything terrible happen to him, I would want him repatriated HOME to the UK and not to Australia. So please HELP. Any advise you may have to share, would be great.

    I cannot imagine him being the only backpacker/traveller who has travelled for more than 2 years??
    Thank you

  • Avatar Jeff says:

    Hi Will

    My daughter is travelling for 7 months to Australia, Thailand and Indonesia, taking lots of electronics. iPhone 8, MacBook Pro, Go Pro, Cannon G7X, DJ Spark drone, and controller, plus all the bits that go with them.
    Any suggestions how best to insure these, and who with.

    Thanks Jeff

  • Avatar Montana says:

    I’ve been looking for travel insurance on a one-way ticket/trip and lovedl your insight and tips… Such a great article!

  • Avatar Annelie Fourie says:

    Which Travel Insurance did you use with your Costa Rica ordeal?

  • Looking for an insurance company isn’t that easy, especially for a professional traveller. Thankfully you have some companies listed here! Thank you for sharing these information and all the details backpackers needed to know 🙂

  • This is truly one of the best piece i have read on backpackers insurance. i have been searching a lot for such stuff. Thanks again

  • Avatar Ria says:

    Most insurance you mention are in uk. Is there any specific for US residence? Or us customer service.

  • Nice Post…….!
    Traveling insurance is as important as any other type of business insurance. After read this post I realize that without traveling insurance, travel anywhere may cause dangerous. So for make the trips more beautiful and stress-free, people need to know about the importance of traveling insurance. I am sure after reading this post people wills changes their mindset toward travel insurance, and they will also take it seriously.

  • The travel insurance is necessary and no one should forget about it! This was an excellent read, Will!

  • Hi will

    Great post, it seems that a lot of the blog posts that i have been reading lately are all recommending World Nomads as their preferred insurer, i will definitely check it out in my upcoming trip

  • Hey Will,
    What a fantastic and reflective post.Thanks for sharing this valuable info with us.
    you know what?
    I read a lot of blog posts and I never heard about a topic like this. I love this topic you made about the backpackers insurance.Very ingenious idea!

  • Hi Will, great article! My boyfriend and I are set to travel Asia in March, but have now been away from home (UK) two years and are currently in New Zealand. We obviously are going to get travel insurance for our trip, however will be coming back to NZ afterwards and not going home…we have found it SO hard to find insurance providers that will insure when already travelling and not returning home, and have so far only found World Nomads that will do it. I just wondered if you have any suggestions of other companies that do this, or if we are best to just go with them as I see thats the provider you use? Thanks! P.s. I love your blog! 🙂

    • Hey Ellie! Thanks so much for the positive comments on my blog; you got me blushing over here! Insurance is a pain in the ass, there’s no two ways about it unfortunately. I’ve tried pretty much all of the big names in Insurance over the years (and had to claim a couple of times) and although World Nomads ARE expensive I’ve found them to be the best bet in the long run – they are the only company I have come across which allow you to return home and then head out again whilst remaining on the same policy. If you do go with them, please click on the link on this page, it won’t cost you more but I’ll get a few pennies to help buy my next beer! One piece of advice; In my opinion it is ALWAYS worth paying the excess waiver so that if all hell breaks lose and you loose everything you don’t have to pay, for example, $25 for the first claim of EVERY item – trust me, $25 on thirty items soon adds up!! 🙂

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