Stereotypically, hostel stays are the exclusive preserve of truly broke and busted backpackers – you know, the kind who can’t afford travel insurance and have nothing worth insuring anyway.
But of course, stereotypes only ever represent a tiny fibre torn from the rich and complex tapestry which we call reality and the truth is always far more nuanced and complex. For example, I myself recently stayed in a hostel and I for one usually travel with a hair dryer that is absolutely worth stealing!
That’s also not to mention the fact that travel insurance protects more than just your stuff, but ya know, you yourself too! And let’s be honest, us backpackers get ourselves into some daft situations at times!
In this post, we are going to talk about travel insurance in general but specifically what you need to bear in mind about travel insurance when staying in a hostel. Let’s begin.
In a rush? Can’t be bothered to read 3000 words of my nonsense? Well I will cut to the chase and tell how I insure myself shall I? For medical cover I use SafetyWing and I have a separate gadget cover for my electronics that covers breakage, accidental damage and theft. Note that neither policy offers anything like Cancellation Cover, but I am happy with that risk vs cost level.
Lets Talk Travel Insurance
Before we get into how travel insurance specifically applies to hostel stay scenarios (that’s a delicious, juicy main course currently simmering away in the kitchen) we will warm your appetites by briefly(ish) going over just what travel insurance is, and why travel insurance is important.
Who Needs Travel Insurance?
Human beings have a hierarchy of needs. There is oxygen, water, food, shelter, love etc and somewhere down that list is adventure and stimulation which is what travel provides. While abstract financial products such as insurance policies may not exactly strike you as one of humankind’s bare necessities, the fact is that in 2024 travel insurance is a very important companion piece for travel itself. There is an adage that says “if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel” and there is some serious truth in that.
Sure, in most cases you absolutely do not “need” travel insurance – very few destinations will bar your entry without it. However, seasoned travellers will usually all agree (and some learned the hard way) that they will never leave home again without it.
While we cannot tell you that you NEED insurance (we are technically not allowed to as that would be financial advice) all we will say is that in our opinion every traveller could very much benefit from it, and all of our team are insured whenever we travel.
If you are still not convinced then the next section will explore precisely what travel insurance generally covers.
What Is Covered By Travel Insurance?
It must be noted that each travel insurance policy has its own personality. Some have quirks and others have extras. No two policies are ever exactly alike and even the ‘best’ travel insurance might not be the right one for your personal needs.
However, as a general rule, if you are wondering “what does travel insurance cover?” well, ponder no more, because this is exactly what travel insurance covers;
Emergency Sickness and Medical Cover
If you have cut your foot on beach glass or gotten a tropical disease you may well need medical attention or even full-blown hospitalisation. This can prove very expensive, very quickly!
If you are from Europe and have robust US healthcare coverage you may not be aware of how expensive medical care can be, especially in other countries. It would really suck to not only have your trip ruined by bad health but then have to pay for the privilege! It quite literally would add insult to injury!
Also, note that a Colombian hospital once REFUSED to help me because I did not have proof of insurance on me (we will get to the importance of carrying proof later). So the consequences of no insurance can be quite dire.
If for some reason your trip is cancelled, or you are unable to go on it, trip cancellation could reimburse your costs. Of course, you can’t just claim under this because you slept in and missed your flight but if you are sick and miss your trip then this clause could help you get your money back.
Again, each provider has different stipulations but at its core, if you miss your trip because of something outside of your control, then you’re covered!
Trip interruption is when a trip is interrupted (no shit). This means for example if you miss a connecting flight or one of the hotels (or hostels) on your journey gets closed down by the pest control board and you need to abruptly find a new one at great expense.
Airlines lose more bags than you would probably care to imagine. Since the COVID pandemic and the subsequent “Great Resignation”, the situation has gotten even worse owing to a chronic shortage of baggage handlers and enthusiasm for mundane, underpaid jobs.
Losing a bag can seriously undermine (even ruin) a trip but with this cover at least you get the value of the contents back. Just note that there is an overall limit as well as a per-item limit, so don’t expect this clause to cover the full value of that diamond necklace you packed into your Osprey Farpoint backpack, capiche?
Note that one particular insurer, Faye, is excellent on this front as their app-based service could front you the money to go and buy new clothes within hours of contacting them.
Oh, and also consider investing in some luggage air tags so that you can track your bag as it travels across the world (or not!) all from the comfort of your smartphone.
Theft and Mugging
Sadly crime is on the rise across the world. This is especially true in places like Mexico where the authority’s grip on law and order has only ever really been tenuous at best and tourists are all too often the victims of jackings and muggings.
If your Rolex Watch and iPhone 14X are stolen, this clause could help to replace them.
Some policies even include accidental damage and loss too, so pay close attention to the clauses.
Repatriation (Breathing or Not Breathing)
Repatriation is when you have to be sent home unexpectedly. Examples are when war breaks out in your dream holiday destination (for example if Andorra unexpectedly invades Spain) and you need to be sent home abruptly (unless of course you fancy sticking around for the scrap)!
There’s also repatriation for the people who don’t make it to the end of their trip and tragically (and expensively) have to be flown home in wooden boxes. Ok, so you won’t be overly concerned at that point about the financial and logistical implications, but your family will and no one wants to put them through extra anxiety at what is likely to be an incredibly stressful time.
It’s not pleasant to have to invoke those thoughts so away, away ye darkness! Let’s end this section on a lighter note, shall we?
On that lighter note, if your 2-week camping trip to the Yorkshire Dales or twice-in-a-lifetime honeymoon (don’t at me, it’s just how the statistics roll in 2024 OK?) to the Caribbean is ruined by rain, wind and bad weather, well did you know that travel insurance could…
Ok, no it could not and it absolutely will not. There is no bad weather travel insurance coverage that we are aware of. If it rains on your parade you will simply have to use an umbrella. Sorry.
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Travel Insurance For Hostel Stays
I am sure you shall agree that regardless of whether you are staying in a plush 5* New York hotel or a squalid Yugoslav missile silo-turned-hostel, most of the above is pertinent. As such all kinds of different travellers need travel insurance.
So what exactly do you need to look for when staying in a hostel? How does it fundamentally alter the whole travel insurance experience?
Well, it doesn’t much. But in some small ways, it does and we will cover these. However, it is also worth focusing on the kind of person who stays in hostels and the kind of behaviours they will engage in (queue unverified stereotypes).
Cost of Accommodation
If you are taking a trip and staying in hostels, then the probability is that (1) your accommodation costs are minimal and (2) you have only booked a few nights ahead (ladies and gentlefolk, the freedom of backpacking).
Therefore you really probably don’t care too much about having cover that protects cancelled or lost accommodation bookings. Note that there is normally an excess of between $50 – $100 anyway so if your claim for a “burned down hostel” was to the value of $22, your insurer would not pay it anyway.
Therefore trip interruption may not be that important to you unless maybe you have some expensive flights booked for the various different legs of your trip.
Lost and Stolen Items
It’s very tempting to fall under the illusion that all travellers are awesome, cool, amazing people who have your back. And there is indeed some truth in that.
But, the flip side is that there are a lot of different characters populating hostels and you don’t really know who they are or how desperate some of them are. If Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, Alex Garland’s The Beach and our collective experience taught us anything, it’s that some travellers are capable of doing pretty much anything to ensure the continuation of their hedonism.
Hostel theft is not as uncommon as we wish it was. If you do ever need to make a claim on your insurance then they will have a lot of questions about where you were staying and how much care you took of your items. Did you use a hostel locker? If so, what lock did you put on it? What? You left your Samsung Galaxy on the lounge table while you went to the toilet? Sorry, no cover!
As such, hostel stayers may want to take the time to ensure that the insurer they choose has not written loads of exceptions into the policy which would allow them to pull cover.
They also need to be very careful with this stuff – I know it can feel a bit sour and it’s not like you need to sleep with one eye open but just be aware of how vulnerable your previous stuff is in this environment.
You should also be aware that many insurers have a cost limit on each item and those items that are above that, a laptop for example, may need its own gadget cover policy or to at least be itemised for the insurance company beforehand.
Emergency and Medical Cover
Accidents can happen to anybody and likewise, anybody can get sick right? Well, you know travel insurers tend to have a somewhat more complicated take on it than that. For example, emergency medical cover can sometimes be withdrawn if the insurer discovers or even “feels” that the accident was your fault, especially owing to recklessness or negligence. Remember, victim-blaming culture is rife in the insurance industry.
So if you fall over down your hostel stairs when drunk, or get hurt abseiling whilst high, they may say well that’s on you so you pay for it (harsh right). Of course, unless the hospital breathalysed you then your insurer has no way of knowing you were drunk.
It’s also worth noting that some activities aren’t covered by standard backpacker or travel insurance. Extreme sports and activities are an example and often riding a motorbike/ scooter without the correct license won’t be covered either.
Some hardcore insurers may even take a similar line on sickness so use mosquito repellant, don’t drink Indian tap water and try not to go around licking doorknobs. You get the gist, right?
Theft and Mugging
If you join in that epic hostel bar crawl (I mean why?) but then leave the group and get mugged then that’s terribly bad luck and we feel sorry for you.
An insurance claim assessor who had an argument with his wife that morning on the other hand may argue that those free shots made you vulnerable and leaving the safety of the group was on you.
Once again though, if you don’t mention the free shots they plied you with then nobody ever need know about them right?
Repatriation (Present or Passed)
The good news is that as far as travellers go, the hostel-going ones are not at the biggest risk of being sent home draped in a shroud – rather that dubious honour is reserved for veteran (Read: old!) travellers and extreme sports participants.
Still, I have met some absolute numpties in hostels who do sometimes seem like they are rolling dice with the reaper. If this is you, make sure you get a cover that comes with at least a free body bag!
Hostel Travel Insurance – The Reality
What should have come across by now is that there is no specific travel insurance for hostel stays, per se.
Rather, backpackers and travellers who use hostels and live the hostel lifestyle (beer pong and bunk sex? Yes please!) simply need to choose a policy from an insurer who understands the day-to-day realities of backpacking.
Backpacker Travel Insurance
Yes, there absolutely is such a thing as backpacking insurance. In fact, a whole number of different insurance providers offer specific backpacking insurance now.
The key difference between backpacker insurance and regular old vacation cover is that it covers you for an extended, open period of time and allows you to travel to multiple different countries. Aside from that though, there is also a certain cultural difference that comes with using a bonafide backpacking insurer.
Opting to go with a proper backpacker insurance policy means that the insurer will have dealt with people like you before. If your bag got robbed right in your hostel dorm and somebody took your gold-plated hair dryer then a backpacker insurer will understand why you left it unattended.
Likewise, they will also understand how peer pong works and why your inhibitions were lowered to the point where you thought wrestling with a monkey was a sound idea. However, they understand backpackers and the sorts of things we get up to!
Don’t get me wrong, they are not your mates, they do not offer charity and the kind of risks that backpackers take are completely and utterly priced into their policies.
Equally, backpacker insurance does not give you carte balance to be stupid and reckless and you still need to do your due diligence and take reasonable care at all times.
It’s just that if you do ever have to claim (and statistically you won’t) you’ll stand a better chance of it being successful if you have the right policy from a suitable insurer to begin with.
We have written extensively about backpacker insurance elsewhere but below, we will neatly summarise it for those of you with diminished, 21st-century attention spans.
Backpacker Travel Insurance Providers
If we led you this far without offering some insight as to who may be the best travel insurer for your needs then we would be nothing more than teases! And we are not here merely to tease, we are here to take you all the way.
The insurance market is a hectic one. Many different “companies” (most are actually different shop fronts operated by the same billion-dollar insurance behemoths) compete for your business and as such, knowing where the bloody hell to start can feel overwhelming.
We are not permitted to recommend providers to you and there is no such thing as “the best”. But, below is a summary of suitable travel insurance companies that we know and crucially have used ourselves.
Since 2002, World Nomads have been protecting, connecting and inspiring independent travelers.
They offer simple and flexible travel insurance and safety advice to help you travel.
Because they believe in giving back to the places we travel to, World Nomads also enables you to make a difference with a micro-donation when you buy a policy.
And they’ll help you plan your trip with free downloadable guides, travel tips, responsible travel insights and recommendations from their global community.
World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
SafetyWing is by far one of the most interesting financial services companies that I have ever come across. Founded in 2017 by a bunch of Digital Nomads, they specialise in covering Digital Nomads and even have a splinter project to found the world’s first internet nation.
SafetyWing specialises in providing medical cover for people (and their families) living and working remotely outside of their home countries. They offer an open-ended, fixed Nomad Plan which costs $42.99 per month.
Because they specialise in covering Digital Nomads and “slow travellers” their basic cover package does not offer too much in terms of trip cancellation so you do need to take this into account if you want to use them.
Still, if what you are primarily after is medical cover on your backpacking trip, then this company is well worth your attention.
If you want to know more then read our comprehensive SafetyWing insurance review here.
Need help deciding between Safety Wing or Hey Mondo? Check out our helpful guide.
Named after one of history’s greatest (and most divisive explorers), Columbus Direct specialises in insuring adventure-hungry explorers like us via their backpacker and global insurance products. They have been going for 30 years and have won awards (is there a travel insurance World Cup?!)
What we find unique about this plan is that it does cover small amounts of personal cash which is exceptionally rare. However, Gadget and Device Cover is not available although to be honest, if you have a good laptop or expensive phone you probably need to think about taking out separate cover for them anyway – that is precisely what we all do.
Word Up – As of March 2023 PassportCard Nomads is NOT currently offering any insurance at this time. If you want an easy to use, app based insurance then check out our Faye Review instead.
Kinda like SafetytWing but Digital with fixed expiration, PassportCard Nomads is a travel health insurance provider. What they offer is a pioneering, app-based, pre-paid travel insurance credit card which you can use to pay for medical treatment. What they don’t offer is stuff like lost luggage and cancellation cover.
If you need to use the Insurance, then to get the Passport card loaded, you simply contact PassportCard Nomads via their app, tell them what you need and then they load the card with money which you can then spend on delicious goodies like drop bags and blood tests. It means that you are never left out of pocket and get quick access to the help you need.
PassportCard Nomads is primarily suitable for digital nomads, remote workers and backpackers who are not concerned about losing flight costs etc.
The package they offer focuses on health and medical insurance. That said they do offer an equipment coverage service and you can add laptops and phones to the policy for an additional premium.
As PPCN are currently not offing cover, read over our detailed Faye Review.
Final Thoughts on Hostel Travel Insurance
Let’s summarise what we have learned today. While there is no such thing as hostel travel insurance, a number of decent travel insurance providers do offer backpacker cover which suits the freewheeling hostel lifestyle poy-fectly. You are not obliged to take out insurance but seasoned travellers would advise that you at least consider it.
Ultimately, the fact is that most trips end safely and happily without incident but the counter fact is that sometimes, things do go wrong.
We hope you found this piece helpful or at least a tiny little bit amusing and we look forward to seeing you all next time!
See you on the road sweet peeps.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!