The world of travel insurance for backpackers is one big insurance jungle. There are a million and one companies out there offering up a wide range of coverage options.
I’ve been traveling for over a decade and have tried out several different travel insurance providers over the years.
That why I have written this World Nomads travel insurance review!
This in-depth review, which includes several of my own experiences claiming on travel insurance, will help you decide if World Nomads is worth the money and if they are the right travel insurance company for your adventures.
Finding the best travel insurance for backpackers in a giant ocean of insurance can feel like doing your taxes or visiting the dentist: it is no ones favorite activity. Most people are not too keen on spending hours researching travel insurance.
How does one decide on the right insurance to go with for a backpacking adventure without investing hours of your life to find it?
What is the best travel insurance for backpackers?
Why is World Nomads the best travel insurance provider for long-term trips?
Table of Contents
Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers
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 is the best travel insurance provider on the market.
For 95% of trips, World Nomads is the best choice as your insurance provider.
I’ve talked in the past about different insurance companies for backpackers and even after analysing a dozen different insurance providers (and testing out five of them), World Nomads remains my top choice.
The only problem with World Nomads is that they don’t cover Pakistan, a country I spend a lot of time in. If you’re heading to some truly offbeat destinations, you should read this post to get some more info on other insurance options.
For most backpackers though, World Nomads covers you for every destination you are likely to want to visit and provides the right level of cover for pretty much every conceivable problem you may run into.
World Nomads is easy to purchase, provides solid coverage, and is easily customised based on where you plan to go backpacking.
If you love traveling or even just the idea of traveling in the future then there has certainly been a moment at some point along the way where you asked yourself, “Should I buy travel insurance?”
The reality is you never need insurance until you do. If you don’t have travel insurance when times get tough, basically you are screwed. Or at least you are out a ton of money.
Traveling always comes with inherent risks attached. Whether you are trekking in the Nepalese mountains or wandering the streets of Amsterdam, unforeseen events can suddenly upend your world.
Here are real things that have happened to me on the road…
1. My backpack got 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 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, misjudged bend in the road or plain bad luck to change everything.
In the life of an adventurer these things do happen. What you want to be is prepared.
The easiest way to be prepared is to simply buy insurance. Let me tell you why World Nomads is the obvious choice…
This World Nomads travel insurance review offers up a detailed breakdown of different plans offered by World Nomads, what is covered by your insurance, how much World Nomads costs, and how to choose the right insurance package for yourself.
Here’s what we are going to cover…
Quick Answer: Why World Nomads Travel Insurance Kicks Ass.
- What kind of insurance plans does World Nomads offer?
- What is covered, what’s not?
- How much does World Nomads travel insurance cost?
- Can you insure your backpacking gear and electronics?
- Is it possible to add more insurance coverage in the middle of a backpacking trip?
- How do I make an insurance claim?
- Pros and Cons of World Nomads travel insurance
Why do I need Travel Insurance?
You might ask yourself why the hell do I need travel insurance? What does is it provide exactly?
Generally speaking, travel insurance covers you for the following:
Medical Costs—Hospital visits, emergencies, evacuations.
Property Loss—Luggage and their contents
Travel Issues—Accommodation and transportation expenses
World Nomads Travel Insurance Plan Breakdown
Do you already have a trip in mind? Get a quote using the widget below to see how much insurance with World Nomads will cost you.
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.
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), 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.
The Explorer Plan
The Explorer plan is the slightly more expensive option that clearly gives you the better coverage on just about everything.
The 2-week trip to Thailand example used above costs on average $107 or $7.64/day with the Explorer plan.
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 get drunk, turn brave, and make a bad choice), rappelling, and cliff jumping are all covered under the Explorer Plan. The thing is these 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: 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 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.
Now you have seen the travel insurance plans offered by World Nomads. Let’s dive into to what the hell each category and its associated coverage means for you exactly. Here is a rundown of specific dollar amounts relating to each specific category and related insurance plan.
The column on the left represents Standard Plan Values. The column on the right is the Explorer Plan.
World Nomads Travel Insurance Coverage Category Breakdown
Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses
Got horrible food poisoning in India? Break a finger while volunteering in Guatemala? Sprain an ankle whilst trekking in Switzerland? These things happen, and the last thing you want to do is pay out of your own pocket.
Emergency accident and sickness coverage is likely the most important aspect of your travel insurance plan. If you fall ill, get hurt, or otherwise need medical attention, you have costs covered up to $100,000. Likewise, if you need emergency dental care you are covered up to $750.
If you need something major, like a root canal you will likely not be covered fully. Though in many parts of the world you can find cheap and competent dentists who have surprisingly low costs.
My good friend had an issue with a rotten tooth while traveling around Nepal. He had to have emergency surgery, which basically meant he got his tooth pulled out of his mouth by a dentist. The large majority of his surgery was covered by insurance.
Note that the medical coverage does not cover general hospital visits.
Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Coverage is for an accidental injury or sickness occurring during the trip that results in your necessary emergency evacuation. For example, if you break your leg way out in the Himalaya’s and you need a helicopter rescue, you’re covered.
An emergency evacuation must be ordered by a physician who certifies that the severity of your accidental injury or sickness warrants your emergency evacuation.
Obviously, you won’t be trekking with a doctor, but once emergency personnel arrives they will contact World Nomads on your behalf.
Travel insurance is not designed to cover everything.
Here are the main things that aren’t covered:
- Medical transportation or associated additional expenses which are not pre-authorized by the emergency assistance team.
- Any expenses that relate to a pre-existing medical condition.
- All Costs once you get back home.
Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
Coverage is for transportation expenses if there is civil or political unrest in the country in which you are visiting (which may or may not be specifically related to terrorism). Huge protests broke out in Iran? People flooding the streets in Venezuela and shit is on fire? There is a genuine threat to your safety? World Nomads covers that and will get you out.
In addition to political unrest, you will be transported home if there is an eligible natural disaster (like an earthquake or hurricane) or if you are expelled from a country. Basically if shit hits the fan in a country, World Nomads will cover the costs of your retreat.
Reimburses for prepaid, non-refundable cancellation charges if you must cancel your trip (after the effective date of your insurance plan) due to covered sickness, accidental injury, or death of you, a family member or traveling companion; inclement weather, unforeseen natural disaster at home or at your destination, strike or other covered reasons.
Includes the same stipulations as listed above in “Trip Cancellation”. Includes the caveat of covering the cost of accommodation to you if you are delayed.
Additional accommodation and transport expenses have a per day maximum of $250.
Baggage and Personal Stuff
Being compensated for lost personal gear is likely the second most important aspect of your insurance. Or at least it is something you are more likely to need This covers reimbursement for loss, theft, or damage incurred during the trip. It can be applied to all personal items that were lost, stolen, or else accidentally blown off the roof of a chicken bus traveling at top speed.
This is where it gets tricky: the per article limit. The per-article limit means that you can only claim a certain amount per item. In my opinion, this is one of the only cons of World Nomads.
For example, if your $1700 MacBook Pro gets stolen, you can only claim $500 per item under the Standard Plan. Under the Explorer Plan you can claim a maximum $1500 per item for a total of $3000.
Collision Damage Wavier
What does this mean?! If you rent a car in a foreign country and have an accident, the World Nomads Explorer Plan will cover you up to $35,000. The Standard Plan offers zero coverage for driving or road accidents.
Please note: Some rental vehicle companies may not accept this coverage, and may require you to buy rental car insurance underwritten by a carrier that is filed in that country.
Accidental Death and Dismemberment
Okay, we are talking worst case scenario here. 99.99% of the time nothing of this magnitude will happen to you while traveling. Shit happens though and we never know what will go down on any given day of our lives
Say you lose an arm or a leg. Or tragically you arrive at your departing day and you die.
This coverage is for the loss of life or limb as a result of an accidental injury occurring during the trip. The loss must occur within 365 days after the date of the accident causing the loss. Basically what this means is if you have an accident and are dying, if you die your family will be covered.
Same goes if you have something happen that results in your arm eventually being removed as a result of the accident. Pretty grim I know, but we can’t pretend that no one has ever died whilst traveling before.
One Call 24-Hour Assistance
Here is where World Nomads really comes through for you when you need them. They help you locate local physicians, dentists, or medical facilities. When medically necessary, they arrange and pay for appropriate transportation, including an escort, if required, to a suitable hospital, treatment facility or medical center.
Payment for medical evacuation is available only for covered claims and up to the amount of coverage provided in the policy. All medical transportation services must be authorized and arranged by One Call.
If you know you will be participating in a dangerous activity plan accordingly. I advise that you make it easy for yourself and your potential rescuers. What I mean is that you should have your insurance information in your wallet or tucked in your rain jacket for example so all of your World Nomads info in an easy to find place.
Make it known to your group what to do if an accident occurs. They need to contact World Nomads as soon as possible in order for you to be covered.
Adventure Sports and Activities
World Nomads did their homework. They have listed just about every physical activity known to (wo)man and assigned an insurance coverage policy to it.
Again, depending on which plan you go with you are covered for different activities that are all plan specific.
For the full list of what is covered under each insurance plan click here.
World Nomads Travel Insurance Cost
Of course, there is no one answer to this question. The rates quoted by World Nomads depend on a few factors. Your nationality, your planned destinations, and trip length all play into the final price. Let’s take a look at another example of what a multi-country 3-month backpacking trip would cost.
Since many backpackers are fond of traveling in Southeast Asia, I will use this as an example.
This hypothetical trip runs through four countries and lasts three months. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia is where this traveler is headed. For the sake of the example, I have given this traveler American nationality, 25 years, and a resident state of California.
Here is the price quote for both The Standard and Explorer Plan:
The Standard Plan works out to be around $2.79 per/day for 90 days (3 months).
The Explorer Plan costs around $4/day for 90 days. When you think about it, that is next to nothing. As a wise man once said: if you can’t afford travel insurance you should not be traveling.
You can’t prevent disaster from striking but you can certainly prepare for how you will cope with it. World Nomads Travel Insurance provides a perfect coping mechanism, the cost of which you will hardly notice on a daily basis if you already have enough money to go traveling.
Insuring Specific Gear and Electronics
At this time, World Nomads does not offer any item specific insurance packages. You cannot take out a policy on your iPhone, tent, or lucky underwear. If something is lost or stolen you have the per article limits mentioned above.
Can you modify/add insurance once on the road?
Yes, you can and in fact it is super easy. Your new policy can be purchased for the duration you choose (from 1 day up to 12 months) and a new certificate will be issued and saved in your membership profile on their website, so check this carefully.
World Nomads is one of the few companies that lets you add insurance coverage whilst you are already on a trip. Plans change, trips get extended, and the need for more quality insurance happens!
Note that World Nomads does not insure individuals over 70 years old. That means if you were 69 when you first purchased insurance, then had a birthday and want to buy more insurance after that, you’re out of luck.
If you were injured during your trip and want to buy more insurance this could prove complicated. It is possible that World Nomads would consider your injury or illness a pre-existing condition. This could result in you being denied for any more coverage.
How to Make an Insurance Claim
Making an insurance claim is equally as simple. All you have to do in contact (call) World Nomads and chat with their 24/hour multi-lingual staff. You can also login to your profile on their website and file a claim there.
In the case of lost or stolen items, you will need to write up a formal sworn statement of events, detailing what happened and what was lost. You will also need to have an official police report made.
If you claim lost or stolen items, World Nomads will ask you for those two things. To make a claim online you should prepare a few things first. When dealing with World Nomads or any other insurance company ALWAYS keep all of the documents involved. You will need these to prove your expenses ETC.
It’s helpful to get all of your receipts and invoices together first and submit all expenses for your claim at once. Keep copies of every expense, bill, invoice and report as you will need to provide these to the claims team so they can assess your claim.
List each expense for the amount shown on your receipt/invoice and answer all other questions. You’ll be sent an email advising what documentation you will need to send us to support your claim.
After that is sorted, you upload all of your information and documents, review the claim and then click submit. The folks at World Nomads are on it and will be in contact with you throughout this process.
Basic Plan vs Explorer Plan: Pros and Cons
For some of us who travel with high-end camping gear or expensive electronics the $1000 reimbursement limit offered by the Standard Plan is simply too low. For other folks, maybe all of your gear is worth $500 or less.
Point being, if you travel with expensive things and want more protection then you’ll need to go with the Explorer Plan.
Good news: The most important part of your coverage, the emergency medical coverage, is the same for both plans: $100,000.
Personal Experience with World Nomads
As I mentioned before, I’ve had to claim on my travel insurance several times over the last ten years.
Most recently, in 2017, I became very sick with Dengue Fever in Koh Lanta, Southern Thailand. I was too far from a hospital and so I ended up in a private clinic – which was a big mistake.
As soon as I walked in, the main doctor was practically rubbing his hands together with glee. I was too sick to really notice and went on to get treated.
When I went in, I was asked for, and gave, my passport so they could make a photocopy.
I had administered fluids, plenty of pills and spent an uncomfortable night tossing and turning on a bed.
The next day I asked for my passport back and was informed that I would only get it back once the bill was paid. I asked for the bill and it was a massive 25,000 Bhat – nearly $1000.
I explained that I didn’t have that kind of money but that I did have travel insurance and they would pay it back.
To my horror and surprise, the two doctors then began shouting at me, insisting I would not get my passport back till I paid. I felt weak still from the Dengue and was in no state to start busting heads.
I called World Nomads – they were extremely surprised that my passport was being held ransom, insisting that it was illegal. They were right.
World Nomads dealt with the whole thing for me and thirty minutes later, my bill was paid and my passport was released – I was extremely impressed with World Nomad’s professional service and very gratefully to them getting me out of a bind.
How to Buy World Nomads Travel Insurance
Already know where you plan to go backpacking? Just want to get a quick quote so you can get an idea of what it will cost? Follow this link and start planning your adventure.
Staying Safe on your Adventure
To help make things far more difficult for potential thieves to take your money, pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road, and check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst on your backpacking adventure.
This post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when traveling.
I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst backpacking anywhere in the world – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.
What happens when you don’t have Travel Insurance?
Early on in my backpacking career, I thought I didn’t need travel insurance. I was cleaning my ears out with a cotton swab in a Guatemalan hostel bathroom when I slipped on some water that had collected on the tile floor, fell, and jammed the cotton swab deep into my ear hole. I can still hear the horrible sound it made when the swab went in super deep inside.
Long story short, I had to go to the hospital as blood was coming out of my ear in addition to my hearing being severely impacted. Luckily, I did not (somehow) puncture my eardrum and did not require emergency surgery in a Guatemala City hospital. The doctor told me I was as close as anyone can be to puncturing an ear-drum.
Even more incredible is that I was able to go scuba diving three weeks later and had no issues with neutralizing the pressure in my ears.
Free advice: if you are ever cleaning your ears out with a cotton swab, never do anything else! Do not walk around with an ear-drum piercing tool lackadaisically stuck into your ear!
I dodged a major bullet in avoiding having to get surgery, which would have cost me thousands. I did have to pay for the entire experience out of pocket. Sometimes in this life you learn things the hard way.
Final Thoughts on World Nomads Travel Insurance
Whether you are planning on a year-long world tour or a two-week backpacking trip to Europe, having travel insurance gives you sweet sweet peace of mind. You never know when a great day could head south, and honestly, there is no worse feeling than being stuck with exorbitant expenses that could of easily been avoided.
Traveling anywhere in the world is always a gamble. If you have ever spent time in a casino, then you know being a lone gambler is far less advantageous than being with the house — stay with me now — which for this metaphor is World Nomads travel insurance.
I hope your future backpacking adventures fulfill all over your travel dreams and then some. Hopefully, the day never comes when you need to use your insurance.
That said, if and when that day arrives, going with World Nomads travel insurance will allow you to be totally ready to deal with the situation like the responsible backpacker that you are.
You can get a quote here.