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!
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.’
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.
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.
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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:
BEST OVERALL TRAVEL INSURANCE PROVIDER
BEST OVERALL TRAVEL INSURANCE PROVIDER
World Nomads Insurance
- > Comprehensive coverage
- > Easy to extend
- > Professional services
BEST CHEAP TRAVEL INSURANCE
BEST CHEAP TRAVEL INSURANCE
World First Insurance
- > Best bang for your buck
- > Cover some pre existing medical conditions
- > Very practical coverage in general
BEST MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR TRAVELERS
BEST MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR TRAVELERS
- > Easy monthly payments
- > Affordable
- > Covers some medical at home
- > Includes air ambulance and evacuations
- > Can take out 2-year policy
- > Discount included
Columbus Direct Insurance
- > For Aussies and Kiwis
- > Be sure to look into medical fine print
- > Cheap travel insurance
- > For UK residents
- > Specifically for electronics
- > Transparent company
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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!
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
- experienced & professional
- variety of 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 favourite travel insurance provider I have used.
They provide some excellent 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, a great travel insurance provider for backpackers.
SafetyWing – Best Medical Travel Insurance
- monthly subscription
- partially covers medical expenses is your home country
For those who just need basic medical insurance for traveling, SafetyWing may be the most suitable option available. It is easy to set up, affordable and they may 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.
World First – The Best Cheap Backpacker Insurance
- very affordable
- wide coverage of medical conditions
- coverage of many outdoor activities
World First is a pretty reliable and cheap option for backpacker travel insurance. They can 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 may even be able to offer cover for travelers affected by up to 1,000 medical conditions including Alzheimer’s, cancer, Crohn’s, etc. Traveling diabetics know the struggle.
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.
Some More Options…
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 may be able to include 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Things you can’t Claim with Backpacker Insurance
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.
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.
My personal go-to travel insurance company is World Nomads.
Even if you don’t use World Nomads, please consider getting 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!
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.
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