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Backpacker Travel Insurance for Work and Travel in the UK and Beyond

Find affordable long-term worldwide travel insurance

Travel insurance is confusing and can be costly or even unnecessary - you can easily end up paying too much and not getting the coverage you need!

For you - that ends here.  

The key is to know what you are already covered for and then choose coverage for what you need. 

Citizen of the UK? - Check out Jobaroo for travel insurance information, this page is for those coming or in the UK on a work or student visa.


  1. Healthcare you get automatically (or not) in the UK under the free public healthcare system (NHS)
  2. Backpacker travel insurance that you do need 
  3. How to purchase the right insurance at the right price
  4. FAQs

Healthcare coverage in the UK

Do you need travel insurance (especially medical) at all?

In 2015 the British government changed the regulations related to the NHS (National Health Service) and overseas visitors. 

These regulations cover backpackers working temporarily in the UK on a Tier 5 Visa, Ancestry Visas and International Students coming to the UK.

Temporary migrants (including students) who are subject to immigration controls (requiring visas of between 6 months and 5 years) – will be subject to the health charge when applying to come to the UK, however once in the UK will be exempt from charges under the Regulations.

Source: Equality Analysis - The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 

This means, if you have a work visa you are covered at a basic level while in the UK - however there are other things you are not covered for.

For example, if you get sick or injured and you want to get better at home you are not covered for transport home.

Side trips to Europe and basics like emergency dental are also not covered by the NHS.

You might also want to insure lost or damaged baggage, personal items and trip cancellation.

For the majority of people who enter the UK on a work visa or student visa you will pay a healthcare surcharge but this also means that you are covered for visits to a GP or emergencies to the hospital but not perscriptions, dental treatment or eye tests. (Perscriptions, dental treatment and eye tests are NOT covered by travel insurance policies either for countries - if want these you need separate medical insurance based around being a resident)

However if you want additional coverage while in the UK or plan to travel to countries outside of the UK (like Europe for example), the NHS will not cover you. Therefore, it is wise to get appropriate coverage for those times when you travel outside of the UK or too the UK. 

See below - How to purchase the right insurance at the right price. 

For more information about how to access and use the NHS healthcare system while you are in the UK we cover that here 

Backpackers insurance you still need

While you might be covered at a basic level in the UK, the question is - Do you need additional international health travel insurance?

Ultimately this is up to you, but we want you to be aware of insurance you might want or need.

Backpackers insurance covers medical emergencies you may have abroad (meaning outside your country of residence, which will be the UK while you are there) and it can also cover you for additional things like losing your backpack, having your laptop stolen or even missing a flight.

  1. Side Trips Outside of the UK. A big part of living in the UK for a year or two is the bounty of awesome countries you can visit at the drop of a hat. Paris for the day, Prague for the weekend - no problem. After just a short time in the UK, "going overseas" at the drop of hat will be as easy as a day at the beach or trip to the mountains. Unfortunately, the risk of something happening to you is also greatly increased and it becomes way to easy to forget you have no coverage. 
  2. Not Covered in the UK. Transport home if you get really sick or injured is not covered by the NHS. Even though the UK is your temporary home while you are there if things get rough suddenly being surrounded by family and friends in familiar surrounds can become your road back to health. The costs to get you home will skyrocket if you are really sick or injured. Although not nearly as dire, emergency dental work can be very expensive and relatively common - is not covered by the NHS.
  3. Adventure Sports. Many travel insurance policies fall way short of offering adequate coverage when it comes to doing anything remotely adventurous. The fine print of many policies will often reveal you are not covered for things like hiking or mountain biking much less things that you may actually need for your trip.
  4. Flexibility. (This is big one often overlooked) The ability to stay somewhere for an extra week or perhaps a few month while you are travelling is one of the the true joys of worldwide travel. Unfortunately, travel insurance companies make big money by limiting your ability to extend coverage - forcing you to pay another 6 or 12 months or worse "risk it".
  5. Destinations. Being able to get coverage for the countries you are travelling to without paying for the ones you don't is a huge limitation with most insurance policies. As a general rule, if you are not travelling to Asia or North America your policy should be significantly better value.
  6. Important Stuff. Many policies include baggage insurange, but the fine print reveals you are covered for delays and getting the $2 shirt you got in Bali but not covered for the Laptop or iPhone that will cost you a £500 or $1000 to replace.

Compare this Recommended Provider for Flexible Coverage:

How to purchase the right insurance at the right price

When you are living in the UK or travelling anywhere else, the primary consideration should always be your health.

Overseas medical and emergency transport are the two parts of an insurance policy that are usually standard. Coverage north of $2 million or £1 million is usually easy pretty standard. Most policies will cover you for more but you will likely not need it although it will not cost you much more anyhow. 

Things you should look for 

  • Activities you want to do - from hiking to camping at altitude 
  • Ability to extend coverage for short or long timeframes easily - like online (not an overseas phone number)
  • Ability to select just the countries where you are travelling and not pay up of "worldwide" coverage
  • Coverage for items of value like laptops, ipods and cameras 
  • Trip Cancellation - like sudden illness
  • Work cover for lining and working overseas
  • Get a quote for travel insurance online

Insurance is usually sold as a package the insurance company thinks you will want to buy usually with some optional extras.

If you start by knowing what you do want and need, it is much easier to find a good match.

Flexible Travel Insurance for Backpackers in the UK and beyond

World Nomads Review

Until recently, great insurance did not exist but World Nomads actually insure you for the things that you want without paying for the things you don't. 

They serve 151 countries really well by keeping costs low and focusing on the backpackers needs like:  

  • Instant online quotes, flexible extension options and modifications online 24/7.
  • Multiple "high risk" activity levels covered in four levels so you only choose the coverage you need without the coverage you do not.
  • Only pay for the countries you need.
  • Coverage while working.

Here is more detailed information about backpacker travel insurance.


I have a pre-existing condition. Will travel health insurance cover me?

“health insurance” and “travel medical insurance” internationally should not be confused. Generally travelers medical insurance will not require a medical examination. Basically you fill out a simple form and you are accepted or not, usually on the spot. The policy will spell out what you are covered and NOT covered for. Because of the lack of a medical exam there will be restrictions based on any “pre-existing conditions”. If you were to make a claim, any pre-existing medical conditions you have that may have contributed will be scrutinized and your insurance may become worthless; if in doubt – ask and have a note attached to your policy to prove you have informed the insurance company of the condition.

Will travelers health insurance cover me if I'm injured while doing activities like hiking or playing air guitar?

You will be amazed at how many travelers insurance policies do not cover activities that may seem fairly standard. Ask yourself what activities you will be doing whilst travelling: climbing in Nepal, trekking in Thailand, scuba diving in Fiji, river kayaking in Eastern Europe (Note: no insurance company we know of covers Pamplona bull runs or base jumping) – be absolutely sure the activities you plan to do are covered.

Often, a premium is charged to cover you for such ‘high-risk’ (as calculated by insurance company quantifiers) activities. ‘High-Risk’ does not necessarily mean ‘highly likely to happen'; insurance companies simply need to have adequate ‘money in the bank’ based on the relative cost to them if injury should occur.

I'm working or studying in the UK. Do I need travel insurance?

Backpackers on a work visa or students considered temporary migrants are covered by the NHS. However as dicussed in detail above you might want additional coverage even while you are in the UK (like emerency dental) and especially if you plan to do any trips outside of the UK.

Do I have to be UK citizen to be covered by NHS?

No. Temporary migrants like those on a work visa or students who have a student visa are covered by the NHS for doctors visits and emergency healthcare. 

Will my insurance cover me while I take up residence in the UK?

Yes or No. The danger here is that you purchase a year of travel insurance then injury yourself while outside of the UK only to find you are not covered. The answer depends on how your insurance company defines residency. Note: Residency is defined differently by the UK government. For the purposes on getting NHS benefits you would be a resident of the UK. It is very good idea to read the fineprint on this point for any policy you are considering and this will change from one country to the next.