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Backpacker Travel Insurance

Get the coverage you need - without wasting money.

We feel your pain.

Travel insurance can be confusing, costly or worse - you don't get paid when something happens. 

Help is here.

Here's the main problem: Most travel insurance (some even called "backpacker insurance") is aimed at tourists - not longer term travellers who have very different needs and budgets. 

The key is to know

1) What good backpacker travel insurance looks like

2) How to get the insurance you need at the right price

3) Free healthcare you might get

4) Finally some good old FAQs

Skip Ahead:

  1. 7 Things Backpacker Insurance Needs 
  2. Insurance that Works!
  3. Free Healthcare? (or not) under the public healthcare system (NHS)
  4. FAQs

Check out Jobaroo for travel insurance information if you are heading to Australia.

7 Things Backpacker Insurance Needs

In some cases, if you are on a work visa for example, you may be covered (for Healthcare in a public system like doctors visits and hospitals - see below) but this does not cover you for lots of things! Because you are a foreigner in a different country, your needs are different. 

There are quite a few things you are not covered for which insurance covers you for:

  1. Weekend Trips. A big part of living overseas 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, "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. We like to think we are invincible, but if the worst happens and your remains need to be repatriated this can be a very expensive process. More likely though, is the next one.
  3. If you get really sick or injured - you will want to be with your friends and family at home. Even though your temporary home has changed - if things get rough suddenly being surrounded by family and friends in familiar surrounds is super important on 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 in the UK by the NHS.
  4. 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.
  5. Flexibility. (This is big one often overlooked) The ability to stay somewhere for an extra week or perhaps a few months 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".
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Below is an affiliate link from an insurer that pays us a commission if you end up using their service. This is at no extra cost to you but we think you will find they offer very flexible backpacker focused insurance that could benefit you in a very big way. Recommend comparing them and make sure you do get insurance one way or another.

Check out the Provider we Use:

Getting Insurance that Works!

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, and you will likely not need it. That said, it generally does not cost much more anyway.

Most important is to get coverage for the things you do need! 

6 Things you should look for:

  1. Activities 
  2. Flexibility of coverage 
  3. Ability to select just the countries you need (not regions)
  4. Coverage for items of value like laptops, ipods and cameras 
  5. Trip cancellation - like sudden illness, or sudden need to return home
  6. Work cover for working overseas

1. Activities it Covers

The kinds of activities your policy covers might be the most important factor in getting yourself a policy.

In addition to a range of activities activities, from the usual hiking and skiing, to the more adventurous like skydiving it is also important to make sure you are covered for activities that are often not covered in an insurance policy - like work or volunteering.

This is one of the big differences between holiday insurance and backpacker insurance.

When figuring out the best fit, it is worth getting into the nitty gritties of your policy.

2. The Flexibility With Which You Can Extend Your Cover

A good backpacker travel insurance policy is designed to be flexible and offer you the ability to extend your cover for a longer period with ease and convenience.

It would be worth looking at policies that allow you to do this online, considering that you might need to extend your policy while already traveling.

Some only offer an overseas phone number which can be challenging overseas, so it is best to look for a policy that allows for extensions online. 

3. The Flexibility to Choose Your Countries and Travel Zones

Most travel insurance unfortunately only cover travel zones and not specific countries. What this means is that you may pay a heavier sum to travel places that you wish are covered by your policy, but you may also end up paying an extra fee to simply have the option to visit obscure places that are absolutely not a part of your itinerary.

Sounds frustrating?

It doesn't have to be.

Simply look for a travel policy that covers a specific list of countries that you wish to visit rather than zones.

The ability to customize your policy, with slight tweaks, of course, can be a huge advantage. However, policies are usually more strict in these terms, so you may be better off just opting for policies that allow you to narrow down and selectively opt for countries that you wish are covered by your policy.   

4. Coverage for Items You Usually Carry

If you think tourists and travellers, there might be one thing more in common between the two than anything else - both carry gadgets and accessories such as cameras, tripods, ebook readers, tablets, laptops, and a whole entourage of accessories to go with the electronics.

However there is one big difference. Some backpackers will prefer to "risk it" and put their funds towards something else and others will be keen to get covereage for some expensive items.

Flexibility to insure valuables like electronics is the key.

Losing a camera or a tripod is bad - but having a policy can ensure the travels go on. Valuable items are usually covered by a broad coverage travel insurance, but you could always opt for smaller policies and add-on coverage for valuable items to your policy.

5. Covering Trip Cancellations Due to Emergencies

Sometimes even the most well planned trip can fail to execute - simply because an emergency might stop you in your tracks.

In such a circumstance, where you have have made prior bookings - such as flights, hostel and even tours these cannot be refunded by the service providers.

To avoid running into trouble, it is always advisable to opt for an insurance service that covers the cost of cancellation in case you are unable to undertake your trip due to grave emergencies - such as a sudden illness.

While a lot of policies do usually cover major expenses, trip cancellations are slightly tougher to have covered but can be a good idea.

6. Work Cover for Travelling and Working Overseas

If you are planning to work overseas, travel insurance that covers working or volunteering can be a really good idea. 

Flexible Insurance

World Nomads

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.

Free Healthcare?

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 


Will travelers health insurance cover me if I'm injured while doing activities like 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 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.

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 which pretty much everyone does.

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.