The beauty of travel is that anything can happen. One day you’re on a beach in Thailand, the next you’re skiing in Canada but sometimes, disaster strikes. Perhaps your backpack gets lost on a Vietnamese bus, you get pick pocketed in Prague, or have a snowboarding accident in New Zealand. Dealing with these situations could cost you thousands of pounds unless you have travel insurance.
“The chances of needing insurance abroad are higher than you might think,” says Tom Dean from Outbacker, which specialises in backpacker insurance. “Overall, between five and 10 percent of travellers make a claim whilst abroad.” Despite this, when Travamigos surveyed students from Loughborough University, only 12 percent said they thought travel insurance was important.
So, why do you need travel insurance?
If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel, here’s why:
- Your belongings may get lost or stolen – imagine your backpack goes missing on a flight, your camera gets damaged on a trek or your wallet gets swiped in a crowded market. Travel insurance can cover you for loss, damage or theft so that you can afford to replace your belongings.
- In case you need to change your trip – in extreme cases, you might need to cancel your trip or return home earlier than expected. Travel insurance can help you cover the cost of amending your itinerary.
- For medical emergencies – travel insurance will cover you for all kinds of medical treatment, whether you’re suffering from food poisoning, have a traffic accident, bout of appendicitis, or a sports injury. “Countries commonly visited by backpackers such as Thailand have some of the highest road injury rates in the world,” says Tom, “whilst others have far lower health and food standards than the UK.” Without insurance, medical bills can be astronomical. According to Outbacker, the average cost of a broken arm in the USA is a whopping £25,000. Even travelling in Europe with an EHIC card, you may still have to pay extra costs for ambulances or admin fees.
- In case of airline or tour cancellations – travel long enough, and it’s likely that you’ll experience flight delays or cancellations that can really mess up your plans. Travel insurance can provide compensation in these instances, as well as if your hotel, airline or tour operator goes bust.
- For liability insurance – this provides protection should you accidentally injure someone or cause damage to their property. Liability insurance is especially important in the USA and when hiring a car.
How much does travel insurance cost?
According to Outbacker, the average cost of a six-month backpacker policy for someone with no pre-existing medical conditions is between £150 and £175. That’s less than £1 per day, which is a pretty small price to pay for the peace of mind that insurance offers. Put it this way, if the worst happens, travel insurance will seem like the best money you’ve ever spent.
How to choose travel insurance
Select a backpacker policy – these have been specifically designed for travellers who are away for longer periods of time and plan to visit multiple countries. Backpacker policies are often more cost-effective for trips that are longer than a month and can cover additional activities like adventure sports and trekking. Shop around for incentives and discounts, Outbacker are offering Travamigos users a free Amazon voucher when they take out a policy.
Check the policy length – bear in mind that most insurance policies require you to have a return ticket booked or proof that you will be returning to the UK. Check the small print to see what kind of proof is needed, this could include a rental agreement, work contract, or confirmation of being enrolled in a university course in the UK.
Understand what’s covered – check the fine print to make sure you understand exactly what’s covered in your policy. If you intend to trek at high altitude, go bungee jumping, skiing or ride a motorbike abroad for instance, make sure you’re insured for that. See exactly how much you’re covered for and know the excess limits. Always make sure the policy includes repatriation, you don’t want your family to be responsible for the cost of flying you home in the worst-case scenario.
Know how to make claims – before you take out a policy, find out what the claim process is like. Can you make a claim while you’re on the road, or do you have to wait until you return home? Most policies will expect you to pay up front to a certain value, such as £500, and then claim this back when you return. Anything over this amount will usually be paid for directly by the insurer, minus the excess fees.
Top travel insurance tips
- Always read the small print thoroughly before you buy insurance and phone the customer service team if there’s something you don’t understand.
- Make sure you disclose details of any pre-existing medical conditions in your insurance application, as this is one of the main reasons claims get denied.
- Make sure your insurer has a 24-hour emergency helpline and keep the number handy.
- Print a copy of your insurance details to take with you, as well as saving a copy online so you can easily access it.
Once you’ve booked your insurance, make sure you’ve had the relevant travel vaccinations and book a hostel for the first night of your trip, then you’re all set for the adventure of a lifetime.