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Backpacker travel insurance

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Learn how to save money on travel insurance with our special guide...

What is backpacker insurance?

For many young people the idea of going on a holiday for the first time without their parents cramping their emerging sense of style immediately conjures up images of a no-holds barred fortnight of sun, sea, sand and sangria in Ayia Napa, Mali or Ibiza. Each to their own of course.

Yet to others the first time they travel further afield than ever before with their parent’s blessings – but minus their company – is, with respect, a far greater undertaking than a 4 hour flight due south to sunnier, dance music-orientated climes.

For a (much quieter) start the destination isn’t just the one place, but countless. And the Air Miles they will accumulate would probably take them to the fabled White Isle and back ten times. And what’s more, they’ll need to ask their employer for more than just 2 weeks annual leave, seeing as they won’t be returning to their role for at least 6 months.

But having said that, the majority of backpackers heading off at any one time to discover new countries, continents, outlooks, cultures and selves are typically in that grey area referred to as ‘between jobs’. Or alternatively, ‘between’ other things in their more familiar life. Like educational establishments/pursuits or relationships.

There are many reasons why people tend to pack up their troubles (or not, as the case may be) and head off in search of answers, themselves or lost tribes, but for the most part backpacking is very much perceived as a rites of passage episode – feature-length or otherwise – in a lot of (predominantly) younger people’s earlier lives. However, and aside from mosquito repellent, maps and the right currencies, what is of priceless importance to the typical backpacker is being covered by the right insurance for every conceivable eventuality – and then some.

Naturally enough, not every backpacker will be as ambitious as the next, and for every one traveller who fills their rucksack and heads for the Australian Outback or South America there will be hundreds more who instead opt for the less treacherous (but equally rewarding) landscapes of Europe. But wherever you have your heart set on going, it’s imperative that you are insured for any unpredicted eventualities you experience along the way. Which is where backpacker insurance comes in.

Designed to accommodate the requirements of a typical adventure-seeker, most backpacker insurance providers offer policies which fully understand and reflect the needs of a backpacker, and moreover appreciate the differences between what they and the more traditional holidaymaker would look to be protected against.

Many bespoke backpacker insurance policies include longer trip duration terms written into them, offering up to 18 months’ worth of consecutive, rolling cover compared to standard travel insurance packages which tend to cover 31 days on average. And then there’s the optional cover for activities out of the ordinary. Or rather out of the ordinary sphere of the many of us who favour a more leisurely paced break on the coast closer to home. Like scuba diving, bungee jumping and pot holing for instance. And lest we forget that another demographic who would benefit greatly from backpacker insurance policies are the hundreds, if not thousands of people who volunteer themselves as conservation or charity workers overseas each year, whether on a gap year or not, with Thailand and Borneo being just two popular destinations in this case.

And that’s even without mentioning the many thousands of backpackers who choose to work their way around various parts of the globe as part of their character-shaping, often taking transient employment in bars and farms to help make ends meet to fund the next part of their journey.

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Do I need backpacker insurance?

Despite what the media (and horror films) might say, backpacking isn’t anywhere near as dangerous as some people might think. Having said that there will always be potentially challenging situations along the way which without having adequate backpacker insurance supporting you at every turn might prove to be a little scary.

So yes, if you’re planning on scratching that Indiana Jones-esque travelling itch anytime soon, then it’s in everybody’s best interests (especially your loved ones biting their nails back home) to have every angle covered.

Essentially a decent backpacker insurance plan will cover policyholders against the costs of medical treatment whilst abroad (which can quickly escalate in certain countries, and could potentially involve repatriation costs if an illness or injury suffered overseas becomes that serious) as well as protecting your personal belongings, money and travel documentation in the event of them being either misplaced or stolen at any point.

In addition to this, backpacker insurance will also guard against costs incurred as a result of delayed or cancelled flights or any other form of transportation; or if you’re forced into terminating your trip in an emergency situation.

Also, a good backpacker insurance policy will indemnify accident, liability and legal expenses, should any of these arise through the course of your travels.

How much does backpacker insurance cost?

The prices of backpacker insurance premiums, as you might expect, differ depending on a raft of factors – like longevity of trip, whether any perceivably dangerous sports will be pursued, countries the policyholder intends visiting etc… – yet the good news is for those looking to kick their independent travels off in not as far-flung locations, you can snap up some great deals.

There are a host of specialist backpacker insurance providers out there to help you thrash out a plan which best suits your individual requirements, so be sure to shop around – or let Bob do the hard work for you.

Our other advice would be to read the small print in all backpacker insurance policies you’re considering, especially with direct reference to the duration of the cover/your proposed trip.

Backpacker plans typically last for 12 months but can vary from 90 days all the way up to 18 month extensions. But please be mindful to breaking your schedule early – even if just temporarily to return home for unforeseen reasons – as often this can unknowingly invalidate certain policies, which has caught many policyholders out before now.

That said, some backpacker insurance providers will now cover up to two return journeys to the UK for those adventurers who wish to come back for Christmas or to attend an unpredicted wedding; although the duration you can spend back home to preserve the validity of the backpacker insurance cover is generally agreed to be around the 14 day mark just for the record. Like-wise, check where your policy stands on stop-over cover (if at all) as recent studies have found that only 38% of backpacker policies provided ‘stop-over cover’ for travellers who might want to take in a different area en route to their destination.

Also it pays to be up-to-date with common exclusions which could prohibit, or at the very least, curtail, certain backpackers’ plans and effectively stop them in their insurance policy-acquiring stride. And it goes without saying that you should make yourself familiar with any potential exclusions BEFORE you set off on your travels, so you’re not left up the creek without the proverbial paddle while plotting your next coordinates.

Such exclusions we feel we need to flag up are often overlooked – yet hugely important – aspects like knowing which countries are home to recognised war zones or in a widely acknowledged state of political or military unrest. As backpacker insurers will rarely cover individuals who willingly enter such geographical areas as a general rule.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there will be limitations imposed on activities such as winter sports. Health issues might also compromise your travel plans too, so ensure that you’re up to date with your inoculations and jabs should you be journeying to parts of the world which demand this.

What can I do to reduce the cost of backpacker insurance?

Have all the facts in front of you before you start your search for dedicated backpacker insurance, as being prepared and knowing exactly what you’re after from the outset will help you determine the best policies and ultimately get you the best prices.

Don’t just settle for the first premiums you see – even if they do appear attractive – as they could well be deceptively cheap. Remember, you cannot afford to scrimp on backpacker insurance as you enter the unknown and explore parts of the world that you might have very little knowledge and understanding of.

Less isn’t always more as some people would have you believe, and could well just be less, full stop. So it might be worth paying that little bit more to make sure that you have the optimum backpacker insurance cover before you even leave the front door.


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