Backpacker Travel Insurance - The Basics

David Woodfield By David Woodfield

Travelling the remote areas of the world for months at a time means that backpacking can be the trip of a lifetime. Whether you’ve planned meticulously or you prefer going with the flow, there’s always the outside chance that things could go wrong.

If they do, backpacker travel insurance is essential to ensure the trip of a lifetime doesn’t become a nightmare. In an emergency it is far better to be calling your insurer who will be equipped and ready to help, rather than waking up Mum and Dad at 3 a.m. to explain you’ve missed your flight, lost your passport and are stuck in Laos forever.

So to save yourself a lot of hassle and protect you against the worst, it’s worth spending some time early on in your planning (or lack of planning) to find the best backpacker insurance you can. To help, we walk you through the basics below. Alternatively, you might want to shortcut to our other resources:


Why do I need travel insurance at all?

Travel insurance protects you against the problems you might encounter whilst abroad. Typically this includes:

  • Medical emergencies (such as needing hospital treatment);
  • Incidents involving your baggage and personal effects (perhaps the safe in your hostel room gets burgled), and;
  • Cancellations (for example if your family is ill and you have to return home, you may have to cancel flights and accommodation bookings that won’t refund you otherwise).

Without an insurer, you’re risking the consequences of one of these events. At best this could mean just a big bill. At worst, if you couldn’t afford to solve the problem yourself, it could mean being stranded or even refused medical treatment.

Why do I need ‘backpacker insurance’, not just ‘travel insurance’?

Most standard travel insurance policies are not suitable for backpacking, for one big reason - the duration of your trip. For standard policies, insurers usually have a limit on the length of time you can be away – commonly 31 or 45 days. A typical backpacking trip of 6-18 months would comfortably break these limits and invalidate the policy. Insurers help you by creating specific backpacker travel insurance policies that cover longer trips like these.

What makes the best backpacker insurance?

Identifying the ‘best’ insurance is a tough thing to do as it depends a lot on where you are going, what you are doing, how much you are taking with you and so on. All of these things effect the cover you need and might change which policy is the best. We go into more detail on these and other factors in our in-depth guide which you can find here: 6 Ways to Compare Backpacker Travel Insurance
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Why don't I just buy the cheapest backpacker insurance?

The cheapest backpacker insurance is not always the best, nor is it necessarily the right one for you! For example if you are carrying expensive equipment (perhaps an iPad, a new iPhone or a Macbook Air), you might need more baggage cover than a typical backpacking policy provides. Or if you're planning on working abroad, doing certain activities that can be deemed dangerous (e.g. off-piste skiing) then you will need a policy that covers you for those activities otherwise you may find your cover is invalidated. Check with your insurer that your plans are covered within the policy you are buying.

Join Bought by Many's Backpacker Travel insurance group

Bought by Many groups together people with similar insurance needs, such as travel insurance for backpackers. That grouping gathers together the individuals’ buying power and gives us an ability to negotiate discounts from Insurers that members could not otherwise get, on policies that cover their specific need. Join the Bought by Many Backpacker insurance group here to access our exclusive member offers, including discounts on your policy. Alternatively if you are looking for a longer list of backpacker insurers, check our list in our article Getting the Best Backpacker Insurance.

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