The best and worst places to get injured on a backpacker trip

Digby Bodenham By Digby Bodenham

A recent poll we conducted revealed 35% of backpackers didn’t get travel insurance to cover themselves for any accidents or potential treatment costs that might occur during a trip.

Nobody wants to spend time thinking of worst case scenarios before the adventure of a lifetime; but this made us think, where are the best and worst places to get injured whist travelling?

Our research identified the best and worst places to receive medical treatment out of the world’s top 10 most popular backpacker destinations.

We found that New Zealand has the best cost of treatment to quality of care ratio and India has the worst.

We identified the best and worst places to need medical treatment in the world’s most popular backpacker destinations, based on:

  • Cost of Treatment (average expenditure)
  • Cost of Treatment vs Travel Costs (impact on holiday budget)
  • Cost of Treatment vs Quality of Care (value of care)

The countries analyzed were USA, India, Peru, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Even the cheapest average cost of treatment (£180) is a lot of money for a backpacker on a budget and the £920 average cost in India would blow the bank. These figures highlight the importance of travel insurance to make sure you're covered for potentially hefty medical costs abroad.

Check out our guides to the best backpacker travel insurance policies and the 10 best standard travel insurance options.

Cost of Treatment

Sri Lanka and New Zealand offer the most affordable treatment costs, while the average cost of treatment is highest in the USA, followed by India.

This is based on the average costs for travel insurance medical claims in each destination for the insurance year 2014-15.

The USA is the most expensive place for treatment, which is unsurprising given the country’s notoriously high medical costs.

However, backpackers might be shocked that the average medical claim is second highest in India considering the country’s affordability is a key attraction to backpackers.

Find out the 6 ways to compare backpacker travel insurance policies, so you know you're covered for most emergencies on your trip.

Cost of Treatment vs Average Travel Costs

Low travel costs do not necessarily equate to low healthcare costs.

For example, the average cost of medical treatment in India is 888% of weekly spend. In other words, backpackers in India are at the greatest risk of having their entire holiday budgets subsumed by medical costs.

Average Weekly Costs in Popular Backpacker Destinations

DestinationWeekly Cost
Costa Rica£268
New Zealand£491
Sri Lanka£119

We used Numbeo's average food and drink costs per location data. Currency conversion is correct as of 15/08/2016

Cost of Treatment vs Quality of Care

Cost of care is not the only consideration; the quality of care versus those costs is also important because it reveals the destinations with the best and worst value care.

New Zealand offers the best value care. Although it doesn’t have the highest World Health Organization rank overall (that title goes to Australia), it has the best ratio of quality of care against cost of care.

India finishes in bottom place thanks to its high medical costs and low quality of care.

The lesson in all of this is that the 35% should probably get backpacker insurance before travelling; though if you find yourself in a medical scrape whilst abroad, then, well, New Zealand would be the best place for it...

Data sources

Insurance claim data provided by Alpha Travel Insurance.

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