6 ways to compare backpacker travel insurance

David Woodfield By David Woodfield

Backpacking will be one of the most exciting and life-changing things you'll ever do. But the spontaneity and complexity of travelling means it's important you have the right insurance - both to save you money and to make sure you're covered for every eventuality.

To help you sort through the different features and compare backpacker travel insurance policies, we’ve written a short guide on six ways you can compare policies to make sure you get the right one for you.

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can skip straight to our list of the Top 10 Backpacker Travel Insurance policies.

Our 6 Steps to the Best Backpacker Insurance:

  1. Compare Baggage and Cancellation Limits
  2. Compare the Detailed Limits
  3. Compare the Excess
  4. Check the Cover for Activities
  5. Check the Rules on Return Trips
  6. Check the Maximum Trip Length and Flexibility

Step 1: Compare Baggage and Cancellation limits

Insurers restrict the amount you can claim for baggage and cancellation by specifying a limit for each. For example, £750 would be a typical cancellation limit for a cheaper policy such as TopDog Travel Insurance Economy.

Consider your plans and compare them to these limits – as a backpacker planning a long journey you could have several long-haul flights and £750 would probably not be enough if you had to cancel them all. Equally, if you are carrying expensive gear, the £750 of baggage cover provided by Columbus Direct's Globetrotter policy may not be enough.

The table below compares the cancellation and baggage limits of the basic policies from our top 10 travel insurance providers. These are the cheapest levels of cover offered by the insurers (if they offer tiers of cover):

Budget Policy
Baggage Cover
Cancellation cover
American Express - Backpacker Cover
£1,500
£5,000
Post Office - Super Economy Backpacker Insurance
£1,000
£1,000
Flexicover - Gap Year Silver
£750
£1,000
Insure & Go - Bronze
£1,000
£2,000
Direct Line Discoverer
£1,000
£3,000
Alpha Travel Insurance - Long Stay
£1,500
£1,500
The AA - Backpacker Travel Insurance
£1,000
£2,000
Columbus Direct - Globetrotter
£750
£1,000
Endsleigh - Gap Essential
£2,000
£2,000
TopDog Insurance - Gap Year Silver
£750
£1,000

If you're going on a more expensive trip, or are flying very frequently, you might want to consider purchasing a higher level of cover. The highest limit from one of our Top 10 Providers was Flexicover's Gap Year Platinum, which offers a £10,000 cancellation limit.

The inside info: Backpacker insurance cover can be made cheaper by reducing these limits – especially on baggage – by assuming that, as a backpacker, you will travel light. So, when you compare backpacker insurance and see a cheap policy, make sure you check the limits in case your bags disappear...

Lost Lonley Luggage

Step 2: Compare the Detailed Limits

As well as the Baggage and Cancellation limits above, you'll find limits within a policy for specific items. For example, insurers may place a limit on the amount they will pay out for cash that is stolen (typically £100 or £200). Or they may place ‘single item’ limits for your valuables of maybe £100 or £200, meaning that you cannot claim more than that amount for any one item such as your camera or phone.

Additionally, policies will usually have a total valuables limit, such as £250. This means that if the single item limit was £100, you could insure two valuables worth £100 each. Sometimes, though, the limit will be the same as the single article limit, meaning you may only be covered for one valuable.

While this limit may cover other valuables like jewellery or watches, it's unlikely to protect your £500 smartphone or expensive laptop. So if you happen to leave your mobile phone on a train, it wouldn't be covered for its full amount, potentially leaving you out of pocket.

Alpha Travel Insurance has tackled this problem by offering a £1,000 limit for phones & gadgets, but a £200 limit for other valuables. This recognises that for many travellers it's unthinkable to be without their laptop and smart phone, while encouraging them to leave expensive jewellery at home.

The table below compares our top 10 backpacker insurance providers in terms of their single article limit and gadget cover:

Provider
Single Article Limit
Total Valuables Limit
Cash Limit
Gadget Cover as Additional Extra?
Gadget Limit
American Express - Backpacker Cover
£250
£300
None
No
N/A
Post Office - Backpacker Insurance
£150
£150
None
No
N/A
Flexicover - Gap Year Silver
£100
£100
£250
Yes
£2,000
Insure & Go - Bronze
£100
£200
£150
Yes - valuables extension
£1,000 per item
Direct Line Discoverer
£250
£250
£500
No
N/A
Alpha Travel Insurance - Long Stay
Depends on type of item
N/A
£300
Yes
£1,000
The AA - Backpacker Travel Insurance
£150
£200
£200
No
N/A
Columbus Direct - Globetrotter
£150
£200
£200
No
N/A
Endsleigh - Gap Essential
£200
£250
£200
No
N/A
TopDog Insurance - Backpacker Silver
£100
£100
£250
Yes
£2,000 per gadget

The inside info: The latest iPhone 6 can cost in excess of £700 so check the detailed limits in your policy to ensure such valuable items really are covered. You can read more about getting travel insurance to cover valuable single items here.

Step 3: Compare the Excess

Not only will insurers limit the amount you can claim, but they also want you to do your best to avoid claiming in the first place. As a result, they specify an ‘Excess’ – this is the amount you are responsible for before the insurer will start paying out. It can be £200 on cheaper Backpacker Insurance policies compared to nil on more comprehensive ones like Alpha Travel Insurance's Long Stay Zero XS.

The inside info: Backpacking can often take people to areas where security is lower and petty crime is higher. As such, experiencing several small thefts can be as likely as experiencing one large one. If your Excess is high, those small events could be completely your responsibility.

Step 4: Check the cover for Activities

Almost every backpacker will have some sort of activity planned. From SCUBA diving to hill-walking, the opportunities are nearly endless. Insurers recognize that some of these activities are very safe and unlikely to lead to a claim, whereas others are much more dangerous. To make sure you’re not paying for cover you don’t need, they separate the more dangerous activities and ask you to pay extra for cover.

For example, TopDog's Backpacker Insurance automatically covers more than 100 activities, including bungee jumping, water sports, and scuba diving to 30m - but winter sports such as off piste skiing require extra cover.

The inside info: Insurers’ views on the risks of activities vary (for example Kite Surfing can be considered very safe by some and in their lowest risk category, whereas others consider it riskier and put it in their top category). It's worth shopping around as cover for your specific plans may be cheaper.

Backpacking

Step 5: Check the rules on Return trips

Being away for a long period of time can be tough. Poor connectivity, or simply having a good time elsewhere, means you can be out of touch with friends and family back home for months. Some backpackers will ensure that they have a week or two back at home in the middle, to catch up with friends and stop the parents from worrying!

However, you will need to check how your insurer considers this – since you have returned to where your trip started, some will consider the trip has finished and you will not be covered again when you leave.

The inside info: Many policies build in the opportunity to spend a limited number of weeks or have a limited number of visits home within the duration of the policy. The AA - Backpacker Travel Insurance, for example, allows you a trip home of up to 14 days as standard. Others allow you to return - and in fact provide for it - but only in the case of a family emergency or similar.

Step 6: Check the Maximum trip length and Flexibility

The beauty of backpacking can be the uncertainty – being away for such a long time allows the opportunity to create plans on the fly and go where you please. Chances are that you will be having a great time, and if money and commitments allow, you might stay away longer than you originally planned. However, you may find that your insurance doesn’t have the same flexibility. Insurers will specify the longest duration of their policy – 6, 12 or 18 months is normal – however they may take a different view on extending your original policy.

If you're planning a really long trip (we're jealous), Alpha Travel Insurance Long Stay is one example of a backpacker policy that covers you for up to 24 months.

Some insurers, like the Post Office will let you extend your trip up to an additional 60 days, while others like Alpha Travel Insurance Long Stay will let you extend your travel indefinitely as long as you contact them each time before your policy is due to end.

Others will only let you extend your cover to a later date in the case of unexpected circumstances, like delayed flights.

The table below compares the basic backpacker travel insurance policies from our Top 10 insurers in terms of their maximum trip duration and flexibility:

Provider
Maximum Trip Duration
Trip Extensions
American Express - Backpacker Cover
24 months Europe, 12 months Worldwide
No
Post Office - Super Economy Backpacker Insurance
18 months
Trip Extensions of 31/45/60 Days available
Flexicover - Gap Year Silver
18 months
No
Insure & Go - Bronze
18 months
Up to 30 days, only for unexpected circumstances
Direct Line Discoverer
18 months (12 months Europe only)
Extended automatically for unexpected circumstances
Alpha Travel Insurance - Long Stay
24 months
Unlimited, provided you contact them each time you extend your trip
The AA - Backpacker Travel Insurance
12 months
No
Columbus Direct - Globetrotter
12 months
No
Endsleigh - Gap Essential
12 months
Extended automatically for unexpected circumstances e.g. delayed flights, can extend up to maximum duration otherwise
TopDog Insurance - Backpacker Silver
18 months
No

The inside info: Cheaper policies can mean that you are not able to extend them at all, and getting new cover can be difficult as many insurers will not provide a policy if your trip has already begun.

Want to learn more about Backpacker Insurance?

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.

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