Travel Insurance For Backpackers


Why is Travel Insurance So Important?

To save as much money as possible for my first trip to Southeast Asia, I sold my car, sold valuables on eBay and cashed in all the pennies from my piggy bank. My bank account was looking healthier than it had in years and I was excited at the prospect of six months travel without having to worry about getting a job!

When faced with taking a chunk out of those precious savings to buy ‘travel insurance’ – I felt sick. What if nothing goes wrong during my trip? What a waste of money!

I’ve never been the kind of person to think ahead, and I didn’t want to predict all the bad things that could happen – I just wanted to have fun! I’ll just hope for the best. I thought. 

With hindsight, I realised that if I’d have done a little more planning I could have saved myself heaps of money. In the next six months of travel, I had an amazing time and nothing seriously bad happened to me – but with a lost laptop, a missed flight due to food poisoning and a broken camera… I would have been much better off insuring myself in the first place!

Initially, I would have had to pay out around 265 GBP ($350 USD) for six months cover in Southeast Asia. In the end, I spent around $1400 USD on a new laptop, $200 USD on a new flight and $200 USD on a new camera, so I ended up $1450 USD down!

During my six month trip, I even went trekking in the mountains of Nepal. Thank God that I didn’t have any kind of medical emergency where I needed to be airlifted out, which can cost up to $25,000 USD!

My advice? When you’re travelling in third world countries, it’s just not worth taking the risk. Make sure that you invest in yourself and get decent travel insurance before you travel.


Which Travel Insurance is the best for backpackers?

We ALWAYS use World Nomads Travel Insurance as we know that it’s the Number One Choice for travel bloggers, long-term travellers and seasoned backpackers. We know many people who’ve made successful, no hassle claims with them. Their reputation is excellent and they are friendly and extremely easy to get in touch with 24/7 by phone, email – even Twitter!

They cover all sorts of adventurous activities, from diving in Bali to hiking in Nepal (check out all 200 activities here), and unlike some insurance companies, they are very clear on what they do and don’t cover. Check out this easy to understand page here. Everything is in black and white, no need to worry about sneaky small print.

And, because they know that backpackers plans change, World Nomads will let you extend your policy or claim online while you’re still on the road. They’ll even let you sign up when you’ve already left home. That’s good news for those of you now reading this from a beach in Thailand! They also have specific travel insurance for digital nomads.

Finally, all those who buy travel insurance with World Nomads gain access to up-to-date travel safety alerts, as well as travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub. Oh, and their series of free iPod & iPhone Language Guides aren’t bad either!

World Nomads Travel Insurance Certificate.
Our current Certificate of Insurance with World Nomads.

Top 3 Reasons Why Travel Insurance is Essential


If you get sick or have an accident

If you have an accident on the road or you contract dengue fever or some other illness, you’ll want to be in a good hospital where the doctors speak English and can look after you in the best way possible. A few days in a decent hospital can be expensive in Asia and you don’t want to leave yourself in a vulnerable position if you get hurt or fall ill.

Medical care isn’t cheap

Despite a meal costing $1 USD, and a room $5 USD, medical care isn’t cheap. If something serious happens, you’ll want to make sure you’re in safe hands, and if you’re in a third world country, in a private international hospital. You don’t want to have an operation in a very basic local clinic/bamboo hut with low medical standards!

Local healthcare can be very poor for serious ailments

A friend of mine caught a fever in Cambodia and our other friend who was present said that the nurses thought that it was ‘a bit elaborate’ to wash your hands or wear gloves before touching the patient. Basic hygiene rules were not followed.

Another horror story comes from a friend of mine who was working as a medical intern in a local Vietnamese hospital. She told me that they would perform unnecessary operations and make stitches in places they were not needed, just to be seen to be ‘doing something’.

The conclusion is clear. If you have a major illness or need surgery, you’ll want to be in a decent hospital. Without travel insurance, international hospitals can set you back thousands of dollars. An overnight stay is easily over 500 dollars, and that’s just for your bed.

For medical treatment, payment is needed in advance

Furthermore, if you need expensive surgery or treatment, payment is always needed in advance. That insurance policy could save you precious time, and therefore save your life.

Emergency medical evacuation

If you find yourself in an off the beaten track part of Asia and a life-threatening emergency happens or you’re in need of a serious operation, you may need to be evacuated by helicopter to a city with a high standard of medical care. The best healthcare in Southeast Asia can be found in Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. 

Here, you will find internationally approved hospitals with a high standard of cleanliness, expertise and English speaking doctors. If you can’t get on the plane yourself, medical evacuation by helicopter will cost at least $25,000 USD. And if you want to fly back home to be treated, you are looking at $100,000 USD.

A word on motorbikes:

Road traffic accidents are the number one cause of injury for foreigners in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, one of the most enjoyable activities is to rent a motorbike and explore! So, the question is: does your travel insurance cover you in the event of a motorbike accident? There’s a lot of confusion around what you are and aren’t insured for when renting a motorbike in Southeast Asia. This is taken from our personal World Nomads Travel Insurance:

1. You are covered for medical expenses if you are injured whilst riding a motorcycle.

2. You are covered for theft of personal items whilst on the bike (but it must meet the T+Cs of your personal policy).

3. There is no engine size limit, as long as you are licensed to ride that engine size, you are covered.

4. You are not covered for personal liability (damage to other vehicles, property etc.) or damage/theft of the bike.

5. You must have a license from home/international license and comply with local laws of the country (if any). For example, holding a local license.* (In Thailand, this means that you need an international driving licence that states clearly that you are permitted to ride a motorcycle).

6. You must not drive under the influence of drugs/alcohol and you must ride responsibly, wearing a helmet at all times. You must not be racing or taking part in a professional sporting activity.


Travel insurance isn’t just for medical emergencies; it can save you a lot of money in the event of loss or theft of your valuables.


Whilst robberies in Southeast Asia are quite rare, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered in the event of a stolen passport, wallet or laptop. With most covers (such as our one with World Nomads), you will need to pay an extra supplement to insure valuable individual items, but the small amount is always worth it in the end. (For example, with World Nomads, if you are from the UK, you can claim up to 1,250 GBP for specific items with their standard plan, and 2,000 GBP with their explorer plan).

Travel scams

Travel scams have been around for many years, from the notorious gem scam to the ‘that scratch wasn’t on the motorbike when you hired it’ scam! If you end up getting in serious trouble and losing a lot of money that is in no way your fault, then you’ll want to be insured against this.

Lost luggage or broken valuables

I was once on a boat where the engine caught fire. All of the rucksacks were stacked up against the engine (smart idea) and a few of them were incinerated. I lost most of my clothes and belongings and had to carry the few I did have in a black bin bag for the rest of my trip (true story)! With World Nomads Travel Insurance you are insured up to 1500 USD for loss or damage of luggage.

Lost passport or travel documents

Losing a passport can be a lot of hassle and expensive to replace quickly. Travel insurance can pay for this and help to ease the process. (In order to claim for theft, loss or scams, you must obtain a police report in the local police station.)


Cancelled Flights, Trips or Courses

What will you do if your flight is cancelled or delayed and you miss your connecting flight with another airline? Or heaven forbid, due to a delayed flight, you miss out on starting your organised group trip?

It’s best to be insured against these unlikely events. Most travel insurance policies will cover cancellations to flights. World Nomads explains more about this in their list here.

With some insurance policies (like ours), you are also covered if you are forced through no fault of your own, to cancel your trip. You can claim back the money for flights, organised group trips and pre-booked accommodation. You can also get the money back for any pre-booked trip or course if they are cancelled by the company.

Read Some True Claims Stories Below…

“While visiting the historical site of Bagan in Myanmar I was attacked by a dog that was infected with rabies. I was walking to my bicycle when the dog ran at me from behind and bit both of my ankles three times.

I turned around to fight it off and saw that it was foaming at the mouth. I swung my bag at the dog and ran to find help. The dog continued to chase me but eventually, I outran it.

The next person I saw gave me a ride to the hospital where I received the first dose of the rabies vaccine. I wasn’t previously vaccinated against rabies, therefore, I needed to receive Immune Globulin immediately, which is not available anywhere in Myanmar. I booked the first flight from Mandalay to Bangkok which departed the next day.

I went directly to the hospital from the airport when I arrived and received the necessary treatment. I received two more doses of the vaccination in Bangkok along with wound dressings.

On November 4th I flew to Australia to be with my sister. While in Australia I received the final vaccination. World Nomads paid for all of my vaccinations and flights, which would have been a very costly affair had it came from my own pocket!

Knowing that I had travel insurance, the only thing that I had to prioritise during the event was my own safety.” (Anon)

“On the morning of April 29th, my girlfriend and I took a bus from Haiphong to Hanoi, Vietnam. We then took a taxi to the airport as we were flying to Hanoi that day.

Before checking our bags in, I noticed that the lock was missing from my luggage that had been stored away underneath the bus. I immediately opened my bag and found that my camera case and everything in it was gone.

I thought that since my bag was locked it was safe, but you can never be too careful, and I was lucky that I had my MacBook Pro in my backpack that was with me on the bus the entire time. As soon as I got to Hanoi, I made a claim to World Nomads and I received full compensation for the loss of my expensive camera and all its accessories. As it was a precious piece of equipment to me, I was so grateful that I was able to replace it quickly and without hassle.” (Anon)

“I was on Phi Phi Island in Thailand, scheduled to depart the morning of November 23rd in order to catch my flight back to the US from Phuket Island later that evening. However, severe storms prohibited any ferries from operating that day.

I was forced to remain on the island until ferry service resumed on November 24th, which caused me to miss my scheduled flight home. I reported the incident to World Nomads, as soon I was aware that I would miss my flight home, and I received full compensation for the cost of my flight. The whole claims process was very easy and the staff were so helpful.” (Anon)

Find out more about why travel insurance is really worth it here. If you have questions about insurance or travel safety, contact World Nomads Helpdesk.

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Buying an insurance policy through one of the links on this page will provide us with a small commission at no extra cost to you. So if you like us, and you’d like to help us keep our bellies full of noodles, you know what to do!

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Why you should always invest in travel insurance.

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