Travel Insurance – The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read!

What’s the Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers?

Choosing the best travel insurance for backpackers is a chore. If you’re not fluent in legalese and don’t have the time to read the entire policy wording, it’s hard to know what you’re covered for and what you’re not. 

To save you the stress of trawling review sites, we’ve demystified how travel insurance works and picked the brains of our community to bring you the highest-rated travel insurance companies for backpackers!


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Best Backpacker Travel Insurance Providers: Quick Answers!

SafetyWing
Best for Long-Term Travellers
  • Available worldwide
  • Focus on medical cover
  • Rolling monthly subscription 
  • No return date required
  • Cover diving and motorcycle use
  • Check policy wording for full details 
World Nomads
Excellent All-Round Travel Insurance
  • Available to citizens of 140 countries 
  • No return ticket needed
  • Cover for motorcycles, diving and other more 'extreme' activities
  • Check policy wording for full details 
True Traveller
Good Value for Money Insurance for Europeans
  • Only insures travellers from Europe
  • Cover for diving and motorcycle use
  • Additional activity packs available
  • Check policy wording for full details 

COVID-19

Wondering what your travel insurance says about Coronavirus? Read these FAQs from World Nomads Travel Insurance, SafetyWing and True Traveller to find out what you are covered for. Be sure to ask your insurer for their specific policy.


Do I Need Travel Insurance for Backpacking?

Yes, you absolutely need travel insurance if you are going backpacking. Travelling without insurance is a risky prospect!

I know that choosing travel insurance for backpacking is a pain. It’s expensive, confusing and let’s face it, the entire insurance industry is a bit of a con. But if something goes wrong, which if you travel enough it almost certainly will, you need to know you’re protected. 

Man worried about travel insurance.
Navigating travel insurance is stressful but worth the anguish!

It’s all good and well saving a few thousand dollars for emergencies (as many backpackers I know do) but this still isn’t as good as insurance. A nasty infection, broken bone or even more serious injuries could set you back tens of thousands of dollars in many parts of the world. Your insurance will cover this. Your savings won’t. 

If you leave home without travel insurance, you’re risking your entire savings and those of your friends and family. 

Not Convinced?

Read this article about an uninsured 24-year-old traveller who was left with a £35,000GBP medical bill after a motorbike accident in Phuket! I think my mum would just tell me to stay there!


Related: (opens in new tab)


Is Backpacker Insurance Different From Travel Insurance?

When travellers refer to ‘backpacker insurance’ or ‘gap year insurance’ they’re talking about a type of travel insurance designed for long-term travel through multiple countries. 

Standard travel insurance is built for short one-off trips and although you can get cover for longer adventures, a standard travel insurance firm will charge a lot of money for this. 

It’s worth noting that different insurers offer varying cover for activities when travelling. A standard travel insurance provider might not cover you to ride a moped or go diving, whereas a backpacker insurance firm likely will – with some stipulations. 

The same is true of baggage cover and often transport delay or cancellation cover. 

Backpacker insurance companies tend to cover less for a longer period. You’re unlikely to find a backpacker insurance policy that offers as much baggage cover as a standard travel insurance company. 

Likewise, many backpacker insurance providers won’t cover you for missed transport if it’s your fault.  


What Travel Insurance SHOULD Cover

Whatever travel insurance company you’re considering, make sure to read their description of coverage document carefully to see what it says about the following five points:

1. Medical and Hospital Cover

There’s always a non-zero chance that you’ll get sick or have an accident while travelling. And if it happens, you don’t want to be stressing over the cost of treatment, medication or an overnight stay in hospital. You just want to be looked after in the best available medical centres.

Doctor performing an operation.
Good medical cover is an absolute must!

Across much of the world, good international hospitals, with English-speaking doctors are expensive and you can easily rack up a bill of thousands of dollars in no time! 

Make sure your travel insurance offers a good level of medical and hospital cover! 

Eyes and Teeth

This is where the small print gets technical. When travel insurers refer to ‘medical cover’ they often mean just your body, which in their eyes, does not include your eyes, or your pearly whites! Occasionally, insurers include some cover for teeth and eyes but this isn’t a guarantee. Read the policy wording carefully! 

2. Emergency Evacuation

The price of being rescued to receive treatment needs to be covered by your insurer. Break your leg on a remote mountain or deep in the jungle and you’ll be looking at tens of thousands of dollars for evacuation. 

Don’t risk getting crap insurance that won’t cover it, especially if you plan on going trekking or taking on extreme sports! 

Helicopter in the mountains.
You’ll regret not having good evacuation cover if you get hurt up here!

3. Repatriation

Your travel insurance should cover ‘repatriation’ – getting you home in an emergency. If you’re seriously injured, or taken ill long-term, returning home for treatment might be the best thing for you. It’s worth noting that the choice of whether to send you home or not is in the hands of your doctors and insurance company. It’s not your decision to make. 

Plane Flying
Make sure repatriation cover is included!

As well as covering your return trip for treatment, good repatriation cover will ensure your body can be sent home should the worst happen.

4. Cancellations, Missed Transport and Delays 

One of the most useful facets of travel insurance is cancellation cover. It allows you to be reimbursed for flight cancellations, hotel closures or other trip disruptions. 

However, backpacker insurance tends not to cover you if the disruptions are your fault. For example, they won’t offer cover if you sleep in and miss your flight. But they likely will cover you if it’s not your fault – sickness, accident, natural disaster, etc. 

Hotel Closed sign.
Travel insurance sometimes covers you for hotels closing down or tours that get cancelled!

Always check your policy wording to see what is and isn’t covered when it comes to cancellations, missed transport and delays. 

It’s also worth noting that if your flight is delayed significantly, it’s the responsibility of the airline to reimburse or compensate you for the delay. 

5. Personal Liability / Legal Fees

There’s always a chance that you could damage someone’s property, cause an injury to someone, or even cause their death while travelling. Personal liability cover ensures you have access to legal fees and compensation in the event an accident is deemed to be your fault. This is most commonly used for road traffic accidents while travelling. 

The roads in Hanoi Vietnam are carazy!
The world is unpredictable, personal liability cover will help cover you for an incident that’s your fault!

What Most Travel Insurers DON’T Cover

The list of what travel insurers don’t cover is almost always longer than the list of what they do. Always be sure to check your description of coverage, so you know exactly what you’re not protected from. And, if you need extra coverage, it may be possible to upgrade your policy. 

1. Belongings

Almost all backpacker insurance policies include some kind of baggage cover. However, it’s rarely adequate. It’s pretty standard to have your belongings covered for up to $2000USD which sounds great. But buried deep in the description of coverage will be the stipulation that a single item can only be covered up to $250USD. This means that your laptop, phone or tablet are covered to nowhere near their full value. 

So, if you lose a bag with your MacBook in, you’d only receive $250 USD for the MacBook, plus the value of the other lost items!

Working outdoors
Travelling with an expensive laptop? Make sure it’s covered!

TIP – Keep an eye out for the Single Item Cover Limit in your policy wording!

You can often get upgrades or separate policies to include more expensive items but be aware, you’ll need the original receipts for any items you want to insure.

2. Motorbike Accidents

Many basic travel insurance providers offer no cover for motorcycle usage – whether you’re a passenger or driver.

Backpacker insurance companies often provide cover but only if you have an International Driving Permit and are legal to ride a motorbike in your home country, as well as the country you’re travelling in. 

But even this comes with rules and stipulations. 

Motorbiking Mai Chau Valley, Vietnam.
Make sure you’re legal to ride and have the correct safety equipment when on a motorcycle!

You will not be covered unless you’re wearing a helmet and you will not be covered if you crash with a passenger that you’re not legally allowed to take. You’ll also obviously not be covered under any circumstance if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

3. Extreme / Adventure Sports

If you plan to take on adventure sports while backpacking (skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) check that your travel insurance will cover you. 

Most travel insurances cover a range of basic activities but require add-ons or packages for more extreme activities. 

Tim at Death Road
Make sure you’re covered before taking on anything too dangerous!

For backpackers in South America, be aware that many travel insurance companies will not cover activities over 3000m. Owing to the geography of South America, this will rule out many of the continent’s best hikes, as well as other adventure activities. Always check what is included and consider upgrading your adventure sports package if necessary. 

4. Diving

With such amazing underwater life, diving is one of the must-do activities in Southeast Asia. But, if you plan to dive, check you’re covered. And if you are, check to how many metres and for how many dives. 

Diving in Gili T
Don’t chase that turtle too deep, or you may no longer be insured!

5. Negligence

If an insurance company can blame you for something to avoid paying out, they will. Had your motorbike stolen? Better make sure you didn’t leave the keys in the ignition, or you’ll never make a successful claim! 

6. Any Illegal Activity and/or Drunkenness

You will not be insured if at the time of your accident/injury you were doing any kind of illegal activity. 

No matter what has happened, if you’re on drugs (including plant medicines such as Ayahuasca or San Pedro), or drunk when you have any kind of accident, you will not be covered. 

Backpackers with buckets onKhao San Road
Too many ‘buckets’ and your insurance will be void for the night!

7. Missed Flights

Missing a flight, and whether you can be compensated, is a grey area when it comes to travel insurance. Many travel insurers have different rules depending on; how comprehensive your cover is, the circumstances of the missed departure and whose fault it was.

In basic terms, you’re covered if you miss the flight for a reason that you’re insured for. This could be; a transport accident, natural disasters, civil unrest or medical reasons. Check your policy carefully though as backpacker insurance doesn’t usually include any of these! 

Flight
Flight cover is complex. You might be covered. You might not. Read the small print!

However, you are not insured if the missed flight is the fault of airline delays and/or a mechanical failure on behalf of the airline. It’s the responsibility of the airline to make your flight on time and if they fail, they are responsible for compensating you, not your travel insurance.

8. Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Most travel insurers won’t cover pre-existing medical conditions as standard. This means, if you miss a flight, or have to cancel part of your trip because of a pre-existing medical condition, you will not be covered. Likewise, if you have a medical emergency related to your pre-existing condition, this will not be covered. 

Pre-existing conditions include mild to serious illnesses; from asthma to ME.

👉 Check out: Travelling With Prescription Medication – What You Need to Know 👈

9. Trekking at Over 3,000 Metres

Trekking, or often any activity undertaken at over 3,000 metres above sea level, is generally not covered by travel insurers. Bear this in mind when deciding which insurance policy is best for you – especially if you visit somewhere like South America or Nepal, where a bunch of the most popular activities take place at altitude! 

Man with collapsible daypack hikes to mountain
Trek too high and your cover is likely void!

10. Government Travel Warnings

Most travel insurance policies are void if you travel to a country against the advice from your government. You may also find that your insurance policy is invalid if you travel to any country that is receiving government sanctions. It’s wise to check up on this before you travel.

11. Vaccinations

The cost of general travel vaccinations, whether you get them done before you travel (recommended) or while you’re abroad is rarely covered. Read more about the essential vaccinations for travel in Southeast Asia here.

Travel Vaccinations for Southeast Asia
Vaccines won’t be covered. You’ll need to fork out for those yourself!

TOP 3 Recommended Backpacking Insurance Companies

1. World Nomads – Best All-Round Flexible Backpacker Travel Insurance (Worldwide)

  • Nationalities covered: 140 countries, including USA, UK, most of Europe, and Australia.
  • Maximum stay: 365 days.
  • Motorcycle usage: Yes, see details.
  • Diving included: Yes, up to 30 metres.
  • Muay Thai Cover: No.
  • Death Road Cycle Tour Cover: Yes, see details. 
  • Available if you’re already abroad: Yes.
  • Round ticket needed? No.
World Nomads Logo

Benefits of World Nomads Travel Insurance

  • World Nomads is for backpackers. They’re used to dealing with backpacker problems! 
  • They include cover for a huge number of activities, 150 in total! However, they’re not all covered as standard and you may need to purchase additional packages for more intense, or dangerous sports. Select all your chosen activities and sports when making your purchase to upgrade the cover. 
  • You can start a policy even if you’re already travelling.
  • You don’t need a round ticket to purchase travel insurance.
  • You can extend your policy while travelling.
  • You’re covered for riding a motorbike if you have the correct license in your home country and have an International Driving Permit. Plus, you must wear a helmet! 
  • You are covered for diving up to 40 metres, providing you’re fully qualified. They also offer cover for unqualified divers to go diving with qualified instructors. 
  • They allow you to add on expensive belongings that you take with you at a reasonable cost.
  • World Nomads do not offer cover for martial arts, including Muay Thai. 
  • With the Level 3 activity package, World Nomads cover Death Road cycle trips
  • It’s easy to make a claim online 24 hours a day.

Reader Jaimee had to make a claim with World Nomads and had this to say: “I had to make a claim, wasn’t painful. World Nomads give you the opportunity to add on for expensive items that you take with you. I’m glad I did that because I smashed up my camera. They paid out the full value I paid for the camera – less the excess.”

Nicole Lang: “I claimed with World Nomads and it was easy as 1-2-3! I used a PDF app on my phone too send pics of all my receipts, submitted online and got 100% reimbursement for my claim! (It was for the series of rabies shots)!”

World Nomads
  • Made for backpackers
  • No round-trip ticket required
  • Claims can be made online 24/7

2. SafetyWing – Best for Long-Term Travellers and Digital Nomads (Worldwide)

  • Nationalities covered: Everywhere except: Iran, North Korea and Cuba.
  • Maximum stay: 364 days.
  • Motorcycle usage: Yes, see details.
  • Diving included: Yes, see details.
  • Muay Thai Cover: No.
  • Death Road Cycle Tour Cover: Yes, see details. 
  • Available if you’re already abroad: Yes.
  • Round ticket needed? No.
SafetyWing Logo

Benefits of SafetyWing Travel Insurance

  • SafetyWing is built for digital nomads and remote workers who are travelling and living outside of their home country for long periods.
  • Their payment model works on a monthly subscription basis. It’s great for spontaneous travellers without set plans. 
  • You can take out cover when already travelling and don’t need a return flight booked.
  • The longest period you can get insured for is 364 days. But after this period, you can take out another subscription, even if you’re still abroad.
  • SafetyWing focus on medical cover. Other cover such as trip disruption or personal belongings cover isn’t as inclusive as other insurers. 
  • You are covered for scuba diving if you are PADI certified (18 metres), or you are accompanied by a certified dive instructor at depths less than 10 metres.
  • Cycling, such as riding on Bolivia’s Death Road is covered by SafetyWing but only if it’s a one-off activity. SafetyWing don’t cover cycle touring or trips where cycling is the primary mode of transport. 
  • Use of a motorbike is also covered (excluding motorised dirt bikes) but only if you have an IDP and the appropriate safety equipment. Needless to say, you will not be covered if you’re racing or intoxicated. 
  • SafetyWing do not cover martial arts, which includes Muay Thai. 
SafetyWing
  • Excellent medical cover
  • Built for digital nomads and long-term travellers
  • Subscription-style insurance – pay a rolling monthly fee

3. True Traveller – Great Value for Money Backpacker Insurance for Europeans (Europe)

  • Nationalities covered: European.
  • Maximum stay: 18 months.
  • Motorcycle usage: Yes, see details.
  • Diving included: Yes, see details.
  • Muay Thai Cover: Training only. 
  • Death Road Cycle Tour Cover: No.
  • Available if you’re already abroad: Yes.
  • Round ticket needed? No.
True Traveller Logo

Benefits of True Traveller Travel Insurance

  • One of the best things about this insurance company is the wide range of options available. You can tailor your insurance package to suit you!
  • They offer single-trip or multi-trip packages that are great value for money.
  • 92 activities are covered in their policies as standard. 
  • Additional activity packages can be purchased for the most adventurous travellers, which keeps the price low for those beach bums amongst you! (Look at the ‘Adventure Pack’, the ‘Extreme Pack’ or the ‘Ultimate Pack’)
  • Scuba diving of up to 18 metres is included as standard but only if you’re already a qualified diver. The more expensive policies cover dives up to 50 metres if you’re qualified! 
  • The basic True Traveller activity pack will cover you for riding motorcycles up to, and including, 125cc. You must wear a helmet and must be licensed to ride a motorcycle in your home country. True Traveller don’t offer Accidental Disability Cover or Personal Liability Cover if you’re riding a motorcycle. They also don’t offer cover if you’re on a motorcycle tour or a motorcycle is your main form of transport. 
  • Like the others on this list, you can take out this travel insurance whilst you are already abroad.
  • You do not need a return ticket and you can extend while travelling.
  • True Traveller offer cover for non-contact Muay Thai training in their Traveller Pack. 

One of our readers Gemma says, “True Traveller are excellent! I’ve claimed 4x and they have always been great!”

True Traveller
  • Tailor the insurance to suit you
  • Covers a bunch of 'backpacker' activities 
  • Additional packs available for more extreme undertakings 

Other Popular Travel Insurers for Backpackers

Faye Travel Insurance 

A recent entry to the travel insurance and Fin-Tech space, Faye’s easy-to-use app-based interface makes it fast to set up a policy and make a claim. Claims are paid quickly into your ‘Faye Wallet’, often before you need to spend your own money to cover the initial costs of claimable expenses. 

They offer a wide range of cover and their plans are customisable to include everything from extreme sports to pet cover. 

The downsides of Faye are that they’re not the cheapest insurer, only insure US residents and don’t cover trips longer than 180 days. 


Heymondo

Heymondo is a travel insurance broker that works with a range of insurers. This allows them to offer the best-tailored cover for your specific circumstances and trip. They offer the ability to take out cover even if you’re already abroad and renew your coverage without needing to come home. 

They have transparent pricing but can provide extra coverage for things like electronics or adventure sports if required. Making a claim can be done through their app or over the phone 24/7.

Sadly, the maximum age limit for Heymondo is 49 years old, so if you’re travelling past your 50s, you’ll need to look elsewhere. 


PassportCard Nomads 

PassportCard Nomads offer a unique way of dealing with medical payments while travelling. Instead of paying for treatment out of your own pocket, then claiming it back on insurance later, PassportCard Nomads give you a prepaid debit card that you can use to pay for all treatment. Simply open the app, request money be sent to your card, then pay your way out of hospital baby! 

Their medical coverage is excellent but expensive when compared to other backpacker insurance. PassportCard Nomads is aimed to meet the needs of digital nomads and long-term travellers. 


Travel Insurance FAQs

What is the best travel insurance for backpackers?

The best travel insurers for backpackers are SafetyWing and World Nomads. SafetyWing offers a subscription-based service which renews each month. They predominantly specialise in medical cover but their policies also include general travel insurance for loss of luggage, etc. 
World Nomads are a bit more pricey but offer more customisable plans. They can cover you for a range of extreme sports or activities for an extra fee. 

Why get travel insurance?

If you travel, you should get travel insurance. It covers you for a range of circumstances, reducing the risk of you receiving inadequate medical treatment or unable to return home. Whether it’s for your own peace of mind, or your family’s, travel insurance is always a good choice! 

Does travel insurance cover business travel?

Generally no, normal travel insurance isn’t suitable for business travel. The best thing you can do is tell the insurance company you are travelling for work, so they can recommend the right level of cover. 


Travel Insurance: The Verdict!

There’s an old maxim; ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel’. And while we can’t force you to buy travel insurance, we highly recommend it. 

I’ve never met anyone who regretted buying travel insurance. Choosing not to is a massive gamble. It doesn’t take much to cut a trip six months short, or to end up in a dirty hospital with an infection and no way of getting home. Don’t let it happen to you. A few hundred dollars might seem like a lot but it’s worth the investment of time and money!

Have we missed your favourite travel insurer? Let us know in the comments!

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