When to Buy Travel Insurance – A Quick Guide!

Man stressed while looking for travel insurance

Travel insurance is a necessary evil if you want to remain safe and well while abroad. While it won’t stop you getting unlucky, it stacks the deck in your favour, ensuring you’re able to get adequate treatment, or even evacuation, should the need arise. 🚑 🚁 🏥

But when is the best time to buy travel insurance?

We’ve all waited until the last minute, desperately trying to find the right policy while simultaneously packing our bags and searching for our passports – it’s not fun and you’re often left with unsuitable insurance because you didn’t leave time to read the small print. So, sit back and let us demystify the best time to book travel insurance!


Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. We always write our articles before checking if affiliate links are available.


When to Buy Travel Insurance: Quick Answer!

The best time to book your travel insurance is as soon as you’ve started paying for your trip. This means you’re covered should you need to cancel or delay.


Our Favourite Travel Insurance Providers for Backpackers! 

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 COVID-19?

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.


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When Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

For most travellers, the best time to arrange travel insurance is as soon as your trip is booked, or when you’ve started making payments for it. This ensures you won’t be out of pocket should something go awry before your trip starts. 

Plane ticket in passport
Get insurance as soon as your trip is booked for maximum protection!

However, if your chosen policy doesn’t include trip cancellation cover, paying for insurance right away isn’t as pressing. Just make sure you get insured before you leave. While there are some companies (including our favourites) that offer insurance to travellers already abroad, most do not. In fact, some companies will refuse to offer you a quote if you leave in less than two weeks! 

Arranging insurance two to three weeks before you travel gives you the widest range of options to choose from!


Is Travel Insurance Worth Getting?

Yes. Travel insurance is always worth getting. 

Without it, you risk paying extortionate medical bills or even worse, being unable to get treatment when required. The right travel insurance policy can also protect your belongings and prevent you losing money on transport or accommodation cock-ups that aren’t your fault – just make sure you know what is included before you buy. 💵

British insurers alone were paying out over £1,000,000 in claims every day pre-pandemic. Without them, countless travellers would be stuck paying for medical treatment or unable to get the necessary help on the road! 

It’s also worth noting that some trips, like going on a cruise or visiting the Galápagos Islands, require travel insurance. This will be checked and you won’t be allowed to proceed with your trip if you’re not insured! 🚫 🏝


When Is It Too Late to Buy Travel Insurance?

The only time that it’s too late to buy travel insurance is if you’re already injured or in need of help while abroad. Good luck finding an insurer willing to take you on if you’re going to cost them money from day one! 

Ambulance crew working on a patient
Get insured BEFORE this happens!

Assuming you’re not injured or in need of help, it’s never too late to buy travel insurance. While the best time is undoubtedly before you leave your home country, several insurers offer cover to travellers already abroad. 

If you want the most choice, arrange your insurance no closer than a couple of weeks before your trip starts. This offers the largest range of insurance options and allows you to compare prices – and read the small print – without being under pressure. 


How Far in Advance Can I Book Travel Insurance?

How far in advance you can book travel insurance depends on your level of cover and your insurer’s specific policies. But as a general rule, travel insurance can be booked 3-18 months in advance of your trip. 


Backpacker Insurance vs Travel Insurance

Backpacker insurance is just one type of travel insurance. It’s designed for budget backpackers travelling for extended periods or on open-ended trips. It’s flexible and generally covers more “backpacker” activities; diving, riding a motorcycle, trekking, etc. 🛵 🥾

Diving banda island
Diving is usually covered in backpacker insurance but always check the small print!

General travel insurance tends to have better luggage and trip interruption cover, as well as more personal liability and legal protection. However, it’s not as flexible and might not be of much use in more off-the-beaten-track destinations. 

All our favourite insurers offer backpacker insurance. 


What Affects the Price of Travel Insurance?

Several factors affect the price of travel insurance:

  • Your Age — Travel insurance is cheapest for those aged 20-30. After that, the prices creep up with each age bracket. Sadly, the older you are, the more your insurance is likely to cost – it’s like the opposite of driving! Some insurers refuse to offer policies to anyone over 50 so pay close attention when choosing the right cover for you! 👴 👵
  • Activities — While some activities are covered as standard by travel insurers, more extreme pursuits will not be. Finding specialist cover, or adding extreme sports to your policy will cost more than basic insurance. 🏂 🤼‍♂️
  • Coverage – Most insurers offer the same basic coverage. But if you need something a bit more specialised, you’ll pay more for it. Travelling with a ton of expensive electronics? These won’t be covered on your average travel insurance policy, so you’ll need to add them on or find an insurer with more comprehensive cover. 💻
Working outdoors
If you travel with an expensive laptop, make sure it’s insured!
  • Destination — Sadly, where you’re going affects the price of your insurance. If you plan to visit parts of the world with expensive medical costs (we’re looking at you USA and Canada), then your policy will be more expensive to reflect this. Most insurers break down the world into three regions, each getting more expensive than the last:
    • Europe 🇪🇺
    • Worldwide (Excluding USA, Canada and the Caribbean 🌏
    • Worldwide (Including USA, Canada and the Caribbean 🌎
  • Length of trip — The longer your trip, the higher the risk of something going wrong. This is reflected in the price of your insurance. Some providers, like SafetyWing, offer a rolling monthly contract for a fixed price. In this instance, the longer you stay, the more you pay. Other providers want a start and end date upfront, they then calculate the cost you must pay upfront. In this instance, you need to make sure you’re home before your insurance cover ends! 🗓
  • Medical Conditions — Traveling with a pre-existing medical condition is already a headache. Factor in insurance and you’re on the road to a migraine. As a rule, ‘normal’ insurers offer travel insurance to those with ongoing medical conditions but don’t cover anything to do with said condition. So, if you have asthma and break your leg while travelling, it will be covered. But if you have an asthma attack that leaves you in hospital, it will not be covered. 🩻
Check your Medical Records
Make sure your insurer knows about any medical conditions!

Always tell your insurer about any medical conditions. They may be willing to offer you full insurance anyway, or there may be a fee attached. Or, they may tell you to go elsewhere. But if you don’t tell them, you could find yourself in hot water should the need to make a claim arise.

Insurance companies are notorious for worming their way out of paying for claims – don’t give them an opportunity to do so. Specialist insurers like Staysure offer comprehensive cover for those with ongoing medical conditions but they are more expensive than standard insurers. 


FAQs

When do you need to buy travel insurance?

You should buy travel insurance for any trip abroad. The best time to get insured is as soon as you’ve booked, or paid money for your trip. But try to book no closer than two weeks before the trip starts to give yourself the chance to find the best available policy. 

How long does travel insurance last?

The length of time travel insurance lasts depends on your policy and insurer. It’s possible to find policies lasting up to 18 months but this is uncommon. Most insurance companies offer policies for up to one year. But at the end of the day, your insurance lasts until the end date agreed with your insurer upon purchase of the policy. 

What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance coverage varies between companies – especially when you get into the really nuanced coverage. However, most insurers will cover baggage, medical treatments, evacuation, repatriation and some level of trip interruption cover. 

What doesn’t travel insurance cover?

– Reckless behaviour (including being on drugs or alcohol)
– Travelling somewhere against official government warnings or that’s receiving government sanctions
– High-risk activities may need to be added on
– Change of heart


A Round-Up of the Best Time to Buy Travel Insurance

The best advice we can give is to book your travel insurance before your trip starts. This gives you access to the best range of insurers. If your policy includes trip cancellation cover, then getting insurance as soon as you’ve paid for the trip is a good idea. It will prevent you being out of pocket should something happen before you leave.

Final Tip

Make sure you have digital copies of your insurance documents when you travel. And if you’re getting really off the beaten track, take paper copies too. This will ensure you can always get treatment and you’ll know how to contact the insurance company if required!

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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