A backpacking trip is typically very different to a normal holiday abroad. Rather than going away for a week or two, backpackers typically spend a month to a year or even more travelling around multiple countries. Typical travel insurance policies, particularly the types you purchase when booking your flights, are very limited. Most of the time, they are only valid for one country and for a set amount of time.
This is not much use for backpackers who prefer to roam freely around the globe while keeping their plans as flexible and as open as possible. For this reason, backpackers need to take out a special insurance policy. The premiums might be higher, but travelling with medical insurance at the very least is absolutely essential in most countries. The following takes a look at the various factors which you need to consider when looking for travel insurance for backpackers.
1. Countries and Territories Covered
If you want to keep your plans as flexible as possible, and you are planning a long-term round-the-world trip, then you will generally be better off getting an unlimited insurance policy which covers you for every country. However, if you are certain that you are going to be visiting a certain selection of countries only, your options will be significantly cheaper. World-wide insurance policies often fall into two categories – those which exclude the USA (and sometimes a few other countries), and those which don’t. It is also worth mentioning that policies which only cover Europe often provide coverage for Israel, Morocco and Turkey.
If you are a citizen of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland or Norway, you can take advantage of reciprocal health agreements in those countries. In order to do this, you can apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, though this is not meant to be a substitute for a private medical insurance policy. It will only allow you to use public health services at the same cost as the locals pay. For example, the country you are going to provides free healthcare, then you will be able to get free healthcare too.
2. Extending Your Trip & Changing Your Plans
A basic travel insurance policy typically limits the duration of your trip to thirty or sixty days. Backpackers, on the other hand, often don’t have return flights booked, and instead prefer to keep their plans as open as possible. Specialist travel insurance policies for backpackers offer a far wider range of options with policies available lasting as long as eighteen months.
With regards to extending your trip, you will need to be very clear on the available options afforded by your insurance policy before setting off. While you are out of your country of residence, many policies cannot be extended, and if they can be, they can only be extended once. To have the freedom of being able to extend and modify your policy as many times as you want, you will likely have to pay higher premiums.
3. Common Exclusions
All travel insurance policies come with a whole range of exclusions, and the extent of these will largely depend on how much you are paying for the premiums. Unless you specifically take out a more expensive insurance policy designed for those partaking in high-risk activities, such as skiing, mountain climbing or skydiving, you will not be insured for any injuries acquired as a result from these activities. Most insurance policies will not cover you for high-risk areas such as war zones or countries in a state of severe political unrest either.
4. Preparing for Your Trip
Before you go away, be sure to check the entry requirements and guidelines for each of the countries you intend to visit. UK citizens can get all of the information they need from fco.gov.uk. Other things to consider include the following:
-Get any vaccinations required for areas you are going to. Your insurance company will likely require this.
-Apply for your entry visas well in advance if necessary.
-Always print out and take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you. Leave another copy at home with a friend or family member.
-Write down the emergency numbers for your travel insurance company.