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Backpacker insurance explained


At this time of year, it is not unusual to start thinking about holidays.

hand on globe

But while many of us will settle this year for a couple of weeks by the sea, others will be planning the trip of a lifetime.

The option of taking several months off and heading to the likes of Thailand, South America or Australia used to be limited to students either about to start or having just finished university.

But these days more and more of us are using sabbaticals or gap years to go travelling.

Prepare properly

Employers increasingly see the value in allowing workers to take long unpaid breaks to recharge their batteries, or get the travelling bug out of their system.

And the number of older travellers on backpacker-style trips has also risen, with people now more likely to enjoy good health in retirement.

But wherever you're headed, it is vital to prepare properly.

This means both researching your destinations, in particular to help you avoid any trouble spots, as well as making sure you have got the right travel insurance.

Mhairi Duffin, head of travel at, says: "Going backpacking is an exciting adventure, but you should make sure you take the time to get suitable travel insurance in place."

Greater risk

"If you're away from home for an extended period you'll be more open to things like lost or stolen luggage, cancellations, illness and so on," Duffin adds.

"It might seem like an extra expense when you're already on a tight budget but it could save you so much money should something go wrong on your trip."

If you're planning to be away for more than a couple of weeks, and visiting a number of different destinations, backpacker insurance is likely to be what you need rather than standard travel cover.

"Backpacker policies permit a policy holder to travel extensively, from country to country," Duffin explains.

"This means you don't have to organise cover for each country separately. They also cover you for much longer than a standard policy typically up to 18 months."

High-risk activities

Depending on the policy, you will also often be insured against any accidents you have while engaged in high-risk pursuits such as scuba diving, parachuting or bungee-jumping.

Normal travel policies would not cover extreme activities such as these as standard.

To give an example of prices, a six-month backpacker policy for travel within Europe could cost less than £60, with up to £5 million medical cover, £2,000 cancellation insurance and £1,000 baggage protection.

A year-long worldwide policy could cost around £220, with similar cover levels.

Figures from show that most backpacker policies are for three months or less, although one in five are for 12 months.

Most backpackers are aged between 18 and 24, with 40 per cent of travellers 25 or older.

More precautions

Wherever you're headed, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website to see whether there are any warnings for travellers currently in force.

The FCO will advise against travel to areas where the risk of being caught up in conflict or unrest is high, or where relations with the UK or Western countries in general have broken down.

At the moment, the likes of Syria, Iran and Somalia are on the no-go list.

You can also register details of your itinerary with the FCO so that embassy staff can get in touch with you in the event of a natural disaster such as a tsunami, and help reassure family and friends you are safe.


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