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Gap Year Travel Insurance Guide

Taking gap year away from your studies? Find the right travel insurance for your gap year travels.

Taking a year off to travel after finishing school is a rite of passage for many young Australians. From living in London to backpacking across Europe or even immersing yourself in traditional Asian cultures, there are plenty of ways to spend your gap year.

However, a gap year can expose you to overseas medical expenses and other travel risks. Typically, gap year travellers will look for travel insurance that offers:

  • Extended cover length
  • Overseas medical expenses cover
  • Lost and stolen items cover

Which travel insurance brands can cover my gap year?

Provider Conditions Enquire
If you take out the Comprehensive plan for 12 months you can extend your policy whilst away. Get Quote
Columbus Direct The maximum trip covered is 12 months but you can apply for a further 12-month period if the policy has not expired and no claims have been made, subject to approval from the underwriter. Get Quote
CoverMore You can obtain an 18-month policy, but you will need to buy a 12-month policy and then an additional policy for 6 months. You will need to contact Cover-More direct, in to attach the two policies on Cover-More's records. Get Quote
Fast Cover Fast Cover covers trips for a maximum of 12 months at a time, however you can extend your policy for another 12 months once you are overseas. Get Quote
InsureandGo Backpackers insurance can cover you up to 540 Days with one trip. Get Quote
Simply Travel Insurance Logo Policy renewal is no problem with Simply Travel Insurance's Comprehensive and Budget policies. Whilst overseas, email Simply Travel Insurance before the policy has expired with a request to renew your policy and for how long. If you're unsure when you're returning home, you can renew multiple times up to 18months including the original policy duration. Get Quote
tid-logo-blue The maximum trip length for TID policies is 12 months. However, you can purchase a new policy overseas you still are an Australian resident. Get Quote
Travel Insuranz The maximum trip length of a Travel Insuranz policy is 12 months. Travel Insuranz requires you to apply for an extension if you wish to travel beyond 12months. No cover is available for any insured person who is in the USA for 365 consecutive days or more. There are no limits to the number of times you can extend, however Travel Insuranz reserve the right to decline an extension. Get Quote
worldcare travel insurance logo Policies can be purchased 12 Months and extended on the trip before the policy expires. Get Quote
Easy Travel Insurance If you are under 70 years of age, the International Comprehensive travel plan allows for 12 months with the option to extend cover a further 12 month. The extension must be processed before the original 12 months of travel has expired (preferably within the last 30 days). Get Quote

Why travel insurance for your gap year is essential

1. Common travel risks

  • Lost or stolen luggage. A year's worth of items in your suitcase may be stolen in transit.
  • Cancellations. Cancelled flights may require you to purchase additional accommodation and food.
  • Personal liability. If you’re responsible for damage to someone's property, you could be financially liable.

2. Overseas medical emergencies

One key area travel insurance is overseas medical expenses. When you consider how much it costs to spend a night in a foreign hospital, the benefit of taking out travel insurance becomes immediately clear. For example, hospitals in the US charge more than $750 per night, and Singapore hospitals charges almost $900 per night.

3. Specific country risks

Popular destinations for gap year travellers come with specific travel risks. For example, political instability and disruptive public protests have hampered travellers to Thailand in recent years, while terrorism is a common threat across Europe.

4. Extended period of time away

When you’re spending a year away from home, your level of exposure to these travel risks increases exponentially.

Tim's travel insurance to the rescue... twice

Comprehensive travel insurance policies provide protection against an extensive range of risks, as Tim found out when he spent 10 months travelling around Europe after finishing his HSC. Upon landing at Heathrow, Tim discovered that his connecting flight had been delayed for another 24 hours and his insurer covered him for 12 hours of accommodation and meals.

Tim put the unfortunate incident behind him and continued on his travels without a hitch until he made it to Austria. While catching a cab in Salzburg, Tim was involved in a nasty car accident that left him with three broken ribs and a concussion. As Tim still had travel insurance in place, the full cost of his medical bills was covered by his travel insurer, saving him several thousands of dollars.

The expenses that Tim faced

  • Accommodation and personal effects: $300
  • Ambulance: $1,000
  • Hospital stay for a week: $5,000

How travel insurance covered Tim

  • Replacement of clothing and amenities: $200 after excess
  • Ambulance and hospital stay for a week: $5900 after excess

Out of pocket cost


5. Not convinced?

Read more on why travel insurance is a worthy investment.

Do I need travel insurance for popular gap year destinations?

  • What make this a hot gap year destination?
  • Travel risks
Travel insurance cost*
Read more
Beautiful beaches, legendary parties and cheap accommodation are the hallmarks of a Thai holiday.
  • Political instability
  • Petty theft
  • Motorcycle accidents
$674.58 for 12 months
Read more
From the bustling activity and noise of Hanoi to the sleepy, untouched villages tucked away in the hills, Vietnam is a fascinating country with plenty to offer.
  • Theft and pickpocketing
  • Tourist scams
  • Motorcycle accidents
$674.58 for 12 months
South Africa
Read more
The stunning wildlife of South Africa makes it a must-visit destination for many gap year travellers
  • Theft and armed robbery
  • Scams designed to catch out travellers
  • Poor road conditions
  • Dangerous animals.
$878.72 for 12 months
South America
Read more
You’ll be drawn to South America by the beaches and parties of Rio, the astonishing grandeur of Machu Picchu or any of the picturesque experiences for which South America is famous.
  • Malaria
  • Altitude sickness
  • Crime
  • Theft and pickpocketing
  • High-risk adventure activities
$905.01 for 12 months
Read more
Europe is home to a stunning culture spread through it's famous cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Munich.
  • Theft and pickpocketing
  • Terrorism risks
  • Civil unrest from neighbouring countries
$768.35 for 12 months
United States of America
Read more
From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the towering high rises of New York City, the US offers a diverse range of sights and experiences.
  • Expensive medical system
  • Extreme weather events
  • Terrorism threats
  • Commuting dangers for travellers not used to driving on the right-hand side of the road.
$926.44 for 12 months

*cost is based on the average of all polices for a 18 year old going on a 12-month trip to the destination.

The price of travel insurance: short term trips vs long term trips

It's useful to understand how the price of policies change over time for popular gap year destination. For example, you may be considering a trip that only goes for 8 months or you may need to extend your policy an extra month after your gap year. As shown below, travel insurance for the United states has the most aggressive increase in price over time, which is strongly related to the high cost of medical care.

Cost based on an 18 year old traveller. Prices subject to change

Extra cover that you may need on your gap year

  • Rental vehicle excess cover. If your rental vehicle is involved in an accident or stolen, you could be liable for the rental company’s expensive insurance excess, which could be several thousands of dollars. Luckily, most comprehensive travel insurance policies cover this expense.
  • Snow sports cover. Snow sports cover protects you from costs such as stolen or damaged equipment, equipment hire, and ski resort closure due to inclement weather. Seek snow cover if you planning on going skiing or snowboarding during your gap year.
  • Adventure activities cover. Many high-risk adventure activities you might want to indulge in during your gap year such as rock climbing or hang gliding, are not automatically covered on many policies. Adding optional adventure activities cover to your policy ensures that claims resulting from your participation in such sports will be covered.
  • Valuable items cover. Although a travel insurance policy may have a high amount of cover for your personal possessions should they be lost or stolen, be aware that sub-limits may apply to individual items. As a result, you may not have sufficient cover in place to repair or replace an expensive laptop or camera, so taking out extra valuables cover can be a good idea.

Am I covered if I work during my gap year?

Some travel insurers will exclude any claims arising from you participating in work while on your holiday. However, some insurers will cover you for working during your gap year, providing much-needed protection against overseas medical costs should they arise. Forms of work that policy will typically allow you to undertake include working:

  • In a hostel or hotel
  • In bar or hospitality
  • As a tour guide
  • As an instructor at a ski resort
  • Volunteer and charity work

What type of volunteering work can I do?

Travel insurance cover for volunteering can be a grey area as volunteer work comes in many forms. For instance if you're doing volunteering in Papua New Guinea over your gap year you may spend your time teaching English while also helping the community out by building infrastructure.

Physical labour is usually not covered

As a general rule of thumb, travel insurance will not cover you medically for jobs involving physical labour. If you're volunteering with an authorised program check to see if they have an insurance options that cover physical labour.

Check the fine print of your policy

Check the fine print on your policy to see if there are any conditions that apply to working overseas. This may include no cover for manual labour or no personal liability cover while you are working.

Learn more about travel insurance for working holidays

Am I covered for high-value items?

If you’re heading overseas for a long period of time, chances are you’ll want to take valuables such as laptops, tablets and cameras with you. Take out a travel insurance policy that offers a high level of valuables cover in case these items are lost, stolen or damaged.

Beware of sub-limits

Per-item sub-limits (such as $500 per item) may apply, which may not be enough if you need to repair or replace a high-value item. Many insurers will allow you to increase your level of valuables cover to ensure that you have adequate protection.

Can I get group travel insurance for my gap year?

If you’re travelling in a group, you may want to consider a group travel insurance policy for the duration of your journey. This can provide a convenient and cost-effective alternative to each person taking out an individual policy. However, different insurers will impose different conditions on their group travel insurance policies, including:

  • The number of people covered
  • Age restrictions
  • Restrictions on the activities you can participate in

Am I covered for Couchsurfing or Airbnb?

Yes, if you’re staying in accommodation you’ve booked through a website like Airbnb or Couchsurfing, your travel insurance will still provide the same coverage as it would if you were staying in an ordinary hotel. This means you’ll be covered for cancellation costs and lost deposits, lost and stolen luggage and personal liability.

Follow regular safety precautions and care

You’ll still need to exercise normal safety precautions to reduce the risk of suffering a loss. For example, make sure not to leave your luggage unattended in shared Airbnb accommodation because if you do, you're claim won't be paid.

Learn more about Airbnb travel insurance cover

Can I extend my travel insurance if I want to extend my trip?

Yes, many insurers will allow you to extend your cover if needed, as long as you meet the conditions of a policy extension. Common conditions include providing

  • A reason for extending your travel insurance.
  • Disclosure of any new health conditions.

Note: Some insurers that you to request your extension a certain amount of time before your policy’s original end date, such as one week in advance.

How are you charged for an extension?

As the maximum trip length for policies are 12 months, you will be charged as if you were buying a new policy after your gap year.

How many times can you extend you trip?

Most insurers will typically allow you to extend your trip for another 6-12 months, whilst some insurers may have no limit on the amount of times you can extend.

Selecting the right travel insurance cover for your gap year

Ask yourself the following questions to ensure that you settle on the right travel insurance policy for your gap year:

  • How long are you going for? Make sure the policy you select offers sufficient cover for the entire duration of your trip.
  • What activities do you want to participate in? You may need to add snow sports or adventure activities cover to your policy.
  • What valuables are you taking with you? If an insurer doesn’t offer a sufficiently high level of valuables cover, check if there’s an option to increase your limits for high-value items.
  • Are you travelling by yourself? Ask yourself if you need travel insurance for just yourself or more than one person.
  • What level of cover do you want? While some people only want budget cover to protect them in the case of emergency, others want the security and confidence that a comprehensive cover provides.
  • How much do you want to spend? Price is always going to be a consideration when buying travel insurance, but remember that you get what you pay for in many cases. Just because a travel insurance policy is the cheapest, doesn’t mean it’s the right policy for you. In fact, it could offer cover that is far too limited, so shop around and compare a range of policies before you choose one.

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* The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.
* The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.

Picture: Shutterstock

Maurice Thach

An insurance researcher and writer for finder.com.au who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?" Maurice has also completed a Tier 1 Life Insurance and a Tier 2 General Insurance Certification under ASIC's Regulatory Guide 146. This means he can confidently provide general advice for life insurance and non-life insurance products.

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