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Backpackers are known for stretching their dollars, that's no different when it comes to travel insurance. We have outlined policies that can save you money, and found brands that can cover your extended travels.
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*"Get a 4 week travel insurance policy for just $3.35/day" price is based on a 4 week world-wide policy for a 26 year old, quoted as of 21st May 2019.
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Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance is very important, especially for backpackers. The biggest reason is the medical insurance. Unless you are sticking to the 11 countries that will accept your Medicare card as part of an agreement with Australia (more on this later in the piece), you won’t have medical cover. That means if you break your ankle running to catch a train in France, you could be in the hook for a lot of dough to get it treated.
Also consider that you’ll be constantly surrounded by unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. Most people are great, but there are always a few bad apples. So if someone steals your credit cards out of a locker, you’ll be covered for that too.
Travel is unpredictable even for someone with the most organised itinerary. As a backpacker, you open yourself up to a few extra risks including:
- Being constantly on the move
- Relying on numerous small, local travel providers
- Having limited supplies
- Travelling alone
- Participating in adventure activities
- Living with strangers
How to find the best backpacker travel insurance for you
If you're travelling the world on a budget, then you're probably going to end up taking more risks. Whether it's using cheap and potentially unreliable transport or staying in hostels with poor security, travel insurance for backpackers is as important to your trip as the backpack itself.
Backpacking comes in all different styles - from travelling across Europe to hiking through the rainforest - which means there is no one policy that all backpackers need. The best policy for you will depend on where you travel, your budget and how long you travel for, amongst other things. Having said that, when searching for the best travel insurance, it's worth considering the following:
- Look for the best value, not the cheapest. It's tempting to get the cheapest form of travel insurance out there – even if it's just to get your parents to stop worrying – but some of the cheapest policies cover you for very little should something actually go wrong.
- Emergency Medical Expenses & Repatriation. Backpackers tend to do more high-risk activities than others when they travel, from bungee jumps to hiking. You might be young, fit and healthy but accidents can happen so having emergency medical cover is a must. Repatriation cover is usually also included and this can get you to a hospital quickly without a hefty bill to accompany it. It can also help cover the cost of travelling home in case of a medical emergency.
- Know your limits. If you know you plan on participating in activities – such as mountaineering, rock climbing, hang gliding – make sure they don't invalidate your travel insurance. You should also be wary of passport/credit card coverage as well as baggage and medical coverage. While you probably aren't travelling with the most expensive gear, you might want to get cover for certain items. Ask yourself, how easily could you replace items if they are lost or stolen.
- Consider trip cancellation. It may be worth considering trip cancellation if you have spent a lot on flights or already paid for your accommodation. Similarly, it's helpful if you or a family member gets ill and you need to cancel. However, many backpackers aren't interested in trip cancellation coverage as they don't usually have a lot invested in the trip before they arrive. It may be something you can live without.
How to find cheap backpacker travel insurance
There are ways you can save on backpacking insurance so don’t worry, you won’t have to give up your Contiki tour to pay for it. Here are some tips to help you save money on your insurance:
- Find a policy with adventure activities built-in. You usually have to pay extra for adventure activities bit some policies will offer some adventure cover for free. For example, you can find policies that will automatically cover you for bungee jumping, motorcycle riding and shark cage diving for free.
- Get a single-trip policy instead. Most backpacking policies are just singles policies with a new name and the ability to add a few extra months to your trip. But some insurers might offer you worse terms if you select “backpacking” rather than “single trip”. Get quotes for both trip types and see what one looks better. Just make sure it offers covers for all the same activities. You may be limited to one year’s worth of cover, so you’ll also need to find out if they will let you extend your cover from overseas if you’ll be travelling longer.
- Choose medical only. If you’re really strapped for cash, you can choose a policy that covers you for medical expenses and nothing more. You won’t be covered if someone steals your luggage or if you have to cancel your trip, but you will be covered if you get sick or injured overseas. Medical costs can be astronomical, so medical cover is arguably the most important part of you cover anyway.
- Do your homework. Prices can vary wildly from brand to brand, so make sure you get quotes from a few providers so that you can get the best deal. Just make sure that you also compare what the policies offer before buying the cheapest one. If the second cheapest one offers much better cover, that’s probably a better choice.
- Look into reciprocal healthcare agreements (RHA). Australian has agreements with many countries around the world to provide medical cover to each other’s residents. If you have a Medicare card, you may have medical cover in a lot of countries - especially in Europe. If you’ll be spending a large portion of your time in these countries, it may be worth asking your insurer if they’ll reduce your premium for the time you’ll be there. Just remember that your benefits may be limited (see the section on backpacking in Europe below).
- Look out for discount codes and sales. We offer exclusive discounts with some travel insurance brands and check each of our partners' sites to see what offers are available. Available offers are displayed just below.
Long-term backpacker travel insurance cover?
|Brand||Maximum length covered in one trip||How does it work?||Enquire|
|18 months||Cover can be extended, subject to approval from InsureandGo.|
|12 months||If you choose to continue travelling after your first 12 months, you may be able to get a further 12 months of cover by taking an "Already Overeas" policy.|
|24 months||You can purchase a 12-month policy and apply to extend another 12 months which is subject to approval.|
|24 months||You can purchase a 12-month policy and apply to extend for another 12 months after your trip has started.|
Bare Essentials, Essentials and International comprehensive can be extended up to 24 months
Premium plus, A, B, C Travel Plans can be extended up to 12 months.
|12 months||You can apply for up to a 12 month extension (maximum extension of insurance is 12 months. Note: There is no cover for any insured person who is in the USA for 364 consecutive days or more.|
|12 months||You can purchase the new cover subject to approval and duration of cover cannot exceed the total of 12 months.|
|12 months||You can purchase the new cover subject to approval and duration of cover cannot exceed the total of 12 months.|
Travel insurance for people backpacking in Australia
If you are backpacking within Australia, you’ll need a different type of policy depending on whether you are are an overseas visitor or an Australian resident. They’ll not typically be called “backpacker insurance” and they may not extend beyond 365 days, but they will work and you can always renew your policy if you plan on travelling beyond one year.
Here’s how it breaks down:
If you haven’t purchased travel insurance in your home country, you will need to buy non-resident travel insurance from an insurer in Australia. Some of these policies will cover you for all of your medical and trip-related expenses, while others will only cover trip-related expenses. If your policy doesn’t cover medical, the insurer may decide not to cover you until you can show that you have medical cover from elsewhere. This can be though a reciprocal health care agreement where your country and Australia agree to cover each other’s residents; or through Overseas Visitors/Overseas Student Health Cover, two special forms of health insurance for people visiting Australia for long periods of time such as those on a working holiday visa.
If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Australia and you are backpacking here, your medical expenses are already covered via Medicare. So your best bet is to simply purchase a domestic travel insurance policy. You’ll have two choices: a single-trip policy covering the entire duration of your trip, or an annual multi-trip policy if you will be returning home periodically between travels. If you choose the annual policy, each individual trip will be limited to a certain amount of time, anywhere from 15 - 90 days.
Most domestic policies will cover you for everything that a comprehensive international policy will cover you for, except for the medical stuff (since most people will already be covered by Medicare). Here are some examples where domestic travel insurance will help:
- Cancellation costs. If you book a side trip to Cains for a festival and a cyclone rolls through, you can get your money back for your non-refundable costs like the flights, festival tickets and hotel room.
- Car rental excess. If you’re road-tripping it up the east coast in a rental vehicle and get into an accident, the out-of-pocket expenses (called your excess) can be sky-high. The right travel insurance will help out with that excess.
- Lost, stolen or damaged belongings. A domestic policy can pay you back if someone steals your phone out of your hostel or an airline loses your luggage.
- Family emergency. If you have to go back home for an emergency, such as a family member passing away, a domestic policy can pay you back for non-refundable expenses.
- Emergency companion cover. If you get injured snowboarding in Threadbo, travel insurance can pay to have someone travel to be by your side.
Travel insurance for backpacking tours
If you decide to risk it and go backpacking without insurance, you can say bye bye to many organised tours with Contiki, G Adventures and many other organised tour providers. That’s because most of them require you to have travel insurance before they let you book.
The requirements are different based on the provider so make sure you know what they want before you book. For example, Contiki requires you to have medical and cancellation cover, but G Adventures requires only medical.
If you don’t want to be stuck alone at the hostel while all the other backpackers are off getting to know each other, you’ll definitely want to be covered.
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