Heading on a backpacking adventure? Compare affordable backpacker travel insurance for up to 18 months.
It's an exciting time when you finally decide to ‘bite the bullet’ and take up the challenge of backpacking your way around the world. However before you take off, don't forget to pack the essentials (travel insurance).
Do I need travel insurance for backpacking?
It is not uncommon for backpackers to hunt out destinations that are typically 'off the grid' so to speak, where the chances of suffering a loss can be increased. Some of the common risks of backpacking include:
- Constantly moving around
- Travelling alone
- Being abroad for a longer duration
- Participating in adventurous activities
- Working overseas
Six policies features that are essential for backpackers
Travel insurance can be the one means of financial assistance used to cover the major bills that you may be confronted with if something serious was to go wrong. These expenses can be even further blown out if you find yourself in serious trouble in a remote area. Here are four handy cover features that travel insurance can provide:
1. Extended policy duration
Backpackers often don't where their travels will take them. What starts off as a backpacking trip of one month can easily extend beyond that, which is why having a travel policy in place that will cover them for extended durations of travel is essential. While most other travel insurance policies can be bought for a period of one year, backpacker’s insurance is often available for up to 18 months. Find policies that allow you to extend your cover period.
2. Cover for multiple destinations
While international travel insurance can be purchased to cover travels to a foreign country, you usually have to specify which countries you are travelling to when buying the policy. Backpacker’s insurance covers various cities around the world without the need of having to provide your itinerary when buying the policy. As long as you travel to countries that are included in your backpacker’s travel policy, you will be covered.
3. Cover for working overseas
Since many backpackers stay in foreign destinations for extended periods of time, they usually work in those locations to give them money for their travels, working also enables backpackers to get a better idea about foreign cultures. Backpacker travel insurance policies are often designed to include cover for working overseas.
4. Cover for indulging in risky activities
Risky activities and extreme sports such as bungee jumping, sky diving, horse riding and skiing are normally excluded from travel insurance policies as there is a heightened element of risk involved in these activities. Many policies give backpackers the option to add these activities as extras.
5. Cover for unexpected cancellations
If you need to cancel your trip unexpectedly you may face loosing money to pre-booked accommodation, flights and activities. Luckily, backpacker policies offer cover for sudden cancellations and disruptions.
6. Cover for backpacker items
Whether it's a GoPro, your laptop, or your camping gear, loosing these items on a long term trip is not ideal. Backpacking policies usually offer a high cover limit for stolen or damaged items so you can replace your items and continue backpacking.
Which brands offer backpacker travel insurance?
|Brand||Maximum length covered in one trip||*Can cover be extended?||Enquire|
|18 months||Cover can be extended, subject to approval from InsureandGo.||Get Quote|
|12 months||If you took the Comprehensive plan out for 12 months there is an option you can extend the policy while you are away for an additional 12 months.||Get Quote|
|12 months||You can apply for a further 12 month period as long as no claims or changes to medical conditions occur subject to underwriter approval.||Get Quote|
|12 months||You must purchase a new policy prior to the expiry of the original policy expiring. The maximum period of insurance in total is 18 months.||Get Quote|
|12 months||If under 70 years of age the International Comprehensive travel plan has an option to renew for a further 12 months (before the original trip expires).||Get Quote|
|12 months||You can extend your policy once you are overseas for up to another 12 months.||Get Quote|
|12 months||Policy can be extended up to 12 months but is not available under the Frequent Traveller Plan. Request for an extension must be made prior to the expiry date of the original policy.||Get Quote|
|12 months||You are able to buy a new policy even while you are still overseas provided you meet the definition of an Australian resident.||Get Quote|
|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 365 consecutive days or more.||Get Quote|
|12 months||You can purchase a policy for 12 Months and extend this while you are on your journey. Extension of insurance cannot exceed 12 months.||Get Quote|
Backpacker-specific travel insurance policies
The finder.com.au best* backpacker travel insurance policies
These are the most popular long-term policies available on finder.com.au based on quote engine results from January - September 2015.
|Travel insurance policy||Features|
|InsureandGo Gold Policy Ski||Unlimited overseas emergency medical cover and cancellation fees as well as included ski cover.|
|Travel Insurance Saver International Comprehensive||Unlimited overseas emergency medical cover and family emergency cover.|
|Travel Insuranz Premier||Unlimited overseas hospital expenses and $3,500 luggage and personal affects cover.|
What are the cheapest 12-month backpacker travel insurance policies?
|Policy||Premium for worldwide cover||Excess|
|Insure4Less Medical Only||$363.10||$135|
|Travel Insuranz Classic||$499.95||$150|
Prices are taken from finder.com.au's quote engine and are subject to change.
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|Destination||Travel insurance cost for a year of backpacking*|
|Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia||$674.58|
*cost is based on the average of all polices for a 18 year old going on a 12-month trip to the destination.
It's useful to understand how the price of policies change over time when backpacking and how they change for each country. For example, you may be considering backpacking in to South East Asia that only goes for 8 months or you may need to extend your policy for extra month after a year in Europe.
Cost based on an 18 year old traveller. Prices subject to change
There is no shortage of potential risks that backpackers face on their travels. Many backpackers often do not take out adequate cover prior to their travels and can be left financially devastated. This loss is often extended to their immediate friends and family who are left to provide financial support.
1. Unexpected medical or health costs
One major risk facing backpackers abroad is experiencing a medical emergency and needing to be repatriated back home.
- Hospital stay: Many backpackers are shocked at how much hospital stay in a foreign country can be. Reports have shown that daily hospital stay in South East Asia can be as much as $800 a day. In the USA it is even greater where some hospitals have been known to charge up to $24,000 a day.
- Repatriation back home: Depending on the severity of the condition, the cost of returning someone home following serious illness or injury can be significant. According to their 2012 report of claims paid, Insurer Medibank reported a $469,000 claim that was paid after a traveller suffered a potentially fatal form of kidney disease while travelling in the US. This claim included payment for their hospital stay, additional overseas medical expenses and return trip to Australia.
2. Losses from natural disasters
If you are backpacking through a country when it’s suddenly hit by a flood, an earthquake, tsunami, or bushfire, you could suffer serious injury or loss of all your belongings and travel documents. This could mean you are literally left stranded with nothing but the clothes on your back. Travel cover can help you get back on your feet again and allow you to continue with your travels unabated. It is worth checking the product disclosure statement prior to application as not all policies will provide cover for weather related losses and natural disasters.
3. Travel delay and trip cancellation
It is not uncommon for backpackers to need to cancel pre-made travel arrangements for any number of reasons. Delays from the transport carrier could also mean you have to remain where you are until your flight is rescheduled. This could interrupt your own schedule if you have to connect with other flights and leave you seriously out-of-pocket if you have to purchase another set of tickets. Backpackers travel insurance can eliminate this risk as it can meet the out-of-pocket costs you may be otherwise be liable for. Most insurers will only provide a benefit for trip cancellation if the cancellation is due to events that are out of the insured persons control.
4. Liability charges
You have no doubt read of some high-profile cases where travellers abroad have fell afoul of some local law. In some cases it could be quite an expensive exercise to prove your innocence and retain your freedom once again. Personal liability will cover the policyholder for bodily injuries or damage to other persons that are the result of a claim that has been made against the insured.
5. Theft of cash, credit card fraud and replacement and loss of personal belongings
It is no secret that backpackers are known for travelling in particularly hairy areas. Backpackers are often drawn to locations high in petty crime where one glance to the left could see their belongings lost in one swift grab. Travel cover policies will offer cover for theft and loss of cash and personal belongings by thieves and transport carriers during their travels. It is worth noting that most insurers will require some form of proof of purchase of the item in order for it to be eligible for a claim. Typical documentation that is generally required includes;
- Valuation documents
- Police reports for stolen items
- Reports from hotel/transport officials for items lost in transit or during stay
These are just some of the risks that backpackers face while overseas. Travel insurance policies can provide cover for these events and many others so you can rest assured you will not place yourself and/or your family under great financial pressure in the event that a loss occurs while you are away.
The consequence of having no travel insurance
Mark and Becky were travelling in South America. It was a trip of a lifetime and they were absorbing themselves in the culture by staying at hostels, eating local food and backpacking their way through a range of exotic countries. Then in Bolivia, Mark cut his foot on some rusted ironware while swimming at a local waterhole.
He sought medical treatment, but was told he would have to pay upfront as he did not have medical cover. Mark and Becky didn’t want to use their savings, so they continued their holiday, hoping Mark’s foot would heal by itself. Unfortunately the wound became infected and Mark became unable to walk, so they had to cut their trip short and return to Australia for medical treatment.’
Because Mark and Becky didn’t have travel insurance, they couldn’t claim compensation for fare cancellations and had to pay for new fares back to Australia out of their own pockets. Certainly a case where a penny spent would have been a pound saved in the long run.
Part of backpacking is doing things on a budget, which often includes staying at hostels. While these are usually friendly places, they are not always secure and there is the chance that valuables can go missing if left unattended.
Yes, but not if your items are unattended
Travel insurance will cover loss or theft of belongings from a hostel or any other location, providing they are not left unsupervised. This is a general exclusion in most travel insurance policies. For a claim to be paid, your belongings must have been safely locked away and you must have obtained a police report that confirms evidence of forced entry to your hostel room or locker.
There are now a variety of alternative forms of accommodation available to travellers who are on a budget or who want to experience the local culture first hand. Websites such as couchsurfing.org and Airbnb allow travellers to review and book short term or overnight accommodation in peoples’ homes all around the world.
Yes, but pay attention to these conditions
While this accommodation is not traditional and is not subject to the exact same rules as those which apply to a hotel or bed n breakfast, travel insurance will still cover you against:
- Loss, damage or theft of belongings. Provided they are not left unattended and in the case of shared Airbnb or Couchsurfing accommodation, are securely locked away
- Medical emergencies. If you are injured on the premises you can get cover
- Personal liability. You are covered if you accidentally cause damage to someone’s home
- Cancellations. You are covered if you have to cancel your pre-paid accommodation following an insured event such as flight delays
No cover if your accommodation is unsatisfactory
You are not covered by your travel insurance if you cancel your pre-paid accommodation because it has been misrepresented to you or it turns out to be unsatisfactory for any reason. Airbnb and courchsurfing.org both use a system of extensive reviews that help to ensure both hosts and guests are generally honest and trustworthy.
Travelling in Europe is relatively safe, but like anywhere else, you need to take precautions, such as securing your valuables against thieves and pickpockets. And even though it’s fairly safe, it is highly recommended that you get travel insurance, particularly medical and hospital cover.
Aren't I covered by the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement?
Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with several European countries including Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Ireland and the UK. This means if you are visiting any of these countries, you are eligible to receive the same publicly funded health care services as their own residents. There are however, many limitations of relying on the RHA:
- It's made for medical emergencies. Health care is usually only available for emergencies and you will have to pay user charges for GP visits and prescription items
- No medical repatriation to Australia. If you need to be medically evacuated, the RHA will not cover you
- No cover for other travel risks. Non-medical travel risks such as lost and stolen luggage, and flight cancellations
Does travel insurance cover me for the running of the bulls?
The running of the bulls is a popular activity for many backpackers visiting Spain. While there are travel insurers who will cover most extreme activities, the running of the bulls is often explicitly excluded because the risk factor is so high. You will need to shop around to find cover though, because most insurers consider the running of the bulls an unacceptable risk, given the number of people who are seriously injured while taking part.
|Extras and options for extreme sports: InsureandGo||Automatically included extreme activities: Travel Insurance|
If you plan to partake in any extreme sports or activities while travelling overseas, most backpackers insurance policies will allow you to take out additional cover. InsureandGo, for example, offers upgraded cover for a variety of extreme activities, with a standard excess applying to each of them in the event of a claim. They include:
While you may need extra cover for some activities, many others can be covered automatically by insurers. With Travel Insurance for example, a wide range of extreme activities are included in their standard cover including;
Insurers treat pre-existing medical conditions according to their severity and the degree of risk they represent. Consequently, most will automatically cover minor pre-existing conditions including;
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Hiatus Hernia
- Macular Degeneration
Cover for more severe conditions varies by insurer, but some will cover them for an additional premium, providing they are being controlled with medication. There are however some pre-existing conditions insurers will generally not cover and these include;
- Conditions awaiting diagnosis or specialist opinion
- Conditions for which surgery is planned
- Conditions requiring spinal or brain surgery
- Conditions for which you have been hospitalised in the past 24 months
- Heart or cardiovascular disease
- Cancer and secondary cancers
- Chronic lung disease
- Dementia, depression, anxiety and stress
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Organ transplants
- HIV infection
- Mental illness
Make sure you declare your pre-existing conditions
The most important thing about getting cover for a pre-existing condition is to make sure you declare it and nowadays, progressive insurers such as Columbus Direct allow you to do so online. Just by answering a few simple questions, you can see whether you are covered or not, with no medical reports or doctors’ certificates required.
Assess your travel needs as a backpacker
Travel insurance providers will usually offer a range of different policy options to applicants, each with varying levels of cover that can be more suitable for different types of travellers. For example, a couple in their forties taking a their 3 children on a 3 week trip around top tourist destinations of Europe will not have the same cover requirements as the early twenties backpacker off on a 12 month trip through South America. Backpackers will generally not need cover for things like car rental excess and may not have as many high-value items to register for cover.
Cover features that backpackers can probably do without
- Family emergency - covers cost of additional travel expenses if member of family dies unexpectedly or is injured during the trip
- Theft of cash - covers for theft of cash. Backpackers will generally not travel with large quantities of cash
- Alternative transport expenses - provides cover for additional expenses that may be incurred following delays for special events such as conferences, weddings, funerals and sporting events
- Domestic pets - cover for additional boarding expenses for your pet if you experience a delay returning home
- Rental vehicle excess - provides cover for the excess charged by a car rental company following an accident. There are some specific options that cover for this should you not wish for a more comprehensive travel insurance policy. Find out more here.
Cover features that backpackers should ensure they have
- Overseas emergency medical assistance - 24 hour emergency support
- Emergency medical and hospital expenses - cover for any medical expenses that may be incurred following serious illness or injury overseas
- Credit card fraud and replacement - cover for replacement costs of credit cards and any fraudulent use
- Luggage and personal effects - cover for loss or theft of luggage and personal effects. this may include bags, camera, laptop, smartphone etc
- Legal liability - cover for legal expenses incurred following for bodily injuries or damages to a third party's property
Obviously no two travellers are the same and the decision on whether to take out a basic or comprehensive plan will really come down to your own trip and cover requirements. Always make sure you not only look at the cover option but also what you stand to receive in the event of a claim to ensure it is adequate.
Every insurer will have a list of exclusions for when they will not pay out a claim for certain events. It is not uncommon for many backpackers to be shocked to discover they are not actually eligible to claim for a loss and are left to cover the expenses on their own budget. Here are some typical exclusions to be aware of;
- Some extreme sport activities - Each insurer will have a list of adventure sports that they will not cover. It may be worth taking out a specialist policy if you are keen to participate in one of these sports on your trip
- Loss of property through negligence - Claims for luggage that has been left unattended or that was lost of the policyholders own negligence will generally not be covered. Important to check the policy wording here
- Limitations on item amount - Insurers will generally have a sub-limit that will be paid per item in the event of a loss. You may need to register any high-value items on your policy for additional cover
- Drugs and alcohol - Claims where the policyholder was under the influence of drugs or alcohol are usually rejected
- Pre-existing medical conditions - Most travel insurance providers will not pay out claims for illnesses or conditions that the insured person knew about prior to their trip
- Political unrest - Most insurers will exclude claims relating to political unrest or terrorism. This is a key consideration for any backpackers looking to travel to destinations slightly “off the beaten track”. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Travelling will provide updates of any countries that they recommend not to travel to for these reasons
- Motorcycle incidents - Claims relating to motorcycle incidents including scooters and mopeds will not be covered if the driver of the moped does not hold a registered Australian drivers licence. You will also not be covered if you are the passenger of a motorcycle being driven by an unlicensed driver.
These are just some of the exclusions that may be applied to the policy you are considering. Always ensure you are fully away of all exclusions and what will be required from you in the event of a claim prior to purchasing your policy.
How alcohol will void your cover
Dean and his friends were holidaying in Bali. They’d done all the extreme sports like bungee jumping and shark diving and come away without a scratch or broken bone. They’d had the foresight to make sure their travel insurance covered them for these activities, but Dean hadn’t read the fine print regarding drugs and alcohol when he took out his policy.
One night they were having a few drinks in the bar district when they got into an argument with a group of local youths. A fight ensued and during the confusion, Dean fell, hitting his head on a bar stool. He was taken to hospital in a coma and diagnosed with bleeding on the brain.
Luckily, Dean recovered after an operation and several weeks in a Bali hospital, but the bill came to more than AU$18,000. When Dean tried to claim it from his insurer, his claim was denied on the grounds that he had been drinking at the time of the incident. Even though alcohol was not the direct cause of his injury, the fact that he had been drinking was enough to exclude him from cover.
Dean’s story is a sobering reminder that exclusions apply to all travel insurance policies and you need to read the PDS thoroughly to know what isn’t covered and to take due care when overseas to avoid what insurers term ‘reckless behaviour’.
Back and forth between overseas and Australia? Annual multi-trip travel insurance might be a good option
Annual multi-trip travel insurance is designed for people who travel regularly. It allows for numerous trips per year and covers each trip automatically, without you having to take out a new policy each time. It requires that you only travel for a stipulated period each time (usually up to a month) and that you begin and end each journey in your country of origin.
Spending an extended period overseas? Backpacker travel insurance may be more suitable
Backpackers insurance is different. It is designed for travellers who are taking an extended trip through a number of countries, usually over a period of up to 18 months. So if you are not planning to return to Australia until the end of your holiday, backpackers insurance would probably suit you better than an annual multi-trip policy.
Many credit card providers will offer complimentary or extremely cheap travel insurance to customers. While the temptation to avoid paying a couple of hundred dollars for cover from a recognised insurance provider can be tempting, anyone considering credit card travel cover should be fully aware of the limitations of this type of cover.
Limitations of credit card travel insurance
- High excess. Excess charges for benefit payments are usually extremely high
- Limited options. Cover is usually quite restrictive with a limited range of a cover options
- High number of exclusions. Generally applied to different cover options
- Reduced cover levels for each benefit. The maximum benefit you receive may not be eligible to cover your losses
- Inability to cover upfront for hospital costs. Credit card travel insurance will quite often, not pay medical treatment upfront or offer guarantee's of payment. As many foreign hospitals require payment or guarantee of payment before they will admit you, you could have to pay your entire hospital bill out of your own pocket and then claim it back when you get home.
If you do go with your credit cards travel insurance
Despite, the reduced level of cover offered on credit card travel insurance, some backpackers may find that they are happy with the level of cover provided. Anyone considering this type of cover should ensure they take obtain a copy of the product disclosure statement from the provider as the cover summary may be incomplete and may not include critical components of the cover
Besides the many reasons and benefits you get from taking out backpackers travel insurance there are also a few tips that could come in handy. Some of these are:
1. Register yourself with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) prior to departure
DFAT issues notices and keeps you informed about any potential political or environmental risks that may be occurring in the area you are travelling through. It will keep you in touch with Australian consulates in the different countries you visit and give you help when and if required. Taking a few minutes to register on the website online can ease any concerns your family and friends might have about your welfare while you are away.
2. Make copies of important documents before departure
Types of documents to photocopy include;
- Passport and associated visas
- Certificate of insurance
- Flight details
- Accommodation details such as addresses, phone numbers etc
- Credit or debit card numbers and driver’s licence
- Family member/spouses contact details
Leave one copy at home where a friend or family member can access it in an emergency. You should carry the other copy with you in a different place as that of the originals. By doing this you will minimise any hardship should the originals become lost or stolen.
3. Sort out your travel money
- Travel with a smart amount of local currency. You may not always have access to an ATM in certain locations.
- Never expose where you are carrying the bulk of any money. It is a good idea to work out how much money you will most likely need for any one day and have that amount available where it is easy to access.
- Always carry more than one credit or debit card so that if one is lost or stolen you still have another to fall back on. Keep these hidden in a money belt under your clothing. Never leave any important cards or documents in your backpack.
- You should also tell your bank back home that you intend travelling. Otherwise if they see a debit arrive from a foreign country it may cause a security alarm and the card could be shut down for your protection.
- Keep your currency conversion needs to a minimum. On most occasions when you convert from one currency to another you will lose out as to the true cost because of the differences in exchange rates and the exchange fees. Therefore only convert small amounts when you have to. It is far better to use your own credit or debit card, or a prepaid travel money card where the currency difference has already been calculated.
- It can be worth travelling with a small amount of American dollars as it is accepted in many locations worldwide.
4. Sort out any visa requirements early on
Don’t leave your obtaining of a tourist visa to enter another country to the last minute. Some countries can be quite slow in handling all the paperwork. Vietnam for instance can take as long as a week. Have all this arranged before you travel, or at least well before you intend travelling to another country.
5. Complete all necessary vaccinations early
Some vaccinations require a series of injections over a period of time. Others don’t take effect until several weeks after they are administered. Some can leave you feeling unwell. For all these reasons it is best if you have them all completed well before your departure date. Don’t forget that malaria is quite common in tropical areas so don’t leave without a good stock of anti malarial tablets if you intend visiting these types of places.
6. Planning on working overseas?
If you are planning on working while you are overseas, it is essential you take the time to find out what regulations may apply before you leave. You may need to organise working holiday visas before you depart. It is also worth checking how you will be covered for any injuries sustained while working in a foreign country on your travel insurance policies.
Q. Am I covered for casual work overseas?
A. It will depend on the type of cover you have chosen. Some insurers will not provide cover for injuries sustained during casual work overseas though some will provide automatic cover for non-manual, non-hazardous work such as bar-work or fruit picking.
Q. How long can I be covered for?
A. Most policies will only provide cover for a maximum of 12-18 months. In the event that you wish to stay longer, you be required to apply for a second policy.
Q. Can I extend my policy?
A. Most insurers will allow policyholders to extend their cover if enough notice is provided. Generally, the policyholder is required to provide a written request to the insurer within 7 days of the expiry of their policy.
Q. Can I be covered in multiple countries?
A. Most insurers will give applicants the option to take out worldwide cover. This means they are covered for all destinations as oppose to just specific regions i.e. Europe or Asia. It is still important to check the PDS to see what countries are excluded for cover.
Q. Can I be covered for multiple trips?
As most annual multi-trips policies will only provide cover for multiple trips within a 12 month window, this option is generally not appealing for backpacker travellers. Backpackers will generally opt for a single-trip policy option.
Q. Can I apply for cover if I am already overseas?
A. You can generally apply for cover if you are already overseas. Some general conditions include;
- There is usually a waiting period of about 7 days from when the application is submitted
- Pre-existing medical conditions are not generally covered
- You must be intending to return to Australia at the end of the policy
Q. How much does backpacker travel insurance cost?
A. This will be dependent on a number of different factors including age, destinations, trip duration, any pre-existing medical conditions, age, the policy chosen and any additional cover benefits.
Check with your travel insurance provider
These are just some of the questions you might have about the different conditions of your policy. If you are unsure about any of the components of the policy you are interested in, it is worth speaking with an insurance consultant from the provider you are interested in prior to application.
If you are gearing up for your next backpacking adventure, you can compare the different cover options in the table above and kick off your policy application. Once you have found a policy option you are interested, cover can be put in place in a matter of minutes and entirely online. finder.com.au always recommends that you take some time to read through the terms and conditions of your product disclosure statement prior to application to ensure you apply for a policy that adequately matches your needs.
* 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.