Backpacker travel insurance

Backpackers admiring the sun

Heading on an 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 – a sturdy backpack, an awesome itinerary, travel insurance and a healthy sense of adventure.

Do I need travel insurance?

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:

  • Constant moving around
  • Travelling alone
  • Being abroad for a longer duration
  • Participating in adventurous activities
  • Working overseas

Looking for long-term cover?

Brand Maximum length covered in one trip *Can cover be extended? Enquire
InsureandGo 18 months Cover can be extended, subject to approval from InsureandGo. Get Quote
1-cover-new1 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
Columbus Direct 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
covermore-logo 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
Fast Cover 12 months You can extend your policy once you are overseas for up to another 12 months. Get Quote
Simply Travel Insurance Logo 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
Travel Insurance Direct 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
travel insurance saver logo 12-24 months

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.

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Travel Insuranz 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
Worldcare Travel Insurance 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
12 months Cover can be extended whilst overseas, for up to 12 months from the
original start date.
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easy-travel-insurance 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

Travel insurance deals for backpackers

What travel risks do backpackers face?

travel-bagsThere 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. According to a 2011 WHO Department of Health Systems Financing report, hospitals can charge upwards of hundreds of dollars per day, even in developing countries.
  • 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 lose your belongings and/or travel documents. This could mean that you're 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. Note that 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. Solo travellers can sometimes find themselves in 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:

  • Receipts
  • 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.

Am I covered for my items in shared backpacker accommodation and hostels?

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.

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.

Am I covered for Couchsurfing or Airbnb?

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 firsthand. Websites such as 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 both use a system of extensive reviews that help to ensure both hosts and guests are generally honest and trustworthy.

Learn more about how Airbnb and couchsurfing is covered by travel insurance

Backpacking in Europe – Is travel insurance required?

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.

Does backpacker travel insurance cover me for extreme sports?

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:

  • American football
  • Canyoning
  • Gorge swinging
  • Hang-gliding
  • Luge (dry or concrete)
  • Motorcycling (over 125cc - not racing)
  • Mountain biking
  • Parachuting
  • Quad biking
  • Rock climbing (not mountaineering)
  • Scuba diving
  • Sea kayaking
  • Shark diving (inside cage)
  • Tall-ship crewing
  • White or black water rafting (grades 5 to 6)
  • Yachting (outside territorial waters)

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;

  • Abseiling
  • Amateur sports (not professional)
  • BMX riding (no stunts/obstacles)
  • Windsurfing
  • Bungee jumping
  • Climbing (indoor)
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Dogsledding
  • Horse riding (excluding racing, jumping or competing)
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Jet skiing
  • Sailing/yachting (recreational, within territorial waters)
  • Shark diving (in cage)
  • Sky diving (tandem)
  • Waterboarding
  • Water skiing
  • White water canoeing/rafting (up to and including Grade 4)

Am I covered if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

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;

  • Asthma
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Hiatus Hernia
  • Hypertension
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Osteoporosis

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.

On a budget? How you can spend less on travel insurance

Assess your travel needs as a backpacker

Travel insurance brands 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 three children on a three-week trip around top tourist destinations of Europe will not have the same cover requirements as the early-twenties backpacker 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 check that 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.

See travel insurance discounts for backpackers

Hold on... what am I not covered for?

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 brands 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.

Should I get backpacker insurance or annual multi-trip insurance?

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.

My credit card includes travel insurance... will this be enough?

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 guarantees 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 card's 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

Tips for backpackers

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 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's 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.

Wait, I have some more questions about backpacker travel insurance

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 seven 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 seven 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.

I'm ready to compare backpacker travel insurance

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. 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.

Compare travel insurance policies for backpackers

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    rtApril 6, 2015

    You talk about the appeal of backpacker policies offering ‘cover for long trips’ yet your finder only lets you search up to 12 month long policies (ie every other policy, not the backpacker specific ones). I need a 15 month policy with the ability to work- short of going to every single website how do I find out who does this policies given your search engine doesn’t help?

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardApril 7, 2015Staff

      Hi RT,

      Thanks for your question. Please have a look at our long term travel insurance page. On this page you will find a list of the insurers from our panel that allow long-stay or extended stay policies, along with any conditions of getting said cover.

      I hope this was helpful,

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