What insurance do I need for backpacking?

Whether you’re planning on hitchhiking through South East Asia or Interrailing in Europe, backpacking can be an immersive experience that gives you a richer insight into local culture. Amidst all of the discovery and excitement, however, it is important to stay safe. While backpacking adds a new element of adventure, it also leaves travellers a little more vulnerable that your average vacation might, and making sure you have the right help and support should something go wrong is crucial. This is where travel insurance steps in.

Why do I need travel insurance?

Most backpackers travel on a fairly tight budget and so it comes as no surprise that many people embarking on trips tend to want to cut corners where they can-this should not mean sacrificing your safety though. Whether its an infected mosquito bite, a stolen passport or extreme weather forcing the cancellation of your connection flight, all manner of unexpected things can happen so it is vital that you stay safe.

Travel insurance will be there in an emergency to help cover the costs of the things you probably can’t afford. When your trip comes to an end, you want to take home with you memories, photographs and souvenirs-not a giant medical bill.

What makes backpackers insurance different?

When it comes to backpacking you can be in the road for six weeks or six months, with some people even deciding to go full on nomad and hit the road for the unforeseen future. So, as you can imagine, backpackers insurance isn’t quite your two week package holiday deal. While many typical insurance providers can offer policies for as little as one day or an annual policy of up to a year, there are providers out there who specialise in insurance tailored to backpackers.

What should my travel insurance cover?

There are some key coverage requirements that you should look for when deciding on your policy:

  • Emergency medical: this is the big one, and if you are only going to get one type of coverage, make sure it is this one. From food poisoning to a broken arm, you never know what might come up on your travels, and medical care can be expensive when you head to a new destination. Emergency medical will cover the cost for you and make sure that you aren't left sick and out of pocket. Of course, this doesn’t cover medical care as the result of a pre-existing condition.

  • Baggage loss or damage: Your backpack is the central theme of your trip, so should you lose it, or any of your valuables, you could find yourself at a loose end. Your insurer will offer the option to cover the cost of loss or damage to your personal property, depending on the worth of your bag’s contents.

  • Missed or delayed departure: For the most part airlines don’t cover the costs incurred as the result of a delayed or missed flight, an occurrence which could seriously mess up your plans.

  • Cancellation: Whether its because of an unexpected event back home, or an unfortunate illness, your trip might be cut short. Cancellation coverage will reimburse any losses so that the end of your trip is the only thing that you lose.

Other additional areas of coverage you might want to consider include:

  • Personal Liability: For example, this is useful just in case you accidentally cause any damage to accommodation-those hostels are renowned for wild party nights.

  • Emergency evacuation: Scary things can happen, from natural disasters to civil unrest, and emergency evacuation coverage will pay the cost to get you back to safety. While this is usually something that can’t be preplanned for, risk assessing your route can help determine if this is a necessary add-on for you. If a travel warning has been issued for one of your destinations, this could void your insurance so be sure to stay updated. This is included in most emergency medical policies.

What if I decide to extend my trip?

So you’re having such a good time discovering new places and ‘finding yourself’ that you don’t want to head home yet, do you just let your insurance run out and hope for the best? Well, most insurers will be happy to add an extension to your policy while you’re on trip. However, if you have already made a claim or have exceeded their maximum travel time, you may be unable to extend your policy. For proper coverage, there can never be gaps in your travel when you are out of province without insurance.

How do I find the right travel insurance?

There are all kinds of providers and plans on the market, so the best way to determine the right deal for you is to search around. Take into consideration your planned travel time and route, as well as what coverage options you think are a must-have. It is recommended that you take out an all-inclusive plan, because as a wise mother once said: “it is better to be safe than sorry”.