image © American Picture Gallery
If I have to read one more line of small print in a policy wording document I think my head is going to explode!… I know we need round the world travel or backpacker travel insurance but I didn’t realise that finding the right policy would be this tricky… It’s become apparent in the past few hours of trawling the internet for companies offering backpacker travel insurance for our round the world trip that there are a HUGE number of policies on offer and a big difference in prices and levels of cover. After doing a substantial amount of leg work I thought it would be good to share my findings and choice to hopefully save a few of you a bit of work!

“So why do I even need travel insurance?”

Well picture this… You’ve set off on your trip of a lifetime, arrived in some exotic destination, made some friends and decide to go elephant trekking in the jungle. All’s going well until you upset your elephant by loudly whistling Michael Jackson tunes causing him to rear up and throw you on to the jungle floor. you hit the ground with an almighty ‘thump’, something breaks, it’s your arm…

Elephant riding

Now admittedly, in the UK there are very few jungles and even less wild elephants but there is the National Health Service and a simple phone call will send an ambulance to pick you up, take you to the hospital, patch you up and send you on your way free of charge. In the majority of countries around the world this kind of luxury doesn’t exist but fortunately, with a decent travel insurance policy, you’ll have cover to pay for your medical bills and get you back home without too much trouble.

“But there’s SO much small print, what should I be looking out for?”

Here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Emergency medical cover – This covers essential emergency medical treatment if you fall ill or are injured in an accident while you are abroad. It seems that a minimum of £5 million cover is a good idea and that it includes any possible rescue mission and ambulance costs to get you treatment. Some policies include emergency dental cover and some don’t so it’s definitely worth checking if you’re going to be covered if tooth ache sets in!
  • Policy excess – This is the amount that you will have to pay in the event of a claim. So to put this into context, if you’re £200 phone is lost or stolen and you have a £100 excess on your policy, the insurance company will only pay out the £100 difference between the item’s value and the excess. Generally speaking, the higher the excess, the cheaper the policy so it’s worth considering how much you’ll end up paying, especially for small claims.
  • Personal belongings – This covers your baggage, valuables and personal belongings against loss, theft, breakage or damage while you are away from home. This is one of the sections that seems to vary most between policies. It’s worth checking what the single item limit is for a claim as it’s going to hurt if your £2000 laptop gets nicked and your policy has a single item limit of £150 with a £50 excess! If you are taking valuable items, consider insuring them separately or better still, ask yourself if you really need to take them and perhaps just leave them at home?!
  • Personal money – This covers your travel money against loss or theft. There is usually a ‘cash or bank note’ limit here which may be different to the total money limit. If you do need to claim for lost or stolen cash then you’ll need proof that you had the money so it’s always a good idea to get an ATM receipt and keep it somewhere separate to your cash.
  • Activities cover – Not all policies cover all activities so always check what’s covered and what’s not. Again, this is something that I found to vary greatly from one policy to the next so if you’re planning on going base jumping or spear fishing for great whites, chances are you’ll need to fork out quite a bit more cash to get covered! Most policies offer a ‘winter sports’ add on so if you’re going skiing or snowboarding, make sure you get the right cover for that too.
  • Geographical coverage – Insurers usually offer a range of policies covering different geographical areas for example, ‘Australia & New Zealand’ or ‘World excluding North America, Canada & the Caribbean’. Always check to ensure that the policy will cover the destinations that you’re travelling to!
  • The underwriter – Buried somewhere deep in the policy small print will be the details of the underwriter, this is the company who are actually insuring you. It is usually the case that the company you buy the insurance from is just a branch of a bigger company or a ‘trading name’ so it’s always worth checking who’s actually going to pay out if you need to make a claim. In my opinion, it’s wise to go with a large & well established underwriter as they’ll offer more security and won’t leave you stranded somewhere remote!
  • Duration – Depending on how long you’re going to be away for you may find that some policies offer more flexibility than others. I’ve been looking at 12 month policies as we think we’ll be away for about a year but I’m also aware that this may change and we might be away longer. There’s at least one insurer, World Nomads that will let you take out a policy even if you’re not in your home country, ok, they’re not the cheapest but at least they provide the flexibility we need if we decide to stay away for more than 12 months. It’s certainly worth checking with your chosen insurer to see if they allow you to extend your policy while you’re away.

This is by no means a definitive list and I’m no insurance expert but these are some of the things that I thought were important for us when choosing which policy so hopefully you’ll find them useful too?! There are numerous other things that are included in the different policies on offer and what’s right for one person might be wrong for another so the important thing is to know what you require from your policy, read the policy documentation carefully and if in doubt, pick up the phone and speak to the insurer directly.

I literally spent hours trawling through search engines to find the best policy for us. As I mentioned before, everyone’s situation is different so there’s no ‘best backpacker insurance’ but here a few links to companies that we considered as well as a couple of the big comparison websites who provide a comparison between the policies that they currently offer…

  • Money Supermarket – Backpacker insurance comparison website
  • Compare the Market – Another backpacker insurance comparison, this time provided by meerkats!
  • Confused.com – Yet another backpacker insurance comparison website
  • Direct Line – Seemed to offer a good value backpacker insurance policy not available on the comparison websites
  • World Nomads – Allow you to take out a policy even if you’re not in your home country – Great if you want to extend your trip and stay insured!
  • Outbacker Insurance – Offered the best policy for our needs in terms of cost & level of cover and underwritten by Chartis (a division of AIG)
  • Holiday Safe – Recommendation from Paul as a great policy for anyone bike touring

These are just a few of the dozens of companies offering policies with all levels of cover so if you want to check out a few more, head over to Google!

As a final note, I just want to reiterate that I am no insurance expert or salesman and the content of this post is all my own unbiased & unsponsored opinion based on the research I have conducted whilst searching for a suitable insurance policy for our trip. I simply wanted to share my thoughts and findings and hope that the info I have collated will be of use to a few other travellers who find themselves in a similar position, attempting to wade through the backpacker insurance minefield!