While some backpackers choose this method of travel to keep travel costs low, others do it simply for the thrill, but even a cheap backpacking trip can land a traveler in the hospital or leave them stranded and broke on the street. Travel insurance for backpackers can protect a traveler from these risks and ensure they come home physically and financially intact.
What are the risks of backpacker travel?
Some of the unexpected things that can go wrong on a backpacker trip include the following:
- You are injured or become seriously ill on your trip – backpackers have access to remote areas of the world as they often travel on foot, but accidents and illnesses can occur anywhere. A chance encounter with unusual food, a tumble off a rocky trail, a sting from an unusual insect can all take a turn for the worse. If you need emergency medical care, how will you pay for your treatment?
- You are robbed of your money, credit cards, and passport – backpackers travel light, but these are still necessary items no matter where you travel. If you are robbed, how will you navigate the embassy system to replace your passport, contact your credit card companies, and get some replacement cash?
- You are badly hurt and stranded in a remote area – remote areas of the world call to many backpack travelers, but these areas are also typically far from adequate medical care. Even if you are traveling with a guide, if you are badly injured, your safest bet is likely an emergency medical evacuation. Who can you reliably contact to arrange and pay for your rescue?
- Your belongings are stolen – backpackers typically don’t carry a lot of extra stuff, so every single thing they carry is either necessary or important to them, so when their belongings are stolen, it can be far worse for this type of traveler. If your belongings are stolen, will you have the necessary funds to purchase replacements?
- Your flight is delayed for a few days while they clear away the ash or debris – when travel delays occur, it can mean unexpected costs for the traveler who may have already pre-paid for lodging expenses elsewhere. When you’re on a budget, these extra costs can really cut into your available funds and leave you in a bad spot later in your trip. If your travel is delayed, how will you pay for the necessary lodging, meals, and transportation costs while you wait?
- You suddenly have to return home due to an emergency – when you are forced to abandon your trip and return home, you will face unexpected (and often costly) airfare, lodging, and other transportation costs. Will you have the cash reserves to pay for those costs and can you afford to lose your remaining pre-paid trip costs as well?
What coverage do you need in your backpacker travel insurance?
While the following is not an exhaustive list of all the coverages available with travel insurance plans, it describes those that are most useful to backpacking travelers.
- Medical expense coverage provides for emergency medical care and often some dental care in the case of a sudden illness or injury on your trip. (Review the details of medical/dental coverage.)
- Passport/Credit Card coverage provides reimbursement for unauthorized credit card charges, fees to replace passports, and emergency cash advances or transfers to stranded travelers. (Review the details of passport and credit card coverage.)
- Emergency evacuation coverage ensures the coordination and payment for medically necessary evacuations to obtain appropriate medical care and even returns you to your trip or takes you home after your medical treatment. (Review the details of emergency evacuation coverage.)
- Baggage coverage reimburses you replacement value (with maximum limits for single items) for the stolen items as well as the stolen bag. (Review the details of baggage coverage.)
- Travel delay coverage reimburses you for crucial basic expenses such as rooms, meals, and transportation if your trip is delayed. (Review the details of travel delay coverage.)
- Trip interruption coverage provides reimbursement for the unexpected airfare, lodging and transportation costs associated with abandoning your trip for a covered reason. (Review the details of trip interruption coverage.)
Who should buy backpacker travel insurance?
Travelers like these should purchase backpacker travel insurance:
- Students on camping trips. The medical coverage you have back home doesn’t extend beyond a certain range, and if you are traveling far from home within your own country, you’ll be responsible for a larger portion of the medical care than if you were in the network. If you are going abroad, your health insurance ends at the border – don’t get stuck with a huge medical bill on your trip.
- Families backpacking with children. Just as you carefully prepare for emergencies back home, it’s important to prepare for them when you travel – especially when you are traveling with children. A travel insurance plan can ensure that the kids travel safely home if you are hospitalized, for example.
- Individuals and couples on remote backpacking trips. Traveling in remote regions of the world can put you at risk for being able to get to adequate medical care should you need it. Ensuring that you have a number to call and evacuation coverage can provide a great deal of peace of mind.
When should you buy your backpacker travel insurance?
Purchase your policy just after making your first trip payment. In some situations, this timing is important because some benefits:
- pre-existing medical condition waivers,
- ‘cancel for any reason’, and
- ‘cancel for work reasons’
are only applicable if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days (usually 10-15) from making your initial trip deposit. Plus, you’ll benefit from the longest period of cancellation coverage.
Remember that all travel insurance companies offer a free look period with a refund if you decide the plan is not what you need.
Where should you buy your travel insurance?
We recommend purchasing your travel insurance directly from a third-party company for a number of reasons.
- Buying Travel Insurance from a 3rd party company vs. through a travel agent
- Buying Travel Insurance Directly from the Company vs. Using a Comparison Site
Very briefly, you’ll have more choices and options in your travel insurance plan if you purchase from a third-party company using a comparison tool.
How can you be sure your travel insurance coverage is adequate?
These tips will help you determine whether you have enough coverage.
- 4 Steps to 100% confidence in your travel insurance plan
- Entering $0 Trip Cost is too risky
- Is ‘Cancel for any reason’ worth it?
What is the best travel insurance for backpackers?
We’ve done the research into which plans are best and our recommendations include:
- The important coverages for Backpacker travel
- Our analysis of each plan
- Sample quotes