Travel Safety: Travel Insurance for Backpacking
It’s often the last thing on our minds when planning a trip abroad, but getting travel insurance is essential to protect you should anything go wrong before or during your holiday.
You might be wondering if it’s really necessary: you’re not the type of person to get into trouble or fall ill. Surely it’s worth the risk when you’re only going away for a short amount of time? You’re still in the planning stages of your trip, researching things to do in each destination, thinking about what to pack, wondering what your hostels will be like. You’re excited and looking forward to your trip; everything is going to plan, and you can’t wait to set off. So – really – do you need travel insurance for Europe – or anywhere else for that matter? Yes, you do. And here’s why.
Why do I need travel insurance?
Have you ever thought about what happens if your flight is delayed or cancelled? If your bags get lost, or someone pinches your wallet containing your money and phone? What about if you become ill while on the road and require travel medical insurance? We don’t like to think about them, but these things are unfortunately quite common. Often they’re out of your control, and costs can mount up quickly if you haven’t thought ahead.
The longer you’re away, the more likely something is to crop up. If your trip is a multi-country adventure – for example a big Europe trip or backpacking South East Asia – it’s even more important as you may be on the move a lot. So, from family emergencies to falling ill whilst away, you’ll avoid unnecessary stress by making sure you’re covered financially. With travel insurance, if you need to visit the hospital while abroad, or if your suitcase never turns up, it’s one less thing to worry about.
When should I get travel insurance?
You should book a travel insurance policy as soon as you’ve booked your trip. Better yet, if you’re planning on several trips throughout the year, you can save costs by taking out an annual policy instead.
Don’t leave it until the night before you depart to buy your travel cover. Take out your policy well in advance – especially if your trip is non-refundable. There’s always a chance you might have to cancel your trip before you’ve left. You might become unwell, have a family emergency or need to start a new job. It’s best to have your travel insurance in place before you book flights too, in case they get cancelled. It’s pretty unlikely that any of this will occur – but if you’ve got your policy sorted, you give yourself more options.
What kind of policies are there?
There are different types of policies that you can take out for your trip. Here are some of the most common types:
- Single trip: Cover runs from the day of taking out the policy to the day you return home from your trip. Can apply to one destination or multiple destinations.
- Multi-trip/Annual: Covers you for a full year of travel, so you can go on multiple trips and not have to arrange insurance each time! Less hassle and often saves you quite a bit of money as well. Be aware that you often have to declare your destinations ahead of time when booking the insurance, so any impromptu trips might not be covered, and you should let your insurer know if you book another one.
- Family/Partner: Often you can get discounted rates if you book a policy for a family or couple travelling together.
What kind of things will I be covered for?
Each insurer varies on what they cover, so make sure you read through the policy detail very carefully before you purchase. Different kinds of trips will require different kinds of cover, but some of the standard things that most insurers will offer some level of cover for are:
- Cancellations and delays – reimbursement for disruption to your travel or accommodation which isn’t your fault. This might include cancelled flights or hotel bookings, delays or your trip being cut short by factors beyond your control (e.g. extreme weather or strikes).
- Medical – reimbursement of fees incurred for emergency medical treatment abroad – for example being admitted to A & E, ambulance transportation or being airlifted.
- Loss or theft of personal items – if your luggage or valuables are lost or stolen whilst away then often you can claim back a partial sum. Many policies do not include cover for this automatically – and if they do there may be a large excess. Always check the small print to make sure you get the best deal!
- Legal fees – if you’re involved in an accident or have to pay legal fees for something which wasn’t your fault.
Things to look out for:
Each policy will clearly set out what you can and can’t claim for, as well as the maximum amount you can claim for per category. Make sure you read this closely. Travel insurance companies often also charge something called an excess. That’s the amount of money you have to pay yourself before the insurer will pay out compensation. For example, if your laptop were stolen whilst abroad, you might put in a claim for £300. If your excess were £100, that would mean the maximum you would get back would be £200.
Often it’s possible to pay a higher fee up front for a zero-excess policy, meaning you would be able to claim for the full amount (as long as it is within the limit of what’s covered). It may be worth comparing prices and paying the extra for this, particularly if you carry a lot of tech or are going away for a long time.
Always be honest when it comes to your health:
Another thing to be aware of is that most insurance policies will only cover emergency medical claims. This means that if you decide to visit the doctor because you had a cold whilst on holiday you won’t be covered. They also won’t cover you for claims relating to an undeclared pre-existing medical condition. So don’t try to bag yourself a cheaper policy by leaving things out of your medical history – this could invalidate your policy.
If you have to go to hospital in an emergency, but it turns out you missed something out when you bought your policy – for example, if you failed to mention you have Asthma – then you won’t be covered either. When you’re going through the process of purchasing your policy you will be asked if you have any medical conditions. You must declare them at this stage, no matter how minor you might feel they are, to avoid invalidating your policy later.
A final thing to check is the types of activities that your policy covers in case of accident or injury. Just because your policy covers treatment for a sprained ankle earned by tripping on a kerb, this doesn’t mean you will be covered for a fall while skiing or rock climbing. Most adventure sports are not covered by a standard policy and you need to pay extra to add on the additional cover.
Step by step process for booking a travel insurance policy
1. Check out some different policies and compare prices, inclusions/exclusions and level of cover. Our selected travel insurance partner is World Nomads, as they provide specialist, comprehensive cover for multi-destination backpacking trips. You can get an instant online quote for your trip. If you need help they have a 24-hour claims line you can call for assistance whilst abroad.
2. Once you’ve decided on a provider, read through all the details of the policy before you buy, carefully noting any exclusions or excess and declaring any medical conditions.
3. After you’ve purchased your insurance, keep a copy of the policy reference number, emergency 24hr telephone number and policy details with you on your travels. You could print them out, or email them to yourself and take a screenshot so that you’ve always got them to hand. Why not note them down in the back of your Euroventure travel pack too!
Remember that you should notify your insurance company of any potential claim within 24 hours and always provide supporting evidence where possible, like receipts, airport lost luggage forms, police reports, and doctor’s notes.
We hope this advice helps you to get the best travel insurance for your Europe trip. If you need more advice on planning a European adventure, travelling on group tours, going it alone or finding accommodation, just check out our planning page. Alternatively, check out our trips or create your own!
We used these sources to put together this guide – feel free to check them out for further details:
Our travel insurance is perfect for European backpacking trips, or worldwide adventures: https://www.euroventure.com/planning/travel-insurance/
Everything there is to know about travel insurance: https://www.moneysupermarket.com/travel-insurance/guide/
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