Backpacker Travel Insurance

Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney


While backpacking is an awesome (and affordable) way to see the world and immerse yourself in the local culture, it is not without its risks. While we never like to think that anything bad will happen to us during our travels, the fact is that travelers get injured or fall unexpectedly ill, every day. More still experience the hassles of canceled or delayed flights and lost luggage. When the unthinkable happens, you want to make sure that you are protected, and that's where backpackers travel insurance comes in.

What is Backpacker Travel Insurance

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Backpackers travel insurance is a particular type of travel insurance that covers more risks than regular travel insurance policies do. For instance, it not only covers you for medical expenses, but it also covers you for things such as lost baggage and personal liability should you cause damage to someone else's property or injure another person accidentally. It is also valid in a number of countries and can last for up to a year.

Why You Need Backpackers Travel Insurance

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Backpacking, while economical, is an inherently risky method of travel; much riskier than driving, taking a train, or flying from region to region. You will be hiking across fields and meadows, have to climb over obstacles, and walk along busy highways. You will sleep in remote areas and might find yourself having to bed down in seedy establishments. And if you engage in high-risk activities such as rock climbing, whitewater rafting, cave diving, or skydiving, you put yourself at a greater risk still for becoming injured.

While it's not exciting to think about, backpackers travel insurance offers you the type of protection you need the most, so if the unexpected does happen, you don't have to worry about huge medical bills or eating the cost of that expensive laptop that got lost on the flight from Frankfurt to Nairobi.

What is the Difference Between Backpackers Travel Insurance and Travel Insurance?

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The difference between the two policy types is the length of coverage. While most travel insurance policies offer some of the same benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption coverage as well as medical coverage, they don't last as long. They typically cover you for a short duration, while backpackers insurance covers you for a year to a year and a half. Since one trip may span a number of countries and last for six months or more, backpackers insurance lets you take your time in exploring the world without having to worry about whether or not you are still protected.

What Does Backpacker Insurance Cover?

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Backpacker coverage is designed to be very affordable. Because of this, it's enough to cover you if really bad things happen while you're away but not much more than that. It's the trade-off for relatively cheap premiums. Here is what is covered under most plans:

  1. 1
    Trip cancellation or interruption
    Under certain restrictions as spelled out in the policy, trip cancellation recoups travel related expenses such as the cost of airline tickets, car rentals, and hotel stays. Interruption reimburses you for the costs of the remainder of your trip should you need to cut it short and return home. Since what is considered a coverable loss varies from insurer to insurer, make sure you read the policy carefully to find out what the conditions of coverage are before you buy.
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  2. 2
    Emergency medical costs and travel back home if medically necessary
    Emergency medical coverage takes care of your expenses should become seriously ill or suffer a serious injury while abroad. It will also cover your expenses to return home, should a doctor believe it is medically advisable.
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  3. 3
    Missed or delayed departure
    Missed or delayed departure covers your expenses should you miss your flight or if it is delayed.
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  4. 4
    Personal disability
    Personal disability covers you in the event that you come partially or totally disabled. Some plans include it in their basic coverages while some require you to add it on as a rider for an additional premium.
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  5. 5
    Lost baggage and stolen items
    Lost baggage coverage protects you against the airline losing your luggage, and stolen items refer to protection against theft. There are strict limits on these coverages, so be sure you know what is covered and the dollar value of your coverage. For expensive items such as laptops, you may want to purchase additional coverage specifically for that item.
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  6. 6
    Personal liability
    Personal liability covers your liability should you damage someone else's property or injure someone by accident.
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About Pre-existing Conditions

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Because they are so cheap, backpacker insurance plans have strict exclusions for pre-existing conditions and will not cover them. In fact, you will have a tough time finding an insurer who will issue you a backpacker insurance policy. Some insurers will cover you if you have a pre-existing condition, but you will need to purchase additional coverage for it, and you will likely have to pay a higher deductible. It is very important that you disclose a pre-existing condition on your insurance application or you risk having your coverage rescinded if you make a claim for care because of the undisclosed condition.

About Extreme Sports

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Since many backpackers are also adrenaline junkies, many backpackers insurance policies also cover some riskier activities, such as rock climbing or bungee jumping under the basic policy. However, what is covered and what is not varies from insurer to insurer, so be sure to check into the specifics before you purchase the insurance. If your sport or activity isn't covered under the main policy, you may be able to purchase coverage for it as a rider policy.

Where Can You Find the Best Rates?

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The best place to shop for backpacker travel insurance is online. Simply type in the words "backpacker travel insurance" into your favorite search engine and hit enter (or return if you're on a Mac). That search will return hundreds of results, but don't just pick one at random or choose the cheapest one. Specifically, make sure that the policy:

  • Provides adequate protection (has policy limits of at least $1,000,000)
  • Provides coverage, either through a policy rider as an included benefit, for valuables, such as laptops)
  • Covers you for all of your activities, including any extreme sports

Where Can You Buy Backpackers Travel Insurance?

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There are a number of companies that offer backpacker-specific policies. A quick online search should bring up a list of companies offering this service. To assist you along in your search, the following companies offer backpackers travel insurance:

  • STA (
  • World Nomads (,
  • Atlas Travel (

How to Make a Claim Under Backpackers Travel Insurance

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Should the worst happen and you find yourself needing to make a claim under your backpacker's insurance policy, follow the steps below:

  1. 1
    Gather your information together
    Make sure that whoever is traveling with you knows where your paperwork is in the event that you become incapacitated.
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  2. 2
    Make a police report if you are making a claim for stolen items
    One of the most important things you can do to speed along the processing of your claim is to make a police report about the theft. Many insurance companies require this for stolen items claims, anyway.
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  3. 3
    Call your insurer's claims phone number
    Most insurers will have a 24-hour phone number to call if you need to make a claim. The customer service agent will be able to take down the particulars and open a claim on your behalf.
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  • Report any pre-existing conditions on your insurance application
  • Make sure that all activities, including extreme sports, that you are likely to be engaged in are covered
  • Make two copies of your policy and leave one with friends or family back home and keep the other apart from the original in case you lose it.
  • For medical claims, know whether or not your insurance provider will pay the hospital directly or will reimburse you after you have paid the bill. If at all possible, try to get a policy that offers direct billing.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


Article Info

Categories : Travel & Leisure

Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw

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