The Backpacker's Ultimate Guide To Travel Insurance

Posted on 13 September 2017


Author: Ollie Birk

Images: Ollie Birk


The thought of being charged £1000s just for leaving travel insurance on your list of things to do is terrifying. In this article, you’ll get all the information you need to find the right travel insurance plan for you in no more than 10 minutes.

Sound good? Let’s get it started:

The Backpacker's Ultimate Guide To Travel Insurance

Before you consider any type of travel insurance, you must take some precautions to ensure you choose the right one! It is easy, I promise!


  • You may already be covered

Many bank accounts that charge a monthly fee offer a few handy benefits; one of which is often travel insurance. If you believe you apply to this, check your bank account’s terms to see if it applies to your trip. It takes two minutes!


  • Pre-trip illnesses

If you have booked your holiday in advance and have left buying travel insurance in the ‘back burner’ as your holiday isn’t for another 8 months, you’re doing it wrong!

You should buy your travel insurance immediately after booking your holiday as anything can happen regarding your health in the space between now and your holiday. Purchasing the insurance immediately after will allow you to be covered for any issues that may occur before your trip AND cover you for any cancellations. Different insurance companies vary their terms slightly, so be sure to check them out. 

A small add-on to this point is to ensure all medical conditions are declared when you purchase your travel insurance. This is due to travel insurance claims being rejected as people’s medical conditions were not clearly declared when the travel insurance was purchased.

Still with me? Cool!


  • Group Plans

If you are travelling in a group or with a family, you should double check the group/family plan equates to less than if you bought your insurance individually. These companies can be cheeky at times!

An example for clarity:

A couple both aged 40 may purchase a worldwide annual plan with winter sports cover for both for £82, but purchasing two individual plans with the same coverage may cost £46 each which equates to more. This would be a scenario where they would choose the shared plan.


  • Avoid Paying Unnecessary Fees

Companies gain everything from scaring you into purchasing higher level plans for more money. An example may be that a company offers a ‘Platinum Plan’ that covers you for £10m in medical expenses. You will want to stay away from these sort of policies as the average cost for a medical travel insurance claim in 2013 was £930!

Be instinctive guys! Often, buying travel insurance through a reputable agency (such as us here at Peterpan's Adventure Travel) can save you unnecessary fees.


  • For all of you alcohol lovers (all of you?!)

If you have had even just one alcoholic drink and lose an item or have an accident, your insurance usually won’t cover you!

Companies range in their T&C’s. Some may state they won’t cover you if alcohol has affected your decision-making ability and some may be more accurate and state they won’t cover you if you have had four or more pints. We all have different alcohol tolerances so one drink may invalidate a claim. Be careful when drinking… if you are on a skiing holiday, ensure you drink after hitting the slope!


  • Staycation

It can be unclear whether you need travel insurance when travelling in your home country. You should weigh up the pros and cons. Some plans may state that they will only cover you if you have booked accommodation.

There are more restrictions:

Some companies may state that they will only cover you if you are more than 25 miles away from home and have crossed a sea to get to your destination. Some may only cover you if your holiday lasts longer than 3 days. Let’s put this in an easy way… you should always check your terms and conditions for coverage when going on a staycation.


  • Check For Your Best Suited Policy

This brings us to our next section: Types of PlansRead on to understand what policy best suits you!


 Check For Your Best Suited Policy

When you have spent weeks, if not months, planning and booking your holiday, travel insurance can seem like a long-winded process to try and find the right plan for you; deterring you away from purchasing.

This is why we have constructed this article… for your ease!

Let’s get this section kickstarted:


  • Annual Multi-Trip Policies

This policy is designed for multiple trips within a 12 month period which often works out cheaper than buying multiple Single-Trip plans. Here’s the catch: Companies differ in their T&C’s in all aspects, but one you will want to focus on is the number of days your insurance will last.

Who is best suited for this plan?

This policy suits anyone who plans to travel more than 3 times a year. If you are in a group, couple or family, you may want to check out the other plans listed below. Similarly, if you plan to travel for more than two months in one trip, check out the Backpacker’s plan.

What does this plan cover?

Typically, this plan will cover medical, cancellation/delay or loss of luggage issues. You will need to check the T&C’s of the provider you choose as each company varies their terms.


  • Single-Trip Plan

The Single-Trip Plan is specifically designed for anyone who is considering just one trip (pretty self-explanatory I know). Again, if you are in a group, couple or family, you may want to check out the other plans listed below. Similarly, if you plan to travel for more than two months in one trip, check out the Backpacker’s plan.

What does this plan cover?

Usually, the best companies cover any emergency medical issues, legal expenses, lost or stolen property including passport and money and finally any charges incurred if you have to abandon or cancel your trip.


  • Worldwide Plan

This plan is great for people who are travelling outside of their home continent.

What does this plan cover?

Coverage may vary from company to company, but this plan will typically cover all medical emergency costs, cancellations, delays, lost or stolen luggage and more. I know, this topic is tedious. We are almost there!


  • Winter Sports Plan

This will be suitable for any skiing or snowboarding trips. This plan can come as a single-trip or annual form. Some companies will also provide winter sports coverage in their Annual or Single-Trip plans - so you can get it for free!

What does this plan cover?

Typical coverage includes any extra medical expenses incurred when injured during a winter sport.


  • Backpacker Plan

The Backpacker Plan is designed for people who are vacating for longer than 2 months in one trip.


This plan usually allows you to return home in an emergency 3 times for up to 7 days per visit. Medical expenses up to £2 million are normally covered. You may also be covered when participating in sports, too.


  • Family Plan

Usually designed for a family of two adults and a child. If a child is under 18 years old, they may be covered for free when using the family plan. You are usually covered for up to £10m in medical expenses and you may have access to a 24/7 medical emergency line. Be sure to check T&C’s before purchase to view variances.


  • Group Plan

This plan is suited for a group of friends travelling together. You will typically have coverage of up to 10 people with your typical cover of medical expenses, lost or stolen property, and delays/cancellations.


  • Over 65’s

Wooo, the last one!

This plan is quite self-explanatory… aimed at people aged 65+. This plan can be merged with any of the above plans. However, will likely be more expensive as companies typically view a person over the age of 65 to be at higher risk of emergencies.

You will likely have slightly more coverage than a typical plan in regards to medical expenses. When purchasing any travel insurance as a group, remember that the price varies as the company will always take into account the age of the eldest member. So, the price will usually be dictated from that.

 European Health Insurance Card

An EHIC is a free card that you can use to be treated in any EU state-run hospital at the same cost as a local.

Therefore, if a local pays nothing then you pay… you guessed it! NOTHING! Now, is this a firm substitute to travel insurance? Absolutely Not. Travel insurance covers far much more. You get the odd scam website that offers the card for a fee. The fee will likely be somewhere around £25… make sure you do not pay or provide your details and please ensure you report the website!

 Submit your claim as soon as possible

Submit your claim as soon as possible.

If your insurer doesn’t provide coverage for flight delays or cancellations, visit Flight Delay Claims Team.

If it is a medical claim, get your insurer to accept it first.

If it is not a medical emergency, get your insurer to accept it over the phone first so it is less likely to be rejected.

If it is a lost or stolen property claim, contact the police first.

To avoid rejection, you will need a crime reference number or the overseas equivalent. 

Keep your receipts.

If you have a lost or stolen luggage, keep receipts of any food or drink as these expenses can be added onto the claim if proof is provided. 

Complain if you feel your claim was rejected unfairly.

You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman if you feel your claim was dealt with unfairly.

Find Which Travel Insurance Plan Is Best For You

What on earth is travel insurance?

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  • What on earth is travel insurance? 

It's emergency care when things unexpectedly go wrong. Depending on the policy you buy, it can be there for when your luggage is lost by the airline, when you fall hiking, pop an eardrum scuba diving, get a parasite overseas, or need to cancel or cut your trip short because your dad died. It’s designed to be there for accidents (both health and non-health related) and unexpected events you never thought could happen to you. It’s not a substitute for health insurance back home, an open checkbook to supplement your trip expenses, or a license to be foolish.


  • Isn't travel insurance just health insurance? 

No, it’s so much more than that. While there is a medical component for sudden illnesses and accidental injuries, it can also cover you for trip cancellation, trip interruptions, loss or theft of your gear, and emergency transportation should you need to get to the nearest hospital fast.


  • Okay, but it’s like health insurance too, right? I can go see a doctor when I want? 

Travel insurance is not a replacement for health insurance and should not be treated as such. It’s there for unexpected emergencies. Break a leg? Pop an eardrum? Get food poisoning or dengue? Travel insurance has you covered. Want to go see a doctor for a physical or get a new crown on your tooth? You’re on your own!


  • Can I get treated for an illness I already have? 

Most travel insurance plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions. If you get sick on the road, yes, travel insurance is there for you. But if you need medication for an ongoing chronic disease or a medical condition you knew of before you bought the policy, you could be out of luck. Moreover, if you get sick under one policy and then you extend it or start a new policy, most insurers will consider your illness a pre-existing condition and won’t cover it under your new policy.


  • My credit card offers some protection. Isn’t that good enough? 

Credit cards, even the best, offer very limited protection. Some offer coverage for lost or stolen items, medical expenses, and trip cancellation if you booked your trip with the card, but they may not cover you being airlifted home or anything else (always check. You may also not be covered unless you activate the policy before your trip.) And, if they do cover something, the coverage limit may be so low that you might be shocked when you have to pay the difference. Bottom line: don’t rely on credit card coverage for any more than lost or stolen items, and maybe not even that. Unless you have an American Express Platinum… but not all of us roll that deep!


  • How does the insurance actually work? Do they mail me a card I can show the doctor? 

If it’s a major medical emergency needing overnight hospitalization or emergency repatriation, then you (or someone else) would contact the emergency assistance team and they can help make arrangements and approve costs. For all other situations, including day admission to hospital, you need to claim reimbursement from your insurer. You pay out of pocket and then submit documentation to the insurance company after the fact (so no need for a card to show the doctor). Be sure to keep all documentation, file any necessary police reports, and save all receipts. Companies don’t reimburse you based on your word.


  • I read reviews online. All these companies suck. What’s up with that? 

Most people don’t read the fine print of their policy. (Who has ever read their iTunes agreement? Exactly.) People buy it, don’t read the exact wording, and make assumptions about coverage. So, when something goes wrong, they scream bloody murder when something isn’t covered or when lacking supporting documents to support their claim and write a nasty review online. (Most people don’t write good reviews when they are helped. On the Internet, we love to scream our displeasure but rarely our pleasure).


Take online user reviews of insurance companies with a grain of salt. I’ve read them and most of the time, I think, “You didn’t read your policy!” I’m by no means an insurance company defender, but if you’re going in with no documentation, no proof you owned what you lost, or you want to make a claim for something that is specifically excluded on the policy, you should expect to get denied. Is the reimbursement process fun? No. It’s a lot of paperwork, but when you have all your ducks in a row, you get reimbursed. Reviews by users who didn’t read their policy doesn’t mean insurance is a bad idea. It just means people don’t follow instructions.


  • I got drunk and hurt myself. Will I be covered? 

Possibly not. If you are doing something foolish (whether you’re drinking or not), insurance companies will want to know if putting yourself at unnecessary risk led to the injury. If, after investigating, they find you did, they can deny your claim. That’s not to say that they expect you to be sober your entire trip, but let’s just say you’re unlikely to get reimbursed if you’re tanked and decide that it would be a good idea to stand in the middle of the road and play chicken.


  • Does travel insurance cover me in my home country?

Some travel insurance can cover you at home. For example, World Nomads travel insurance covers you either 100 miles from your permanent address (for U.S. residents), outside your home province (if you’re Canadian), or outside your home country (for everyone else). It depends on your policy, and there are always conditions on when the coverage starts and ends and where you can travel to, so check this carefully first.


Lastly, here's some handy tips and pointers to help you on your way. Happy travelling! 

Does travel insurance cover me in my home country? 

Travel Insurance Checklist