What does travel insurance cover?

Every policy varies in how much you can claim, what you’re covered for and how much excess you’ll pay. This is why you need to spend the time now checking exactly what’s included, and this includes the small print. Read it, know it, and get your parents to check it too. The majority of travel insurance policies cover emergency medical expenses, lost or stolen bags, costs caused by cancellations, and personal liability.

If you want to ski, bungee jump or take part in any other extreme sport considered ‘dangerous’, you will usually need to pay for extra cover. In the incredibly unlikely event that you die, most policies will cover repatriation costs. Many policies won’t cover travellers for acts of terrorism and natural disasters, like earthquakes.

Personal belongings

You should be covered for any cost associated with your belongings being lost, damaged or stolen. This includes your passport, camera, phone, money and luggage. This aspect of cover usually has an upper limit on the total amount you can claim per item, so make sure you individually name anything that’s expensive.

Medical expenses

If you’re taken ill or involved in an accident while you’re away, you should be covered for medical treatment, hospital stays, any additional accommodation required, travel costs and emergency flights home.

Delays and cancellations

You should be able to reclaim the cost of your trip if an operator cancels it (that includes airlines cancelling flights that were due to get you there). Similarly, if a delay causes you to miss a connecting flight, you should be covered for any associated costs, which might include an unexpected hotel stay, or a new flight.

Personal liability

This covers you if you injure someone, like on the ski slopes, or damage their property and are subsequently sued. It may also include legal expenses if you need to take action against a third party.

How much does travel insurance cost?

Travel insurance is cheaper than many people assume, though the exact cost will depend on where you want to go and what you want to do. If you’re travelling to a single country for a week or two and don’t plan to do anything out the ordinary, it’ll cost something like £10-20. Check out World Nomads , who insure independent travellers from more than 130 countries.

If you’re off for a whole year, travelling across different continents and doing lots of adventure activities (in other words, a ‘typical’ gap year), you’ll be looking at something like £300. But that will cover you for literally £millions and every eventuality, so it’s definitely worth it.

What’s the best backpacker insurance?

Some companies are particularly good for backpacking travel insurance, in that they offer the best rates on the types of adventurous trips gappers are prone to take, and associated activities.

We recommend using World Nomads, who insure independent travellers from more than 130 countries. Whatever backpacker insurance you choose, make sure you read the small print to see exactly what you’re covered for and how much your excess is.

Is travel insurance compulsory?

It can be. Some countries won’t allow you to enter unless you can show proof of medical insurance – these include Cuba and the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is a part). Other countries require you to have medical insurance if you are visiting on a long-stay visa (think months rather than weeks).

Most tour companies who run trips abroad will insist on seeing proof of your travel insurance, and won’t allow you on the tour if you can’t provide it.

How do I claim back on travel insurance?

It’s possible that you might need to make a claim while you’re still travelling, for example if your bag gets stolen halfway through your trip. Therefore, it’s really important to know exactly how to get in touch with your insurer (like what number to ring) and to be able to tell them your insurance policy number.

It’s a good idea to have these details in a physical document in your bag, though that won’t be much good if the above example occurs, so for backup, make sure you email the relevant information to yourself too.

How to make a claim for lost or stolen luggage

The first thing to note is that you’ll need to have taken reasonable care of your property to be able to make a claim. In other words, no insurance company is going to reimburse you for a bag that’s gone missing after you forgot to carry it from the street to your hotel room. The insurer will also want to see a police report or crime reference number, so it’s important you report any stolen property to the authorities as soon as you realise it’s missing. Make sure you keep receipts for any essential items you’ve had to purchase, like toiletries and clothes, as they’ll act as evidence for whatever you claim back.

How to make a claim for a medical emergency

If you require medical attention, you should contact your insurer immediately to make sure they agree to cover whatever treatment you need. In a serious emergency – for example, if you are unconscious – this obviously won’t be possible, and the insurer will understand that. It’s important to keep hold of any medical receipts, including for prescriptions, as these will be used as evidence for any claim you ultimately make.

It’s worth keeping in mind that if you didn’t tell your insurer about a pre-existing health condition while you were taking your policy out, your claim might be voided, so be honest!

How to make a claim for a cancellation

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances can result in a cancellation, whether that’s a single flight or a whole trip. If the cancellation isn’t your fault, like if an airline cancels a flight you’ve already paid for, this won’t be a problem to claim back.

If the cancellation is down to personal circumstances, you can still often make a successful claim, but it will depend on the reason. Valid reasons might include: sudden illness, unexpected damage to your home, redundancy, pregnancy and jury service.

Travel insurance tips and checklist

As well as taking into account all of the above, check out our other top tips for getting your travel insurance right. We realise there is a lot to take in, but this is a super-important aspect of your trip!

  • Stick to your limits: Check your policy to see how much you can claim for each thing (medical treatment, lost luggage etc.), as this can save you a lot of time. Your coverage for medical treatment will be significantly higher than for your personal belongings.
  • Know the exclusions: Make sure you’re aware of the things that could make your claim void. For example, most policies won’t cover medical treatment for injuries sustained while drunk, or doing adventurous sports which you haven’t declared you’ll be doing.
  • Remember the excess: Most insurance policies – travel or not – include some sort of excess payment that you will be expected to cover. For example, if the excess is £100, and you claim £500, the insurance company will only pay £400.
  • More information is best: The more information you make available, the easier it is for the insurer to approve your claim and the quicker you’ll be reimbursed. Always keep receipts, doctors records and police reports for evidence to support your claim.
  • Get several quotes: The best quote for you will depend on the exact nature of your trip, so make sure you get quotes from a few different insurers to compare and get the best deal. It’s sometimes easier to phone rather than fill in forms online.
  • Get an extendable policy: If you’re travelling for a long or indeterminate amount of time, make sure you have the option to extend your policy to cover you for your entire trip. Not all insurers will allow this, so make sure you ask before committing.
  • Read the small print: Seriously. We know it’s boring, but the more knowledge you have about your policy, the more power you have if and when you come to make a claim. Keep a sharp eye out particularly for clauses which would render your policy void.
  • Make sure you’re fully covered: This is especially important for the personal belongings aspect of your policy. Being covered for up to £5000 might look like more than enough, but not if your camera and all its accessories are worth £6000.
  • Tell the truth: Don’t be tempted to make a fraudulent claim. It’s not fair on other backpackers, as it ultimately raises premiums for everyone, and if you get caught you could be in serious trouble.

Better safe than sorry: If you think you might do some extreme sports, or visit a certain country that’s a bit volatile but you’re not sure, then just assume you will do these things when taking out your policy. It’s best to cover all potential bases.

Gapyear.com recommend using World Nomads, who insure independent travellers from more than 130 countries.