Why You Need A Good Backpacker Travel Insurance

A good backpacker travel insurance is essential whether you are planning to go on a short term trip or considering long term traveling.

This post is for all those travelers who are wondering whether they need to get insurance for their trip. I could go straight to be point and just say that yes, you do. But I thought I’d instead break down all the reasons why you do, even when your budget is limited.

You see, traveling, and even backpacking, is a lot of fun. I have done my great deal of it. But sure enough, whether I go backpacking or on a more comfortable trip, I always make sure to get a good insurance before stepping out the door.

Yet, I have noticed that there is a dangerous trend in the travelers’ community (and especially among backpackers on a budget), whereby many believe that getting a good backpacking insurance isn’t necessary, and that you are not a real backpacker (but rather, an unsuccessful one) if you do.

Heymondo is my travel insurance of choice and what I recommend using.

heymondo travel insurance

The reasoning is that a backpacker insurance is too costly and likely to be a waste of money; that in most countries prescriptions (including antibiotics) are easily available at the pharmacy; that if something happens you can just go to the emergency room; and anyways the odds of something happening are very low.

This line of reasoning is simply irresponsible. This post will explain what a backpacker travel insurance is for, and the reasons why you need it.

Get a quote for one of the best travel insurance plans around here.

backpacker insurance

What Is A Backpacker Travel Insurance For?

A backpacker insurance is an essential item for a trip overseas, one you realize you need when you have to use it. It’s not an actual object, but the kind of thing you buy hoping you’ll never really need to use it.

It pretty much means hoping for good luck while at the same time knowing that, should something happen – whether you get robbed; you have a family emergency and need to fly home; you get sick and need to be hospitalized; or you have an accident while walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – you have a net of protection and don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to get help.

Nowadays, many companies offer travel insurance, and picking the right one is easier said than done. You need to research and ask questions before deciding which one to buy.

I now use Heymondo and find it to be an excellent travel insurance.

Whichever backpacker travel insurance cover you decide to get, make it a point to read and understand all the conditions of the policy before buying it. I suggest calling the company, browsing the site, and even enquiring with a reliable travel agent who, selling several insurance policies along with tour packages, is bound to be knowledgeable on the subject. A while back Allianz denied my claim for some medical expenses in Peru as they claimed it was a business trip – go and explain them that you are a travel blogger!

heymondo travel insurance

What to look for in a travel insurance

The main characteristics of a good backpacker insurance aren’t much different from those of a regular travel insurance. These are the things which – as a minimum – you should be looking for.

MEDICAL INSURANCE, EMERGENCY MEDICAL AND REPATRIATION – It covers you for things such as accidents, and you will get hospital and doctors’ visits during your trip. It means that you can access a doctor if you break your leg, and even if that traveler’s diarrhea doesn’t go away on its own. Medical repatriation means that if there is no good hospital to assist you nearby, the costs of transferring you to a major one will be covered by the insurance.

PERSONAL ACCIDENT – In the unfortunate case you lose a limb or are left disabled or blind, your insurance will pay you a set amount.

PERSONAL LIABILITY – If, by accident, you cause injury to someone, or cause damage or loss to someone’s property, your backpacker insurance will cover the costs.

BAGGAGE AND PROPERTY INSURANCE –  Your backpacker travel insurance will cover you in case of theft, loss or damage to your luggage (ie if the airline doesn’t deliver your backpack); and even loss or damage to any gear such as smartphone, laptop, camera etc. Keep in mind that most insurance companies will put a limit to the number of items you can insure. If you travel with a lot of electronic gear you need an insurance that covers more than one item.

Visiting the Falkland Islands

TRIP CANCELLATION – A classic of insurance policies, it refers to unexpected interruptions and sudden changes to your travel plans caused by factors such as flights being cancelled or other reasons that stop you from traveling.

When purchasing your insurance, think about the kind of activities you plan on doing during our trip. For example, if you plan to do lots of hiking and adventure sports, you may have to pay a little extra for a sports travel insurance, or for a trekking insurance. If you plan on renting a car every now and then, you may want to get an insurance that also covers for “collision damage waiver excess.”

Make sure that your travel insurance has an emergency number that can be contacted 24/7.

Have you decided to buy a good travel insurance? Click here!

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Are There Things A Backpacker Travel Insurance Won’t Cover?

There certainly are. As already said, most insurances won’t cover things such as extreme sports – for those, you need to look for a specific plan. But there are other things you should not expect to be covered by your insurance. Here they are.

INCIDENTS CAUSED BY USE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL – If you really want to do drugs stay at home where you can be taken care of if anything happens. Similarly, don’t go around getting trashed with alcohol during your trip because incidents caused by abuse of alcohol won’t be covered.

INCIDENTS CAUSED BY RECKLESS DRIVING – Chances are that if you are driving you will be covered by car insurance too. That’s a bonus, because your travel insurance won’t cover you for anything remotely dangerous you may have done while on the wheel.

PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS – Your insurance won’t cover you for chronic diseases or for conditions you had before buying the insurance.

PREGNANCY – Chances are that if you are pregnant you may have to pick a specific plan.

STOLEN CASH – Unless you are on a more comprehensive plan, this isn’t generally included. I realized this was the case when my entire bag, with my wallet and €100 in cash, was stolen in Rome.

VISA ISSUES – If you need to get a visa to enter a specific country but for whatever reason you are refused one and have to cancel your trip, chances are your insurance won’t cover you for that.

CIVIL UNREST THAT DOESN’T REQUIRE EVACUATION – If a government hasn’t started procedures to evacuate its nationals visiting a country that’s going through civil unrest, your insurance won’t cover you for that.

KNOWINGLY TRAVELING TO DANGEROUS PLACES – You won’t be covered if you decide to travel to a place where a natural disaster has just occurred, or where war is raging. You can figure out why.

BREAKING UP – If you cancel a trip you were meant to take with your (now former) partner, your insurance won’t cover you for that.

MEDICAL TOURISM – You can’t claim things such as a nose job or even dentistry you got overseas on your travel insurance.

Now that you know what backpacker insurance is and what it will or will not cover let me explain why you need it.

Already know you want to buy travel insurance? Well done! Just click here.

backpacker travel insurance

12 Reasons To Get A Good Backpacker Travel Insurance

You may get sick during your backpacking trip

I have yet to meet a backpacker that never got sick on the road. Sure enough, I got my good deal of food poisoning (I get food poisoning every time I am in Mexico), throat infections and the like, and every time I am thankful for having an insurance to sort out a doctor’s appointment, get all the tests done, and the necessary prescriptions. More recently, I needed to see the doctor in Peru as my ear hurt after a flight and sure enough I was glad I could claim the money back – the visit costed me more than €150!

You may need prescription medications

Would you go to a pharmacy in your home country and expect to get prescription medications without an actual prescription? I bet you wouldn’t. So why would you do it while traveling? If you have a good insurance, you can call it and have a doctor’s appointment set up so that you can get prescription medications. The insurance will go above and beyond to locate the nearest pharmacy – and all medical expenses will be covered.

Get your travel insurance here.

backpacker insurance
Not a pretty photo: the terrible wound I got in Jordan

You may injure yourself

If you enjoy hiking as much as I do, a good backpacker insurance company that covers for hiking, or even a sport or trekking insurance is necessary. While hiking isn’t dangerous per se, accidents may occur. I was hiking the Jordan Trail when I accidentally wounded myself going through some thick bushes, and my insurance sent me to the nearest clinic to be medicated.

Your precious gear may get stolen

While not all backpackers carry a laptop or a camera, they all carry a smartphone or a tablet. Chances are that you may leave your tablet locked away in your room when you go out; but someone may snatch your phone out of your pocket – yes, even if it is zipped up! In fact, someone may even steal your locked away tablet.

Though you may have saved all your documents and photos in the cloud, what about the actual phone or laptop? A good insurance will cover for it and help you replace it.

Make sure to read all the small print if you want to insure your gear. Allianz refused to reimburse me for the theft of a bag that was not locked in a car or room or lost by the airline.

Get an excellent travel insurance here.

Or you may be the one losing things

Moving from place to place while traveling means you will inevitably lose things. It is not the end of the world if you drop a sock, a headlamp or a book – they can be easily replaced. But what if you lose your passport? Now, that is a nightmare! A good travel insurance usually includes passport loss coverage, which means that you will get help sorting out a new one.

backpacker travel insurance

The airline may lose your backpack

You are just starting your trip. You check in your bags, board your plane, and 12 or more hours later find yourself in a different continent. Pity your bags didn’t make it there: the airline lost your luggage. It’s one of the most annoying things that can happen to travelers.

Chances are that your stuff will be delivered in a day or two (or nine, as it happened to my sister once). But you will still need some clean clothes and toiletries to get by meantime. A good backpacker insurance will cover the costs of replacing your bags and all the items in it.

Colca Canyon

You may want to join a guided trip

There are places you simply won’t be able to visit independently – think Salar de Uyuni, Antartica, etc. When you join a guided group trip, and even more so one that has a high level of adventurous activities, the operator will require to purchase a good travel insurance. That’s when your backpacker travel insurance will come in handy.

Check out my posts How To Travel Alone For The First Time and All The Benefits Of Group Travel.

Or go to countries where it is required

Did you know that there are some countries that will deny you entry unless you show proof of having medical and travel insurance? Make sure to double check whether you can enter the country (or countries) that you are planning to visit, and to get your insurance accordingly.

Get your travel insurance here.

flight on the nazca lines

You may miss your flight

No matter how hard you try to leave nice and early for a flight, you may get stuck in traffic. If that happens, your insurance may be able to cover the costs of the new flight you may need to purchase, and help you get a refund for the missed flight.

In fact, your flight may get cancelled

… and airlines duck out when it happens. Airlines don’t refund tickets when flights are cancelled due to things such as natural disasters, strikes or terrorism attacks. Thankfully a good travel insurance helps sort things out.

You can claim compensation for flight delay or cancellation. Various companies help travelers get their money back in case of a cancellation, and even in case of a long delay, and it’s much much easier to go through them than dealing directly with the airline, having to spend hours on the phone or emailing back and forth to just obtain what is – quite simply – within your rights as a traveler.

backpacking insurance

Just because it hasn’t happened yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t

This is a simple enough principle to understand, yet some still struggle with it so you won’t mind if I share an example.

If your backpacking trip is taking you across Central America, you may wonder whether you need proof of onward travel when crossing borders. Some that have done a similar trip will say it is a legal requirement; others will tell you that although it is a legal requirement, nobody ever checks. The fact that checks are random and don’t happen frequently doesn’t mean that the police officers at the border can’t or won’t check. I was asked to show proof of onward travel when I crossed from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, and from Costa Rica to Panama – and I was sure glad to have it. 

The same principle applies to anything else when you travel: just because it’s never happened to you or anyone you know before, it doesn’t mean it never will. And that’s why you need to have a good insurance.

Get your travel insurance here.

The costs to benefits ratio is – actually – great

Why pay for something that you are hoping you will never use? Because it is not that expensive, and once you think about the cover that even the most basic backpacker travel insurance will provide, then it’s not bad value at all. After all, it’s better to pay a policy that costs a mere $2 USD per day (yes, that cheap!) than having to pay thousands in case something happens.

Your good luck costs just $2 USD a day – totally worth it. And if you don’t have that extra $2 USD per day, then maybe you shouldn’t be traveling altogether. Work for a little longer, save a little more and postpone your trip when you can make sure you can fully afford it in a more responsible, sensible manner – travel insurance included.

travel insurance

So, Which One Is The Best Backpacker Travel Insurance?

There are hundreds of good insurance companies out there. And some that are simply not cooperative (I may have hinted at one here and there in this post). However, researching which is best for your trip may take you weeks. And let’s face it, shopping for travel insurance isn’t exactly fun. I thought I’d outline the best travel insurance companies for your – so that you can make an informed decision.

heymondo backpacker travel insurance

Heymondo

I have recently discovered Heymondo and I now swear by it – they have been nothing short of efficient for me and they have a truly comprehensive coverage that works perfectly for the kind of trips I take! Heymondo has all the best perks that any good travel insurance should have (ie refund for expenses incurred because of trip cancellation or delays; refund for damaged or lost luggage), and more. Let me go into a bit more details:

Heymondo covers travelers from any country in the world – call it equal opportunities!

It also includes full coverage in case you get COVID-19 during your trip. This includes any medical fees incurred due to COVID-19, medically prescribed PCR tests, medical transportation and repatriation, and any expense you may incur into during your trip in case you need top pay for quarantine accommodation. It will also cover in case you need to cancel your trip due to COVID-19.

Visiting the Falkland Islands

Heymondo will also insure you against trip cancellation. That means you can get a refund for the accommodation and transportation costs of your trip if you are forced to cancel (make sure to check the applicable conditions in your policy . these usually include sudden illness, death of a relative, loss of employment etc.).

Another great this about Heymondo is that they cover for long, short-term and annual multi-trip travel – in other words, whether you are spending a few months traveling, or just a weekend away, or are a frequent traveler that plans on taking multiple trips throughout the course of a year, you will find a coverage plans perfect for your needs.

I also love the fact that Heymondo offers the possibility to add coverage for adventure sports, and to protect your electronics – both are extremely important for me as I often go on trips where I hike at an elevation and because of what I do, I always travel with a lot of electronics.

Heymondo Assistance App

Finally, you will also be able to count on Heymondo assistance app, 24 hour medical chat, and free emergency assistance calls – we all know how expensive it can be calling your insurance company from certain countries, so this is definitely a bonus!

Need the cherry on the cake? You don’t need to file a claim for medical expenses with Heymondo – that’s because they will actually pay any medical expenses for you, when you need it (you obviously have to contact them when you require medical assistance).

Get a quote for your Heymondo insurance here.

GREAT NEWS! Heymondo is offering all my readers a 5% discount for any insurance, and that will include COVID-19 coverage.

SafetyWing

I like SafetyWing, a good insurance perfect for people who move around a lot, going from one country to another, carry their job with them and often they don’t know their itinerary in advance.

SafetyWing is a very affordable insurance (it starts at $40 per 4 weeks). It is a combination between a medical insurance for travelers, and an old school travel insurance. SafetyWing doesn’t cover electronics (so it’s better for those who don’t carry too many valuables with them) and extreme adventure sports.

It works like a subscription: you pick a start date and can cancel whenever you want. There is no maximum duration for your trip (so it’s perfect even if you don’t have a return date set) and you can set up monthly auto-renewal so that you can be sure your coverage won’t expire. And instead of paying it all at once for a year (if you are traveling that long) you just pay every month – so you don’t have to shell out a huge chunk of money in one go.

The actual final monthly cost of SafetyWing depends on a number of factors – ie your age and the countries you will be visiting (it’s going to be more expensive if you plan to visit the US). Each quote is personal, so I recommend visiting their website to get a quote for your personal backpacker travel insurance.

One thing I shall point out about claims to SafetyWing is that it works on a $250 USD minimum deductible system. In other words, if you have expenses for less than that, you can still file a claim but you will be credited the money back once you reach the minimum threshold of $250. I filed a claim for medical expenses in October, for around $125 USD. After two full months I received a notice that the claim had been accepted, and I got a credit note (I know, it is awkward).

Salta Argentina

World Nomads

World Nomads is one of the most popular backpacker travel insurance companies, prized for its excellent customer service and for plans that are comprehensive for both long and short term travelers, and for the most adventurous ones. Activities such as hiking, kayaking and even adventure sports such as rafting, climbing and bungee jumping are included. 

For the most classic travelers, World Nomads covers all the basics – emergency medical coverage, including dental expenses; trip cancellations; flight delays; baggage protection; emergency evacuation for medical or other purposes. 

It’s one of the most comprehensive yet also expensive insurance plans around.

Santa Catalina Monastery

World First

This is one of the most budget friendly options in terms of travel insurance, so perfect if your budget is very limited – but it’s also suitable for business trips. It covers a bunch of activities – including more adventurous ones – and medical conditions; and a bunch of other classics classics such as flight delays, baggage loss, gear loss or theft and more.

They are one of the few companies that may cover you even in case of a pre-existing medical condition – so if that’s your case, make sure to check them out.

To compare the prices and policies of up to 20 insurance companies, make sure to check out Insure My Trip. It’s perfect for older travelers too.

backpacker travel insurance

What You Should Do After Buying Your Insurance

Once you finally buy a good travel insurance, there are a few things you should do before you set off for the trip of a lifetime. Here is a quick overview:

  • Make a note of your policy number, your insurance emergency contact number and its e-mail.
  • Download a copy of the policy: keep one for yourself, easily accessible even if you don’t have internet; and share a copy with a family member or your best friend. Keep a copy in the cloud too – just in case!
  • Set up a reminder a couple of weeks before your insurance is meant to expire – the good news is that most year long policies have auto-renewals, so you don’t have to worry about it expiring. 
  • Take photos of any expensive gear – make sure to also include the serial number; and store it in your cloud or Google Drive. Just in case you need to make a claim.

Final Thoughts On Getting A Backpacker Travel Insurance

I suppose you get the idea of how important I think having a good backpacker insurance is. I’ve had to use my travel insurance a bunch of times, and it really helped me. What you need to understand is that life is unpredictable, and even when we want to be optimistic and keep a positive attitude, we can’t foresee the future.

I always hope that I won’t have to make use of my travel insurance, and I sincerely hope you don’t have to use it either. But in case it is necessary, it’s good to have it. It helps me face unexpected emergencies, and it is a responsible thing to get as an adult.

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Discover what you need to know about travel insurance - via @clautavani

2 thoughts on “Why You Need A Good Backpacker Travel Insurance”

  1. Hi Claudia..nice article. You should google Sophie Wilson… my friends girlfriend. She was backpacking in Thailand December 2018 when she dived into a shallow pool at a pool party in a hostel and hit her head, breaking her neck. She was paralysed and her insurance refused to pay out because it said there were warning signs saying No diving. She found herself seriously ill in hospital and her family facing a bill for treatment and repatriation of over £120000. They had to set up a crowd funding page and raised most of it. They surd the insurance company for the money and actually won but it caused a lot of stress. She is still in hospital in the UK and full recovery is unlikely. Shows how important it is to have it but how difficult claims can be because companies will try not to pay out if they can avoid it.

  2. Oh dear, what a sad sad story. And thanks for your comment. You are right, claims aren’t always that straightforward. I hope Sophie manages to recover fully.

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