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How to Buy the Best Travel Insurance
If you’re seeking the best travel insurance for backpackers and solo travellers, you’ve come to the right place.
Sure, finding good quality travel insurance can be dry and boring.
It can also seem like just another expense eating away at your budget.
It’s one of the most important things you can do to before you travel to:
- Ensure you’re protected
- Save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong
- Have peace of mind while you travel
The reality for many travellers is that eventually, something will go wrong on your travels.
Whether it’s getting a broken ankle whilst running after your flight, getting so sick that you need to go to hospital, losing luggage or needing to cancel your trip due to a death back home.
Researching travel insurance can be a pain in the arse…
That’s why I’m going to help you simplify your options and find the best value for money.
In this article, I’m going to share everything that I’ve learned when it comes to booking the best travel insurance as a fellow backpacker / solo traveller.
Why Backpackers & Solo Travellers Need Insurance
Just as accidents happen at home, they can also happen whilst travelling abroad.
If planning to travel the world on a budget, then you’re naturally going to end up taking more risks than you would at home – whether it’s using cheap and potentially unreliable transport or staying in hostels with poor security.
Getting the right travel insurance as a backpacker or solo traveller is even more important than what you pack in your backpack.
What makes accidents scarier and more problematic overseas is that you’re no longer covered by your home Government’s Medical System or private health insurance. Therefore, you can’t just present your Medicare or health care card to pay for your fees.
Instead, any international hospital expenses will need to come entirely out of your own pocket. That is, if you don’t have travel insurance.
Travel insurance provides travellers with a necessary safety net whilst overseas.
This is why I strongly recommend that travellers never leave their home country without travel insurance, especially if going backpacking or travelling solo.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
Although serious injuries are rare, they can still happen.
This is why I believe that it’s always best to be cautious, plan for the worst and be safe, not sorry.
Some of the most common things that travel insurance covers travellers for include:
- Medical emergencies (eg. Hospitalisation)
- Emergency evacuation (due to injury or natural disaster)
- Illness and injury overseas
- Dental emergencies
- Cancelled or delayed flights
- Damaged or stolen gear (eg. Electronics)
- Lost or stolen luggage
- The death of a family member back home
- Trip cancellations (due to unforeseen circumstances or the death of a family member)
- Death oversees (but let’s hope that doesn’t happen…)
Whilst it can kill your vibe and enthusiasm thinking about these things….It’s much better to be aware of them now rather than finding yourself in a life-threatening situation with no cover or support.
I like to think of travel insurance as an all-purpose emergency and accident coverage plan.
What Does Travel Insurance Not Cover?
Although most travel insurance plans cover a lot of things, there are many things that they don’t cover.
This is why it’s important to read the fine print of EVERY travel insurance policy. You can do so by reading their product disclosure statement before you buy.
Yes, this process can be boring as hell…
BUT, I’ve had many occasions where I’ve almost bought a travel insurance policy, but upon reading the fine print, discovered that there were various loopholes which left me uncovered.
While most travel emergencies and injuries are covered by travel insurance, it’s important to be aware of what is not covered by your plan, so you’re not left disappointed.
Some of the most common things that insurance policies for backpackers don’t usually cover include:
- Alcohol and drug-related incidents
- Carelessness or negligence
- Accidents related to driving overseas or hiring a car
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- General doctor check-ups.
- Stolen cash (unless you pay for a more comprehensive plan)
- Changing your mind about your trip
- Accidents incurred whilst participating in extreme adventure sports and activities (Eg. hang-gliding, paragliding, or bungee jumping).
And possibly if:
- Your visa is refused causing you to want to cancel your trip
- Your government has released an alert that a destination is unsafe or dangerous to tourists and you decide to go anyway
- Civil unrest or terrorism makes your destination unsafe but your government hasn’t called for an evacuation, you may not be able to claim evacuation as part of your insurance
The reality is that every travel insurance policy is different and will have exclusions, unless you willingly pay a premium for them.
This is why it’s important to keep an eye out for common exclusions and loopholes.
You should also have a clear understanding of what you NEED to be covered for, and what you could get away without to help narrow down your options.
How to Choose the Best Travel Insurance and Get the Best Value for Money?
A common situation that backpackers and solo travellers find themselves in is that they’ve bought travel insurance, but they bought the CHEAPEST insurance on the market.
Sure, they’ve taken the right first step (buying travel insurance) and feel pleased with themselves for saving a few bucks, but later when they try to call and make a claim, they learn that they’re not covered.
This causes them to FREAK OUT, feeling disappointed, distressed, angry, and extremely stressed.
This is why it’s best to look for VALUE FOR MONEY not the “cheapest” travel insurance available.
In my opinion, it’s always better to pay for insurance with the risk of nothing happening, compared to losing your entire savings because of a life-threatening emergency where you have to pay for everything out of pocket.
Here are the steps I take to find the right travel insurance:
- Get clear on the type and level of cover I need
- Compare, Compare, Compare!
- Focus on value for money NOT the price
- Always take time to read the fine print
1) Get Clear on the Type of Cover You Need
Whether you’ll be backpacking, staying in hotels or doing a cruise, it’s important to know what type of cover you’re likely to need for your trip.
A person backpacking the world for a year is likely to need entirely different travel insurance compared to someone doing a seniors river cruise in Europe for 3 weeks.
The great thing about travel insurance is that there’s a range of different options to suit various needs and budgets.
There’s no point:
- paying top dollar for a plan that is excessive and that you’ll never use, or
- buying an extremely cheap plan that offers little coverage, with the only benefit being saving a few hundred bucks.
You need to find that sweet spot.
A basic travel insurance policy will usually cover you for overseas medical expenses and personal liability. This means that if you get ill, injured or cause harm to someone else whilst overseas, you’ll be covered.
A comprehensive travel insurance policy will usually provide additional coverage to the above, including such things as:
- trip cancellation
- family emergency
- accidental death
- theft, damage or loss of personal belongings & electronic devices (laptops, smart phones & cameras)
Personally, I usually prefer to pay that little bit extra for a comprehensive policy.
That way if I have pre-paid flights, tours or accommodation that I have already paid for, but then I need to cancel due to unforeseen events, I’ll be protected.
You may even want to pay a bit extra to insure certain gear or personal items as part of your policy, eg. Camera equipment.
Depending on the type of policy, you may also need to pay a premium for adventure activities. Whilst other policies will offer adventure cover for no additional cost.
A few things to keep in mind when doing your research…
2) Compare, Compare, Compare!
The greatest thing to do when researching travel insurance options, is to compare as many different policy quotes as possible before making your decision.
Focus on their benefits, flaws and value for money. Also take the time to check out customer reviews.
That way you can feel confident with your final choice.
Sometimes an insurance policy can look awesome, yet after doing some research you discover that there are hundreds of really bad customer testimonials.
There may be recurring problems with claims being approved or processed quickly, or even with getting good customer service.
Now, just to be clear… Having negative reviews doesn’t mean that an insurance provider is all bad.
People tend to leave negative reviews much more frequently than they leave positive ones. Especially when it comes to denied travel claims, people can get very angry, stressed and emotionally charged when writing them. Therefore they lash out.
In some cases, though it’s not actually the insurers fault.
The person simply did not read the fine print or bought the wrong travel insurance to cover for their needs.
My favourite websites for comparing travel insurance are:
- Compare Travel Insurance (AUS)
- Compare the Market (AUS)
3) Focus on Value for Money, Not the Price.
This is probably the most important tip I can give you.
As tempting as it may be, don’t only buy a travel insurance policy because it is the cheapest price or seems to be a bargain.
Sometimes, you’ll notice that different brands have their insurance underwritten by one of the same big insurers including:
- Allianz Australia Insurance Limited
- Chubb Insurance Australia Limited
- Great Lakes, Lloyds of London
- QBE Insurance Limited
- and many more.
Although at first glance they look the same, I can guarantee you that they’re not.
In general, each insurer negotiates their own product policy and chooses what to include or exclude.
Therefore, if you see two policies that are underwritten by the same insurer but are a different price, there’s likely to be a reason.
This is why it’s critical to look for travel insurance that offers you good insurance cover and good value for money.
4) Always Allow Time to Read the Fine Print
Although many of us skip over the lengthy “terms and conditions” disclaimers and tick the “agree” box on many websites, doing this with your travel insurance could land you in big trouble.
Whilst it can be boring, the fine print is often where your insurance provider will include exclusions of loopholes, giving them an out for certain coverage.
This is why you should always read and understand the fine print before making your purchase.
How to Buy Good Travel Insurance – Backpackers & Solo Travellers
I know you’re probably thinking…
“Ok, cool so get travel insurance now, but do I really need it?”
The answer is yes. And always yes.
Travel is unpredictable, even for someone with the most organised itinerary or someone who’s been overseas 50 times.
As a backpacker and solo traveller, you open yourself up to extra risks because:
- You’re constantly on the move and in different locations
- You often rely on small and often local travel providers
- You have limited supplies on you
- You’re often travelling by yourself
- You have a tendency to do more adventure activities
- You’re more open to living with strangers (eg. Airbnb, Work-away, Couchsurfing)
Although we can cross our fingers and hope that nothing bad will happen, we’re not super-human. Things happen.
People get sick.
Bones get broken.
Stuff gets stolen.
Flights get cancelled.
You could be healthy now and have never made an insurance claim in your life, but things can go south very quickly when overseas.
The Best Travel Insurance Companies / Comparison Websites
If you’re wanting to buy travel insurance, then my first recommendation is to jump onto an online insurance comparison website to familiarise yourself with the best travel insurance companies.
If from Australia, some of the comparison sites I use and recommend include:
- Comparetravelinsurance.com.au (Australia)
- Comparethemarket.com.au (Australia)
If you’re a backpacker, adventurous thrill-seeker or solo traveller, I also recommend:
- World Nomads Travel Insurance (World-wide)
World Nomads Travel Insurance is one of the most recommended travel insurance websites by frequent backpackers and bloggers. With 100 different activities covered, World Nomads is the best choice for the active backpacker.
But I’ll transparently disclose that I haven’t personally used their insurance yet.
I am interested in trying them out for my next trip though because:
- The website it easy-to-use and was founded by backpackers, so they have a good idea of what you need and don’t need
- They’re not specific to one country
- They have good customer service (but reviews are a bit mixed)
- Their policies are easy to read and understand
- Their policies are fairly priced
- You have flexibility to change your policy or buy more cover if your travel plans change
- They are backed by a group of trusted and reliable insurers around the world.
- They’ve tailored their insurance for people who love solo travelling, backpacking and doing action sports (like hiking, rock climbing, bungy jumping, scuba diving, etc)
- They’re suitable for long term travellers and for short trips
One I use them, I’ll ensure to give you all the low down.
The insurance that I used for my big one-year trip through Africa, the Middle East and Asia was with CGU, and I got it through my bank.
If you’d like to check them out, you can visit their website below:
– World Nomads Travel Insurance
So, there you have it…
I hope that this has given you a simple guide into travel insurance for backpackers & solo travellers and how to buy it.
The Best Travel Insurance for Australians, Backpackers & Solo Travellers.
In summary, within this article we spoke about:
- Why backpackers & solo travellers need insurance
- What travel insurance covers
- What travel insurance does not cover
- How to buy good travel insurance – for backpackers & solo travellers
- The best travel insurance companies & comparison sites
If you have any further questions that I didn’t answer, feel free to send me a message and I’ll do my best to help you.