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The First Freedom Holiday – a guide to backpacking insurance

Many students now opt to take a gap year and go travelling – and backpacking is a wonderful way of getting a magnificent view of the world. Insurance is no doubt a very boring thought in midst of the excitement of what is probably the biggest adventure so far. However, insurance is vital and must not be overlooked. Once the insurance is in place, you can look forward to trip without needing to worry about any major difficulties arising. First off, don't automatically purchase your insurance from the company you are buying your travel tickets from, shop around first.

Travel location

When you look to take out insurance you will be asked where you are travelling – Europe, Australia and New Zealand, worldwide (excluding the US and Canada) or worldwide (including the US and Canada). Age is the next key factor when taking out backpacker insurance as many of the companies who provide such cover will only offer it to those aged up to 35 or 40 years old (obviously considering over 40's too old to backpack!) – Although you can find this cover for up to 65's if you shop around. You are probably not intending to take your granny, so this perhaps not relevant for you!

Length of trip

The main benefit of backpacking insurance is the length of time it covers. Most policies insure you for anywhere between 3 and 18 months. Long-term travel is often associated with travelling on a budget and as such many policies allow for customisation, such as excluding money and personal effects cover or paying a lower premium for higher excess. However, take professional advice as to what you include and what you leave out in your insurance policy as the decision you make is important. Call Westhill Insurance Services, their team of knowledgeable advisors will listen to your travel plans and can offer the best type of insurance to suit you. You can explain what your holiday entails – working, or not, etc and the best solution to fir your holiday – and your pocket – can then be worked out.

Extreme sports

Backpacking is often also associated with trying out new, exciting and often dangerous activities such as bungee jumping and sky diving and many policies cater for a number of these. However, make sure what exactly is included before you buy your insurance – you may need to spend a bit more to get certain activities covered. Don't – whatever you do – be tempted to indulge in any extreme or dangerous sports for which you are not covered. Specific rules also apply to winter sports and cover is usually supplied as an added extra. If you are going skiing or snowboarding, make sure you are covered for these.

Dangerous and remote areas

Certain countries will be considered 'off the map' when it comes to insurance. These are usually those mentioned by the Foreign Office as not suitable for travel – so if you are intending to visit a country which has recently experience unrest or is politically volatile, call the Foreign Office first before committing to visit this country and take their advice. Your insurance company can also offer advice.

Backpacking is about adventure and the ability to go off the beaten track. If you are planning to go to a remote area then try and obtain Search and Rescue cover on your insurance policy. It is not guaranteed and you may not find yourself covered for treatment until you are in a hospital bed – but some companies do include the cost of emergency medical care – so check before you leave on your travels.

I don't want to go home yet.....

Life may overtake you for a while and you may wish to remain on the road for longer than you planned. Check how easy it is to extend the life of your insurance policy before you leave home. No matter what, beware cheap insurance cover – you pay for what you get and no matter how budget-conscious you have to be, make sure you have the best insurance possible for your purse. Look for a policy which covers the plans you are making – don't buy a policy simply because it is cheap.

.......but I need to work to stay on!

Many backpackers need to combine travelling with work as a means of being able to stay on the road longer. If this is the case, then check your policy comes with cork cover on top of the other benefits it covers. There are not many insurance providers who will cover you for working abroad (or even for volunteering work) but there are some and it is good to try and include these options before you leave home. Whatever, if you are even thinking about the possibility of working whilst travelling, tell your insurers before you leave – it is better to know whether you are covered or not and perhaps adjust your plans accordingly.

Keep your belonging safe

Your backpack is going to become your portable home. Most youth hostels have shared rooms and may not have the highest level of security available. Keep all your essential items (passport, travel documents and medication) with you at all times and keep copies of all your documents separate and in a safe place.

As a young person – even travelling in a group – you are at a higher risk than usual of being mugged, especially if travelling in remote areas. Makes sure your policy covers that eventuality and never carry all your cash with you if you can avoid this. Check every policy carefully and be sure of your itinerary before you leave so that you have covered off as many possible problems as you can. To make sure you haven't overlooked anything, call Westhill Insurance Services and discuss your budget and your travel plans, get all your insurance needs sorted out - and have a wonderful time. Bon voyage!

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 19th June, 2011