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Get the right travel insurance for you
As a backpacker, you're likely to be away for an extended period of time, so you need to check your travel insurance policy covers you for the full duration of your trip.
While most standard travel policies restrict the length of the trip to just 30 days, the good news is, many insurers now cater for the “adventurous traveller” market, offering dedicated student travel insurance or backpacker/gap year cover. So-called “long trip” travel insurance policies will usually offer you continuous comprehensive cover for breaks from three months up to a year - and some will cover you for even longer.
As a backpacker, you need to be aware that relying on the annual family travel insurance policy may not be sufficient, as this may not provide adequate cover for the activities you want to engage in, or the destinations you want to visit.
Equally, don't make the mistake of thinking the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover the costs of you getting home if you fall ill - or that the UK government will pick up the bill if something goes wrong. The key is to shop around on a comparison site to see how the various dedicated backpacker insurance policies on offer stack up, as costs and deals will vary considerably.
And remember, that while cheap cover may seem appealing, you must check the policy offers the right level of cover for your needs.
At TravelSupermarket we recommend the following levels of cover as a minimum:
There are a number of features to consider when buying backpacker travel insurance, so make sure you compare policies carefully before you buy ...
When choosing a gap year travel insurance policy, the most important features to look for are medical treatment, repatriation and cancellation in case you fall ill and are unable to go on travelling.
Additional features to look out for include 24-hour emergency service and assistance, personal liability cover in case you are sued for causing injury or damaging property, and baggage cover. On top of this, it's important to check that all the destinations that you are travelling to - or through - are covered.
You should also ensure the policy offers cover for replacing items such as smartphones, tablets and laptops - and you should find out if there is a valuables limit.
A little research at the outset will mean you can relax and enjoy your travels safe in the knowledge that you are well protected.
What are the benefits of being covered should you run into trouble?
If you're on a gap year or extended break away and run into difficulty, your backpacker travel insurance will act as a safety net - giving you the assistance and help you need to get you back on your feet. You might, for example, need to claim on your travel insurance if you catch a stomach bug and get taken to hospital, or if you get seriously ill, and need to be repatriated back to the UK.
Put simply, a comprehensive gap year policy will give you the peace of mind of knowing you can enjoy your trip-of-a-lifetime without having to worry about what will happen should anything go wrong.
Reading your policy and being aware of the terms and conditions will help you avoid problems when away on your backpacking trip...
If you're planning on heading to far-flung destinations across the globe, it's vital to do your research, as if you go to an area which the Foreign Office has advised against travelling to because it's experiencing social or political unrest, your backpacker policy is unlikely to be valid. Keep a close eye on the Foreign Office website at all times.
How to stay safe and avoid invalidating your insurance
• Tread carefully if you're thinking about working while you're on your gap year, as your policy may not cover you for the work you want to do. For example, if you take a job on a cattle station and start using farm machinery, you may not be covered should anything go wrong; the same may apply if you take a construction job, as you may not be covered for manual labour.
• Take care when agreeing to take part in adventurous sports such as quad biking, bungee jumping or white-water rafting, as certain activities may be excluded from your policy.
• Be aware that if an incident occurs while you are under the influence of alcohol - or drugs - your claim could be refused.
• The key is to ask questions about the policy upfront so you are clear about what you are and are not covered for - helping you to stay safe throughout your travels.
The classic backpacker trip is the round-the-world adventure, likely to involve an extended stay in Australia or New Zealand. But where else could you go?
There are a huge range of destinations to pick from for your trip. Here are five great ideas for backpacker trips.
1. An Antipodean Adventure - travel around two of the world's most iconic countries visiting sights as diverse as the glaciers and fjords of South Island in New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Travel the outback and get up close to hot gushing geysers. And, of course, you can visit iconic cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Perth.
2. South America - this huge continent provides a great opportunity for a backpacker trip. Explore the contrasts of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, along with Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia. There is real diversity of scenery and climate, flora and fauna, culture and history to give you a richly rewarding trip.
3. Far East - from ultra-modern Japan and South Korea to fast developing Cambodia, Laos and Burma, the Far East offers a real feast of countries. Thailand is a must for many, with its famous full moon parties. Malaysia is great for exploring and, of course, the huge expanse of China and India leaves plenty of places to discover.
4. North America - the USA and Canada are easy to explore on a backpacker trip. Both are huge countries with east and west coasts and interiors that stretch for thousands of miles. You can combine cities with national parks, the wilderness of remote countryside with urban sprawl, modern day life with old ways of living, such as the Amish and Native Americans.
5. Africa - While some countries remain challenging to visit, the continent is really opening up and offers some of the most rewarding and contrasting destinations. From first world South Africa to ancient Egyptian history, from rainforests and wildlife to deserted beaches and developing cities.
However you plan to travel away on your backpacker trip, make sure you read our round-the-world guides and advice, and compare policies to ensure you've got the right cover for you.