Be safe and not sorry.

It’s a huge risk going on a gap year without taking out appropriate and comprehensive travel insurance.  When you’re exploring the world you just never know what’s around the corner and although taking out insurance may seem like an unnecessary cost, it’s a lot cheaper than having to replace stolen items or fork out for expensive medical bills.

Gap year breaks can be fantastic adventures with many students travelling to Europe, Asia, America or elsewhere on long trips for periods of between 31 days and 18 months. However with some far flung destinations health and safety standards tend to be low. Students also tend to stay in hostels or shared accommodation, both places which make them more likely to be the victims of crime and casual theft. So for peace of mind and to enjoy a worry free trip it’s vital that you have a comprehensive backpacker travel insurance policy in place before you set off. This way if anything bad or unexpected were to happen to you then at least you have the reassurance that help is close at hand.

Remember your travel insurance policy should cover you no matter how many countries you want to visit or activities you plan on taking part in.

Below are some tips that will assist you on getting the right kind of policy so that you can fully enjoy and make the most of your year abroad.

Things you need to decide on before looking for insurance

  • How long will you be going abroad for.
  • Which countries will you be visiting.
  • Will you be doing any paid or voluntary work whilst abroad.
  • Do you plan on coming back home for short periods (i.e. for Christmas or family weddings).
  • Are you planning on being involved in any thrill seeking activities or extreme sports such as parachuting or bungee jumping.

Only once you have a rough idea of your exact plans can you start to look for the right kind of insurance cover.

Gap year insurance should cover:

  • Your medical expenses if you were to become ill.
  • Your belongings if they are lost, damaged or stolen (including cash).
  • Wok activities (If you decide to work whilst abroad).
  • Cancellations (this includes if you have to cancel your trip).
  • Legal expense bills (including for wrongful arrest).
  • Personal accidents (which will pay out for death or permanent disability).
  • A wide variety of sports activities.

The insurance should also cover you for

  • Spur of the moment sporting and ‘risky’ activities (these are ones that are not pre-planned or booked).
  • Bereavement travel costs.
  • Travel provider failure.

Working abroad during your gap year
Your policy should cover you for any paid or volunteer work that you do in foreign lands, for instance:

  • Manual work
  • Bar work
  • Au pair
  • Teaching
  • Fruit picking

Coming home during your gap year
Some people may want to return home for a short period and then fly back to continue their gap year. Reasons for this can be becoming homesick or wanting to be with family over Christmas. As this means you will be travelling abroad twice it’s important that you find out if your insurance policy covers you for more than one trip abroad. Many insurance companies do allow this, they simply put your cover on standby until you return to your destination. However you should always confirm that this will be the case.

Your insurance company’s contact details
Make a note of your insurance company, policy number and their 24-hour international emergency telephone number. Keep it handy and in a place where you can easily find it (i.e. save it in your mobile phone). It may also be a good idea to give them to your family or close friend as well.

Alcohol and drugs
If in the unfortunate event that something goes wrong and you have to make an insurance claim, you should be aware that your insurance policy could be invalidated if you are deemed to have been  under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Read the policy small print and look carefully at what you’re NOT covered for.

Insurance Documents
Make sure you keep a copy of your insurance policy in a easy to reach place. You can keep them in paper form or saved in a flash drive. A good tip is to take two copies, leave one at home and take one with you.  Another option is to scan the paperwork and save it on your computer and then send it to yourself as an email (this way you can access it over the internet from anywhere in the world).

Receipts and bills
Whilst abroad try to keep any relevant receipts or important paperwork such as tickets, medical bills, Police reports, etc. All of these come in handy in the event of you having to make a claim.

If you have to cancel the trip
If you can’t go on your trip at the last minute because you are sick or injured, your insurance should pay for your flight and any other cost that you may not get back from the Tour Organiser. Check your policy to see if you are covered for this.

Pre existing medical conditions
If you have any current or pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to disclose these to your insurer. If you don’t then it could invalidate your policy and affect any future claims you make.

Countries the Government advises not travelling to
If you are going to a country or area which the FCO advises against travelling to, then it’s important that you double check and make sure your travel insurance will cover you there. Click on this link for the latest travel advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Valuable items
Declare and get extra cover for any valuable items you are taking with you such as expensive watches, cameras or laptops.


Related links
Backpackers travel insurance
Student travel insurance
Student travel
Study abroad insurance