Q&A: Gap year and backpacking insurance

Going on a gap year? Whether you’re a student or taking a career break, you need the right insurance.

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Gap year and backpacker holidays are hugely popular, and not just among students.

People well into their careers are deciding to take a substantial break from routine and head off to far flung corners of the earth.

Along with the right jabs and visas, insurance is essential. And because of the length of a backpacker holiday, and the type of activities and destinations involved, you need a specialist insurance policy.

So here’s a Q&A session to bring you up to speed with what cover to buy if you’re feeling the lure of a gap year adventure.

1. I’m going on a gap year. What sort of insurance do I need?

There are three main types of travel insurance – single trip, annual multi-trip and backpacker/gap year.

Both single and multi-trip policies limit the number of days – usually 30 – that you can spend abroad on any single trip, making a backpacker policy essential.

2. What about extended single trip cover?

Yes, you can buy extended single trip cover, but these policies are designed for people taking extended cruises or perhaps staying in one country for several months (such as wintering in Spain).

They don’t have the duration or breadth of cover needed by someone on a gap year.

3. How long does a backpacker policy last?

You normally buy cover for 6 or 12 months, though some insurers will stretch to 18 or 24 months.

You should arrange your insurance to start as soon as you book any flights or accommodation, not to coincide with your departure date.

This will mean you have cancellation cover, so that if something happens to prevent you going – such as you or a family member falling ill – you’ll be reimbursed for any losses.

Most policies allow you to extend the cover, perhaps a month at a time, if your trip lasts longer than expected.

4. Do I have to tell the insurer where I’m going?

Yes, but only to the extent that they want to know if you’re going to be limiting your travels to Europe, or will be going what they call ‘Worldwide’. As you’d expect, worldwide cover is more expensive.

Some insurers also offer more tailored policies – so if you’re only going to be travelling around Australia, for example, you can buy a policy designed for that destination.

You should avoid areas/countries listed by the Foreign Office as unsafe for travel, as your policy won’t be active while you’re in those locations.

You should also check the policy literature for any requirements it might have in terms of inoculations and vaccinations – you might only be covered if you’ve had your jabs.

5. What about coming home during my year away, maybe for Christmas?

Again, check the policy details before you buy. Some policies only allow one trip home during the term of the policy, while others are more flexible.

6. Are there restrictions on what I can do while I’m away?

Yes – and it’s important to familiarise yourself with what these are before you go.

First, check what the policy says about adventure sports and hazardous activities. For example, it might exclude the likes of bungee-jumping, potholing, rugby or horse-riding.

Equally, you might only be covered when riding a scooter if you wear a helmet.

If you know you’re going to be undertaking adventure sports, you can buy appropriate insurance, but it will cost you more. Winter sports is a good example.

Second, if you’re planning on working while you’re away – either for money or as a volunteer – check whether there are any exclusions or conditions.

For example, hazardous work might be excluded, such as that requiring safety equipment or supervision. Work involving lifting heavy loads might also be excluded.

7. What else should I bear in mind when getting my cover?

Remember to disclose any medical conditions in full for every person travelling. If you don’t answer every question completely and honestly, you risk not having any claims paid.

You’ll have to make your own mind up about what you take with you in terms of expensive gadgets such as a phone, tablet, laptop or camera.

Most policies have a maximum amount you can claim for your possessions if they’re lost or stolen and, beyond that, there’ll be a limit on how much you can claim for any single item.

So, for example, you might have possessions cover of £2,000 and a ‘single item limit’ of £150.

Bear in mind there will be an ‘excess’ to pay if you make a claim. This is a cash amount that will be knocked off the value of the claim – so if you claim £300 and the policy has a £50 excess, you’ll only receive £250.

One final thing

Don’t forget to take the insurance company’s contact number and web details with you in case you want to change your policy while you’re away – perhaps pertaining to working or adventure sports.

You should definitely have a number to call in case you need to make a claim. All the relevant information should be on the policy documents and on the company’s website.

There should also be a 24/7/365 contact number in case you need advice while you’re away.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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