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Travel insurance for South America

Rebecca Goodman
Written by  Rebecca Goodman
5 min read
Updated: 21 Mar 2024

The opportunities are endless when travelling to South America, from vibrant cities to tropical rainforests with plenty of ancient ruins and sandy beaches along the way. South America travel insurance is vital if you want to protect yourself while you’re away, from potential medical costs, and your belongings from damage, theft or loss. 

Compare travel insurance for South America 

If you have a trip booked to South America, you’re probably planning on visiting some of the continent’s famous sites.  

The Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and the Iguazu Falls could be on your list as well as trekking in Patagonia, samba dancing in Rio, touring Argentina’s vineyards, or visiting the Amazon rainforest. 

Wherever you’re going, and whatever trip you have planned, it’s important to get travel insurance. It protects you if something goes wrong such as an accident while you’re away.  

But the protection actually starts as soon as you buy the policy. It’s important to make sure you have the cover in place when you book your trip as you’ll then be covered if anything goes wrong before the day you travel. This could include you falling ill and not being able to go away, a holiday firm going bust, or an airline cancelling your flights. If you have insurance in place, you should be covered for any money you’ve already paid out. 

travel insurance

Do I need travel insurance for South America? 

You don’t need to buy travel insurance for South America, but without it you will need to pay for the following: 

  • The cost of medical treatment 

  • Repatriation if you need to be flown back to the UK 

  • Baggage cover if your items are lost, stolen, or damaged   

  • If a holiday firm collapses, you may need to pay out again for new travel or accommodation 

Having travel insurance provides peace of mind as you know you’ll be covered if something does go wrong. It covers lots of different things but emergency medical treatment can run into thousands of pounds in some cases – especially if you need to be flown back to the UK – therefore it’s well worth buying it before you go. 

How much is travel insurance for South America? 

The cost of travel insurance for South America is dependent on lots of different factors including your age, which countries you’ll be visiting, how long you’re away for, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, and what activities you have planned.  

You will need a worldwide travel policy when visiting South America, which is usually more expensive than a policy covering Europe. However, you may be able to save money with a policy excluding countries such as the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico if you don’t plan to visit these areas. 

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions 

If you have pre-existing health conditions, travel insurance will usually be more expensive for you. This is because insurers see you as a higher risk of making a claim on your policy. 

However, there are lots of options and it’s important you are open and honest with an insurer. They will need to know about any pre-existing health conditions and may sometimes ask for evidence of the condition. If you don’t tell an insurer, and then have to make a claim, it may be rejected.  Depending on the type and seriousness of the condition, you will have the following options: 

What will South America travel insurance cover? 

The level of cover you have with your South America travel insurance, will depend on the type of policy and insurer you choose. However, it’s worth checking the following are all included:  

  • Medical costs: you should be covered for medical treatment while you’re in South America but also for the cost of repatriation if you need to be flown back to the UK. As it’s such a long way from the UK, repatriation and emergency medical treatment can be expensive so you need to make sure you have sufficient cover for both. 

  • Cancellation: if you need to cancel your trip, even if it’s before you’ve set off, you should be covered under the cancellation part of the policy. You will usually only be able to claim on this if there has been a medical emergency or a specific reason (which will be set out in the policy documents).  

  • Delays or changes to a trip: if your holiday to South America has to change, because of missed or delayed flights or a lost suitcase, for example, you should be covered under the travel disruption part of your insurance policy.  

  • Belongings: anything you’re bringing with you should be covered if it’s damaged, lost, or stolen while on your trip. There is usually a value limit so you may have to list certain things separately, such as a camera.  

  • Personal liability: if another person is injured, or their property, and they sue you, this cover can help and you should also be covered for legal fees. 

What should my travel insurance to South America include? 

When travelling to South America, there are a few extra things to watch out for when it comes to travel insurance. This includes access to private healthcare, which you may need. While basic, free health care is available in South America, it’s not like the NHS and you may need to get private treatment too.  

Depending on what you have booked, you’ll also need cover for any trips, sports, or excursions that aren’t included on a standard travel insurance policy. This could include water sports or high-altitude trekking insurance, for example.   There will also be exclusions to take note of, which you won’t be covered for. They usually include the following: 

What travel insurance do I need for South America? 

The travel insurance policy you take out will need to include cover for all the countries you plan to visit, and all the trips and activities you have booked.  

This could include extreme sports, such as trekking in the Amazon rainforest or diving in the Peruvian sea for which you may need adventure sports insurance. If you plan to take part in any winter sports, snowboarding or skiing in the Andes, for example, you’ll need to add this cover to your policy too.  

There’s also golf insurance, which includes cover for tournaments and your equipment, which you may need if you’re travelling to South America for the golf courses.  

These are just some of the extras you can add to a single or annual South American insurance policy, you’ll just need to contact your insurer in advance to let them know and pay for the add-on. 

Do I need a visa for South America? 

British passport holders do not need visas when travelling to any of the countries in South America, but you may need to fill in a tourist card when you arrive. You’ll usually need to put details of your trip on this, including where you’re visiting and for how long, and hand it back in when you leave. 

You will need to have at least six months left on your passport too before you’re allowed to enter South America. If you plan to go to another country before, or after, check the requirements of entry. If you’re travelling through the USA, for example, you will need an ESTA. 

Where can I compare travel insurance quotes? 

You can carry out a travel insurance comparison for policies and prices for South America with MoneySuperMarket. To do this you’ll need to enter a few details, including your name and address, where you plan to go, and how much cover you’re looking for, and you’ll then be given a list of potential policies to choose from.   

What travel insurance do I need for backpacking in South America? 

If you’re backpacking, you may not be covered on a typical policy because your trip could be longer than the standard time allowed. Insurance for backpackers will usually provide extra cover, including for activities not usually covered on a standard policy. You should also be covered for all of the countries you’re visiting, and for the full length of your trip.   

What vaccinations will I need for South America? 

You will probably need to arrange to have vaccinations before you travel to South America. The requirements will depend on which countries you’re visiting, and there may be extra injections needed when visiting certain areas of different countries. 

The NHS website, Fit for Travel, has a full list of the vaccinations required but you will also need to book an appointment with your GP to have these. They will tell you what’s required, including if you need a Covid vaccination, and how long the treatment takes.  

It’s best to book this well in advance and at least eight weeks before you travel. Some vaccinations are free through the NHS but not all of them, and you’ll be told which you need to pay for and the costs before they are carried out. 

If you have left it late, you should be able to book to have these done at a private healthcare clinic, but this is usually a lot more expensive than going via the NHS. When you’ve had the vaccinations, keep a record of what you’ve had and when, some countries in South America may request proof of this.   

If you travel without having a vaccination you’re required to have, you may not be able to claim on your insurance if you then become ill because of one of these illnesses.      

When is the best time to visit South America? 

The best time to visit South America will depend on which country you’re going to, and what you plan to do. The summer falls between December and February and winter is from June to August. 

The rainy season varies depending on where you’re going. In Patagonia, for example, the most rain falls in April and May. You may also be travelling for a set event, such as carnival in Rio de Janeiro, which takes place in February.   

Why compare travel insurance with MoneySuperMarket? 

Comparing travel insurance is vital as there are lots of policies to choose from and you want to find one with the right level of cover for your trip, but also one that is the best price. It’s quick, easy, and hassle-free to compare policies with MoneySuperMarket allowing you more time to get on with planning your South American adventure.  

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