Looking for and getting the right travel insurance is one of the biggest headaches for any traveler but as essential for your adventure as your backpack.
From backpacking in Sudan, Iraq and pretty much everywhere in the Middle East to trekking over 5,000m in the mountains of Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and also traveling across Southeast Asia and a bit of Africa, for the last few years, I have experienced quite a few different adventures across a large number of different destinations.
Therefore, after gathering some hard-backpacking experience and having tried many different travel insurance companies, I realized about the following:
That being said, if you are reading this article it is because you are an independent traveler who mostly travels with a backpack, which means that you are looking for a backpacking travel insurance, am I right?
Therefore, the first thing you need to ask yourself is:
What do backpackers have in common?
- They may do adventurous activities, such as trekking, horse riding, etc.
- They move around on cheap, local transportation, so the risk of an accident is higher
- The likelihood of being robbed is higher, as they stay in budget dorms, go out at night and travel on local transportation
- They usually travel to several countries in one single trip
A proper travel insurance for backpackers should cover the above criteria.
Personally, I think that World Nomads is the best backpacker travel insurance but, in this article, based on my experience and many reviews, we will compare a couple of different ones, telling you all the advantages, according to the kind of trip you are going on.
How to find the right backpacking travel insurance (2018)
Transparency: If you like my website and found this post useful, remember to buy your insurance through one of my links, as I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me maintain and keep Against the Compass going! Thanks 🙂
Table of contents:
4 Different travel insurance companies I trust
Why do backpackers need travel insurance?
What do you need to look for when you purchase travel insurance?
Travel insurance comparison
Why World Nomads is the best
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4 Different backpacking travel insurance companies I trust
The best travel insurance for backpackers – World Nomads
It’s, definitely, the best and the reason is that it gives you much higher coverage than any other.
The cheapest travel insurance for backpackers (only for Europeans) – True Traveller
Before making any money with my blog, I was traveling on a really low budget, so I used them on a few trips. They are significantly cheaper than World Nomads but their coverage is not as good. However, at this price, you won’t find any better.
The cheapest travel insurance for backpackers (for people from the World) – IATI Insurance
As you may know, because of the sanctions, most travel insurance don’t cover Iran or Sudan, including First Allied and World Nomads.
IATI is an insurance provider which is based in Spain but has 24-7 English support. To be honest, this company is great and I have actually used them. They give a decent coverage, at a decent price but, for some reason, most non-Spanish citizens hesitate to buy it.
In any case, if you are traveling to Iran or Sudan, you won’t have many other options, plus if you book it through my link, you will get a 5% discount, so it may be a good option for traveling to any country.
The best backpacking travel insurance for high-risk countries – First Allied
If you are backpacking in a country that your government advises against traveling to, you should know that most regular travel insurance won’t fully cover you. I am talking about countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and even Egypt, as some areas are classified as dangerous.
For these countries, you will need a special travel insurance like First Allied, specializing in dangerous destinations.
For more information, read: How to find the right travel insurance for high-risk countries
Why do you need travel insurance for backpacking?
A well-known fact: many backpackers are cheap, very cheap.
That is why, on many occasions, many people decide not to buy travel insurance for the simple reason that it represents a significant additional cost which, most likely, will be wasted, so they prefer to take the risk.
Everybody is free to do what they want with their lives and health but I think that backpacking without travel insurance is a very wrong approach.
Did I tell you about the day I fell off a horse in Kyrgyzstan, when I had to be hospitalized and remained in bed for more than 2 weeks? Do you have any idea how much I had to pay for the medical expenses? It was really expensive…
Luckily, World Nomads covered for the entire cost and assigned me to the best hospital in the country, which I really appreciated, because the health care system in Kyrgyzstan is not very reliable, precisely.
That was my story and I am sure that you have heard many stories from others…
Accidents do happen, and they happen very quickly, at the most unexpected time.
How long does it take to break your leg when you are trekking in the mountains?
As a backpacker, how many times have you traveled on cheap, local transportation, with tens of people squeezed into a mini-van? Do you know what the accident rate for this kind of vehicles is? Trust me, you don’t wanna know…
If you have backpacker insurance and an unfortunate event happens, you will be fully covered, but this is not all…
A good company, will not only cover you for your medical expenses but also:
- Flight cancellation compensation
- Delayed baggage or lost baggage compensation
- Electronic loss coverage
- Expenses coverage in case you need to cancel your trip due to an emergency (like the death of a direct relative)
- And a large etcetera…
Backpacking travel insurance is an insurance for unexpected events.
If you hesitate because you are really on a budget, just think about all the money you would have to pay if an unfortunate event happened.
This money could be several times the total cost of your trip and, seriously, if you bought travel insurance, what is the best thing that could happen to you?
Basically, that you wasted your money because:
- You didn’t have a travel accident
- You didn’t lose your baggage
- You didn’t break your leg
What do you need to look for when you purchase backpacker travel insurance?
As a backpacker or independent traveler, since the risks of getting injured or robbed are higher, a good travel insurance for backpackers should cover the following:
High coverage for medical expenses – If you have a serious accident and need to be hospitalized, you should know that hospitalizations costs could rise to several and several thousand USD. There are many cheap backpacker insurances that will offer you a cheap quote but, if you read the small print, you will see that they will just give you 10,000 or 20,000USD of medical coverage, which is very, very little. You should aim at 100,000USD, at the very least.
High coverage for medical evacuation – Medical evacuation is the process of moving you from the place you had an accident to the hospital and, eventually, to your house. If you break your leg while trekking in Kyrgyzstan, for example, the cost of being rescued by a helicopter, sent to a hospital and put on a plane back home can rise to a couple hundred thousand USD. Cheap companies will barely cover you for that.
Worldwide coverage – Many backpackers will travel to several countries in one single trip, so when you buy the insurance, you want a provider which allows you to select a couple of countries or a worldwide option. There are companies out there, such as Allianz, which don’t allow you to select multiple countries and, for some nationalities, you can’t be traveling for more than 5 weeks in a row. I really hate Allianz.
You can buy it while you are on the road – Very important. Some companies may not cover you if you have already started your trip. For long-term backpackers, this option should be a must.
Robbery – Seriously, how many backpackers have you ever heard of who had things stolen? Depending on where you travel to, I honestly think that getting robbed is the most likely unfortunate event that can happen to you.
Loss of electronics – Most long-term backpackers will travel with a laptop, an iPad and, most recently, even with a drone. For this, you might have to pay a bit extra but it is important to have your gadgets secured.
Fight cancellations, baggage delay and loss – This is also very likely to happen. One day, they canceled my flight from Berlin to Tehran and, on another occasion, when I flew from Barcelona to Tbilisi, my baggage remained lost for almost 4 weeks. Of course, I got the airline compensation benefit but, thanks to World Nomads, I got paid twice.
It fully covers repatriation – If you get sick or there is a family emergency (such as family death, for example), you can cancel your trip without worrying about the costs.
24-hour emergency line – Believe it or not, some cheap backpacker travel insurance providers don’t have a 24-7 emergency line.
And, very important, make sure it is easy to claim – All the companies I listed before, including World Nomads, IATI Insurance, First Allied and True Traveller are very professional, which means that, when you need to make a claim, they have a fast response.
Comparing different backpacker travel insurance
Let’s pretend that we are traveling to Nepal and India for 2 months. I am 30-years old and a Spanish citizen.
World Nomads – The best travel insurance for backpackers
The quoted price is 259€ for the Standard and 292€ for the Explorer.
Medical expenses – They give you 3,500,000€ for the Standard Plan and Unlimited for the Explorer.
Evacuation – They give you 350,000€.
Country selection – You can select as many single countries as you want and there is also a Worldwide option.
Adventure activities – They cover a wide range of adventure activities, including trekking up to 6,000 meters with the Standard plan. It might seem like a lot but, if you travel to Pakistan, India, Nepal or Kyrgyzstan, you will be wandering above than 5,000 meters more often than you think.
Theft – If your bag or any of your belongings get stolen, you can claim for up to 2,500€.
Electronics – There is not a specific electronic policy but they are included in the theft option and World Nomads will pay you up to 2,500€ of their value.
- The best coverage across pretty much the entire world
- It also gives coverage to citizens of 140 different nationalities
- Loads of adventure activities are covered. Here you can check the full list
- They have 24/7 assistance in several languages
- If you are on an extreme budget, you may wanna explore a cheaper travel insurance for backpackers
- It doesn’t cover Iran or Sudan (many readers of this blog travel there)
- There is no specific policy for electronics
Perfect for: Practically anyone who wants to be fully covered.
IATI Insurance – The cheapest travel insurance for backpackers (for people from the World)
The quoted price from IATI Insurance is 169€ for the IATI Backpacker Plan.
Medical Expenses – They cover you for up to 100,000€.
Evacuation – It covers 100% of the total cost.
Country selection – You can select ”Worldwide” but only one single country at a time. (Sudan and Iran are included)
Adventure activities – It covers trekking but only below 2,000 meters. If you are traveling to Nepal, you will be at 2,000 meters almost the moment you step out of the plane. If you are planning to trek at higher altitudes, you will have to pay an extra 15%, so it will be 194€.
Theft – If your bag or any of your belongings are stolen, you can claim for up to 1,250€.
Electronics – There is not a specific electronic policy but they are included in the theft option and IATI will pay you up to 1,500€ of their value.
- 5% discount if you buy through my link
- Budget price
- It covers Iran & Sudan
- Any citizen from the world can buy it, including Americans and Canadians
- Coverage is not as good as World Nomads
- Cheap plans offer limited options when it comes to adventure. If you add the trekking option, the final quote is not so far away from World Nomads.
Perfect for: Budget backpackers who don’t plan to do adventurous sports or are going to Iran or Sudan.
Remember that, if you book it through my link, you will get a 5% discount.
True Traveller – The cheapest travel insurance for backpackers (only for Europeans)
True Traveller is a great company but it is a bit misleading.
The first price we get is 109€ for True Value and 135€ for True Traveller.
However, this quote doesn’t include adventurous sports or baggage and document loss.
If we select baggage loss, prices rise to 128€ and 160€, respectively.
If we add adventurous sports, it goes up to 162€ and 198€.
Medical Expenses – It is really good. It covers for up to 5,000,000GBP.
Evacuation – In True Traveller, they say that evacuation costs (which include helicopter transportation) are included in the Medical Expenses.
Country selection – You can’t select more than a single country but there is a Worldwide option and Worldwide excluding Canada & USA, which is cheaper.
Adventure activities – It covers trekking for up to 4,500m but you need to pay extra.
Theft – You need to pay extra but it covers up to 2,000GBP
Electronics – True Traveller is the only backpacking travel insurance that can fully cover your electronic gadgets but each device would cost around an extra 60€.
- Super flexible. If you just care about medical, you can get a super cheap quote.
- Good medical coverage at the lowest price
- It covers electronics
- If you select robbery, adventure, etc. the final quote is not very far away from World Nomads
- Only European citizens can apply for it
Perfect for: Budget backpackers who, preferably, don’t do many adventurous activities. It is also good for those who care about their electronics.
First Allied – The best backpacking travel insurance for high-risk countries
First Allied is a world apart, as it is an insurance provider which only covers medical expenses and countries in conflict, as well as paying for your ransom in case you get kidnapped, and even personal assistance if there is a terrorist attack or a war break-down.
For more information, read: How to find the right insurance for high-risk countries
Why do I think that World Nomads is the best travel insurance for backpacking?
All the companies I recommend are pretty good.
However, World Nomads is, definitely, the best travel insurance for backpackers. Why?
Basically, because it is the most flexible and the one that, by default, adapts to any traveler and situation.
With their annual plan, I don’t have to worry about anything, except for when I traveled to Iran, as I had to buy IATI Insurance.
With other backpacker insurance, depending on where I traveled to, sometimes I was not covered.
World Nomads is the one that fits my needs. If you are a long-term backpacker and you do adventurous sports, including trekking, there is no better insurance.
However, if you are on a budget, do small trips, don’t do any adventurous sport, then you should consider the other options.
Get your free quote here!