On this page we look at how to find the best travel insurance for backpackers and digital nomads in 2021 and beyond. The article highlights the main options whether you are looking for the most extensive cover, the best cheap travel insurance or a happy medium.
Anyone travelling overseas is highly advised to take out proper travel insurance and it’s especially important that you understand the full terms of your cover during this period while the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers & Digital Nomads
There are a huge number of travel insurance companies out there. However very few specialise in providing travel insurance for backpacking trips or covering digital nomads, both of whom will be away for much longer periods than your average person on a holiday or city break.
If you dig deep enough you can find travel insurance that won’t cost the earth and will cover you for all kinds of travel mishaps in all four corners of the world. Booking travel insurance is actually a relatively simple process and in a few clicks you can rest easy knowing that you are covered if you were unfortunate enough to have something go wrong. Some companies even provide cover for COVID-19 treatment and allow you to book even after you’ve left home.
It’s best to get yourself sorted before you head overseas though and it is important to stress though that not all travel insurance packages are equal so you shouldn’t automatically go for the cheapest backpackers travel insurance. It’s certainly worth reading up on exactly what you will be covered for before deciding.
This page should help you reach a decision as we look at three of the best travel insurance companies for digital nomads and backpackers:
World Nomads Travel Insurance
World Nomads understand independent travellers much better than a lot of the bigger companies out there and provide excellent assistance should you need it. Their policies are quite extensive and cover you for medical assistance and evacuation if you have an accident or fall ill abroad and extend to a range of adventure activities that many travel insurance companies steer well clear of covering.
Reasons why we recommend World Nomads as having amongst the best travel insurance for backpackers:
- They specialise in providing cover for backpacking trips, which sets them apart from just about every other company out there.
- Submit your claim online while you’re travelling. No need to wait till you return home.
- Flexible. You can extend and even buy your policy while travelling.
- 24/7 Phone Assistance.
- Contribute to their Footprints Network which helps poor communities in need across the world.
- Worldwide cover available to people from 150 countries.
- World Nomads will liaise with you and your family if you were to get seriously ill abroad and will cover your treatment and when necessary, pay for you to be transferred to a country with better facilities.
- Emergency treatment and transfers for a wide range of adventure sports activities are covered by World Nomads.
Things to bear in mind:
- There is not any cover available for travel to any country or region with a COVID-19 travel ban, and, like many travel insurance companies, your cover will not be valid if you travel against any government bans or official warnings.
- While World Nomads offers some of the most extensive cover around, there are of course some limitations and there are certain situations in which you shouldn’t expect them to pay up. Examples include alcohol or drug-induced incidents while lost or stolen cash is also not covered.
SafetyWing Medical Travel Insurance
If you are looking for something flexible and more affordable, then SafetyWing is a great option. They are specialists in providing international travel medical insurance, which is the most critical part of any backpacker travel insurance package.
That makes them a popular choice for digital nomads who may not need cover for such a wide range of incidents or activities, but run a greater risk of getting sick given they will in most cases be spending longer abroad than your average traveller.
Here are some key points about what SafetyWing offer:
- Flexibility: For nomads and long-term travellers, it can work like a subscription where you choose your start date and can cancel any time. There is no cap on the duration of a trip and no need to know how long you’ll be travelling in advance. You can set up monthly auto-renewal payments to avoid having your coverage expire and forgetting to renew in time.
- They offer worldwide coverage as well as limited home country coverage (up to 30 days every 3 months, or 15 days if your home country is the US). This is something that sets them apart from other packages which generally are only valid outside of your own country.
- Available for purchase in 180 countries and can be purchased while already travelling.
- 24/7 support when a person is in need. Also comes with a network of medical partners.
- For short-term travellers: For shorter trips with fixed dates, you can also take up the insurance the classic way for a specific duration, starting from 5 days.
- Primarily medical travel insurance but there is some cover for travel interruption, travel delay, and lost checked luggage.
- COVID-19 coverage for medical costs is included in all packages as standard.
- Affordability – packages start at just $40/4 weeks.
Things to bear in mind:
- Understand that the affordability is largely because SafetyWing’s packages are more like health insurance rather than your typical travel insurance. In other words, you won’t be covered for most things that are not medical issues.
- The $40/4 week package is for those between 18 and 39 years old. If you are older than this, you will see fairly steep increases and there is also a big increase if you intend to travel to the USA.
Columbus Direct (UK residents only)
Columbus Direct’s annual multi-trip cover is another decent option for British backpackers and can perhaps be described as a happy medium between the previous two.
They have won lots of awards for providing great travel insurance and receive excellent reviews with a 4.1 rating on Trust Pilot at the time of writing. They offer cover for short trips in Europe but also offer deals targeted towards backpackers and more adventurous travellers. Therefore you are covered for a lot more activities than your regular holiday insurance provider gives.
They also have a simple form to fill out which will allow you to get a quote in less than a minute. As a rough guide, their standard backpacker package for a 22 year old on a 6 month trip costs £145 at the time or research and included cover for:
- £1 million medical expenses.
- £1,000 cancellation fees.
- £750 personal property.
- £15,000 personal accident.
Columbus also now include cover for COVID-19 treatment, repatriation, cancellation and missed departures. However again, it’s worth checking all the specific terms and conditions before making your choice.
While we’ll do our best to keep the info on this page up-to-date, but the state of the world and particularly the travel industry right now means travel insurance companies are constantly having to adapt and adjust their policies.
Travel Insurance for Backpackers – Reasons why you need it!
Hopefully your trip will be trouble-free but having good travel insurance is an important safety net to have if you’re unlucky enough to have any problems. Here are a few situations when having good travel insurance can prove a real lifesaver:
Getting Sick Abroad
Getting ill in a foreign land where you don’t speak the lingo and where medical standards perhaps don’t quite match those in your own country is bad enough. Not being able to pay for your treatment is more like a disaster. In many countries medical fees for high quality treatment are extortionate and if you don’t have the funds, you simply won’t get treated unless your situation is critical (in which case you risk running up huge debts). Having travel insurance that will cover your emergency medical costs is therefore vital.
Travelling during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Needless to say this isn’t a great time to be backpacking or travelling for all kinds of reasons. Once the world starts to get a grip on Coronavirus, things will eventually return back to something like normality and inevitably people will start travelling again. However this virus isn’t going to totally disappear any time soon, even with a vaccine.
From a backpackers’ perspective, this means even when the worst of the outbreak is over, it’s still possible that you could end up being forced into quarantine once entering a new country or in the worst case scenario you could become ill with COVID-19 somewhere with limited healthcare facilities. It’s at times like these when having proper travel insurance can make all the difference in terms of the treatment you will be able to get access to.
Like everybody else, travel insurance companies are still in the process of adapting to the coronavirus outbreak. As well as the medical T’s & C’s, also look out for their conditions in the eventuality that your airline goes bust or cancels flights. Both scenarios are highly likely to affect many travellers over the coming year or so.
Petty theft is often a big problem in popular travel destinations and cities all over the world. As a traveller you are an attractive target for thieves. By applying common sense and looking after your belongings you can generally avoid being the victim of theft. That said, if the worst should happen, you can usually at least recover the value of your stolen belongings providing your insurance package covers theft.
Accidents do happen whether you’re home or abroad. However they are more likely on an active backpacking trip that may involve several adrenaline-pumping activities. Very occasionally (and it is very occasionally), accidents can leave travellers needing emergency and in very rare cases life-saving treatment.
Without proper travel insurance you can end up with extreme medical bills that might take years to fully pay off if you’re uninsured.
This post was last updated in February 2021.