Throughout my travels I have had made claims on theft from a hotel room, a fractured ankle, delayed travel plans, broken camera, and that time I knocked out three teeth in a motorbike accident. So a widespread of claims and each time the claim has been successful, I’ve been relieved that I was responsible enough to purchase backpacker travel insurance.
I’ve had great experiences with both and I will explain the difference between these two cheap backpacker travel insurance providers throughout the last six years of my travels, I have used a combination of World Nomads Travel Insurance for short trips and SafetyWing for longer trips.
World Nomads is comprehensive insurance for those traveling one country on vacation or multiple as part of a backpacking trip.
SafetyWing is great for digital nomads on longer trips as it works on a month-to-month basis for just $40 a month and you can switch it on or off with the click of a button, kind of like a prepaid phone plan. I’ve had great experiences with both and I will explain the difference between these two cheap backpacker insurance providers.
To set off on an adventure without backpacker travel insurance can be a huge financial mistake. Having good backpacker travel insurance is peace of mind and has proven to be a good investment for me over the years, receiving more in claims than I’ve paid in premiums!
The old quote is, ‘If you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.’
In this post, I’ll discuss what to look for when choosing a good backpacker travel insurance policy and which of my two favorite providers better suits you. At the end of this post, I’ll also give a short explanation of each claim I have personally made and what the result was so you get an idea of what is regularly covered. So, let’s dive in and explore the two best travel insurance companies for backpackers and travelers!
COMPARING THE TWO BEST CHEAP BACKPACKER INSURANCE PLANS
It can be tough to find cheap insurance for backpackers and even harder to get an accurate quote without having to spend lots of time entering all your information first. From my personal experience, the two I will cover in detail here are your best bets and what I have used consistently over the last six years.
Often the exclusions are hidden fine print and you only find out you aren’t covered for certain activities in specific countries… when it’s too late. Other than extreme activities specific to you, the main things you NEED to be included in your travel insurance are the following:
- Medical Expenses & Hospital Cover: While you may have free hospital care in your own country (if you are a lucky Australian for example) spending a night in hospital in USA or many countries around the world can cost you a five figure sum. That’s no exaggeration, it is truly staggering. You want this limit to be high as you anticipate the worst case scenario where you are in hospital for a few weeks or more after a big crash or health incident.
- Emergency Evacuation: This is another big one and usually only considered when it’s too late. Does your insurance provider have the coverage to evacuate you in an emergency or will you need to pay $10,000 plus for a heli-evacuation from the wilderness if you are out on a hike and have an accident.
Those are the two that are most likely to rack up a huge bill. There’s a limit to how much you can lose if your luggage disappears or someone steals your phone. Hospital bills and evacuation are the big-ticket items that can have a catastrophic financial impact on you.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR BACKPACKER TRAVEL INSURANCE
So, I’ve detailed the two non-negotiables in the section above. Those should be standard but you also want to have coverage on the smaller and more likely-to-occur types of incidents. These six items should be included even in any cheap backpacker travel insurance.
- Your coverage should apply in most/all countries in the world
- Coverage on damaged, lost or stolen personal items (without a low limit)
- Easy access to customer service with a live-chat or 24/7 phone helpline
- Cover for adventurous activities (the fun stuff!)
- Repatriation cover back to your home country in an emergency
- Extendability if you plan to stay on your travels longer
WHAT IS THE BEST ‘CHEAP’ BACKPACKER TRAVEL INSURANCE?
So, let’s dive into comparing the two best companies so we can figure out which one is best for you. This will depend on the duration of your travel and different priorities you may have based on your travel style.
WORLD NOMADS TRAVEL INSURANCE
When I began traveling, World Nomads was the first insurance provider I ever used. I’ve continued to use them for my travels to this day. Here’s what I like about World Nomads.
- Pretty affordable
- You can select which countries you are visiting and price will come down depending on location
- Highly professional company
- Easy online claim process
World Nomads have a very quick and easy process to get your coverage. With just a few details about age, countries you are visiting, and duration of the trip, you can be set up and covered. Making a claim is equally as simple with an online portal where you fill out the claim and attach supporting documents. In my opinion, World Nomads is the best cheap travel insurance for backpackers.
SAFETYWING TRAVEL INSURANCE
World Nomads are great BUT when it comes to the cheapest backpacker travel insurance, you simply can’t beat SafetyWing. The Nomad Insurance offered by SafetyWing is just $42 per month and unlike most insurance plans, it is paid on a monthly basis just like a prepaid phone plan. There is no lock-in contract and with a click of ONE button, you can switch it on or off for the next month. Each month the payout is automatically deducted from my account just like any app subscription on your phone. It’s how modern travel insurance should be.
It is WAY CHEAPER than almost all travel insurance policies and has almost identical coverage. I had my entire $7000 surgery in Australia covered after I fractured my ankle hiking. The only key difference is that the maximum payout is $250,000. It is possible to rack that up in a foreign hospital but highly unlikely. Other than that, there isn’t much of a difference between SafetyWing and other providers.
There is also a ‘Remote Health‘ option within SafetyWing that is $200 per month but covers all surgeries and medical events such as dental, reconstructive surgeries, and other procedures that are beyond the scope of travel/backpacker insurance. Personally, I stick with the Nomad Insurance for $42 a month.
MY PERSONAL BACKPACKER TRAVEL INSURANCE EXPERIENCE
I’m a pretty seasoned traveler but I can tell you right now, I have made an insurance claim with either World Nomads or SafetyWing in every single year that I have traveled. These are the claims I have made:
Medical Bills for motorbike crash in Bali: I knocked out two and a half teeth, had 8 stitches to my chin, a hairline fracture to my wrist, and considerable grazes to my body. Result: All medical expenses were covered by SafetyWing who include scooter/moped coverage, unlike many providers.
Stolen money from my hotel room: $500 AUD was stolen from my passport wallet in my hotel room when the door was locked. I believe it must have been the cleaner. Result: $250 payout as there is a limit of $250 on stolen/lost cash but a higher limit on personal items. Still good to get some back.
Medical Bills in Indonesia for another motorbike crash: I had x-rays and a cast put on my wrist for a hairline fracture after a crash in the Philippines days earlier. Result: All medical expenses were covered by SafetyWing who include scooter/moped coverage, unlike many providers.
Broken Camera: My camera stopped working after I was caught on a hike in the rain. Even inside my bag, the ferocity of this storm flooded my Sony A7ii. Result: World Nomads covered the price of the repair and said if the repair was more than a replacement they would buy a new one for me.
Fractured ankle and ruptured ligaments while hiking in Australia: I required MRI, X-ray, Surgeon appointment, and then Surgery. Total cost in Australia was $7000. Result: I received full reimbursement minus the $100 excess from SafetyWing on my $40 a month Nomad Insurance Plan.
TIPS FOR MAKING A TRAVEL INSURANCE CLAIM
While it should be straightforward it isn’t. The claims department are usually looking for any holes in your claim to avoid paying it, although SafetyWing and WorldNomads have seemed ready to help.
The main point that will help you end up with a successful claim and a payout is having all of your documents that back up your claim. If there was a theft or damaged items, I highly recommend getting a police report, which solidifies your claim and shows the insurance provider this truly did happen beyond doubt. You will also need receipts or proof you owned the items you are claiming were lost or stolen. I always keep all my electronics receipts in a folder.
World Nomads tend to deal with claims within 2-3 weeks and SafetyWing took a little longer with 4 weeks passing between my submission of the claims and the payout but it was a larger amount of $7000 so they likely looked into it carefully.
THINGS THAT WON’T BE COVERED BY BACKPACKER TRAVEL INSURANCE
There are limits to what you can or cannot claim. You can expect that items on the list below will NOT be covered by your backpacker insurance policy.
- Extreme Activities: Some policies will exclude highly dangerous activities like skydiving, cliff-jumping and more. If you are someone who regularly participates in extreme adrenaline activities make sure to discuss this with your provider before taking out a coverage plan.
- Pre-existing conditions: If you bring a sickness or injury into the policy period it usually won’t be covered. It makes sense. The idea is to purchase the policy and then be covered for the illness or injury not to only purchase the policy once you become sick. That isn’t how insurance works.
- Traveling against Government warnings or restrictions: Traveling to countries or reasons that are on no-travel lists or have been advised against by your government can sometimes void your policy due to increased risk of evacuation needs, injury or incident. Your insurance company is expecting you to go on vacation not to a war zone.
I hope this guide helped to give you an understanding of what to look out for when purchasing your backpacker insurance. There are lots of options but these two listed are by far the most comprehensive when we are talking about cheap backpacker travel insurance. Hopefully, you never need to make a claim because your trip runs smoothly but in case you do, make sure you are covered! Stay safe out there and adventure hard.