Backpacking is a fantastic way to see the world and experience new cultures. Even for the budget traveller, backpacking is now an option due to the availability of cheap flights (both short haul and round the world) and the amount of travel companies catering specifically for ‘planned in advance’ budget backpacking trips.

Backpackers Arrive on Railay Beach, Thailand
Backpackers Arrive on Railay Beach, Thailand - Rene Ehrhardt, Flickr

Due to the popularity of backpacking, insurance providers now offer insurance specific to backpackers and long length trips.
You can choose your backpacking travel insurance to cover the following areas:
Worldwide (including the US and Canada),
Worldwide (excluding the US and Canada),
or Australia and New Zealand.
Travel Insurance providers offer these broad areas because they understand backpackers require the flexibility to visit numerous countries on their travels. There are some countries the Foreign Commonwealth Office advises against visiting as they are deemed high risk locations. If you enter a country or area which is considered high risk then your travel insurance will become invalid. Therefore if you think there may be a chance of you entering a dangerous country you should enquire with your travel insurance provider whether you will be covered if something were to happen to you while in that area.
Are you covered for Backpacking in the Danger Zone?
You should decide what activities you are planning on taking part in before you go away and customise your travel insurance policy to cover these activities. If you have an accident while you are taking part in an activity that is not covered by your insurance policy then you may end up paying thousands of pounds in medical expenses. Therefore, you should know your policy inside out and exactly what it does cover and what it does not cover. Take New Zealand for example, it is hailed as the adrenalin capital of the world and it’s not uncommon for backpackers to take part in skydiving, bungee jumping and white water rafting all in one day. However these are very risky activities and the small print of your contract may stipulate non-cover should any injuries occur as a result of participating in these wacky pursuits.
Probably worth investing in backpackers travel insurance if you go bungee jumping!
Whatever activities you are planning to do while you are away the most important feature you need from your travel insurance is cover for up to £2 million medical expenses and 24 hour emergency assistance. You would be surprised how much any medical treatment can cost abroad and you must have insurance to cover you for all countries worldwide.
If you are planning on volunteering while you are backpacking or taking on some paid work you must check your travel insurance policy covers you for this. Some insurance providers will only cover you for work and volunteering abroad if you tell them your intentions before you go. Therefore you must inform your insurance provider your work plans and ensure they will cover you while you are working.
If you have a vague idea of your itinerary before you go away then it is easier for you to take out a travel insurance policy that covers you for all of your planned activities. However, if you are planning a more spontaneous trip then you should take out an extremely comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers you for most eventualities. This may mean a slightly higher premium, but if you shop around for travel insurance you should be able to find a decent policy at a low price. If you are a student you should be able to find travel insurance specific for students which offer considerable discounts.
Some travel insurance providers allow you to extend your trip for a small premium while others do not. Therefore if there is a chance you may wish to extend your trip, make sure you have taken out insurance with a provider that allows you to do this.
Essential Travel Insurance offers a comprehensive backpacker insurance at a low price and they cover a wide range of activities.
Nomad travel insurance has a slightly higher premium than Essential Travel but does allow you to add cover for individual products such as ipods, cameras, sporting equipment and much more.
Remember, be safe while you are backpacking. Keep your wits about you, do not take part in any highly dangerous activities or take unnecessary risks that may make your travel insurance invalid. Most importantly of all do not take part in any illegal activities while you are abroad. Quite often sentences abroad can be harsh and your travel insurance will not be valid.