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Gap Year Travel Insurance Tips & Advice

A shocking number of Gap year travellers leave for their trip each year without travel insurance.

Make sure you have an organised and comprehensive travel insurance policy sorted out before you go, otherwise you could end up facing a bill of thousands of pounds if you have an accident requiring medical treatment, especially if you need to be flown home, or losing money if your possessions are stolen or lost.

For example, it will cost around £12,000 for an air ambulance to take you back to the UK from Spain if you have a serious accident in this country.

The USA is the worst place in the world you could have an accident with no travel insurance – a fractured leg there will set you back at least £6,000.

What is normally included in a travel insurance policy?

To help you buy the right travel insurance policy that includes all your requirements, we've put together a checklist of items you need to be covered for.

Cancellation

You should be able to reclaim the cost of your trip if you have to cancel any part of it due to illness, injury, family emergency, death of a close relative or other valid reason.

Make sure your insurance cover starts from the day you book your trip.

Medical bills

Your policy should cover any medical treatment, hospital stays and emergency repatriation required in the event of falling ill or having an accident whilst you are abroad.

Ideally you need £1 million of emergency medical cover if you are travelling in the EU, and £2 million if you are going elsewhere.

Personal accident

In the event of your death or permanent disability during your travels, the insurance company will pay out a lump sum.

Personal belongings

You should receive compensation for any costs related to stolen, damaged or lost possessions.

This includes items such as passport, luggage, tickets, camera, and money (though it’s a good idea not to wander around with wads of cash on you).

There is usually a maximum limit on the amount you can claim for this, and an upper limit for each individual item.

Make sure you inform the insurance company of anything expensive you are taking with you, and be aware they will ask you for a police report before they cough up any money.

Report anything stolen to the police within 24 hours, as proof of notification will be required when you make your claim.

All insurance policies say that you must look after your belongings at all times, because if you don’t, the policy might not pay out.

Lost baggage on flights

Do not rely on airline compensation if it loses your luggage.

Airlines only have to pay a specified minimum value per kilo of lost luggage, so this is unlikely to cover the total value of your possessions.

Delays

This covers compensation for delayed luggage and missed or delayed flight departures.

Personal liability

This covers you if you injure someone or damage their property and are subsequently sued, and may include legal expenses cover if you need to take legal action against a third party.

Try to get travel insurance that will cover you for personal liability.

Legal expenses

Try to get £25,000 for this – it will cover you if for any reason you need to call upon a local solicitor for legal aid in the country you are visiting.

Please be warned that most policies will not cover any drink or drug related incidents.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are travelling anywhere within the EU and/or Switzerland, make sure you apply for an EHIC if you don’t already  have one.

The EHIC has replaced the E111 form, which is no longer valid, and covers you for any necessary medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident during your trip. You can apply for free at the EHIC website.

Be aware that the card only entitles you to state provided care in the country you are visiting, and you may have to make some contribution toward medical attention you receive, e.g. x-rays, plaster casts.

The card also allows you to receive treatment for pre-existing medical conditions and diseases you have, although there are usually conditions attached to this.

Pre-existing conditions all those you have and are already aware of, or have received treatment for.

You must be completely honest with your insurance company when you are asked to declare any pre-existing medical conditions, as your policy may become invalid if you fail to disclose any relevant information.

As the EHIC may not cover all of your medical expenses, it is very important to take out travel insurance and prepare for every eventuality.

Backpacking and extreme activities

Be aware that if you’re off backpacking on your gap year, you will need to take out specialist backpacker insurance.

What’s included in a backpacking policy varies between insurers, though usually includes cover for a number of sports and activities as standard, such as bungee jumping, surfing, scuba diving, climbing and jetskiing.

However, it’s important you know whether your travel insurance covers risky activities, and exactly what sort.

If you think you may be tempted to try your hand at water skiing or bungee jumping, make sure you get covered! Most insurance companies will happily cover activities such as these for a small additional cost.

Also make sure you check the details of the activities covered on your policy – for example, is there a depth limit for scuba diving? You may want to ask the insurance company if you can add other activities later on that you did not originally get cover for.

Buying your Gap year travel insurance

We’ve done some scouting around on the internet and found the following companies to offer competitively priced gap year insurance cover.

Endsleigh Travel Insurance

Direct Travel Insurance

Essential Travel Insurance

Staysure backpacker insurance

Insure and go

Alpha Travel

As we’ve already mentioned, do your research and see what is and isn’t included in the policy.

There’s no point paying for the cheapest deal if it doesn’t cover all your requirements! 

Always purchase travel cover from a reputable insurer, as they can usually be depended on to honour valid claims quickly and in full.

Taking your Gap year travel insurance with you

You need to be aware of the risks of travelling without proper insurance cover, and this is one thing you should not consider cutting costs on.

A bit of shopping around on the internet will produce some competitively priced travel insurance packages – the ones we’ve listed above are a good starting place!

Once you have bought your travel insurance, print off a copy of the policy to take with you, and always have the company’s 24 hour emergency contact number with you in case something happens.

If you are unfortunate and an incident occurs, get in touch with the insurance company as soon as you can and make sure you keep all the paperwork involved, e.g. bills, police reports.