As soon as you've decided you're off travelling, you need to think about taking out adequate travel insurance to cover you for your entire trip.
Don't leave it until the last minute! You can't afford to be complacent about travel insurance. As dull as it may sound, you'll need enough time to thoroughly research your options and read the small print of any policy you're considering before you commit to it. Here are our top tips for finding the right travel insurance policy.
Weigh up the differences between budget and expensive policies
Many travellers wonder whether expensive policies really offer them a great deal more than budget travel insurance policies.
A quick online search will return countless policies all jostling for your attention. The prices vary significantly from one provider to another, and from one policy to another - but the really budget options are probably cheap for a reason. Many will offer policies that on first glance appear to be a bargain but, on closer inspection, budget and standard travel insurance policies may not offer adequate cover for some of the activities that many backpackers frequently take part in - such as trekking. They may also not cover all of your cash or personal belongings, particularly if you're carrying any expensive kit such as a digital SLR camera, a notepad laptop, or an iPad. And in a travel industry where companies are frequently going bust, be aware that many policies don't cover scheduled airline failure as standard. Even those that do include it may have a list of excluded carriers, so check the small print.
There are, however, some very good budget travel insurance policies out there, particularly if you're not embarking on dangerous activities or carrying any valuables. It's just a case of finding a policy that suits you and the kind of trip you're taking.
Whichever policy you choose, however, it's critical that you make sure the agent you book your policy with is ABTA- or ATOL-registered, as this offers customer protection.
Insure yourself for all activities
Many travellers are aware that they need specialist insurance or policy extensions if they want to embark on dangerous activities such as diving, skiing or white water rafting. Many are less aware, however, that policies often contain exclusions for more straightforward activities such as trekking and cycling. If you're planning to get involved in these kinds of activities, you'll need insurance that covers you.
Finding insurance cover for expensive travel kit
If you are carrying any item of very high value, such as a top-of-the-range digital SLR, you may need more expensive travel insurance or you may be better seeking out a specialist insurer to cover it separately.
Consider specialist backpacker travel insurance
Some insurers are specifically geared towards providing insurance for backpackers or those taking extended or round-the-world trips. They may allow you to extend your policy indefinitely or make claims online while you're still on the road. They may also cover popular backpacker activities such as trekking or cycling, which many mainstream policies don't cover as standard.
Be prepared in case you need to make a claim
If you buy new travel kit for your trip, keep the receipts should you need to make a claim, this will make the process far easier. Take your policy details with you so that if anything happens you can find the company's hotline number and contact them straight away; insurance companies like to be kept informed. Keep your ATM receipt slips and any currency conversion receipts during your travels. The key thing is to follow travel insurance guidelines to the letter if you want a claim to be processed smoothly.
Make sure the agent you book your travel policy with is ABTA- or ATOL-registered, as this offers customer protection.
Read the terms and conditions and make sure they cover you adequately for everything you're planning to embark on during your trip, such as sporting activities. Call the insurer before parting with your cash if you need clarification on any areas.
If you have previous or current medical conditions that could prevent you from travelling or cause you to curtail your trip, make sure the insurer is aware of this. If you don't tell them key facts you could risk invalidating your policy.
Make a note of any other exclusions and bear them in mind while you're on the road for example most policies will not cover drink- or drug-related incidents, and policies also expect you to take "reasonable care" of your possessions - otherwise they won't pay out.