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Do a quick Google search for travel insurance and you will come across hundreds of different companies and insurance policies that you could choose from to serve you on your backpacking trip.  But, which one to choose?

Not all travel insurance are “built” the same, so you should know at least a few aspects that could help you select the one that is right for you and your trip.

1. Medical Emergencies

Unfortunately, accidents do happen… remember when I fell off a Maya pyramid?  Travel insurance is made to cover medical emergencies, but not all of them cover all emergencies. 

Pay attention to the list of activities covered in the basic policy (ie. hiking, caving, kayaking, etc.) and in which countries they are covered.  You wouldn’t want to go spelunking in Cuba only to find out later that your policy doesn’t cover either Cuba or Spelunking activities.

rappelling in Belize

Regarding activities covered, some policies offer an added service that includes additional “high risk sports” – of course, at an additional fee.

Also, look for “preexisting conditions”.  Chances are most policies wont cover them, but there are a few that do.  Like with sports activities, some policies allow you to add “preexisting conditions” at an additional fee.

2. Personal Possessions, Money and Documentation

Careful attention should be paid to a policy’s terms and conditions pertaining to the loss of personal possessions, documentation and money.

From personal experience, this is more important than what it looks.  When in Cairo, I got my iPod stolen in Giza.  I did all the legal paperwork, only to find out later that my policy didn’t cover stolen goods. 

Had I looked over that detail with more care, I wouldn’t have had to spend extra money to buy another iPod.

Documents are more important than iPods, though, so make sure they can help you with situations like, “er, I just lost my passport!”

Great Pyramids of Giza

3. Long Term or Single-trip Insurance?

Are you doing a short trip, or are you traveling for an extended period? 

Most travel insurance policies are well designed to cover all sorts of short trips, but when traveling long term, there is annual/long-term travel insurance that is better suited for that type of travel. For that, I recommend SafetyWing Travel Insurance.

These tend to be cheaper in the long run and in some cases, are more inclusive.  There are also other policy options for long trips that won’t necessarily last one year. You can select the policy to last exactly the timeframe your trip will last – ie. 8 months, 15 months, etc.

4. Personal Liability

As mentioned above, accidents can and do happen; unfortunately, sometimes our accidents involve other people or property. 

The personal liability element should adequately cover the cost of property damage and personal injury. Otherwise, that accident can turn out to be pretty expensive.

5. Cancellation

In the event of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance, you should be able to cancel your trip without fees or total loss of money.

Usually, the cancellation (if the reason is covered under the terms of the policy) covers the cost of airfares and railway fees. 

In addition, it can cover non-refundable tours and tickets. Reading the terms and conditions of your policy will help you know which circumstances are covered and how much they will cover for your canceled trip.

Jumping to the river in Belize

6. Primary or Secondary?

There is a big difference between primary coverage and secondary coverage. 

In general, with primary coverage, the travel insurance company will pay all or part of the hospital expenses directly to the hospital. 

With secondary, on the other hand, you will pay the hospital when being take care of and then submit your claim to the travel insurance company so they can refund you.

When choosing a policy, prices can range between primary and secondary.

7. What About Home?

The trip is done, you are home, what now? Will you have to run to get local travel insurance?  Some long-term travel insurance policies cover you once you get home for up to a month. 

They know it takes time to settle down, so they give you that “freebie” so you can be covered during that transition process.

To end this post, I’d like to recommend HeyMondo travel insurance. I’ve used them in the past, and they’ve been amazing. They do understand what budget and adventurous travelers are looking for with their insurance policy.

Again, look at the terms and conditions to see if this, and many other policy details are covered.  The idea is to get the best protection for your money.  Should you want to learn more, I have another post that goes more in-depth on how to choose the best travel insurance.

Adventure Awaits


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  1. This is some really great information, and I really think that I should get some insurance for my next trip. We have heard about renters insurance from many of our friends, and we think that it is a great idea. Sometimes when we go on trips, we do some pretty intense things, and it wouldn’t hurt to have that safety net. I just hope that we will never have to use this type of insurance when we go on a trip.

  2. Great article, Norbert! I appreciate you posting this! My wife and I are going on a backpacking trip in the Uinta Mountains later this summer, so it’s nice to always be prepared by having insurance. Although it might be expensive, it is best to have primary insurance, right?

    1. That is correct, Alex. With the primary one you will not need to pay for the hospital or clinic visit if you contact your insurance company before the visit so a representative can go there and take care of the payment process.

  3. This article is for those who were planning to travel with an insurance for them to have safety first. I like this article because it gives information to all backpackers out there who are not have yet their insurance. As a backpacker I will follow all this guidelines here this page and I will share this to all my friends in Philippines. Thank you for this post. ๐Ÿ™‚