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Mind the gap – Backpacker and extended trip insurance under the spotlight

30 June 2014

Gap year travellers urged to check insurance small print to ensure their adventure is fully covered

  • Wide variance in trip duration (31 days to two years) and maximum age limits (34-99)
  • Working or volunteering abroad and adrenalin-fuelled activities not always covered
  • 50% of policies prohibit a return to the UK during a gap-year break

Gocompare.com Travel Insurance is urging backpackers to make sure they pick a travel insurance policy that covers all their needs - from countries they want to visit to the activities (sporting or work) they plan to undertake, and that won’t expire before the end of their travels.    

Unlike annual travel insurance which provides cover for a number of shorter trips over a 12 month period, gap year andextended travel policies provide cover for trips abroad lasting typically a year or more. These policies may include, as standard, cover for casual (non-manual) work or voluntary work and a range of basic sporting and other activities, including elephant or camel riding or a one-off balloon flight or bungee jump.

However, Gocompare.com Travel Insurance analysed over 200, gap year and extended travel policies* and found a wide variation in the duration of the trip covered, from whether policies permitted travellers to return to the UK for short periods, to the level of cover provided for baggage and valuables:

Trip duration:  Policy lengths varied from 31 days to two years. While 57% of policies provided cover for trips lasting over a year, 31% only covered travellers for a year, and 12% covered journeys lasting 360 days or less.

UK return:  Half of the policies reviewed allow you to return to the UK for a short time during your travels - for example, for a family emergency, to attend a wedding or just for some home comforts at Christmas - while for the remainder re-entering the UK would invalidate the policy.

Age limits:  Minimum ages varied between 16 and 19 but most (85%) policies set the minimum at 18.  The maximum age range was much wider - between 34 and 99

Baggage and valuables:  Policy limits for lost or stolen possessions varied considerably.  Total baggage covers ranged from £200 to £3,000, while 9% of policies didn’t include cover for baggage at all.  The amount payable for a single article ranged from £100 to £2,000 but most policies (80%) limit pay outs to between £100 and £300. For valuables (e.g. watches, jewellery, photographic, video, gaming and audio equipment, computers, ebooks, spectacles) the majority of policies (67%) provided between £100 and £300 worth of cover, 17% provided between £350 and £1,000, and 15% didn’t provide any cover at all.     

Stop over cover: Only 38% of policies provide ‘stop over cover’ for travellers who want to stop over in a different area en route to their destination.

Caroline Lloyd from Gocompare.com Travel Insurance commented: “If you’re heading off for an extended holiday, whether it’s a gap year or a sabbatical from work, then it’s important to choose the right insurance policy for your trip - one that covers all the destinations you want to visit, the length of time you wish to be away, as well as all the activities you want to undertake.

“Policy terms, conditions and exclusions vary from policy to policy, so it’s important to take the time not only to read-up on all the places you want to visit during your travels, but to go  through the policy small print to make sure you don’t do anything to invalidate your cover.

“For example, extended travel policies typically provide cover for a range of less risky sporting activities as standard.  But, if you’re after a more adrenalin-fuelled trip you’ll probably need to upgrade your policy to ensure you are covered.  Insurers also make a distinction between you taking part in a hazardous sport once and it being the main purpose of your holiday.  Also, some policies may only cover activities such as a safari, hot air ballooning or scuba diving if it was organised from the UK.

“If you’re planning on doing some volunteer or paid working during your trip, you’ll need to make sure your travel policy covers this.  Terms and conditions on the nature of work you can undertake vary and manual work and work involving machinery are common exclusions - so it’s always best to check the details. 

Caroline continued: “Other common policy exclusions include travelling to countries or areas against Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice, pay outs for medical treatment as a result of a pre-existing condition you’ve failed to declare, or failing to have the correct passport or visas for the areas you are visiting.  Insurers also expect you to take care of yourself and your possessions, so don’t expect to claim for stolen belongings or valuables which you left unattended on the beach while you went for a swim or for medical treatment for diseases which you forgot to get vaccinated against before you set off on your adventure.

“Once you’ve found the right policy for your trip, don’t forget to take the paperwork with you.  In case of emergency, it’s also sensible to leave a photocopy of the policy with your family or friends.”

-ends-

Notes to editors:

*Source: Defaqto Matrix of 202 extended travel insurance policies - instant and unbiased market and competitor intelligence, from independent financial researcher Defaqto (13 June 2014).