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Backpacker, Student, And Gap Year Travel Insurance Explained

Mar 22, 2008
Most backpacker travel insurance policies contain a clause relating to failed examinations. This is a very important matter for students to consider. If exams are failed they may be required by the college or university to sit them again. If the student is already off travelling the world the cost to return quickly for a re-sit could be high. However, be warned that claims on the insurance may be denied if travel insurance is not taken out prior to the sitting of all exams which lead up to the final result.

Insurance terms like curtailment and repatriation do not even enter the equation for most young people when planning a gap year. It is surprising how many don't know, or care, what the words mean - or might entail. These are just two of the words to be concerned about. Cancellation, of course, refers to insurance cover for an emergency situation arising before the departure date, causing cancellation of travel plans.

Imagine you are a student well into a gap-year backpacking adventure round the world. You've had a trouble-free trip so far and are in the last month of your travels in an African country. You fall sick with a fever and violent vomiting and diarrhoea. You and your traveling companion both have backpacker insurance. You have some over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies with you and try everything, but nothing seems to work. Your condition deteriorates and you have to seek help from the nearest medical clinic. The doctor finds that you are severely dehydrated and rushes you by air ambulance to the nearest major hospital.

Your companion gets in contact with the claims handler for your travel insurance and alerts them to the problem. A week later your condition has stabilized, but you are still very weak. The doctors advise you to return home (curtail your trip) to continue with your recovery. The claims handler approves the arrangements for the new return flights for you and your companion.

Now imagine all the above happened and you had decided to save money and not bother with purchasing travel insurance. Who would pay for the air ambulance, hospital care, the curtailment of your trip (change of flights), and repatriation?

It is surprising how many young people take the risk of traveling without travel insurance. The statistics are something like one in five, which means there are thousands of young and vulnerable adults wandering about the world with no help at hand and exposed to all manner of risks. Many think it's not necessary because they are just backpacking and using hostels. However, their unsuspecting parents would probably end up footing the bill if the worst should happen.

Who would help if you were involved in a traffic accident, terrorist attack, had your backpack and travel documents stolen, or were the victim of a mugging? Most people have no clue how much it would cost for emergency repatriation from the other side of the world - from places like Australia, Africa, and South America.

Backpacker insurance policies vary but are normally heavy on the medical cover and liability and light on baggage cover. Many cover participation in adventure sports (on a limited basis) for activities like scuba diving, wind surfing and bungee jumping. Winter sports cover can be added to the policy for an extra premium. If the USA is on your travel itinerary, expect to pay a bit more for the insurance because of the high cost of medical care. Most backpacker policies do not cover risks relating to work (paid or volunteer) so you will need to shop around for the appropriate type of cover.

Remember the words 'repatriation' and 'curtailment' and don't let them come back to haunt you. Repatriation means that in the event of some type of emergency situation your insurance will cover expenses to return you back to your country of origin.Curtailment means cover for expenses incurred as a result of your trip being cut short due to an emergency after you have already left home. Don't wait until it's too late to find out what they mean!

Travelling the world before starting university - or after university and before putting your foot on the career ladder - can be a valuable, worthwhile, and fantastic experience. It is false economy, and frankly plain dumb, to save a bit of money by skipping the travel insurance. Why risk spoiling all those wonderful memories - and getting your career off to such a bad start?
About the Author
Jean Andrews is a freelance writer living in the UK. She regularly contributes articles for TIA Ltd who offer backpackers travel insurance.
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