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Travel insurance when backpacking

Protect the freedom of carrying everything on your back.

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Whether you’re a backpacker aiming to head overseas to work a ski season, looking to study abroad for a semester, or simply taking a gap year, World Nomads can offer travel insurance coverage to help you in case the unexpected happens while exploring the globe.

While travelling overseas brings risk, you can consider managing that risk with travel insurance, so you know you’ll have help at hand if something goes wrong.  

What’s covered when backpacking

The right travel insurance can be very helpful in keeping your trip on track. World Nomads offers two policies – Standard and Explorer - that can be helpful when backpacking overseas.

Our Standard and Explorer plans are designed to provide cover for sudden and unforeseen events on your next overseas adventure, such as being left empty-handed when the airline loses your luggage, if you need to see a doctor if you are hurt or unwell, and for many other reasons.

World Nomads may offer cover for the following (up to the policy limits):

  • Cancellation protection: trip cancellations happen from time to time and travel insurance can help when the unexpected forces you to cancel your trip. Depending on what’s happened, we may pay for the value of your unused, non-refundable expenses.
  • Overseas emergency medical: exploring the world with a backpack can be great experience, but not if it ends in sickness or an injury. Your policy may cover you for your overseas medical expenses, up to the policy limits and when agreed by us. You can submit a claim to recover unexpected medical expenses while backpacking abroad.
  • Family cover: it includes overseas medical expenses for up to 12 months after sudden illness or injury. There’s also cover for dental treatment under both Standard and Explorer plans.
  • Delayed baggage: it can be a pain, however, if it’s been 12 hours and there’s no sign of your bags yet, insurance will cover you for the cost of some basic replacements such as pyjamas, toothbrush, and shampoo.

Traveller tip: if you’ve already arrived at your overseas holiday destination and forgot to buy travel insurance before leaving New Zealand, don’t panic. You can visit the World Nomads website at any time of the day or night to purchase a policy.

Does my plan include cover for Coronavirus related events?

Living in a post-pandemic world is still a little worrying, so knowing what Coronavirus coverage you have is smart. If you test positive to Coronavirus after buying your policy the Explorer Plan will cover you for any non-refundable portion of your prepaid travel arrangements.

World Nomads’ travel insurance plans include cover for some Coronavirus-related events. You can read more about it in our Coronavirus cover article, which has all of the details, including terms, conditions, benefit limits and exclusions.

Note: don’t forget to keep all receipts and written reports to support your insurance claim.

Travel insurance tips for backpackers

  • Rookie backpacker? Travel light and keep gear to a minimum. For example, instead of a standard towel, take a small microfibre towel which dries faster and takes up less space. Always keep your bags within sight. If your gear gets stolen or accidentally damaged while travelling having travel insurance may cover you so you can replace the important stuff.
  • Free-spirited adventurer? Make sure you select the right policy for your adventure sport or activities. You need to know that running with the bulls in Pamplona is not covered but hiking, bungee jumping, and scuba diving are. Check our list of sports and activities (and avoid uninsured activities).
  • Safety first: backpacking is about getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things and being spontaneous. However, you should know that your insurance will not cover you for any accidents that happen when drugs, alcohol or reckless behaviour are involved.
  • Travelling on a tight budget? Who isn’t? Backpacking is great for the budget-conscious but knowing when to cut costs and when to spend is key. Travel insurance is a worthwhile expense. As a wise person once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
  • Travelling long term? If you decide to travel a bit longer than your policy then you can usually extend your coverage, and you can buy while overseas, too.
  • Adventurous backpacker? You may need to check which of the adventure sports you want to do is covered by our policies. For example, running with the bulls in Pamplona is not covered (and isn’t ethical anyway) but white-water rafting is covered.
  • Working while travelling? There may be some cover for admin work but it’s unlikely that there will be cover for manual labour. An upgrade may be possible to cover work such as maintenance, cleaning or bartending.

What’s not covered

Travel insurance is not designed to cover everything so understanding what’s not covered is important. There are several situations we can cover you for, but there are also some we just won’t cover.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • If you ignore government advice, such as a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning you won’t be covered for any costs that arise as a result.
  • If you know you’re going to be in close contact (or can’t avoid close contact) with a case of Coronavirus during your trip, then we won’t pay costs associated with your own coronavirus diagnosis.
  • If you can’t provide any written evidence of the incident or receipts for your expenses, you won’t be covered.
  • If you don’t keep your gear safe and secure at all times.
  • Expenses that can be recovered from other sources e.g. transport carriers, accommodation providers or other insurance policies

This is only a summary of coverage and does not include the full terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions of the policy. You should read your Policy Document in full so you understand what is and isn’t covered. That way there won’t be any surprises if you need to use it. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

The information provided is of a general nature and is provided for information purposes only. It does not constitute financial advice in any form, and should not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining professional advice that is specific to your circumstances. You should seek advice from a financial advice provider if you would like further information about whether a particular product is appropriate for you and your circumstances.

Some FAQs

  • Can I extend my policy while still travelling?
    Yes, it’s possible to extend your existing policy while still travelling and before its expiry date, for up to 12 months from the start date. Our Help center article on amending, extending, or cancelling a policy may also come in handy.

Travel Insurance Benefits: how we can take care of you

Trip Cancellation

Protect your trip from unexpected cancellation.

  • Explorer Plan: Unlimited
  • Standard Plan: $5,000
Trip Protection
  • Unexpectedly hospitalised?
  • Travel buddy unfit to travel?
  • Close relative suddenly dies?

We’ve got your back.

Emergency Medical Overseas

Take the pain out of medical costs.

  • Explorer Plan: Unlimited
  • Standard Plan: $5,000,000
Emergency Medical Insurance
  • Need meds quick?
  • Accidentally injured?
  • Suddenly sick?

We’ve got your back.

Emergency Medical Transport

We'll get you to hospital in a flash

  • Explorer Plan: Unlimited
  • Standard Plan: $500,000
Evacuation and Repatriation
  • Banged up abroad?
  • Need a hospital urgently?
  • Medivac home?

Help starts here.

Protect your gear

Cover your stolen or damaged gear and tech.

  • Explorer Plan: $10,000
  • Standard Plan: $2,000
Protect your gear
  • Passport or tech stolen?
  • Airline lost your gear?
  • Bags delayed?

Help starts here.

  • Overseas Medical Expenses
  • Emergency dental treatment
  • 24 hour assistance
  • Emergency medical transport & repatriation
  • Cancellation costs
  • Trip interruption costs
  • Compassionate emergency visit home
  • Resumption of trip
  • Theft or accidental damage to baggage and personal items
  • Baggage delay over 12 hours
  • Funeral expenses overseas or repatriation of remains
  • Personal liability
This is a general summary for New Zealand residents only. Restrictions, exclusions and limitations will apply. Benefit limits may vary depending on the plan chosen. Check the policy documents for full details.

A true claim story

  • This adventure I shared with one of my lovely daughters, has been totally fulfilling in every sense of the word. From the moment we landed in Cuzco, until we left, our experience was momentous for all the right reasons. Being insured with World Nomads added a sense of security, and I really enjoyed the reminders coming through. I will most certainly use you next time I'm off to the Jungle!!!!!
    Kiwi in Peru
  • I was snowboarding and it was icy. I caught an edge on my board and flipped over landing on my back. I injured my Lumber spine and head and could not move at all. I had to be put on a back board and taken by ambulance to Banff Mineral Springs Hospital where I was examined and had x- rays.
    Kiwi in Canada
  • Upon arrival to Spain on the 4th of April I had been displaying fever, headache, exhaustion and dizziness. This lasted for a week, so I went to the doctor at the hospital in Malaga, Andalucia where they gave me a consultation and blood test showing results that indicated a mosquito-bourne virus which makes sense as I arrived in Europe from Mexico a week before the symptoms started.
    Kiwi in Cambodia.

24/7 emergency assistance

If you need medical assistance or emergency medical evacuation our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year before and during your trip.

Are you in need of emergency assistance right now?

From New Zealand & Overseas:
+61 2 8263 0470 or
+61 2 8292 1470
(reverse charges via an operator from anywhere in the world)

Within Australia (Free call): 1800 611 210

Travel insurance. Simple & flexible.

Travel insurance for independent travelers and intrepid families. Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on their trip, but these things can and do happen. So be prepared and get your travel insurance today.