I’ve been living out of my backpack since 2018 and over the past few years, I’ve tried several insurance policies for travel on the cheap.
Thankfully, I’ve only had to make a few small claims, mostly for travel delays, and that time my entire backpack with all of my belongings was stolen at a Barcelona bus stop.
However, this has taught me just how unpredictable travel can be– and is why I never travel without travel insurance.
In 2024, I’m using Heymondo’s long-stay insurance for backpacking, as it provides essential coverage for medical expenses, travel disruptions, and baggage protection at the cheapest rates I could find online.
That said, there are plenty of other affordable insurance policies available for backpackers like Safetywing or World Nomads. However, the decision will ultimately come down to what coverage you need for international travel, and are eligible for (remember to read the small print).
My Favorite Backpacker Insurance Policies
Since I don't have a home base, the travel insurance that I choose is really important– it's essentially the only medical coverage I have and needs to insure my camera gear (usually with add-on), which I often stow in my baggage or in a hostel locker.
Below are my three favorite cheap backpacker insurance companies in 2024.
1. Heymondo 5% OFF
Heymondo is my current top pick for cheap travel insurance due to its affordability, wide range of coverage, and excellent app to manage claims.
Safetywing traditionally offers insurance to remote workers and digital nomads. However, I've used their Nomad Insurance for years as a general backpacking insurance policy.
3. World Nomads
World Nomads offers peace of mind travel insurance with a solid claims record and a good reputation in the backpacker and adventure travel community but their policies are a little more pricier than the alternatives.
In the past, I've mostly used Safetywing as they offered the most flexible and affordable long-term trip insurance for digital nomad backpackers.
However, I swapped to Heymondo in 2024 because Safetywing does not offer coverage for electronics without an additional add-on.
Disclaimer: I receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using my links. I do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
Do I Need Travel Insurance for a Backpacking Trip?
The reason why you need travel insurance when you're exploring new places is that the unexpected can and does happen.
As the old maxim goes, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.
Unfortunately, a recent US survey revealed that only 38% of travelers are choosing to purchase travel insurance for their trips. The primary reason given was that they never needed to claim on previous travels and 19% didn't consider their trip expensive enough to insure.
But who can plan for a broken bone after falling off a scooter in Bali, or a severe infection after drinking water without using a travel filter bottle?
Mishaps can set you back far more than you'd expect.
Just as Jordan Katherine, a 27-year-old backpacker who was left thousands out of pocket in medical bills when she was glassed by a total stranger in Sri Lanka.
I urge backpackers to think of it as a general safety net while overseas. I certainly didn't expect my backpack to be stolen while checking into a bus in Barcelona, or to lose thousands in flights after the sudden pandemic cancellations shut down airlines worldwide.
Luckily, I had travel insurance in both cases– and the cheap cost of the coverage was insignificant compared to the amount I ended up getting back in claims.
What Does Travel Insurance Actually Cover?
The truth is, there are hundreds, if not thousands of different travel insurance companies, all with different coverage plans and policies. However, there are a few important things that your backpacker insurance should cover including:
- Medical emergencies - for accidents and sickness. Think surgeries, medical assistance at hospitals, ambulance fees, and medical evacuations.
- Covid-19 Coverage - pretty standard these days, but worth checking
- Travel delay & cancelations - think the resumption of journey or an overnight stay at a hostel or hotel room in the case of canceled flights or lengthy flight delays.
- Emergency evacuation & Repatriation- in the event of injury or natural disasters
- Dental emergencies - often separate to medical emergency costs
- Baggage - insures your valuables (usually up to a limit) in the event of theft, damage, or lost and delayed baggage.
- Personal liability - in case you accidentally injure others or damage property overseas
- Death overseas
Remember, it's your responsibility to ensure that you have the right insurance for your backpacking trip. My advice? Read the fine print, and don't always go for the "cheapest" travel insurance because it might end up costing you much more in the event the company doesn't pay your claims.
What Doesn't Cheap Travel Insurance Cover?
While every travel insurance company offers different levels of coverage and inclusions, there are a few things that are generally not covered by any policy including:
- Injury or incidents involving drugs and alcohol - this means you can't blame the booze if you crash your moped
- Pre-existing medical conditions or general health checkups - for example I couldn't claim my scuba diving medical clearance or the extensive checkup prior to a mountaineering course in India.
- Carelessness or negligence - for example if you leave your laptop on a cafe table in Medellin while going to the toilet.
- Change of mind cancellations - you can't claim insurance if you choose to cancel your trip yourself after falling out with your backpacking buddy.
- Visa issues - travel insurance providers typically claim that it's your responsibility to obtain the relevant visa.
- Illegal activity
Now, since we're backpackers and we're trying to shave every penny off of our travel costs, the cheaper travel insurance policies typically have even more limitations.
- Motorcycle accidents, especially if you are not licensed in your home country. This is important to check as it's one of the most common causes of physical injury to backpackers, especially in Southeast Asia and South America.
- Adventure sports, scuba diving, & trekking at altitude. This is typically offered as an extra cost that makes the insurance not so cheap.
- Stolen cash
- Electronics or valuables over a certain value (including electronics)
- Claims related to civil unrest - the only policies I know that cover this is Global Rescue
My 3 Favorite Backpacker Insurance Companies For Travel on the Cheap
There are only three companies that I'd consider using as a backpacker planning a budget trip.
1. HeyMondo - Cheap Insurance for Long Trips & Easy Claims
Heymondo offers tailor-made travel insurance with some of the best value for money I've found for my trips.
Launching in 2019, they're relatively new on the travel scene. However, Heymondo has gained a very good reputation among backpackers for their 24/7 assistance, good claims track record on Trustpilot, and an excellent app for managing claims (something that I'm personally a very big fan of).
I'm currently using their long-stay insurance for my backpacking trips in 2024. I buy this in 90-day blocks which is good because I know that I'm going to be traveling for the whole year but I have the option of keeping it semi-flexible.
This currently costs me $44 per month for worldwide travel (excluding USA) on the barebones policy. The pricing seems to vary a little depending on your chosen destinations and your home country, but all We Seek Travel readers get 5% OFF by using my link.
- Medical expenses up to $2,500,000 USD
- Repatriation and early return up to $500,000 USD
- Covid-19 Coverage
- 24/7 worldwide assistance
- Excellent app for managing claims
- Great reputation for paying claims
- Baggage up to $1,200
- Extra fee for adventure sports add-on
- Adventure sports is way too broad and even includes activites like "basketball".
2. Safetywing - Best Affordable Insurance for Remote Workers & Digital Nomads
As I've mentioned, Safetywing was my go-to backpacker insurance for several years prior to switching to HeyMondo. They usually market their policies to remote workers and digital nomads with their monthly payment plans.
They offer basic plans for things like medical costs, delays and trip interruptions, as well as additional coverage even when visiting your home country.
Safetywing is a popular insurance plan for many travelers and you'll usually hear their brand bounce around in hostels because they are one of the most affordable options for backpacking trips longer than one month.
Their standard coverage currently costs just over $45 for 4 weeks of travel, which is just slightly more expensive than Heymondo. However, in my case, I've found Heymondo to have slightly better coverage for the price.
- Medical expenses up to $250,000 USD
- Easy online claims
- Coverage for limited time in your home country
- Good customer service
- Newly added adventure sports coverage is actually decent (but costs extra)
- Their standard coverage costs just $45.08 USD for 4 weeks of travel
- Limited coverage for electronics and personal belongings in the basic policy
- Adventure add-on really bumps up the price
- Backpackers from some regions can't buy a policy until they have left their home country
3. World Nomads - Backpacking Insurance for Adventure Travelers
When it comes to the best backpacker insurance companies, World Nomads is often mentioned, especially in adventure-centric travel communities.
I've met many travelers who use this policy specifically for their relaxed altitude cap limits (check their policy). In fact, I've used World Nomads to insure my treks in the Himalayas including the Three Passes and Everest Base Camp Trek and the Manaslu Circuit Trek because I found at the time Safetywing did not offer any coverage at all above 4,500 meters.
Furthermore, I'm a big fan of World Nomads' community efforts, starting the Footprints Network, which supports great causes like Fred Hollow's Foundation and WaterAid. This means that backpackers buying travel insurance with World Nomads are directly contributing to making the world a better place.
- Extensive coverage options for adventure activities
- Usually offers higher trekking altitude limits than other insurance companies
- Great philanthropic efforts
- Excellent support team
- Great history and long-standing reputation in the backpacker community
- Can buy a policy at home or while already traveling
- Typically more expensive than the other cheap travel insurance options available today
- Activity Restrictions: Although World Nomads covers a wide range of activities, there are exclusions. For adventurous travelers or those engaging in extreme sports, it's crucial to check if your specific activities are covered.
FAQ About Travel Insurance for Backpacking
What about insurance through my credit card?
Yes, sometimes your credit card will offer some basic travel insurance coverage. However, there are often many limitations like buying the entire trip on the card, including a return flight. Since a lot of backpackers like to keep their itineraries flexible, many will not be covered by their card's policy if they buy one-way tickets. Make sure to check your policy.
Will cheap travel insurance cover my expensive gear?
Typically, the more affordable travel insurance policies have really low value limits for personal belongings and sometimes exclude electronics altogether. That's why I've opted to insure my electronics and camera equipment separately with an independent provider.
Is travel insurance worth it for a short backpacking trip?
Travel insurance is always worth it because accidents can happen, no matter the duration of your trip. Being insured for things like medical costs and cancellations can save you thousands of dollars, especially in an emergency.
What's the difference between multi-trip and backpacker insurance?
Multi-trip insurance policies are great for travelers who plan a short-term vacation visiting more than one country or if they make frequent single-trips throughout the year. Backpacker insurance is typically more flexible, affordable, and are designed to cover trips up to a year or more.
Does backpacker insurance cover working abroad?
Many backpackers want to work or volunteer to earn or save money during their travels. Insurance providers like Safetywing tailor their policies to remote workers but you'll need to check your eligibility and visa limitations to ensure you're covered.
So, What's the Verdict?
In 2024, my favorite backpacker insurance is the long-stay insurance by Heymondo. This is currently the cheapest travel insurance that I've found for long budget trips around the world and their coverage options are the best for my needs.
That said, I'm not recommending any insurance for you. It's your job to do your research and choose the travel insurance that's best for you and your wallet.
The good news is that since I buy backpacker insurance throughout the whole year, I'll always be on the lookout for a better deal. I'll keep this blog post updated and would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.
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