Travel insurance probably gave us the most amount of angst during the pre-trip planning phase. There are literally hundreds of insurers each backed by a similar amount of underwriters. If there are hundreds of insurers, there are thousands more opinions on other blogs about what to look out for in a good policy. The only consistent was the opinion that travel insurance remains an absolute necessity for backpackers travelling abroad.
In the end we went with “Insure and Go” we seemed to get a good deal for a policy that covered the extent of our needs. The way we approached travel insurance purchase was to begin by looking at other people’s travel blogs, travel magazines and website articles. That gave us a broad idea of the main points that we needed to look out for. I learnt for example, that if, like us, you don’t have a return flight booked at the end of your backpacking trip it might invalidate your policy. We also found that some areas within the myriad of travel insurance cover needed particular focus, for example, adventurous activities cover. We hope to do lots of activities whilst on the road and we guess that in the unfortunate event of needing to make a claim, it will likely involve an accident whilst doing something adventurous, for that is the point of the trip (doing adventurous things not having accidents!) In the first two weeks we plan to walk up the Inca Trail but many travel insurance policies only cover you to trek to a height of 2,000m. It wasn’t until I checked, that I noticed we will touch 5,000m on the way to Machu Pichu and so we had to find a policy that matched out itinerary.
Once our initial research was done we turned to the online travel insurance quote calculators. There are specialist travel insurers, It seems World Nomads gets rave reviews from the Lonely Planet crowd, Columbus Direct have a following and favourable reviews about True Traveller kept popping up, perhaps because someone who was rescued off a mountain gave them a good blog post review after they arranged evacuation for him. It was interesting to note that of all the reviews we looked at (and we looked at many) the review of the mountain evacuation was one of the few reviews posted after someone had made a claim.
After getting what seemed like a sensible quote (in the region of £500 each) from the respected World Nomads we turned to the next essential but boring phase of printing off the policy wording. In our view its worth priniting at least one full policy to navigate your way around and get a fuller understanding of what’s necessary and what is desirable for the kind of cover that you need . There will no doubt be parts that don’t make sense but you can make a note of them and ask the agent to explain, when it comes to the final phase which is booking a policy.
After reading the policy wording we felt like we had enough knowledge to know what we needed, what we didn’t need and approximately the region of price in which we had to try to negotiate a more favourable price. At this stage we picked up the phone and called an insurer. We were pleasantly surprised, instead of getting hard sell, we got lots of information including an understanding of the parts of the policy fine print that didn’t make sense. We learnt that the exorbitantly attractive medical cover, sometimes more than £20 million wasn’t really necessary. You would simply struggle to run up a medical bill for £20 million pounds and if you did manage to run up a bill in that kind of sum, I doubt you would be in a fit state to care about the extent of your travel insurance cover! We also found out that it makes sense to check if you have other insurance cover to avoid duplication . Perhaps you have a credit card that covers loss of valuables or your home and contents insurance might cover your belongings. If you have alternative cover you can save cost.
Finally we got to the stage where after endless online quotes and comparisons between levels of cover we had narrowed it down to two providers, Insure and Go and True Traveller. The person we spoke to at True Traveller was incredibly helpful and they were the company that helped the injured man off the mountain but Insure and Go came in slightly less cost for the same amount of cover and we were able to trade them off. The part that swung it was the hazourdous activities ‘add on’ that we were offered with Insure and Go. We thought there was piece of mind knowing that we will be covered for activities that we want to take part in, without having to worry about whether certain things are outside of the policy. The add on gives us 15 days of “hazardous activities” and covers us for the higher altitude trekking, there was no problem in not having a return flight and the cover includes the ability to return to the UK once during the trip in case of an emergency. The cost of our travel insurance for ten months was £350 each.