Gaps in cover

Travel insurance

Insurance comparison website GoCompare 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 and extended 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, 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 per cent of policies provided cover for trips lasting over a year, 31 per cent only covered travellers for a year, and 12 per cent 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 per cent) policies set the minimum at 18. The maximum age range was much wider at 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 per cent 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 per cent) 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 per cent) provided between £100 and £300 worth of cover, 17 per cent provided between £350 and £1,000, and 15 per cent didn’t provide any cover at all.    

Stop over cover: Only 38 per cent 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 Travel Insurance commented: “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.” She went on to point out some important differences between policies: “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 adrenaline-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.” As many gap year travellers also work during their year abroad to top up their coffers, Lloyd had some advice for those planning to take up a job while on their travels: “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.”