travel insurance

The complete guide to gap year travel insurance

The months are flying by and you’re getting closer to setting off on your travels. Your passport’s been renewed, visas have been granted and you’re nearing the end of your course of vaccinations. There’s just the issue of travel insurance to sort out for your gap year now. While most people do buy watertight travel insurance, there are occasionally a few people who think ‘it’ll never happen to me.’ Don’t take the risk! You could end up with a serious injury and a colossal health bill to pay, to top it all off.

It is important to get the right travel insurance as it’s not just to cover you if you get ill. It also covers you if you need to cut your trip short and need to replace lost belongings such as money and passport. The right policy will also cover you for personal liability in the event you are sued for causing injury or damaging property.

Shop around

Take time to research and you could find yourself a good bargain as there is plenty of competition. On average, you can expect to pay approximately £25 per month for basic cover and £30-40 for more extensive cover.

There are a variety of policies such as specific backpacker insurance, or if you’re going all over the world then it may be cheaper to buy annual travel insurance.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office say your travel insurance policy should cover:

  • Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad – at least £1m for Europe and £2m for the rest of the world
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • Personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
  • Lost and stolen possessions cover
  • Cancellation/curtailment cover
  • Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as skiing and riding a motorbike.

Financial protection

In these bleak economic times, there is an everincreasing risk of airline bankruptcy. This usually means passengers are stranded and have to spend a lot of money on new tickets with a different airline.

Make sure you book your travel with an agent that offers protection under ATOL (Air Travel Organisers Licensing). If you pay over £100 with a credit or Visa Debit Card, cover is provided.


Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy because most will not cover drink or drugrelated incidents. You must also take reasonable care of your possessions, or your policy will not cover you. Most policies now cover terrorism but check to be absolutely certain.

European Health Insurance Card

Introduced in January 2006, the EHIC gives the holder rights to healthcare in the European Economic Area and Switzerland, made up of all 27 members of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Anyone aged 16 and over; who is normally a resident in the UK can apply for an EHIC.

But remember the EHIC does not cover all your medical costs, private treatment is generally not covered, neither is the cost of returning to the UK.

Some people think an EHIC will be enough and don’t take out insurance, there are occasions when an injured traveller will have to pay thousands of pounds for an air ambulance back to the UK or pay out for extra accommodation.

travel insurance gap year

When it goes wrong – the real cost

Unfortunately, there’s a chance your dream adventure could go wrong and if it does, the British Embassy or High Commission will not pay anything towards your costs.

Costs range, according to FirstAssist Services, from £15-20,000 for a scheduled flight, stretcher and doctor from Australia; to an astronomical £35-45,000 for an air ambulance from the USA’s East coast.

Buy it – just in case

It may seem like an extra expense but don’t be foolish. Travel insurance should be seen as equally important, if not more, than your airline ticket.

Read Jamie’s story next, and imagine how different things could have been had he decided to skip the £225 policy.

Check out these insurance providers

Alpha Insurance

They say: “Alpha Travel Insurance covers Gap Year travellers, and those studying or working abroad. A wide range of activities are included within the standard premium including bungee jumping and snowboarding. There is a discount for The Gap Year Travel Guide readers with the code GAP2012”

STA Travel

They say: “Whether you’re off on a weekend break or an epic round the world adventure, we know how important it is to stay safe on your travels. We’ve made sure you’ll be covered for every eventuality.”


They say: “With our gap year travel insurance policy you can customise your cover depending on the type of gap year you are going to take. Our gap year policy now covers you for up to two trips home during the duration of your cover.”

Big Cat Travel Insurance

They say: “Big Cat’s gap year travel insurance policies are designed for gap year travellers, backpackers and students embarking on an extended trip abroad. We offer three great-value levels of cover – Budget, Standard and Premier – to suit your budget and the extent of the cover you require.”

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