By Vicky on 14 October 2015

When you're exploring options for your gap year adventure, certain parts of the planning process may be forgotten - but travel insurance definitely shouldn't be one of them.

It may be an expense you think you don't need, especially if every penny's going towards your adventure - but if things go wrong, it'll be the best money you've ever spent.

We've been looking at gap year claims, and we've found that the average cost of backpacker medical claims has soared to £1,640 per claim - a rise of over 150% in the last two years.

ABTA has recently released a report suggesting that one in five people travel abroad without travel insurance; younger people make up a huge percentage of that bracket. A third of those are in the 16-24 age range.

The FCO and ABTA have attempted to find out peoples' reasoning for failing to get travel insurance, and they've discovered that many travellers incorrectly assume they can turn to the UK government for help if they fall ill overseas.

This is semi-true, but won't help you take care of medical bills. If Brits do get into trouble, the British embassy will help them contact family or friends - but that's it. You won't be flown home, and your medical bills won't be covered.

We crunched some data from MoneySupermarket and we found that 30-40% of backpacker policies sold by them are purchased within one to three days of travelling, with a further 10-15% buying it on the same day.

You might think purchasing at the last minute has no effect, but it means you're not protected against cancellation of your trip and you could risk overlooking much-needed cover for activities such as any adventure sports or other activities you've planned to do during the trip.

Volunteering and working holidays are also gaining popularity, but these bring their own particular set of insurance-related niggles.

We advise that, as a basic rule of thumb, clerical and general domestic duties such as bar work, waiting at tables, or house cleaning are likely to be covered by most providers, although there may still be restrictions.

If there is any aspect of a job that seems unusual or higher risk, such as using any form of motorised vehicle, working with non-domestic animals, using machinery in a factory, climbing ladders or using ropes, there is a strong likelihood that this is not covered as standard and we'd advise you to contact your insurance company for confirmation.

Here are our top tips for gap year students:

  • Check that all the destinations that you are travelling to, or through, are covered
  • Ensure you allow extra time on your policy duration in the event of unexpected delays
  • Ensure that the policy covers any planned sports and activities, but also make sure you know how to get in contact with insurers if you suddenly decide to go bungee jumping
  • Always disclose any current or pre-existing medical conditions to your insurer. If you don't, it could affect your claim
  • Check the valuables limit and ensure you have adequate cover for any valuable items you are taking with you such as watches, cameras or tablets
  • If you're travelling within Europe, apply for a free EHIC or if you are travelling to Australia ensure you enroll with MEDICARE; both entitle you to some reduced or free emergency care – but you will still need travel insurance
  • Always keep a copy of your insurance policy details with you and saved in your secure email account as back-up. Keep any paperwork, such as tickets, receipts, medical bills, police reports in case anything goes wrong
  • Check the FCO website for country-specific advice. If you go to an area which the FCO advises against travel to, your travel insurance is unlikely to be valid

Image credit: Shutterstock

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