Stay Protected: The Importance of Gap Year Travel Insurance

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Taking a gap year and travelling is one of the most exciting things you can do! I absolutely loved my first few months of travelling after uni before entering the corporate world! One thing I wish I had more information about before my first travel adventure was gap year travel insurance.

Thinking about travel insurance for your gap year is frankly boring and definitely something most people put off.

I don’t blame you. I didn’t give it much thought either.

Even though thinking about what gap year travel insurance you should get isn’t as fun as choosing where to go during your gap year, it is still really important.

Perhaps even more important than choosing where you want to go. If you choose the wrong gap year travel insurance, you may end up with a serious health issue while abroad and be stuck paying the bill just because you didn’t put the effort into choosing the right travel insurance.

The good news is that you’re reading this article now, so you’re already taking your gap year travel insurance more seriously than most travellers!

And more seriously than I took it when I was 21 years old and heading to Europe alone for the first time.

This article will give you (hopefully) all the tools you need to choose the right gap year travel insurance for you!

Solo travel in Iceland

Do You Even Need Gap Year Travel Insurance?

Let’s start off with discussing whether you even need gap year travel insurance. You’re young, you’re healthy, and you may think the chances of you getting sick while travelling are slime to nothing.

But that simply isn’t the case.

You can get sick or injured at any time in any place, and trust me when I say you want to have travel insurance to help pay those bills. Especially when you’re young and, in theory, don’t have a lot of money.

I’ve heard horror stories of people getting into scooter accidents in Southeast Asia, needing surgery, and it costing almost as much as their entire gap year was supposed to.

If you’re going to South America, there is a good chance you’ll be doing some hiking, and it is super easy to injure your legs while hiking. Depending on how remote you are, that may require an air transport out of the area.

You can only imagine how expensive that is.

You may think that you don’t need gap year travel insurance in Europe because it’s super safe, and the healthcare is free most places.

Well, I got injured in Bucharest during my first solo trip to Europe, refused to see a doctor about it (even when I got home), and I still live with daily pain ten years later.

So, yeah, getting sick or injured is definitely a possibility, and you need to have travel insurance to help pay for any costs associated with your doctor visits or hospital stays.

I’m on My Parent’s Insurance. Is that Good Enough?

Generally, no. Being on your parent’s health insurance isn’t good enough for your gap year travel insurance.

The reason I say this is because most of the time the travel insurance included in your parent’s health insurance through work is only valid for a short period of time. Most of the time it is only valid for 30 days at a time and then you have to purchase additional travel insurance for the rest of your trip through someone else.

You could definitely use your parent’s travel insurance for the first 30 days of your trip and then purchase travel insurance for the rest of your gap year after that initial 30 days is up.

You do have to be careful with this though.

Your Options

There are two options you can take if this is your plan. The first is to purchase the rest of your travel insurance while you’re abroad after the initial 30 days of insurance is done. The second option is to purchase travel insurance before you leave that doesn’t kick in until those first 30 days are up.

If you choose to purchase the rest of your travel insurance while abroad, make sure you choose a company that allows you to start your coverage with them while you’re already abroad.

A lot of travel insurance companies don’t let you do that. Luckily, my favourite travel insurance company (and the one I personally use) Safety Wing does allow you to start coverage while you’re already abroad.

If you choose to pre-purchase your top up travel insurance before you leave, you may also run into a similar issue. A lot of companies (at least in Canada where I live), won’t let you pre-buy travel insurance that starts while you’re abroad. You have to purchase enough travel insurance for your entire trip.

Moral of the story is to make sure you do your research before making a decision about what gap year travel insurance is right for you.

And to read the fine print because you don’t want to purchase gap year travel insurance and then find out it’s void if you go to make a claim because of a technically like when you bought it and whether or not you were already abroad when the coverage started.

Solo Travel

Sometimes You’re Legally Required to Have Travel Insurance

You may still think that purchasing gap year travel insurance isn’t worth the money, but you may be legally required to have travel insurance before entering a country.

Here are a list of countries/areas where you are legally required to have travel insurance before entering:

Country/AreaConsequences of Not Having Travel Insurance
CubaEntry refusal (most of the time cost of medical insurance included in visa application)
Schengen AreaOnly required if entering on a Schengen Visa but €30,000 of insurance recommended for every traveller
TurkeyEntry refusal or deportation (have to indicate you have insurance while completing your visa application online)
BelarusEntry refusal (have to indicate you have insurance when completing visa application and border patrol known to ask for proof before entry)
UAEOnly need proof of travel insurance if entering on a visa

Please always check the entry requirements for any country you’re visiting to make sure you have everything you need to enter.

I’m not just talking about travel insurance but also whether or not you need a visa to enter. You won’t believe how many people show up to places like Turkey or Vietnam and don’t realize they need to apply for and be approved for a visa online before arrival.

What to Consider Before Purchasing Gap Year Travel Insurance

There are a few things to consider when choosing gap year travel insurance:

1. Coverage Types: Review the different types of coverage offered, such as medical expenses, trip cancellation/interruption, baggage loss/delay, emergency evacuation, and personal liability. Determine which types of coverage are essential for your trip.

2. Coverage Limits: Check the maximum coverage limits for each category to ensure they are sufficient for your needs. For example, medical coverage should adequately cover potential healthcare costs in your destination.

3. Deductibles: Understand the deductible amount you would need to pay before the insurance coverage kicks in. Evaluate if you are comfortable with the deductible level.

4.Pre-Existing Conditions: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, confirm whether they are covered or if you need to purchase additional coverage or a separate policy.

5. Trip Duration: Ensure that the policy covers the entire duration of your trip, including any pre-trip or post-trip activities.

6. Geographical Coverage: Check if the policy covers all the destinations you plan to visit. Some policies may have restrictions or exclusions for certain regions or countries.

7. Activities and Sports: If you plan to engage in specific activities or sports, confirm that they are covered under the policy. Some adventurous or high-risk activities may require additional coverage.

8. Exclusions and Limitations: Review the policy’s exclusions and limitations to understand what is not covered. Common exclusions may include pre-existing conditions, certain sports or activities, and acts of terrorism.

9. Emergency Assistance: Check if the policy provides 24/7 emergency assistance services, including a helpline for immediate support during emergencies.

10. Cost: Compare the cost of different policies while considering the coverage and benefits offered. Remember that the cheapest option may not provide adequate coverage for your needs.

11. Policy Terms and Conditions: Read the policy thoroughly, paying attention to the terms and conditions, including the claims process, documentation requirements, and any specific obligations or responsibilities.

12. Reputation and Customer Reviews: Research the insurer’s reputation and read customer reviews to assess their reliability and responsiveness in handling claims and providing customer support.

There are, of course, other things you could consider when choosing who to purchase your travel insurance through, but these are the main things you need to take into account.

Petronas Towers at Night

How to Choose the Right Gap Year Travel Insurance for You

Okay. I know the list in the previous section is a bit intimidating, but there aren’t really that many options for gap year travel insurance because you’re gone for so long.

The way I see it, there are two options:

1. Purchase a monthly travel plan through a company that specializes in long-term travel insurance.

2. Purchase enough travel insurance days through a provider like AMA, AAA, your bank, etc.

Both options have their pros and cons, and we’re going to discuss them next.

Option One: Purchasing Gap Year Insurance Through a Specialized Company

There are a few companies that specialize in travel insurance for digital nomads or long travellers (like people taking a gap year).

They normally operate on a monthly subscription model, and the entire focus of the company is making sure that you have good travel insurance while you’re abroad.

The two big players in this game are World Nomads Insurance and Safety Wing Insurance. World Nomads is the OG player in the space, but Safety Wing is really growing and becoming hugely popular.

I personally use Safety Wing. I love the price point, the coverage, and, most importantly, the customer service and how helpful and kind everybody I’ve dealt with is.

I also really like that they cover you in your home country for the first 30 days (15 days in the US) after being abroad for at least 90 days, you can start your coverage while you’re abroad, and you can cancel and restart your coverage at any time.

It’s super flexible, which is important for people taking a gap year. You may change your mind on where you’re going, when you’re coming home, or you may even travel for a few months and then decide travelling isn’t for you and need to cancel your insurance sooner than you anticipated.

But you should look into both companies and decide what is best for you if you choose to purchase your gap year travel insurance through a specialized company.

Pros

  • Amazing coverage
  • Expert support
  • Cancel anytime
  • Includes travel insurance

Cons

  • Monthly expense
  • Price may increase*
  • Prices in USD**

*You will always be given ample warning before prices increase

**Prices being in USD isn’t a huge issue. It just means that your credit card on file will be charge in USD, and your credit card company will automatically convert it to your home currency. It may result in small fluctuations in your monthly prices. I’m Canadian, and the charge on my credit card has only fluctuated between $3 each month based on currency exchange rates at the time.

National Theater of Taiwan

Option Two: Purchasing Gap Year Travel Insurance Through a Large Company

When I first started travelling (for for more years than I’d like to admit after that), I purchased my travel insurance through the AMA (think AAA if you’re from the States).

It’s a members-only business that does thinks like car insurance, travel insurance, trip planning, and some other stuff.

I would purchase a policy for however many days I was travelling abroad for and then purchase another policy whenever I came back to Canada and was leaving on another trip.

The insurance is fine, but it was a hassle to make a claim because they needed my Canadian insurance information and health records because they would claim a portion of the money they paid for my services abroad through my provincial health care.

That’s getting a bit into the weeds of it all, but what you need to know is that it was quite the process to try to get reimbursed for any health expenses from abroad.

You can also normally purchase trip insurance through your bank, most insurance companies, or healthcare companies in your area.

They normally charge you per day, and you can either purchase a single-trip policy or a multi-trip policy.

If you purchase a single-trip policy, you purchase the exact amount of days you’ll be abroad for. If you purchase a multi-trip policy, you choose a certain number (normally either 7 days, 15 days, 30 days, or 60 days). Whatever you choose will be the number of days you’re covered for each time you go abroad. If you’re gone for longer than the number of days you chose, you need to purchase a top up policy that will cover you for the days you’re gone above the number of days you selected.

I hope that doesn’t sound too complicated.

Pros

  • Pay 100% upfront
  • Can get policy with zero deductible*
  • Know they’ll always have money to pay claim

Cons

  • Sometimes difficult to make claim
  • May take a long time for customer service
  • No travel insurance

*Getting a policy with a zero deductible often costs more. Be sure to price out what a policy costs with a zero deductible versus a small deductible like Safety Wing has and make sure you get the best price.

Flying Alone

What I Use for Travel Insurance

I’ve never not taken a trip without travel insurance, and I’ve used both options discussed above.

Both definitely have a place in the travel insurance world. People who aren’t travelling for very long or just need a top up beyond what their employment health insurance covers, should definitely purchase their travel insurance through a larger company.

However, since we’re talking about long-term travel and gap year travel insurance, for me, the clear winner is purchasing gap year travel insurance through a specialized company.

I personally use Safety Wing and don’t plan on switching from them anytime soon. Probably not until I settle down somewhere and start living a proper adult life.

Like that will happen anytime soon.

Reasons I Use and Love Safety Wing Travel Insurance

  • Very affordable when compared to other specialized companies
  • Great customer support and very quick to respond to inquires
  • Comprehensive coverage focused on and dedicated to long-term travellers and digital nomads
  • Easy to use and understand website and portal
  • Home country coverage for 30 days after being abroad for 90 days
  • Can be purchased abroad
  • Can cancel at anytime, which makes it very flexible

Important Things to Know About Safety Wing Insurance

  • Maximum limit of $250,000 ($100,000 for people 65+)
  • $250 deductible
  • Excludes pre-existing conditions and cancer treatment
  • Includes a lifetime amount of up to $50,000 for injuries caused by a terror incident (that’s not always included in other policies)
  • Includes trip interruption, lost baggage, trip cancellation, border entry protection, and loss passport/visa insurance

Three Apps You Absolutely Need During Your Gap Year

I’m just going to pop in here and tell you about a couple apps that I wish I knew about before my first long trip abroad. Knowing about these would have made my life so much easier.

NordVPN

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I spent many years travelling abroad without a VPN protecting my online information. Now I love telling everybody that they absolutely need a VPN before they do any travelling.

If you travel without a VPN, you’re putting your online information (including your banking information) at risk of being stolen while you’re abroad. Trust me when I say it is zero fun dealing with stolen bank cards while you’re abroad.

The only way you can keep your online information safe while abroad is by installing a VPN on your devices. It essentially puts up an invisible forcefield around your devices that keeps prying eyes away from your personal information.

I’ve been using NordVPN for years and years now. I absolutely love it and have zero intention of switching to another VPN provider.

NordVPN

Airalo

I discovered Airalo in 2022, and it literally changed the way I travel.

Airalo is an esim provider. You purchase an esim for wherever you’re travelling to either via their website or app, install the esim on your phone, and you now have access to data when you travel.

No need to get local sim cards, use a wifi egg like Skyroam, or rely on public wifi when you’re out and about exploring a new city.

It gives you so much freedom and flexibility when travelling. Especially if you’re a solo traveller like I am.

I no longer have to decide everything I’m doing for the day before I leave the hotel or hunt for public wifi when out and about.

I’ve eaten so many incredible meals I wouldn’t have had before just because I can Google restaurants around me.

Airalo esims are very affordable, super convenient, and I’ll never travel without one again. It’s the one thing I tell everybody in my life who is planning a vacation about.

Once you start using an esim, you won’t go back to how you used to travel.

Google

Okay. This may seem like an odd one but hear me out.

The Google apps have become so much better the past few years, and you can’t travel without them anymore. Especially Google Maps, Google Translate, and Google Photos.

I’m obsessed with them all, and once you learn how to use them properly for travel, you won’t go back. You know all that delicious food I mentioned in the last section? All found using Google Maps and looking up menus through it.

I also recommend you get a Google Drive account. Store all your travel information in it. You can mark it to be viewable offline, which is super convenient.

This makes filling out custom forms and keeping track of your travel schedule easier than ever before. I used to just scroll through my emails to find my hotel and flight information.

Once you have your Google Drive account set up, share it with a loved one back home. This not only lets people know where you are and what you’re doing, but if something goes wrong, someone knows where you were supposed to be and can tell the authorities.

But of course nothing will go wrong on your amazing gap year, so it’s more about keeping the people who care about you informed of your movements.

Venice, view of grand canal and basilica of santa maria della salute. Italy.

Conclusion

Holy cow that was a way longer post than I intended it to be. I guess I have a lot to say about gap year travel insurance.

It’s definitely not the most exciting or fun thing to talk about, but it is extremely important to talk about it. You need to make sure you’re properly insured before you go abroad and have the most amazing gap year ever!

I know this post was long, and you probably skimmed a lot of it. So I’ll recap the most important parts of the article for you here.

1. You need gap year travel insurance. It isn’t negotiable. Go get it.

2. I recommend you purchase your long-term travel insurance through a specialized company like Safety Wing.

3. Make sure you read the fine print before purchasing a policy. Make sure you meet all the eligibility requirements. You don’t want to find out your policy is accidentally null and void because of a silly error when you go to use it.

I really hope this article has helped you develop the skills and knowledge you need to find the best gap year travel insurance for you.

It’s an important decision you need to make for your gap year, and the right or wrong decision could have a large impact on your trip.

Now go out, explore the world, and have the best trip ever!

Stay Protected: The Importance of Gap Year Travel InsuranceStay Protected: The Importance of Gap Year Travel InsuranceStay Protected: The Importance of Gap Year Travel InsuranceStay Protected: The Importance of Gap Year Travel Insurance
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