Once the domain of students, the gap year has become popular with people of all ages and backgrounds.
There's a lot to think about when you head abroad for an extended adventure. Making sure you have the right travel insurance for your gap year before you go can put your mind at ease.
Why do I need gap year insurance?
An important reason for having gap year travel insurance is to cover you for the potentially very high cost of treatment if you fall ill while you’re away.
Most countries don’t have the same sort of medical provision we enjoy in the UK (free treatment at the point of need) and having to receive treatment in a foreign country can quickly become very expensive, especially in countries like the USA where even a short stay in hospital can land you a bill running into tens of thousands of pounds.
If you’re visiting EU countries or Switzerland, the UK has reciprocal health care agreements which can be accessed using your Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (if still valid) but not all treatment’s covered and your GHIC won’t cover the cost of your travel if you need to return to the UK sooner than planned.
What should I consider when looking at travel insurance for my gap year?
Each insurance provider will have their own breakdown of exactly what's covered, but as a general rule of thumb, you should consider what cover you'll need on your trip. For example:
- Emergency medical expenses. These can include ambulance transport, stays in hospital, treatment and drugs
- Repatriation home if you're too unwell to continue your journey. This also covers you in the instance of death, where your body or ashes need to be flown home
- Lost, damaged and stolen possessions
- Cancellation costs if something happens so you can't travel, or if you need to cut your trip short
- All the activities and sports you plan to enjoy, in case you get injured
- All the countries you wish to visit, even if you're just passing through
What's different about gap year travel insurance?
When you're away for a year or more, you need a policy that covers you for the entire length of your trip.
LV= travel insurance can cover you for a single trip, lasting up to:
• 366 days if you’re under 65 years of age
• 90 days if you’re between 65 and 79
• 31 days if you’re over 80
Some policies allow you to travel back to the UK for short stays, such as a visit back at Christmas. A standard travel insurance policy will usually end when you return to the UK, even if it's just for a visit.
You should also look out for policies that provide cover for all the activities you want to do. Perhaps you'll want to have a go at snowboarding or scuba diving, so check with your insurer if there are any restrictions or requirements. As some sports are more risky than others, you may only be covered if you're with a qualified instructor, stay within a certain area or depth or you may need to include additional cover on your policy, like winter sports.
What to double check before you buy gap year travel insurance
Insurance companies often put a maximum amount on the claim you can make for any one item. So if you have a phone worth £500 but the maximum claim for each item is £300, you could be out of pocket.
Also double check the cancellation insurance for your trip covers everything you plan to do, including pre-booked activities. Again, there may be a maximum amount you can claim for.
It's essential you tell the insurance company about any medical conditions you have. If you don't and you need to make a claim, the insurance company may not cover your medical costs if the claim is related in any way to a pre-existing condition.
Working and volunteering
Many travel insurance policies won't cover you for accidents that happen while you're doing manual work, either paid or unpaid, so check with your insurer before you start using that chainsaw or commence any voluntary jobs. LV= cover conservation and charity work as long as they don't involve any manual or any form of medical work (even at a medical care facility).
War and conflict
If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has said not to travel to a country or region then you won't be insured as standard if you choose to go there. Check with your insurance company.
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