There comes a time in life, perhaps just after leaving school or university, or during a sabbatical, that you just want to put on a pack and hit the road. Just a plane ride away lies the alluring backpacker trail of south east Asia, where warm climates, exotic beaches, and a currency which allows the Western traveller relative wealth, makes for the ideal place to live in the moment, and experience the adventure of a foreign culture. Backpackers have a chance to experience other cultures in a deeper and more relaxed way than regular holiday-makers. With trips lasting months or sometimes years, a backpacker can go with the flow, allowing the journey to unfold day by day. Backpackers generally travel light, carrying rucksacks rather than conventional suitcases, and perhaps a copy of the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides, two of the bibles of the long term budget travellers.
Budget travel, however, doesn’t mean you want to stint on your insurance needs. If you get those sorted effectively before your trip, you can let your trip unfold without any concerns for your well-being. There are some basic concerns with choosing an insurance policy right for this kind of trip, principally the length of trip. Most cheaper plans have a 30, 60 or 90 day limit. For people planning a six month or longer trip, these are going to expire and leave you unprotected. So the first thing to ensure is that your plan covers the full duration of your expected stay. Even some of those which offer long term durations have break clauses if you have returned to your point of origin in the meantime, so be very clear with your insurer just how long your trip is going to be, and find a plan which allows you total freedom of movement, regardless of how you may change your plans. You don’t want to find that you’re limited in doing this simply because it would leave you without the proper coverage.
Another worry is the multiple country option. Budget insurance often contains a clause to factor in a single destination so if you’re touring Asia from say Thailand through Cambodia and Laos, you’ll need a plan which is going to cover all your bases. Similarly, these kind of trips often involve adventurous activities. It’s become almost de rigeur how to do a bungee jump on a gap year, or perhaps some white water rafting, off piste skiing, or some reef surfing. All of these are considered high risk activities and may be excluded by a more conventional plan. Knowing that backpackers are keen for just this type of thrill, a decent policy will factor in all of these things as standard, for your peace of mind.
God forbid you should do yourself a serious injury but do not forget to check the medical expenses cover, and the personal accident cover on any plan you investigate, ensuring both are covered. If you take a knock in a Vietnamese rickshaw, or fall off a feisty camel on the edge of the Thar desert, you’ll want to know your insurance is kicking in to avoid you paying expensive foreign hospital bills. In the worst case scenario where repatriation is possible, due to a major accident, again you’ll need a plan which is happy to pick up the tab. These things can costs huge amounts of money for the traveller without cover, so making sure they’re included is going to give you that ultimate peace of mind.
With that taken care of you can get on with the really important part of your trip, which is just going with the flow. Hire yourself an Enfield motorbike and cruise the Himalayan foothills, bask on a white sanded beach off the coast of Thailand, hike the jungles and see ancient Buddha’s at Angkor Watt, then catch some ten foot barrels on some of Indonesia’s massive waves. Backpacking can be some of the most rewarding time of your life, where you meet the friends of a lifetime, and encounter some of the world’s most vibrant cultures. It offers a chance to explore the world’s most exotic locations at a relaxed pace, and to step outside the rat race for a different view of things. Enjoy every minute.