It is a good idea to purchase travel insurance for any kind of trip – the costs are low and the benefits are potentially very great indeed. Since backpacking tends to come with higher attendant risks than many if not most other forms of travel, buying travel insurance becomes doubly important if you are planning a backpacking trip. Your budget may be small, but the insurance tends to be cheap enough that it should be affordable.
Travel insurance is one of the most important forms of insurance for two reasons. Firstly, travel (particularly abroad) generally carries with it a higher level of risk than your day to day life. You are likely to find yourself in unfamiliar situations, potentially in countries with low standards of safety. It is quite possible you will stand out from the crowd, either because of your skin colour or your clothes, marking yourself out as a target. And when you are on holiday, your guard is often lowered – you’re relaxing right? The second reason insurance is so important is that, should something go wrong, the costs are likely to be reasonably high – especially where medical expenses are concerned. The bill could quickly run into the thousands of dollars.
Backpacking tends to increase both the risks associated with travel, and the costs when something goes wrong. Risks are higher because you will often be travelling in remote locations, for example in the mountains where the risk of injury is greater. The costs are higher simply because you are at greater risk of finding yourself needing expensive medical attention.
The good news is that travel insurance is inexpensive and easily obtainable. In fact, it is just a few clicks away on websites such as STA Travel (the main provider I use), so you don’t even need to leave your chair. A basic policy for a two week trip costs £26, which is about $40. Even the most basic policy covers you for £1m ($1.6m) of medical expenses. The policy further covers you for cancellation, personal liability, loss of passport, legal expenses and various other useful things.
All in all then, unless you love taking risks, buying travel insurance for any trip seems to be by far the wisest course of action. For a backpacking trip this recommendation becomes doubly important due to the additional risks associated with this form of travel.