We all know that travel insurance for mature travellers probably becomes more important as you get older, but gosh, is it hard to come by if you’re going away from more than a month!

Insurance through your bank

Many of us have travel insurance included in some package or the other.  Most commonly, we get it as part of paying a monthly subscription to the bank for ‘premium services’, and it may include travel insurance, access to airport lounges, breakdown cover and more.  We have had ours through Barclays for years, so we don’t even think about it before we go away, because we are automatically covered.  You may have a similar arrangement, and you’re covered automatically.  But are you covered? Are you sure you’re covered?

Read the fine print!

Double check that you are indeed insured, because if you’re away for more than a month, you may not be. Many policies only include trips for up to 30 days.  Some a little shorter, and some a little longer.  But few (if any!) will automatically over you for longer breaks.

Get a specialist backpacking insurance policy

There are a number of sites in the UK you can use to search for travel insurance, like moneysupermarket.com, comparethemarket.com, moneysavingexpert.com and more. And these sites are fine for travel insurance if:

  • Your trip is for 60 days or fewer;
  • Everyone in your party is under 50 years old;
  • You’re not planning to return home during your trip; and
  • You’re a British Citizen;
However, if you don’t meet all of the above criteria, suitable travel insurance becomes far harder to find, which leaves you with little choice.  Let’s look at the 4 different criteria above.  Of course, it’s is more complicated than you think.

Trip duration more than 60 days

Not all policies are for trips for under 60 days, but certainly the majority are.  You may want to consider ‘backpacker insurance‘ – they specialise in insurance for longer term holidays, and often include cover for more adventurous activities as standard.  Many other policies make you pay extra for these.  But many of these policies:

  • Don’t allow you to return to the UK during your trip (e.g. for a family emergency). Your policy becomes void as soon as you put your feet back on UK soil; and
  • Many of these have an age limit.  Few (if any!) extend to the over 50s.
  • Many have sneaky residency clauses. (See details on this later)

Age of everyone in your party

If you’re travelling on your own, this is less of a concern.  But if you have joint policy, the age of the oldest will be considered. Many long term policies have age limits.  You will need to check that everyone in your party qualifies.

Returning home during your trip

Most policies have clauses that prematurely ends your policy if you return to the UK during your trip. In other words, if after a month you mother becomes ill and you have to return home for 2 weeks, you will need to take our a new policy when you continue your trip.  As long term policies are VERY expensive, this is something you need to consider as part of your planning. Some policies do allow for a return to the UK, but they are often policies with lower age limits!

Sneaky residency clauses

So you are a UK resident? Obvious answer: you’ve never lived anywhere else, so of course you’re a UK resident.

Wrong!

Read the fine print.  Many policies require you to have spent more than 6 out of the last 12 months in the UK to quality as a UK resident.  This means that if you spent 3 months working in the USA, came home for 2 months, then spent 4 months in India during a gap year / sabbatical, or working abroad on contract, that would disqualify you as a UK resident.

Even if you have been home for months after the end of a contract, unless you can prove that in the previous 12 months, more than 6 have been the UK, you remain a non-resident for travel insurance purposes!

I nearly got caught out by that some years ago while I was spending my time between South Africa (SA) and the UK. As soon as I was disqualified as a resident of the UK, I assumed that would make me a resident of SA, so I would qualify for South African medical insurance. Wrong again!  I was in no man’s land.

Appropriate long term travel insurance

I searched for weeks to try and find appropriate travel insurance. The annoying thing is: you have to go through a long, online form each time you think you found a policy which may be appropriate, only to find in the end that there is yet another criteria you don’t quality for.

Finally I found WorldNomads.com. They are certainly NOT cheap, but they do provide good and appropriate cover.  These are the things I like about their policies:

  • Flexibility – if you plans change, you can amend your policy.
  • Age restrictions – no silly limits for longer term travel, but still only covers to 64-year olds.
  • Interruption – you can return home, and your policy is merely suspended, until you return to your travels
  • Residency – they understand that some people are perpetual travellers, or that you may want to buy a new policy when you’re already abroad. They take into consideration the fact that you are the UK citizen, but have been out of the country for work or leisure, and it doesn’t matter.
  • Levels of cover – there are 2 levels of cover to choose from.
  • Extension – you can extend your cover to trips up to 550 days long
  • Work – you can do non-manual work without it impacting your policy

The only thing I don’t like about WorldNomad policies:

  • Gadget insurance is expensive for laptops, phones, iPads etc, is far too expensive! I would suggest adding these to your Household Insurance if possible.

I have just bought my third WorldNomads policy for our sabbatical later this year.  I have been lucky that I have never needed to claim, so haven’t tested the actual policy, but all my dealings with their call centre has been great whenever I needed to contact them.

I do hope this will help you find a suitable policy for your next trip!