Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip

Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip

Amy Salmon
Authored by Amy Salmon
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2023 - 09:03

Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip (AD*)

Backpacking is an exciting adventure with many travellers aiming to cover several countries over many months. It’s essential to check that your insurance policy covers you for this length of time as many of the standard annual policies only cover trips up to a certain length so extra cover might be needed! Southeast Asia has long been labelled the typical ‘gap yah’ destination but it’s not all hair braids and baggy trousers, there’s some important information to be aware of.

This piece will focus on Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, outlining some things that are generally not advertised in the holiday brochures. Knowing this information will hopefully help you choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy to make sure that nothing gets in the way of you finding yourself.

Before the travel specifics of each country are outlined, there are a few things to be aware of that apply to all three:

Health advice

  • Before you travel, check the country specific health advice on the FCDO website. This will help with any queries about vaccines and any current health risks.


  • Bringing prescription medicine into a foreign country can be difficult. To make sure yours is ok check with the Embassy of the country you are visiting. Keeping your medicine in your hand luggage and having a copy of your prescription will also be helpful.


  • This is a common mode of transport in all three of these countries. If you wish to drive one yourself you must apply for a UK-Issued International Driving Permit. This can be done at your local post office and only costs £5.50. If you choose to do this, it is essential that you are an experienced motorbike rider.
  • You should only rent from reputable organisations and make sure you check your bike thoroughly before riding away.
  • It is illegal not to wear a helmet so this must be worn at all times. It’ protecting you from serious injuries and expensive hospital bills so it’s worth the hat hair!
  • Of course, all of this information is underpinned by the fact that you must have travel insurance that allows you to hire a motorbike. If your current plan doesn’t include this then you’ll need to get additional cover.


Tips for Backpacking in Vietnam

Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The stunning views of the Ha Giang loop, lantern boat rides in Hoi An and rich history of Ho Chi Minh City are just a few of the reasons that Vietnam is such a popular destination. There are several places to visit across the country with lots of culture and beauty to be enjoyed. A few things to be aware of are:


  • High levels of air pollution occur in the biggest cities which can cause problems for anyone with respiratory conditions. (If this applies to you, declare it in your insurance policy!)


  • Driving when your blood alcohol level is more than zero is illegal which is a little different from the UK. So, if you’re tempted by the happy water make sure to get a taxi home!
  • Vietnam has beautiful sites for cave exploring, kayaking and diving. Unfortunately, these are deemed dangerous to many insurance providers, so make sure you choose a policy that covers them. 


  • Vietnamese law requires everyone to always carry photo ID. It is advisable to make photocopies of your passport and insurance policy and carry them around with you.


Tips for Backpacking in Thailand

Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip Railay Beach Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

Thailand has become increasingly popular as a holiday destination thanks to its glorious beaches and crystal-clear water. It is also very attractive to backpackers because of its renowned scenery, elephant treks and full moon parties. There’s loads to do in Thailand with some people staying several months on their travels. It’s a must visit so here’s some extra information:


  • The levels of healthcare in Thailand are not of the same standard as the UK so it is important to have comprehensive health insurance so that you can afford the care you need.


  • Don’t let the unforgettable experiences that Thailand has to offer be tainted by losing your passport. Do not give your passport as a guarantee for anything you do as some companies have been known to hold onto passports against claimed damage. Stick to usual cash deposits instead.
  • Elephant treks and rides are a major tourist attraction but make sure that you use a reliable and licensed tour guide to ensure the safety of both you and the elephants.
  • The current in the sea can be extremely strong which makes water-based activities such as kayaking, jet skiing or simply swimming more dangerous. Always seek advice about whether it is safe if you are unsure.


  • Terrorist attacks are deemed likely in Thailand, and the authorities have warned of attacks on public dates or holidays.
  • Smoking in public could result in a fine. This includes electronic cigarettes which are illegal in Thailand.


Tips for Backpacking in Cambodia

Going backpacking? Make sure your travel insurance policy can keep up with your trip Angkor Wat Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia

Cambodia is perhaps a slightly less visited country, but it is no less glorious. The history that can be learnt from Phnom Penh, the bustling streets of Siem Reap and stunning views in Kampot are all part of Cambodia’s charm. Here are some pointers for anyone planning a visit:


  • Public health facilities can be quite poor in rural areas which means some treatments need to take place outside of Cambodia. It is important to have insurance that would cover this eventuality, even if it is unlikely.
  • Local pharmacies provide a limited supply of medications so make sure you bring enough for your whole stay.


  • Boat rides are a great way to see the views Cambodia has to offer but they can sometimes be overloaded and the boats poorly maintained. If something doesn’t feel right to you, skip the trip and go with another company.
  • There is no licensing system for tour guides so speak to other travellers, your hotel and consult online reviews before choosing.


  • Be wary of pickpocketing on public transport and in crowded areas.
  • Landmines and unexploded ordnance still exit in Cambodia so stick to main routes, especially in rural areas.

All three countries have beautiful landscape and fascinating history which is why they are such popular destinations. Most people visit with no issues but to give yourself the best chance of a problem free trip be sure to take out ample travel insurance before you go. Don’t let pesky insurance get in the way of your life-changing trip. #TravelAwareSBA


(AD*) Post contributed by Amy Salmon. Amy wrote this piece as a student ambassador for the FCDO's travel campaign having just completed her final year at University. Amy is an aspiring travel writer and is preparing to go away travelling herself at the beginning of 2024. She plans to share her experiences while travelling.

All images from Canva

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