Ultimate Guide to Gap Year Travel Insurance

School is over and it’s time to travel the world! This guide provides all you need to know to find the perfect travel insurance policy for your overseas adventures!

Ultimate Guide to Gap Year Travel Insurance

Are you exhausted after completing your HSC and looking forward to some much-deserved time off? Perhaps you’ve already started studying at university, a new job, or a TAFE course, but are feeling the need to get away and stretch your boundaries?

Maybe what you’re looking for is a Gap Year holiday!

The Gap Year is the ultimate escape holiday. There’s no set rules on what you should do – that’s the beauty of it!

You can use the time to explore places you’ve always wanted to visit, make new friends from around the world, and discover yourself and what is most important to you. You might go for the full 12 months and work overseas to fund your travels, or just take a few weeks to explore a particular destination you’ve dreamed about.

It could involve a working holiday at the high-tech ski resorts in Japan or the spectacular Canadian Rockies, pulling pints by night and carving up the slopes by day. Or, if you’re more of a summer-lover, island-hopping in search of the most breathtaking beaches while volunteering in the Pacific Islands.

If you’re looking for a more cultural experience, you might like to take a tour of all the monuments, museums and galleries in Europe. Or maybe you just want to see how far your savings will stretch on a backpacking trip around Southeast Asia?

Wherever you’re headed on your Gap Year escape, one thing is for certain – travel insurance is an essential pre-travel purchase.

Why do I need to purchase travel insurance for a Gap Year holiday?

You can never predict what will happen overseas. Travel insurance can provide cover for the various emergency situations you may experience during your Gap Year travels.

You might have your personal belongings stolen, get extremely sick from a virus or bacteria your body hasn’t encountered here in Australia, have an accident, break a bone, miss a connecting flight, find yourself stranded due to a natural disaster... the list goes on.

Travel insurance can provide cover for the unexpected expenses an emergency can bring, as well as connecting you to a team of professionals available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year from anywhere in the world.

If you want to know how to get the right travel insurance for your Gap Year – this is the ultimate guide for you!

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What can Gap Year travel insurance cover?

  • Getting injured overseas
  • Being hospitalised overseas due to an illness
  • Emergency medical transport by ambulance
  • Emergency evacuation by medivac or helicopter
  • Repatriation (returning you to your home country for medical treatment)
  • Having to cancel your holiday unexpectedly
  • Luggage or personal belongings being damaged, lost or stolen
  • A natural disaster or strike causing travel delays, or disrupting planned transport

What should you look for in Gap Year travel insurance?

So you’ve decided on travelling overseas, or maybe around Australia, as part of your Gap Year.

You can visit a lot of different places and have heaps of different experiences on your holiday. So what sort of travel insurance should you be looking for that will cover you for all of it?

Every travel insurance company and policy is different, but one essential benefit you may want to consider is cover for emergency expenses.

Here’s a list of the emergency situations Gap Year travel insurance can provide cover for:

Overseas medical emergencies

Many people become sick or injured while travelling, and when you’re overseas this can mean spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical fees, hospital expenses and treatments. In serious instances, you may even need to be medically evacuated or repatriated home to Australia. Without travel insurance, you may find yourself paying these costs out of your own pocket.

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Lost, stolen and damaged belongings

If you’re going away on an extended holiday, you’ll likely be taking a camera, phone, iPod, or at the very least, clothing and shoes! If these items are lost, stolen, or damaged, travel insurance can assist by providing cover for the items to be repaired or replaced.

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Lost, stolen or damaged travel documents

Replacing a lost or stolen passport overseas with the Australian consulate can be expensive and cause travel delays! Cover the unexpected costs by ensuring your travel insurance policy provides cover for your passport as well as alternative transport and accommodation while you wait out the delays.

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Unexpected cancellations

If you’re catching several flights, going on a safari or a tour with a tour operator like Contiki or Topdeck, or have pre-booked your accommodation, then you’ve likely spent quite a bit on your Gap Year already!

Unfortunately, events outside of your control can occur that force you to cancel your travel plans. Travel insurance can provide cover for your lost deposits or cancellation fees so you aren’t left hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket.

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Adventure activities

Ever thought about surfing, tandem skydiving, kite-surfing, trekking to the Everest base camp, skiing, snowboarding or quad biking? Your Gap Year is the perfect time to take on those adventure activities or extreme sport you’ve always wanted to try!

Keep in mind though, if you’re doing an adventurous activity, you’re most likely exposing yourself to a greater risk of injury. Travel insurance may automatically cover some of these activities, or you may need to purchase an ‘Adventure Pack’ add-on to cover the riskier sports.

Always read your travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to check your activities are covered.

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Personal liability

Travel insurance can provide cover in instances where you accidentally damage someone’s property and are financially liable.

Keep in mind though that personal liability insurance generally doesn't cover the cost of damage to a rental vehicles or hire equipment such as jet skis, motorcycles or motor scooters.

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Are pre-existing medical conditions covered by Gap Year travel insurance?

Many travellers have a pre-existing medical condition and may not even realise it.

A pre-existing medical condition means any condition that has been diagnosed, is being treated or investigated by a medical practitioner. This could be something like a heart condition, asthma, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Even if it’s an old condition that doesn’t cause you any trouble, or something that is already being managed with medication, you’ll still need to check that it’s covered with your travel insurer.

If you do have a pre-existing medical condition, you may find it’s automatically covered by your policy.

However, not all pre-existing medical conditions are automatically covered by travel insurance. You may be required to pay an additional premium after a medical assessment has been conducted to receive cover, or cover may not be offered at all.

Ensure you read the travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) so you know whether you’re covered for a medical emergency related to a pre-existing medical condition.

Am I covered for motorcycling and other activities?

It’s important to check what activities you’re covered for in your travel insurance policy as not all activities are automatically included!

Riding a motorcycle or moped overseas, for example, may or may not be automatically covered. You may need to pay an additional premium to add a Motorcycle Pack to your policy to cover you in case of injuries or accidents and cover may also depend on whether you have the appropriate license for your destination. 

The same goes for activities like skydiving and high altitude hiking. Other activities, such as quad biking and scuba diving, might only be covered by paying for an additional ‘Adventure Pack’ add-on or other additional premium.

As with cover for pre-existing medical conditions, some travel insurers may not offer cover for your chosen adventure activity, so be sure to check the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement.

Does travel insurance cost more for Gap Year travel?

The cost of a travel insurance policy is determined by a number of factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Where you are going – some countries such as the United States may be more expensive due to the higher cost of medical assistance
  • If you’re going on a cruise or not
  • Pre-existing medical conditions – you may require an additional premium to cover a pre-existing medical condition that is not automatically included in your policy
  • The duration of your trip – if you’re travelling for the full 12 months, you will likely pay more for a travel insurance policy than someone who is travelling only for a few weeks

Compare quotes from a few different insurance companies before you buy travel insurance so you know how much money you need to budget for a travel insurance policy.


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David’s policy covered him while on his Gap Year… twice!*

David travelled to Thailand on his Gap Year. He had huge plans of travelling through Southeast Asia, before visiting a few relatives in England. While walking down a street in Bangkok, his day bag with money, Ray Bans, his phone and camera were stolen by a passing thief on a motorcycle. Luckily, he had travel insurance in place and was able to recover the costs for his stolen belongings.

Later, when David was in Chang Mai, he felt extremely sick. After vomiting and becoming too nauseous and dizzy to care for himself properly, he was taken to hospital in an ambulance. He was treated in hospital, and monitored overnight. Again, his travel insurance was able to reimburse him for the unexpected expenses.

Can I extend my travel insurance policy while overseas?

Going overseas with a one-way ticket and not sure when you’ll return? You can still find a travel insurance policy to suit your needs.

If you intend to return home to Australia, you can purchase a travel insurance policy for the time you estimate you’ll be away, and then pay to extend it if you end up loving your holiday too much to return home.

However, some travel insurance policies do have a maximum period of time they can provide you with cover. So before you travel, check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) so that you don’t get the unwelcome surprise that you can’t extend your policy further.

It’s also important to note that extending your policy can be more expensive than buying a policy to cover the length of time you’ll be away, so it may be worthwhile taking the time to estimate how long you want to be travelling before purchasing Gap Year travel insurance.

Can travel insurance cover a Gap Year working holiday?

If you’re thinking you might pick up a job in a hostel, pull pints as a bartender or wait tables to fund your travels, then you’ll need to check whether your travel insurance policy will provide you with cover.

Some travel insurance companies will cover a working holiday visa, meaning you will have that essential cover in place should you experience a medical emergency while working.

Jobs that can typically be covered include:

  • Office workers
  • Trades and services
  • Hospitality
  • Nursing
  • Teaching
  • Waitresses or waiters
  • Bartending
  • Hotel Cleaning
  • Hostel staff
  • Tour guides
  • Ski resort workers or ski instructors (provided you’re covered for the snow and snow sports in your policy!)
  • Volunteer work
  • Charity work

Always remember to check your travel insurer's Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or ask if you're not sure whether your job is covered by their policy.

What type of volunteer work is covered by travel insurance?

Not all volunteer work will be automatically covered by your travel insurance policy, as some volunteering positions can expose you to substantial risks. For example, if you’re working with wild animals or in conservation. The same goes for jobs that involve intense physical labour.

Other jobs don’t expose you to as much risk, like working in a hotel reception or teaching English in Japan or Southeast Asia. These types of jobs may automatically be covered, but check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to find out if the job you plan to do is covered in your travel insurance policy.

Am I covered if I use Airbnb or couch surf?

Yes! If you opt to book a room or apartment with Airbnb, or crash on a friend’s couch to save some money during your Gap Year travels, you’ll still have cover for cancellations and theft or loss of personal belongings as if you were paying for your accommodation in a hotel.

However, you still need to exercise normal precautions to reduce the risks. For example, don’t leave your belongings unattended or not safely secured away in your Airbnb or at your friend’s house. If they’re stolen, your travel insurance is unlikely to provide cover for the loss.


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Pamela's passport snatched at her hostel*

Pamela had been travelling through Europe for two months, and was really settled into living in hostels. Unfortunately, this meant she became a bit relaxed in leaving her valuables around. One day, she returned after a quick shop at a local supermarket to find her passport was gone!

She had travel insurance in place, but because she had left the items unattended and unsecured in a large, shared dorm, she wasn’t successful in making a claim for the cost of the items.

What is the standard excess for Gap Year travel insurance?

Most travel insurance policies have what’s called an ‘Excess’. This is the amount you’ll have to pay towards any claims you make.

For example, a $200 Excess means that if you make a claim for $1,000 worth of expenses, you’ll only be reimbursed for $800 should your claim be accepted.

If an Excess applies to your Gap Year travel insurance, you may be able to reduce the amount by paying an additional premium upfront. Also keep in mind that the Excess most likely applies to each individual claim so it may be worth thinking about reducing it if you’re going overseas for 12 months or more.

What exclusions apply to Gap Year travel insurance?

When you buy a travel insurance policy, it’s important to be aware of the exclusions that may apply. Here are six common exclusions to be aware of before you begin your Gap Year adventure:

Dangerous activities

If you knowingly put yourself in harm’s way, such as running with the bulls in Spain or riding a motorcycle, moped or scooter without a licence and appropriate cover, you’ll most likely foot the bill for any medical expenses.

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Injuries resulting from you drinking alcohol excessively, or taking illegal drugs

Most insurers won’t provide cover for medical emergencies if you’re injured as a direct result of drinking too much alcohol or taking illicit drugs. This is because you’re intentionally increasing the risk of injuring yourself. In some countries you may even be breaking the law.

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Travelling against the government’s advice

If your destination is listed as ‘Do not travel’ or ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ on a government website such as Smartraveller.gov.au, it’s unlikely your travel insurer will pay any claims if you choose to travel to these regions.

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Unattended luggage

If you leave your belongings unattended on the beach while you go swimming, or on a table in a bar or club for a couple of minutes while you go to the bathroom, you won’t be covered if it goes missing.

Keep your belongings with you if possible, out of sight in a locked vehicle during daylight hours, or stored securely at your accommodation.

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Undeclared or excluded pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition that isn’t automatically covered by your travel insurance policy, and you haven’t purchased an additional premium to get cover for it, you probably won’t be able to claim for any medical expenses that are directly related to that condition.

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Changing your mind

If you no longer want to travel, voluntarily change your travel plans, or get homesick and decide to return home early, your insurer will probably not cover the additional costs of getting home or changing your flight.

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Returning home

Be aware that if you have a single trip policy, some travel insurers may void the remainder of your insurance if you return home early. This means that you’ll have to purchase a new policy if you wish to return overseas.

Check with your insurer if your policy allows for you to return home and then resume your trip, using the same travel insurance policy.

If you do return home and decide that you don’t want to resume your trip, it’s unlikely you’ll get reimbursed for the unused portion of your policy.

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Travel Insurance for your Gap Year adventure

A Gap Year is the chance to explore the world and have first-hand experiences you can’t get any other way.

Not only does it look great on your resume, but you’ll be able to meet amazing people and explore places you’ve only seen in photographs or videos.

However, keep in mind that emergencies can occur whenever and wherever you travel, so remember to buy travel insurance before you start your Gap Year adventure!

If you're heading off on a Gap Year adventure, get an instant quote for travel insurance direct from our website now by clicking the button below.

*Stories are fictitious examples drawn from the experiences of Fast Cover travellers and staff. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


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Fast Cover - Laura

About the author

Laura is a content writer at Fast Cover. Fuelled by a passion for adventure travel and inspired to learn more about the world, she specialises in writing about travel insurance and health topics which are published across numerous travel forums and websites.

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