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Know your gap year travel insurance options better

The gap year concept has its origins very much in the UK, and since the 1990's many students seize the opportunity to see the world before, after or even take a break during their studies. To a degree it has become a right of passage, of sorts.

Nowadays, with the advent of cheaper and convenient air travel and rapid and accurate communications, the opportunity to explore the world is appealing to a broader spectrum, with many people even deciding to take a 'career break' or ‘sabbatical’.

And don’t be deceived by the world “year” either. Your ‘gap year’ can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Some people take a couple of months, some take a year and some go for even longer periods.

Planning such a trip abroad is normally done meticulously, after all there’s a lot to prepare for, travel inoculation, flights, flight connections, accommodation and the amount of luggage you are willing to lug around if you’re backpacking, to name a few. But it’s important not to forget travel insurance and make sure that your insurance is the right one for you, covering you for everything include medical assistance and repatriation home, loss of belongings, covering you for the right type of employment you might take on whilst away, and even covering you for your favourite sports and activities you may be planning to try.

Gap year insurance policies are typically available for between 1 to 18 months, but maximum cover lengths can vary between insurers, so carefully check the terms and conditions of the policy to make sure it fits the duration of your trip, preferably with plenty of time to spare. After all, travelling is fun and inevitably that some may choose to stay, or travel, longer than they originally intended to. So when buying a gap year policy for your big adventure it’s a good idea to check that your policy can be extended if need be. Few UK insurers would cover you for a new policy once you have left the UK.

Think carefully about any active sports and activities you may be planning, even spur-of-the-moment ones, and make sure you’re fully covered for these. Most travel insurers understand that you want to make the most of your gap year and so many include a wide variety of sports and activities within the policy cover as standard, so look through these and if you feel the urge to participate in anything not listed just ask your insurance provider as you may be able to extend your cover to include your specific requirements. One tip is to look for sports and adventure activities that are popular among travellers on a year out, things like bungee jumping, scuba diving and white water rafting. Also do look out for exclusions and conditions attached e.g. most policies will only cover you for scuba diving to a depth of 30 metres, unless you have PADI qualifications.

Working while you travel is a great way to help fund your trip, allowing you to stay away for longer. If you are planning to earn a bit of extra cash abroad, it's important to not only have the correct work permits and visas, but do also ensure that your insurance will cover claims arising as a result of your employment. A good gap year policy should be able to provide cover for light clerical work, as well as things such as fruit picking and working in bars or restaurants - but read the policy wording carefully for any potential exclusions; especially if you are planning any form of manual labour. Most policies will require Employment Liability cover whilst at work to be provided by your employers.

If you think you may need to return home to the UK during your gap year trip, (a particularly necessary feature for overseas students during term breaks), check to make sure your policy allows this – not all insurers do. Many insurers will cease your policy on return home. If you are studying overseas some policies will even offer an extension to cover course fees and increase the cover for computer equipment.

Lastly, always make sure that the countries or areas you plan to visit are safe. Most insurance policies will not cover you if you travel to a country or area against Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice. More information can be found at www.flexicover.co.uk/Page/FCO.

When choosing a travel insurance provider always check that they are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or Prudential Regulation Authority (formerly Financial Services Authority) and that they are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to be sure that you would receive compensation in the unlikely event that the provider was unable to meet its financial obligations pertaining to claims.

Further details can be found at www.flexicover.co.uk.

Flexicover, a division of Citybond Holdings Ltd., 109 Elmers End Road, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 4SY, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to transact general insurance business. Citybond’s Firm Registration Number is 312208. You can check this information by visiting the Financial Services Register at www.fca.org.uk.

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