Along with filing taxes, buying travel insurance is likely to be the least exciting part of your working holiday.
Insurance for work AND play
It sounds obvious but before you buy travel insurance, make sure it covers what you will do on your trip. Most standard travel insurance policies only cover pleasure activities, so make sure having a job and working is OK. If you’re thinking of doing a ski season, coverage for skiing, snowboarding and all manner of other snow related activities is, (somewhat unsurprisingly) absolutely essential.
Coverage to visit home
A lot can happen in a year or two; sometime during your working holiday, you may find yourself wanting or needing to return to your home country for a short visit or event like a wedding or funeral. Returning to your home country automatically cancels most travel insurance policies unless specifically stated otherwise, but a minority allow one or two short trips (typically up to 14 days).
Long policies and extensions
With working holidays available in Canada, New Zealand and Australia for up to two years in length, you would probably assume that there is plenty of travel insurers out there offering policies of this length. This is sadly not true, with 13 months the typical maximum. Extensions are not super common either if you decide to travel longer or continue your working holiday in another country.
Flights can usually only be booked 12 months in advance, so if you’ve planned a long trip or prefer being spontaneous, it is very likely you will be flying out on a one-way flight. A fair amount of insurers, however, do not cover people on one-way flights.
The importance of adequate coverage
So maybe you’re reading this thinking you’ll just buy any old policy to satisfy a border guard and it won’t matter too much. The thing is, it does matter because if you actually have to claim on an insurance policy, you want your coverage to be valid. Without a valid policy, your chances of getting any money from your travel insurance are close to nil.
To process a claim, an insurer will ask for all sorts of evidence to support your request such as flight tickets alongside medical receipts. If you have done something to invalidate your insurance (arrived on a one-way flight, visited home one too many times), it is likely to be discovered. And then you’ll be out of luck and money.
Insurance is not optional
No, seriously. For one thing, valid insurance for the entirety of your planned stay is a condition of your working holiday visa/work permit. Border guards do not necessarily ask everyone for proof of it, but you will be sent home if you do not have it. Simple as that. If you only have six months insurance, you may only be given a visa/work permit for six months.
Secondly, you need it in case the worst happens. Or not even the worst happens, as things go. With a working holiday visa in hand, you are still a foreigner in your new country and are not necessarily entitled to the same free or low-cost healthcare other residents are. Even if you do manage to register for local healthcare through employment or otherwise, it may only cover basic rather than emergency care (did you know you have to pay for ambulances in Canada and Australia?!)
Local healthcare will also not allow you (or your remains) to be flown home to your home country due to serious injury or death. Without insurance, your family would have to pay for this. No-one thinks it will ever happen to them until it does.
How to search for the best travel insurance for your working holiday
Reading the small print of travel insurance plans is not the most fun, so one idea is to email the company and ask whether their policy covers what you want. This way, you also have their response in writing, which could help for later claims.
I use True Traveller as my working holiday travel insurance provider as they tick all the boxes for me:
Great medical (and personal liability) coverage in the millions of £s
One-way flights OK
Lots of special activities covered including winter sports
Multiple visits home allowed (with no maximum length!)
A variety of jobs covered
Good reputation of paying out for claims
Policies can be started when ‘already travelling’
and best of all….24 month policies available!
Not from a country covered by True Traveller? Check out World Nomads – they offer policies for citizens of over 140 countries
This post does include affiliate links, but all opinions are my own and I am long-time customer of TT.