Getting insurance to cover your big bicycle tour is more complicated than buying normal travel insurance. Here’s what you need to know.
- Why Bike Touring Insurance Is Different
- Results Of Our Insurance Survey
- Insurers To Consider
- Question To Ask Before Buying
- Forget About Insuring The Bike
1. Bike Touring Is An “Extreme” Sport (not really, but…)
We personally think bike touring is pretty safe but insurance companies see it differently. It’s frequently listed under the “extreme sports” section of their policies. That rules out many generic backpacking policies.
2. Bike Tours Can Be “Too Long”
If you’re bike touring for 90 days or less, it’s easy to find insurance. Even finding policies of up to 1 year isn’t too hard. For more than 12 months, however, you have to focus in on a specific set of long-term policies and – hopefully – find one that will let you renew the policy from overseas. This page focuses mainly on insurance for extended tours of several months.
3. Bike Touring Is A Constant Activity
Sometimes insurers will word their policies so you have coverage for bike touring, but only as an incidental activity. That means it shouldn’t be a major part of your trip. If a policy has this wording, it won’t be suitable for most bike tours, which involve daily cycling.
With all of these challenges, who does sell policies for bike touring?
In March 2011, we ran a survey of bike tourists who’d been on long tours to ask their advice. We had 25 answers from around the world (America, Italy, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia…) and here’s what we found out.
32% Had No Insurance – This surprised us! We no idea that so many long-term cyclists don’t buy insurance at all. “We did it on a wing and a prayer,” said one person. The theory behind having no insurance goes a bit like this.
- Disaster is unlikely. Insurance companies don’t make money unless the vast majority of people never make a claim, so luck is on your side.
- When there is a problem, it’s likely to be small and cheap to sort out on your own. Indeed, in places like Thailand healthcare is relatively affordable and paying for small medical checkups, minor ailments and even something as serious as a broken leg shouldn’t impose a financial burden.
The risk is that if you are unfortunate enough to truly encounter disaster, not having insurance could mean that you don’t get to good treatment quickly. It could also place a substantial stress on your family.
Of those who did have insurance, the companies they used are listed below, separated by country of residence. The list begins with an “International” category for policies or companies that work in multiple countries. Where we’ve easily found relevant information on the policies, we note this.
Most of these policies cover medical emergencies as well as some basic provisions for theft and loss of personal possessions.
*Keeping this list up to date and researching each policy is a big job for just 2 people running a blog 🙂 If you have information to share, please leave a comment and we’ll use the comments to update the list.
- IMG International Medical Group (used by Family on Bikes)
- Mondial Assistance
- World Nomads – For people living in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. British residents can only purchase World Nomads insurance for single-continent bike touring. (Used by Going Slowly. Tour.tk had a negative experience.)
- World Escapade – A Canadian broker, offering cover for citizens of many countries.
- World Wide Insure – Policies for residents of many countries. One UK resident (Lee Hughes) asked about a policy for a long bike tour and was told of a Longstay policy with a maximum of 18 months cover. A recent change to their underwriting means extended trips will incure a surcharge.
- Joho Special Isis – This policy is good for anyone with a postal address in the Netherlands, and who plans to start and end their trip in the Netherlands. It can be purchased for up to 4 years. You don’t need a Dutch passport or to have domestic Dutch health insurance.
- Coris (not recommended by the person who used them)
- British Mountaineering Council – This is the company that insured us for all 3 years of our 2006-2009 world tour. Their policies are changing and they are now reluctant to insure anything other than short breaks away.
- Campbell Irvine (used by Rolling Tales)
- ETA – Only covers up to 60 days worldwide (90 days in Europe) but if you can cope with the timescale then they do have some nice features, such as insurance for the bike itself.
- Insure and Go – Policies of up to 18 months under their backpackers policy (used by Bike About).
- Navigator Travel – This company seems to be used by a few bike tourists, judging by emails we receive. “I’ve got 6 months cover including cycle touring and I can extend it by phone while I’m away, if my plans change. The price was really good and they insure up to age 64 which solves one of the problems I’ve been hitting in my searches,” says Ann Wilson.
- PJ Hayman
- Rock Insurance
No matter which company you go with, when you’re comparing policies and prices ask questions like:
1. Does your policy cover cycle touring as a primary form of transport? Many travel policies aimed at gap year trips and backpackers only cover cycling as an incidental activity, not a primary one.
2. Can I renew this policy after one year and from abroad? For longer expeditions, this question is especially important. Some policies cannot be renewed or only from your country of residence.
3. Will my policy be invalidated if I return home for a visit? The fine print may state that your policy becomes void if you go back home, even briefly. Because our trip started with a London-Montreal-London flight and then on to Europe, we had to exclude many potential policies.
4. How long can I be away in any given period? Some ‘year policies’ only allow you to actually be away for a certain number of days in that year.
Check as well to see what is already covered by insurance you already hold. House insurance frequently provides some coverage and we met a New Zealand cyclist doing a tour of her home country, who said her car insurance included a break-down service if something happened to her bike!
Many first-time bike tourists get hung up on finding cover for the entire value of their bicycle. Insurance for high-value bicycles is, however, expensive and hard to find in most countries.
All in all, the risk of having your bike stolen on tour is quite small, so this is one risk it’s probably best to just guard against yourself by taking basic precautions against bike theft.
- Cycle Touring Insurance Tips from Tour.tk