Cycle Touring Insurance: Recommendations for Short & Long-Term Travellers

Travel insurance is an absolute genius idea for a business. Every time we leave home and go overseas, we buy it in the hope what we will never use it. On the rare occasion we do need to use it, some clause in the small print usually means we can’t. And, if we get past that, it’d often have worked out cheaper to pay our expenses ourselves anyway. Brilliant!

Anyway. What I want to talk about in this article is insurance for cycle touring, both short-term and long-term. I get no end of questions on the topic, and so this article will attempt to answer all of them in one big juicy dose of financial-services-related goodness, if such a thing is possible.

When it comes to specific options for insurers and policies, I’ll be concentrating on those applicable to UK residents, as its the domain in which I can speak from personal experience and for which I have received the most recent recommendations from fellow long-distance cycle tourists.

The Two Things People Mean When They Talk About Cycle Touring Insurance

Cyclists going touring tend to look for bicycle insurance policies that’ll cover their bicycles while they’re travelling.

Travellers going touring tend look for travel insurance policies that’ll cover them themselves while they’re travelling by bicycle.

It’s critical to note the difference, because these are two totally different products. One is a special type of bicycle insurance. The other is a special type of travel insurance.

There are very few bicycle insurance policies that’ll insure the bicycle when touring overseas, and there are very few travel insurance policies that’ll insure a traveller on a bicycle tour.

And there’s a slightly unfortunate bottom line for the growing number of people looking for a travel insurance policy that’ll cover both them and their equipment for long-term global bicycle travel: such a policy does not, to my knowledge, exist – with one exception, which I’ll come to later.

Bicycle Insurance Covering Overseas Travel

If you’re looking to get your bicycle itself insured against theft or damage abroad, what you will quickly find is that some such policies do exist – but that:

  • they are limited to trips of a couple of months at most,
  • they depend upon you using the same kind of security precautions as you would at home (namely locking the bike with a certified lock to an immovable object), and
  • they’re expensive.

Given that, if you are looking for bicycle insurance for overseas tours of up to two or three months in duration, there are a couple of such options available to UK residents.

1. ETA offer a short-term travel insurance* policy that also covers bikes for up to £500. But of more interest is their annual cycle insurance* policy, which covers any bicycle for up to 90 days abroad in Europe or 60 days elsewhere, including a new-for-old replacement policy and emergency cycle hire, leaving you free to arrange your travel insurance separately. A quick quote for travel insurance for a 3-month European trip plus annual cycle insurance came to ~£130. More information on both can be found on their cycle touring insurance* page. (Bonus: get 10% off cycle insurance with the voucher code 2111CI10.)

2. The CTC (a.k.a the Cycle Touring Club of Great Britain) offers specialist travel insurance for overseas cycle tours of up to 100 days. The ‘Premier’ option covers loss, theft and damage of the bicycle for up to £3000, in addition to all the usual travel insurance cover types. Unlike ETA, however, depreciation and wear and tear is factored into any claims when it comes to replacing a vanished bike, so the payout is less. I fetched a similar quote of ~£130 for the same 3-month European trip. You can get your own quote from CTC on their cycle touring insurance page.

Travel Insurance Covering Cycle Touring

If you’re looking to travel for longer than a couple of months, you’re willing to rely on your wits to keep your expensive bike safe, or your bike is worthless and not worth insuring anyway, you’ll be looking primarily at travel insurance. At which point you must understand that (in insurance-policy-style bullet points):

  • most so-called ‘annual’ travel insurance policies actually only cover individual trips of up to 90 days within that year,
  • most long-term travel insurance policies (a.k.a. ‘backpacker’ policies) do not cover cycle touring – only cycling that is ‘incidental’ to the trip,
  • most long-term travel insurance policies that do cover cycle touring still exclude intercontinental cycle touring, and
  • even the best and most comprehensive of these are unlikely to cover the loss, theft or damage of an expensive touring bike.

Cycle touring is generally considered by insurers to be a ‘hazardous activity’ or ‘extreme sport’, involving increased risk and thus either incurring an additional premium or being excluded from the list of activities covered. Posh touring bicycles are also considered to be extremely nickable things. Which they are.

Yes. This sucks. But at least it narrows the field when it comes to choosing from the few travel insurance policies that explicitly cover cycle touring.

It helps to distinguish between trips that are smaller in scale in terms of duration and geography from indefinitely-long, world-ranging affairs, as there are specific recommendations for each.

Recommended Cycle Touring Insurance Providers

The following insurance providers I’ve either used myself or been personally recommended by veteran cyclists on all manner of global bicycle journeys. Each cover cycle touring as an activity or will do so on request, but won’t insure the bicycle itself unless I’ve mentioned otherwise.

For each provider, at the time of writing I retrieved the lowest possible quote for a 3-month trip in Europe and a 12-month trip around the world in order to demonstrate relative prices, then listed them in ascending order of price. You should consider the actual quotes themselves obsolete and retrieve your own before making a decision.

1. Insure And Go have grown into one of the UK’s biggest ‘basic’ travel insurance providers, and all of their policies (including backpacker policies) explicitly cover cycle touring, though it’s worth mentioning that personal accident and personal liability are excluded. Which, in simple English, means that there’s no financial compensation for getting maimed or maiming someone else while on your bike. Cover is basic, but aspects can be upgraded. 3 months in Europe was £52, and 12 months worldwide was £283. Visit insureandgo.com.

2. Adventures Insurance (as currently used by Tim & Laura) specialise in – you’ve guessed it – bespoke insurance for more adventurous pursuits, and cycle touring can be specified. They are unusual in that they’ll allow for individual items of equipment up to £1,500 in value to be covered. 3 months in Europe was £110, and 12 months worldwide (requiring a phone call for the quote) was a very reasonable £479. Visit adventuresinsurance.co.uk*.

3. WorldNomads‘ flexible, backpacker-oriented policy offers many advantages. It can be taken out when you’re already abroad, it can be extended online indefinitely, and it covers casual work and a vast range of adventurous activities. You’ll need to add Level 2 activities cover for cycle touring. It’s a shame that ‘intercontinental’ touring is excluded, but it does make them a good bet for a tour that’ll be taking place on a single continent – longer tours included. 3 months in Europe was £91, and 12 months worldwide was £699. Visit worldnomads.com*.

4. Campbell Irvine are another provider I often hear recommended, and again they specialise in adventure travel, covering a vast range of activities, with the ability to extend a long-term single trip policy over the phone. It covers volunteering but not employment. While ‘cycling’ is covered, the policy wording is not explicit about cycle touring; however a quick phone call confirmed that it is indeed covered. 3 months in Europe was £151, and 12 months worldwide £589. Visit campbellirvinedirect.com*.

5. The BMC (British Mountaineering Council), who I used for some of my first trips, offer cycle touring cover for up to 12 months at a time. You’ll need the ‘Trek’ policy for cycle touring to be covered as an activity, and while you get plenty of mountain activities and BMC membership benefits thrown in, the cover isn’t cheap. 3 months in Europe came back at £183, and 12 months worldwide came to £1,076. Visit thebmc.com.

General Points To Remember About Cycle Touring Insurance

Remember that these companies are operating in a highly competitive and lucrative field, and that negotiation over what’s covered and for how much is perfectly possible over the phone. That’s just a tip to make sure you get what you need at a decent price.

It’s also worth mentioning that in the event of a medical emergency abroad the claims agent’s job is to minimise the cost to the insurer, the solution to which is usually to deliver you as soon as possible to your home country (preferably in economy on a scheduled airline), at which point your insurance cover is terminated and it’s up to the NHS to look after you.

This is harsh but true, and something to take into consideration when deciding whether or not you actually need travel insurance at all. If the likely bills are cheaper than the premium – as they are in vast swathes of the world – it’s little surprise that a surprising number of people choose to travel long-term without insurance and simply accept that in travel, as in life, bad things happen sometimes. They pack an emergency credit card in case they suddenly need to fly home, which is all the insurance they feel they need.

Finally, whether or not you can afford to insure your actual bike, it’s common sense to ensure your bike’s safety in the first place by cultivating the right attitude to travel, which will have a much greater effect on whether or not you remain united with your belongings for the duration of your trip than the small print of the insurance policy you’ve taken out.

And that, I think, is a topic for a future article.

23 Responses to “Cycle Touring Insurance: Recommendations for Short & Long-Term Travellers”

  1. Mario Preston

    So well said.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Jamie Anderson

    Great advice, cheers!

    Reply
  3. Neil

    Cheers for this Tom – always useful to get information and insight into the confusing world of policies to cover a bike trip!
    I’ve looked into a few of the ones you mention in the past, and like many used to go with the BMC. My last few trips however I phoned the BMC, and though the website said that you could be covered for cycle touring, on the phone I was told that this was only for short trips (ie 2-3 weeks of cycle touring) and that they wouldn’t cover longer amounts of touring within a longer trip policy. It’d be good if they’ve changed that rule since 2012, as they have some of the best cover for hiking and climbing expeditions…
    thanks again
    Neil

    Reply
  4. Therese

    Great reading about the credit card rewards and the insurance. I am wondering if you or anyone knows if the free travel insurance that comes with Amex is any good

    Reply
  5. Iain

    Hi Tom,
    One point worth mentioning is different people define ‘intercontinental’ differently. It’s well worth checking. World Nomads count South and North America as one continent. So my trip from Ushuaia in Argentina to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska is covered. I had this confirmed twice, by email and verbally on the phone! (October 2014)
    They told me they don’t extend indefinitely, you can only extend up to 18 months but you can take out a new policy then. I am yet to discover what the difference is, and hopefully won’t!
    cheers
    Iain

    Reply
  6. matt newton

    Great info here.
    Many thanks.
    So many variables to factor in.
    Having just turned 60, at least one of the companies you quoted won’t take me.
    Oh, the joys of age!
    Thanks again.
    Onwards…..
    Matt

    Reply
    • Stephen Boyd

      Hi Matt.

      I am considering doing a world wide cycle tour, commencing in the spring 2016. I will be 61 when I ‘kick’ off the tour.
      Please can advise on the insurance company that you finally opted to go with and why?
      Thanks
      Steve

      Reply
      • Christine Armstrong

        See my comment below re age!

        Reply
      • Terri Bate

        Ann Wilson (who turned 60yrs on her RTW trip – see CGOAB journal) used Navigator until she reached 65yrs. And you can renew online too, without too much difficulty apparently. Like you, I’m planning starting out next Spring – a tad younger than you (at 58yrs!).

        Reply
  7. Ben

    Insure and Go may have dropped ‘cycle touring’ from their cover.

    It now says ‘no’ next to it on the website in the activities covered list and isn’t in the hazardous activities list either.

    Reply
  8. Steven Smith

    Very good advice, thanks.

    My experience suggests that it’s worth looking at “mainstream” insurers. The AA do single trip cover (up to 6 months, I think) with a bolt on that covers cycle touring.

    In response to my email to clarify the terms, I got this reply from the AA: “I am pleased to confirm that you would be covered for Cycle Touring throughout the duration of your trip (providing you wear a helmet) from 07/04/2015 to 14/08/2015 as you have purchased the relevant upgrade (Hazardous Activities Grade 2).”.

    Premium for 2 people for 4 months in Europe excluding Spain (including Balearic & Canary Islands), Cyprus, Turkey and Malta was £106.87

    Reply
  9. Purak

    Hi Tom, once again, I find myself on your incredible website, filled with almost everything I need to prepare for my own trip. I am in a slightly different situation, that I am a Brit living as ex-pat in Germany. I was having a nightmare finding an insurance for my trip that covered my health for more than 18 months, firstly because I’ll probably be on the road for over two years, and secondly that I’m already almost 40. All policies I could find clearly stated that I either could not renew after 12/18 months, and if it was possible to renew, I would need to be back home or go for a further health check up, which was not feasible. I then popped into a local branch of STA Travel (in Göttingen) in order to enquire about Visas and travel permits along my route, and just out of curiosity asked about Insurance. I can now have total peace of mind (albeit 1,860€ lighter in pocket) that for the next three years (yes, I managed to cover myself for 36 months!!!….with option to further extend!!) I have personal health insurance, personal belongings insurance up to 3,000€ as well a personal indemnity insurance just in case I cause damage to another person or property. This policy was offered by Allianz, which is a German company, however from my days of working in finance in London, I know they do exist in UK as well. I do not know if such a policy would be possible for a UK resident to take out, but certainly worth looking into. Anyway, thought this may help anyone looking for something similar.
    Keep up the good work and looking forward to the next release of A Tale of Two Rivers (I’m originally Persian, so I was fascinated by what you and Leon did)
    Purak

    Reply
  10. Paul

    Hi, thought I’d add my recent experience.
    I tried a few of the recommended above but was looking for 6 months + which some seemed not to be covered often and wanted explicit return dates (seemes “until my sanity and/or budget hits rock bottom” wasn’t acceptable).
    I ended up going with Travel Nation https://www.travelnation.co.uk/round-the-world-travel-insurance after comparing 7 or so https://drive.google.com/open?id=1L_s03_XjHpb5ihGohIV7A21QXIqsOp56-yijLFet0ZM&authuser=0

    They seemed to provide good cover, competitive rate, cycle touring, extendable (both duration and regions) during and I was able to add my bike onto the policy.
    I asked about countries on the FCO blacklist (Iran) and they said, although not covered with them, I was ok to take out another policy if need just for Iran and run in parallel.

    12-month trip around the world: £528.18
    The bike (£900) added about £60 to the £205 4 month quote I got.

    Reply
    • Paul

      Hi there, So here is what I think a lot of people will be looking for, I wish I had this info yesterday, would have saved a lot of headbanging.

      We are UK residents and have started a round the world bike trip (duration – 5years, ish).

      Because we started in Europe we didn’t get insurance because we have EU health cards. Now we are in Spain and heading to Morocco and beyond.

      So I ran into all of the problems states above, absolute nightmare tried 10 companies (all recommended on this blog/commenrs).

      I think someone has already mentioned TRAIL FINDERS.
      They are the only one it seems to cover for what I needed.

      I spoke to one of the senior guys (ask for john Mclennan, phone number is +44 20 7368 1200 and say extension 0496). He now know’s the score.

      I took out a 12 month policy which can be toppesd up wherever you are in the world.

      Worldwide cover ex. N America – £489
      Worldwide cover inc. N.America £555

      I got my pre existing asthma added for £14.95

      So I didn’t have to start in UK (i said that I would literally
      Take a plane home, start the cover and fly back out and they agreed this was not necessary).

      Iran is now not blacklisted by UK FCO (it was when we started but since reopen embassy), but still covered in FCO blacklisted countries if you have a
      ‘Normal accident’ i.e. As long as any ‘baddies’ don’t cause the accident. I suppose getting shot by rebels in East Ukraine for example, but if Mr John Ukraine knocks you down in his car, then a-ok.

      Hope this is useful, I spent an hour talking to them (4 hours trying everywhere else) and now at least we are covered.

      Peace.
      Paul
      Threeblazinsaddles

      Reply
      • Jude

        Hi,

        Thanks for your comment as you will have saved me some hard work. I am off to Morocco in a month or so and after that no idea and no idea for how long. The prospect of finding correct travel insurance it so difficult and appreciate all your hard work

        Jude

        Reply
      • Steve

        Hi Paul, I don’t know whether your still about and receive this, but I too am now just into the last few months prep on my own world cycle and have been struggling to find insurance due to pre existing medical conditions and of course the duration.

        Everyone I have tried have had a max of 12 months before I have to return to the UK in order to take out further insurance. Having to return home was not a part of my plan.

        I have contacted Trailfinders as you suggest, and although they only allow 12 months at one time, you can take out a further policy without having to return to the UK to do it, simply doing it online is fine with them. Nice.

        The cover is a basic cover with no pre-existing issues covered, which is fine. It doesn’t cover loss of equipment or damage to equipment, so not fine, but beggers at this point. It is not cheap as you have stated, with a current price for 2017 being £600 for 12 months Worldwide including North America.

        Now that was just a trial run with them on their website, followed by a phone call from me to double check everything. The number was given to speak with their pre-existing health issue department to take out extra cover for those condition’s, if I wish.

        I too am travelling through Europe for the around 8 months to a year, before heading out to Asia, and so will make use of my European Health Insurance Card for that time, making sure to have the card around my neck so that anyone taking me to the hospital (god forbid) will see that I am exempt’ish.

        Thanks for you help Paul, best wishes. Steve

        Reply
  11. Resources from the Cycle Touring FestivalThe Next Challenge | The Next Challenge

    […] (Edit: Tom Allen’s written an article about travel insurance specifically for cycle touring too. See Insurance). […]

    Reply
  12. Adventure Cycling in Ecuador - 12 Reasons to Ride

    […] A lot of regular travel insurance does not cover cycle touring so you may need a specialist policy. Tom’s Bike Trip has useful advice on cycle touring […]

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  13. Christine Armstrong

    I struggled to find insurance for my husband and myself for a long cycle tour due to the time scale, which could be up to 2 years, and our ages. Both over 55. Tried all the companies mentioned above, none of which would cover us. Finally got cover through Trailfinders. Phone them rather than online. Inter-continental cycle touring was not counted as hazardous so no extra premium, and no extra premium for our age. Many back-packer type insurances wouldn’t cover at our age. Also they would cover for as long as we wanted, renewing on the road. Didn’t try for bike cover as would be too expensive. Have not claimed, so don’t know what that would be like.

    Reply
  14. Spencer

    Hey Tom,
    Do you have any info on cycle touring insurance for South Africa? When, I toured in NZ, I used a Canadian company. But, it looks like they don’t have any coverage for Africa. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Can you clarify the question? Are you asking for an insurance provider to cover touring in South Africa? In which country are you resident? Have you enquired with all of the suggested companies on this list?

      Reply
  15. M W Dally

    Hi Tom
    Just about to cycle from the UK to Prague and I discovered that my free travel insurance through my bank (HSBC) covers me for medical, (10 million) baggage, repatriation on injury, cancelled journeys/bookings etc, etc all well and good for 30 days max (extendable to 120 days on a small fee) As for the bike ? well I found out that a small additional premium of £9 turns my house contents insurance into a worldwide cover for my bike (during cycle touring) for theft, malicious damage and accidental damage if I fall off. Cycle touring comes under leisure activity, although if I start to race someone in an professional event, I get zilch, (can’t imagine racing with a full set of panniers on, but there you are) Hope this helps. I was going to go down the CTC route but started to investigate the insurances I already have. One quicky minor issue is that the bike is not covered while I am on transportation of any kind, ie:- ferry, train and plane as they are not on the ground 🙂 Hope this helps…..Cheers Mark

    Reply

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