Working whilst on your Gap Year – ensure you’re insured!

26 November 2015

Working Holiday

The number of Brits leaving the UK and heading abroad in search of an alternative horizon is growing year by year, lured away with whimsical thoughts of excitement, adventure and exploration. Whilst many travellers are savvy folk and will always endeavour to source the best deals they possibly can, costs do still add up and the number of these Brits looking to replenish their pennies whilst abroad is on the rise too. Going on a Working Gap year will not only enable you to go away and stay afloat whilst doing your thing out there in the big wide world, but it has a whole host of other perks which may benefit you down the line too.

The stereotypical image conjured up when thinking of a backpacker is that of someone with a rucksack half their size strapped around their waist, sleeping bag swinging from the bottom, clutching a map and compass, off to traipse aimlessly into the sunset to spend the next year living off rice and fish, who will one day return home resembling Chuck Noland with many a’tale to tell. Whilst many people may do their gap year on the cheap and live off leaves, insects and rain water, many of these backpackers will also look for casual work to help keep their piggy banks topped up whilst gallivanting across the globe.


Finding casual work such as bar work, cafe work, waiting tables, cleaning rooms in hotels or doing a bit of fruit picking are great forms of traveller work as the emphasis is on the word casual. Being able to do some paid work for a few weeks before moving on to your next destination is extremely handy – it is usually easy to come across, especially in peak tourist seasons and will offer quick cash, flexibility and a bit of breathing space if your purse strings are tight. The key to this is asking around – go into bars and restaurants and see if they have any temporary work available or if they know of anywhere on the lookout. If you’re in a foreign land and your language skills aren’t up to par, then consider asking a local who speaks English to translate for you. Alternatively, there are a load of translation apps you can download to your phone and use to try and get your point across and some will also speak the words for you. Ask other travellers in your hostel or people you meet out and about if they know of any work going. If someone is leaving your hostel and has been working during their stay, see if you can take over from where they left off. If all else fails, speak to the hostel staff as they may have work going too – even if they don’t pay you in cash, they may pay you in kind and not charge you board for a few weeks instead which means you can squirrel away those pennies you would have spent and put them towards your next stop!

If you think there’s a likelihood that you will end up looking for work whilst abroad then it may be a good idea to write a CV and email it to yourself or save it as a draft within your email so you have easy access to it wherever there’s WIFI and a printer. Whilst you may have made it clear from your initial conversation with a prospective employer that you’re a traveller and only looking for short term work, it still probably wouldn’t give the best first impression if you rocked up to your interview in your neon Borat outfit and flippers. Think about packing a smart-ish looking outfit just in case you are asked to come for an interview; or if your bag is already bursting, try and keep a little cash reserve so you can pick something suitable up whilst you’re abroad. If you have any particular references or certificates which would further your chances of securing work, then think about scanning those in and saving them online too. Anything you can bring to give you the edge over someone else has to be good!

Working Holiday Gap Years
Along with the casual working globe trotters, recent research suggests that there is also an increase in the number of people who are looking to go abroad with the specific intention of working; with a bit of travelling here and there thrown in for good measure. With the UK economy remaining tough and the UK job market becoming more and more competitive, countries such as Australia and New Zealand have seen a significant increase in the number of Under 30s applying for Working Holiday Visas. According to STA Travel, in comparison to 2012, 2013 saw a 10% increase in applications for Working Holiday Visas made by people wanting to work in Australia, and a 16% increase in applications made to live and work in New Zealand. This suggests that people are seeking brighter lights and bigger opportunities and are looking to find them abroad. If that little voice in the back of your head is telling you to go with your instincts, take the plunge and try working abroad for a year, then there are a few different ways you can approach it. You could start your journey of self discovery by quitting your job, selling everything down to your last pair of socks and living off the proceeds until such a time you will need to find casual work, or you could alternatively look for a more permanent if only as a short term arrangement. Depending on your age, have a look and see if you’re eligible for a Working Holiday Visa. These visas will typically allow a UK citizen between 18-30 (some countries cap the age at 25 so check this out!) to enter their country and work and travel for 6-24 months; and they usually give you one year between being granted a visa in which to enter the country which gives you some flexibility with saving for your trip. Check out for information on accepting countries, requirements and restrictions. Applying for a Working Holiday visa is a great way of escaping the mundanity of life in the UK but without having to commit to move abroad forever more.

Over 30s working Gap Year
If you’re over the age of 30 and fed up in your work, find yourself thinking there MUST be something better out there and generally feel like escaping your reality then consider taking a sabbatical from work and using the time to do a bit of travelling and work at the same time. Doing it like this will not only give you the opportunity to travel to a few difference places and work and earn at the same time, but in taking this approach you will also be building upon your skills and will have additional experience to add to your CV upon your return home. If you want to find work more substantial than bar or cafe work or a job which is similar to that which you do in the UK, then get online and see what is out there. Websites such as and hundreds of others have jobs displayed to see online and can point you in the direction of employers. If you are flexible in where you go, your options are far and wide so get searching!

Working Gap Year Opportunities
Alternatively, if there was a particular course you wanted to do in the UK to start a new career or further a career you’re already in but have found it to be massively expensive to complete here in the UK, look to see where else in the world offers a similar thing and compare the costs involved. A friend once said that a physiotherapy and sports massage course was going to cost her £12,000 to do in the UK, but she ended up heading to South East Asia and living in Thailand for 6 months and doing the same thing: for £600 all in. Whilst this was quite a few years ago, the principal is the same, so have a good long chat with yourself and think about what you would actually like to achieve from working abroad – if it is simply to travel and work a bit when your funds are depleting then that is different; but if you are wanting to get away and ultimately further your career and enhance potential future opportunities when you get back, then make your time away work for you and look to do what you want to do. The internet is a wonderful thing and can connect you to millions of people across the globe, so have a think and put the feelers out there and try to get something lined up.

Volunteering on your Gap Year
If you are wanting to go abroad but have no idea what to do or you are simply looking to do something different, you may find that your skills and experience in the UK are just what volunteer organisations are after abroad; so if you can’t find a paid job then consider volunteering whilst you’re way. Not only are you doing your bit for mankind and spreading the love and helping others in need; but this will also look great on your CV and will demonstrate to future employers many excellent qualities and speak volumes of you as a person. Volunteering is also a really handy way of escaping reality when your reality includes limited funds, as often you will get board and lodgings in exchange for your time and talents. There are many projects you can get involved in, from working with animals to helping lay the foundations of a new community, to teaching kids or conserving wildlife. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to finding volunteer placements abroad with so many worthwhile causes and charities in need of help. Check out somewhere like or for some great ideas.

Travel Insurance
Whilst there are lots of practicalities to consider and costs to factor in to your trip, (more on that another day!), at the very least you should think about insuring your time away– not only does it simply make good sense but you will surely want as much peace of mind as possible when setting up sticks in a new land? You may think that travel insurance is all the same, but going away to Spain for 2 weeks as your main summer holiday is completely different to going to live and work abroad for a year – not only will the longevity of your time away naturally pose more of a risk to an insurer, but the nature of the work you intend to be doing will too. As with activities, some work is more risky than others. For example, pulling pints for expats in your local Hard Rock Cafe will pose far less of a risk to an Underwriter than an individual going off to work as a sparky or a vet or a surgeon because they wouldn’t be exposing themselves to the same level of potential risks and dangers. As such, their insurance should have a lower premium.

Whilst many Backpacker travel insurance policies out there will cover very basic forms of backpacking work such as bar work, cafe work and fruit picking etc, you need to be mindful that standard travel insurance policies are extremely limited with the sorts of work their Underwriters are willing to cover under the policy. You may think this isn’t a biggy, but if you haven’t set your policy up correctly and found yourself coming a’cropper whilst working abroad, you may well find yourself in a bit of a pickle. For example, if a traveller purchased a standard Backpacker policy because it was the cheapest but was going away to Texas to work on a ranch, staggered out bleary eyed one bright and breezy morning, accidentally stacked it in the mud and got trampled on by a herd of bulls and as such needed emergency medical assistance, then they run the risk of being liable for the cost of the treatment themselves. Yes, the person in this example may have insurance, but typical backpacker travel insurance policies will only to extend to cover very basic forms of work and as such the Underwriters of this person’s insurance may decline to meet the cost of the treatment as they never agreed to insure the risk and the person never paid to be insured for it. Insurance providers understandably want to know what it is that they are insuring, so you need to look for a comprehensive insurance which truly reflects the nature of the work you plan to do whilst away from the UK.

If you’ve managed to secure employment already then you may think that you don’t need insurance as your new employer offers you medical cover as part of your remuneration package. However, it is always advisable to acquaint yourself with the good old T&Cs of your contract to see if it will cover repatriation back to the UK – chances are, it doesn’t, so look for a travel insurance which does. You may think this is a seemingly unnecessary cost, and whilst it isn’t nice to think about anything going awry on your dreamy year off, you need to be realistic and consider the possibility of misfortune and allow for the extreme – if you don’t, you are potentially exposing yourself to massive financial and physical risks if something does go seriously wrong. For example, if you were working for a year in Canada, stepped out one day after work and found yourself wrapped under the wheels of a bus, were taken to hospital, put into an induced coma and your prognosis turned out to be that you were going to need months and months of treatment, then you may find that your employer isn’t too happy to have that covered under his or her insurance. What would happen then? Who would pay for the cost of your treatment? What would happen if you couldn’t afford the cost of your treatment? This is where one of the benefits of appropriate travel insurance comes into force, as the Underwriters of your insurance in this example would then arrange your treatment and if necessary, repatriate you back to the UK. In serious circumstances such as this, some insurers may also fly your next of kin out to you to be with you which will be a great source of comfort for all involved. Your employer’s insurance wouldn’t cover you for things such as trip curtailment, nor is it likely to cover your personal possessions or money or travel documents… Travel insurance definitely has its benefits!

Check out the Go Walkabout Working Holiday policy! 4 Work Packs available to choose from with each pack reflecting an increased level of risk. Activity Packs can be added too. Get a quote online or by phone.

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