Is It Fair To Expect Crowdfunding To Replace Travel Insurance?

Should crowdfunding campaigns be used to pay for the medical bills of travellers who didn’t – or don’t want to – pay for travel insurance?

There has been a huge rise in recent years in travellers or their families begging the internet to fund medical treatment after becoming ill or injured abroad, after it emerges the travelers themselves don’t have travel insurance and are being stuck with extremely high medical bills.

The latest example is of a UK family who are begging for their loved one to be returned home after she collapsed in Thailand and is now being kept on a life support machine, but this is very far from being a one off. Another backpacker left her parents with a £35,000 medical bill after a horrific crash in Thailand, another couple needed £15,000 to help with medical bills after an accident in Vietnam.

These stories are becoming increasingly commonplace.

All of these and many more are increasingly turning to crowdfunding sites like Crowdfunder or GoFundMe to beg for money to get them out of a desperate situation, all because they didn’t get enough – if any at all – travel insurance.

It is often easy to have sympathy with individual cases on a personal level, but is it fair to expect strangers to pay for the consequences of not covering yourself?

Now don’t get me wrong I understand completely the many criticisms of travel insurance. It isn’t cheap. I hate handing over my hard earned money for what is essentially a piece of paper I probably won’t need as much as the next person. I understand that insurance companies will do their damnedest not to pay out and that the fine details often try and screw you over too, that is why it is absolutely essential that you read the fine print in your policy carefully and ensure that you are completely covered for every activity you want to do.

At the end of the day a small amount of money to pay for a policy is nothing, and I mean truly nothing, compared to the price of medical treatment, medievac or repatriation if something goes horribly wrong.

Because no matter how small the probability, no matter how unlikely you are to have anything bad happen to you, there is still a chance. After all going on a gap year is a grand adventure, filled with the promise of excitement and adrenaline fuelled activities.

Backpackers almost by definition take risks, they indulge in amazing once in a lifetime activities that make their journey unforgettable. And so they should! That is one of the many reasons travel is so amazing!

Travellers should never stop diving, surfing, climbing or trekking through jungles. They should keep up the backpacking traditions of pushing their boundaries and indulging in as many awesome experiences as possible.

A gap year should include some element of risk. That is half the point!

But travellers should be responsible with that risk too and ensure they are financially covered if something terrible does happen, because asking strangers to cover you for your negligence, or in some cases stinginess, is a huge moral and ethical grey area.

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against crowdfunding. When it is used right, in the way it was originally intended for. I think it can be, and I use can very specifically, a great thing, and has allowed a lot of small businesses or artistic projects to start up and thrive. It has helped a lot of charities and community causes. Used in this way it is a mutually beneficial partnership for all involved.

I even think that in some occasions, the stories of communities and strangers rallying round for a cause is proof that humanity isn’t completely doomed.

But to be used to beg strangers for money because you didn’t want to get travel insurance? That’s a whole different story.

So, should travellers get insurance and cover themselves? Is it selfish and unethical to expect strangers to pay for your negligence? Or alternatively is it a simple example of altruism and the world pulling together in a persons time of need?

What do you think about this? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages, and please feel free to share the discussion with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

Travelling With Pre Existing Medical Conditions.

What You Should Consider Before You Start Planning Your Gap Year.

Why Travel Insurance Is Essential On Your Gap Year.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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23 comments on “Is It Fair To Expect Crowdfunding To Replace Travel Insurance?
  1. No it isn’t, I hate seeing things like this. All I think of is it is their own fault and they should have gotten travel insurance.

  2. Ali Bispham says:

    Definitely not, I think it is horrendously selfish! Pay for travel insurance, it isn’t hard!

  3. Louise says:

    If you can afford to travel, you can afford insurance, it is as simple as that.

  4. Traveling is a luxury. If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford that luxury. It is most definitely wrong to expect other people to pay for your negligence. It is wrong to burden others with your foolishness.

    But, that’s the beauty of crowdfunding—it’s voluntary. People are free to choose to give when they want and not give when don’t want.

    Ultimately, what other people do is not my concern, provided they aren’t hurting anyone. Live and let live. If you want to gamble on the pity of others, good luck. Use crowdfunding however your like, and I’ll choose to care when I want to.

    As far as altruism goes, I think it’s wonderful anytime a someone gives to someone else regardless of circumstance, but I do often wonder if that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

    • I absolutely take your point that people only donate/contribute when and if they want to, and to an extent I totally agree with your point of essentially live and let live. However, I think that this is becoming a serious trend and is in danger of creating a paradigm of ‘why should I bother with insurance, others will bail me out’, that’s what gets me. I totally agree it is wrong to expect others to pay for your negligence. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment.

  5. bcre8v2 says:

    Excellent post! My two cents: I wouldn’t expect people to bail me out if I traveled without insurance and something bad happened. I usually travel with insurance (not sure how good it is, since I have never had to use it), but I have also traveled without it and just hoped nothing bad would happen. It does come down to the available funds at any given time. Still, I wouldn’t use crowdfunding to get me out of a bind. I think travel is so important, that I really don’t see it as a luxury and would encourage anyone who can scrape together the money to hit the road. If you can get insurance, do it. If you can’t, be safe, have a plan and be mindful of the fact that you are on your own. I would be interested in hearing from those who have had to use their travel insurance. I always assumed that the insurance I could afford would make it as difficult as possible to pay on a claim (and I do read the fine print).

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 I totally agree with you on travel being a necessity, but then within that so is the insurance. I tend to lump it together with the cost of the ticket as a necessary expense for me to do what I want to do. As much as every insurer will try and not pay, they cannot refuse if it is within the policy and you stick to the rules, it is that simple. You just have to do your research and get the right policy. I think if you go without insurance that is fine and totally up to you, but as you say you are on your own and can’t then expect strangers to pay for your choice through begging.

  6. Gail says:

    Agree entirely with the comments that if you can afford to travel, you can afford insurance. And if it’s some gap year type travel where you expect to develop as a person (?!) part of that development should be learning personal responsibility rather than expecting strangers to bale you out!

  7. Rob says:

    I think that a traveler should get travel insurance and think it is incredibly short sighted not to and they should not rely on the generous nature of others. That being said I am glad that there is an option such as crowdfunding for when insurance tries to get out of their responsibility. A child of a family that we knew was diagnosed with leukemia while they were traveling and their insurance tried to get out of paying so they had to go to crowdfunding so that they could pay for the needed care.

    • I think if people get the right insurance and the right policy, they shouldn’t have to fall back on crowdfunding. That is a horrific thing to happen to anyone, but like I said it is easy to have sympathy for individual cases. In general terms their insurance should have covered them for all of that care, IF they got the right policy. Buying a cheap, basic policy and then expecting everyone to pay for care that falls outside of that remit is irresponsible.

  8. danontheroad says:

    To put it bluntly, this reeks of selfish and irresponsible behavior. Bad and unfortunate things happen all the time but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it.

  9. Jenna Kvidt says:

    Definitely agree with you–travel insurance is so important and something that travelers should get. Crowdfunding has its place, but I agree, when expenses are something that could have been covered by travel insurance, it’s hard to justify since it could have been avoided. It’s always a bummer to hear about accidents and bad things that happen on the road though either way!

  10. I almost always get insurance for trips abroad now. I have a special divers insurance through DAN and get other coverage for other trips – and I’m not a backpacker. I just don’t want to saddle my family with debt or keep from getting the medical help I need because I didn’t get insurance. This is an important post.

    • Thanks Elaine, and that is the exact point, you don’t want to land a life changing bill on your loved ones laps just because of personal irresponsibility. I know I focus on backpackers because that is my predominant audience but you are absolutely right this applies to anyone who travels.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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