The Ultimate Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide

This guide’s job is to explain both motorcycle insurance and motorcycle travel insurance. Getting the right insurance policy for your motorcycle adventure is incredibly important, so read on to avoid pitfalls and make sure make sure you’re properly covered for your motorcycle trips and adventures.

Motorcycle Travel Insurance

Contents

The Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide

Welcome to the motorcycle travel insurance guide. There’s a lot to cover in this guide, so we’ve split it into two sections. First is motorcycle insurance and the second section is personal motorcycle travel insurance. They are different things but both very important and we aim to provide as much info as possible to help you on your travels. But, please note that we are not insurance specialists or financial experts. Everything expressed here is simply our opinion and for informational purposes only. 

Motorcycle Travel insurance vs Motorcycle Insurance

Your motorcycle travel insurance policy and motorcycle insurance policy are two completely separate things. Neither cover the other. However, these two policies are often confused and thought of as one. Here’s the difference…

Motorcycle travel insurance is personal insurance and covers your medical bills in case of an accident while travelling. When we say ‘motorcycle travel insurance’, we mean personal insurance that will still cover your medical bills even if you are riding a motorcycle at the time of the accident (because a lot of insurance companies wont cover you if riding a bike). Motorcycle travel insurance is not compulsory or a legal requirement, but highly recommended. 

Motorcycle insurance only covers your motorcycle in case of theft or damage and provides compensation and cover to third -parties. This insurance will not cover your health while abroad, and if you’re from the UK, then once you’re out of Europe it won’t cover your bike either. It is a legal requirement to have motorcycle insurance to ride in most countries – you will need to research each country you plan on travelling through. 

As mentioned, neither policy will cover the other. You will need two separate policies – one for you personally and one for your motorcycle. 

Motorcycle Insurance Explained

What is motorcycle insurance?

Motorcycle insurance is an insurance policy taken out with a company that covers you, your bike and third-parties. As a minimum, your policy will have third-party insurance, that means other people, their vehicles and property along with liability are covered. You can upgrade your insurance policy to cover fire, damage and theft to your own motorcycle. Every country has different rules on vehicle insurance and what is required to legally operate a vehicle on public roads. It is your responsibility to know what is required and to get the appropriate insurance before riding. 

Motorcycle insurance for adventure travellers

This article focuses on personal motorcycle travel insurance – insurance for you, not for your motorcycle. But, you may be wondering what happens with your motorcycle insurance when travelling or going on big trips. Here’s what you need to know about that.

There is no worldwide motorcycle insurance policy. Or if there is, we don’t know about it. That means, if you’re going on a big trip, or even riding round the world, you’re not going to be able to get cover for your bike from one company that will insure it for third-party and theft and damage wherever you go. 

However, you can get motorcycle insurance policies that will cover you to ride in specified countries. These are typically neighbouring countries. For example, if you’re from the UK and have a bike registered and insured in the UK, then you know you need motorcycle insurance to legally ride on UK roads. Your insurance policy may cover you to ride in Europe for a set amount of time. You will need to check how long your policy allows and may have to pay extra for this or to increase the time it’s allowed out of the UK. But, bear in mind, your policy will not cover your bike outside of Europe and you will need to check which countries in Europe are covered.  

If you’re from the US with a US insured bike, you may be able to get insurance that covers you to also ride in Canada. If you’re in India, you may be able to get insurance that covers you in Nepal. But, there’s no insurance that blanket covers your bike internationally.

Motorcycle insurance abroad 

So, what happens when you want to ride a foreign registered motorcycle into countries that are not covered by your policy, for example if you ride your UK insured bike outside of Europe or your US insured bike into South America? The answer is that you will need to abide by that country’s laws on insurance. It is your job to research each one and find out what you need. 

Bear in mind, for the majority of countries, it is exceptionally difficult or even impossible to get fully comprehensive insurance (insurance that covers your bike against theft or damage) for a foreign registered motorcycle and you will only be able to get third-party insurance (insurance that covers other people who are involved). That means, your motorcycle won’t be covered. So if it is stolen or damaged, then you’re footing the bill.   

When it comes to purchasing the insurance, for example, when entering Turkey you will need Green Card insurance, your UK provider might give you this or you might have to buy it at the border. When riding in Australia, the US or Canada you need to buy insurance to cover your bike and it may even cover theft or damage, when in New Zealand you’re not required to have any insurance at all, when riding in some countries you may have to buy third party insurance at the border and it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. However, we always recommend buying at least third-party liability insurance in case you are involved in an accident and someone is injured or property is damaged.

In the Destinations section of our website, you’ll find country guides and motorcycle travel guides for each country which explain what its insurance requirements are. For any country not listed, please research what their rules are before you go. 

READ MORE: Motorcycle Destination Guides

Motorcycle Travel Insurance Explained

As discussed above, motorcycle travel insurance is travel insurance for your medical bills that will cover you – even if you are on a motorcycle. We call it motorcycle travel insurance because these tend to be specialist policies. Not all insurance policies will cover you to ride a motorcycle, and even if they do, or even if you add it on as a paid extra, you still might not be covered to ride a high-capacity bike or to ride a motorcycle as your main mode of transport. This is why it’s important to read the pitfalls section below. 

In short, your motorcycle travel insurance will cover your hospital bills, emergency care and repatriation for you personally (not your motorcycle) while you are travelling.  

Why motorcycle travel insurance is important

Motorcycle travel insurance, like riding gear, isn’t important until the second you need it. Then it’s quickly the most important thing in your entire life. After 16 years of riding and travelling in far flung countries all over the world, travel insurance has pushed its way further back in mind, relegated to an afterthought – something I’ll sort out a few days before leaving, a cheap deal and a piece of paper with some random numbers on it.

Only when Alissa severely broke her leg in Nepal and we faced a £20,000 hospital bill, did it become our now most important document.

Luckily, we had an excellent policy that covered all the bills and put us both on a first class flight home. 

It’s not something we can mess around with or do half-heartedly as motorcycle travellers. It’s incredibly important and needs to be done right. So, we pulled this guide together to explain what motorcycle travel insurance is all about, how to get the right policy and what to look out for. And most importantly, to provide information to make sure you are fully covered. So, you’ll find sections below explaining common pitfalls and things to look out for when choosing your policy.

Lessons learnt

Make sure you have a solid motorcycle travel insurance policy in place before you go. Read through all of the pitfalls listed below and the checklist at the bottom of this article. 

Don’t skip or rush through buying a policy, there’s nothing like needing it and worrying that you haven’t checked the fine print. 

But, your policy aside, another big takeaway we had after Alissa’s crash was getting help in the first place. We were in the middle of nowhere and the help that eventually arrived was awful. Even once we spent an hour getting to hospital in a little jeep, that hospital couldn’t perform the surgery and it was a further 13 hours to Kathmandu hospital. What we needed was an emergency satellite device to call for immediate help and take us via helicopter to Kathmandu. 

We’ve now learnt that lesson and carry a device. We’ve also pulled together this article to explain what they are and how to use them. 

READ MORE: Emergency Satellite Devices Explained

Recommended Motorcycle Travel insurance for Adventure Bike Riders

Here is our recommended motorcycle travel insurance provider for adventure bike riders, motorcycle tours and round the world travellers from the UK. This company only provides insurance for UK nationals, other nationalities will need to source insurance from their home country. 

We have been using Big Cat Travel Insurance for the last three years and plan to do so for the remainder of our round the world motorcycle trip.

We reckon Big Cat are the best and most comprehensive motorcycle travel insurance company out there for UK nationals. Here’s why…

There are a lot of caveats when it comes to finding travel insurance for motorcycle riders. It also becomes very difficult when you’re looking for long duration policies (and near impossible for round the world trips). But, whether you’re on a one-week riding tour or year-long adventure, you must make sure you’re properly covered. And we’ve found that Big Cat fully covers those caveats and is also exceptionally flexible and makes life easy when it comes to duration, renewals and coverage.

Capacity and main mode of transport

Firstly, travel insurance companies don’t like covering motorcycles over 125cc. Even if a policy says you are covered to ride a bigger bike, in the fine print it may not allow you to ride it as your ‘main mode of transport’ or for an extended period of time either. But you can do all the above with Big Cat by simply selecting their ‘activity pack’ add-on.

Start and duration

Here’s the important bit for long-term travellers. Since Covid, a lot of motorcycle travel insurance providers cut their policies to six months max with no option to renew while abroad – instead, you must fly home to the UK and stay in the UK for a set period of time (usually a few months) before you can renew and be covered to ride abroad again.

Big Cat offers a long-term policy of up to 24-months – and you can easily extend your policy online or over the phone. Importantly, you do not need to return to the UK to renew, extend or take out your policy either – which is a must for most providers.

Home visits

With Big Cat, you can return home and fly back out multiple times and still be covered under the same policy. Any single trip policy over four months in duration has unlimited home visits. This is perfect if you need to fly back for any reason as you don’t have to cancel, pause, renew or suspend your policy.

Off-road

A big one for adventure bike riders is being covered to ride off-road. Big Cat have no set definition of off-road. Most terrain is covered so long as it is not unsupervised enduro riding.

Emergency devices

This is an important one for us as we carry a satellite device in case of emergencies whereby we can send out an SOS signal for help. These can’t be used if you’re lost and just fancy a helicopter ride, but if you have a serious bodily injury and need immediate rescue, then your insurance policy should cover this.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Big Cat also offers the option to declare pre-existing medical conditions. Remember that any pre-existing conditions that you choose to not declare will not be covered, but anything unrelated would be covered as normal. Alissa had a bad motorcycle crash in Nepal and broke her leg, so it’s important for us to declare this. 

Notes

Remember that travel insurance is different to vehicle insurance. Your travel insurance will cover your medical bills and repatriation in the event of an accident or injury. No third party or personal liability coverage is provided. Third party liability is always covered under your vehicle motorcycle insurance hence why it is excluded from a travel insurance policy cover. So, you will need to make sure you have motorcycle insurance for each country you travel through as well.

Also note that if you damage your bike, your travel insurance will not cover costs incurred for transporting the bike back to the UK.

Summary

If you’re planning any type of motorcycle trip, ride or adventure – travel insurance is an absolute must. There’s nothing more important than covering your health and safety. But finding good insurance that fully covers you is tricky. That’s why we’re recommending Big Cat. With them, we have peace of mind that we’re both fully covered to ride our motorcycles round the world. Their policies are comprehensive and perfect for adventure motorcycle travellers. We recommend getting in touch with them to discuss your trip and any questions you may have.

Visit their website here: bigcattravelinsurance.com

Motorcycle Travel Insurance Pitfalls

What to look out for when buying motorcycle travel insurance

There are many pitfalls when choosing motorcycle travel insurance. A lot of people buy insurance and go on their trips thinking they’re fully covered, but really their policy doesn’t cover them for riding at all. This next section below looks at the fine print and explains what you need to look out for.

It is aimed at riders from the UK, but the information below is applicable to any rider from any country and are things you should ask your insurance provider regardless of where you’re buying the policy from. 

Not insuring the entire trip can leave you uninsured

You should insure the whole trip and your policy should start on your UK departure date. It might be tempting to leave the purchase of your motorcycle travel insurance until you get overseas and start the serious riding. For instance, if you are hiring a Harley to do Route 66, many people think it’s fine to just get travel insurance for the rental period. This is a mistake, the policy must cover the entire trip, from UK departure until the day that you arrive back in the UK. 

You might not be covered if you’re out of your home country for more than six months

Most of the cheaper motorcycle travel insurance policies carry a little-known definition of UK residency, which states that, in order to qualify as a UK resident (which you need to be to be eligible to buy the policy), you must not have been out of the UK for more than 6 months out of the past 12 months. 

This crazy rule is an attempt to exclude non-UK residents, but in reality, it can penalize UK residents who travel a lot, or have recently returned from a long overseas trip and now want to buy cover for another trip. 

Watch out for capacity and condition restrictions in the small print

Some travel insurance policies will not cover motorcycling at all. Others say that it is covered, but on checking the small print, you might find that it’s restricted to 125cc. Make sure that you choose a policy that will cover motorcycling up to the cc of the bike that you are using. A good motorcycling policy will cover you to ride any cc bike, as long as you are licensed to ride a similar sized bike in the UK. 

You also need to check whether there are restrictions for off-road use, if that is what you are doing. There are not many policies that cover off-roading, most will say on-road only, though often, this does not have to be tarmac roads, as long as they are official highways, marked on a map as such, and passable to “normal” traffic, such as cars, buses and trucks. There will almost certainly be a requirement to wear a helmet, even if local law does not insist on it.  

Are you covered to ride full-time?

You should also check for clauses stating that motorcycling is only covered “on an incidental basis”, meaning that it will not be covered, if motorcycling forms a significant part of the trip or is your main mode of transport.

What about risky countries?

Insurance in risky countries is a major problem. What we mean by ‘risky’ are countries that the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against “all travel to” or “all but essential travel to”.

Unfortunately, if you visit risky regions, your policy will be invalid and you will have no cover at all in those countries. There may be “high risk” policies out there, but they’d need to be Googled to find the durations. It’s more common than not, that policies become invalid if you travel to dangerous areas. Consider the areas you’re travelling to carefully and whether or not you’ll be insured there.

Call first! This one’s important…

In the event of an emergency or serious medical problem, the 24-hour emergency number must be notified as soon as possible about the situation. It is often the hospital that makes this call, to get a guarantee for their charges, but you need to try and ensure that the contact details are available to them when they need them.

This is extremely important, as the insurer can refuse to pay a claim, if they were not given notice of the situation, as often absurdly expensive and unnecessary treatment can be put in place by unscrupulous organizations, and the insurer will want to have some input. 

We know of a case recently, where someone was knocked off a motorcycle on a busy US highway, in a city central area. They suffered a relatively minor injury, and somebody called out a helicopter air ambulance when a standard road ambulance would have probably been quicker. The bill was sent into the insurer for about £45,000 and is still currently in dispute.

The amounts for air evacuation can be eye-watering. We know of another case where air ambulance evacuation was made from a remote area of Mongolia for a relatively minor motorcycling injury (broken leg). The bill for that evacuation was around £100,000 and was necessitated and agreed, due to the wild and remote location of the accident.

Motorcycle Travel Insurance Checklist

Have a read through the below motorcycle travel insurance checklist to make sure you’re fully covered for your bike trips.

How much medical cover do you need?

It may surprise you, but travel insurance medical claims in excess of £1.5 million are virtually unheard of. £5 million medical cover should be more than enough. “Unlimited” medical cover is a gimmick and £10 million is a bit over the top. Check the other sections of the policy though, to ensure that it gives sufficient baggage and cancellation cover for your needs.

Got the right cc motorcycle?

Make sure that your policy covers motorcycling up to the cc of the bike that you will be using.

Are you covered off-road?

If you want to venture off road, make sure your policy will cover you.

Are you licensed to ride a similar bike at home?

Unsurprisingly, insurance companies are not prepared to cover you to ride a bike that you cannot ride at home.

Are your helmet, leathers and boots covered?

Either on your bike policy or on a specialist travel insurance policy.

Have you been out of the country lately?

Make sure that the residency requirements of your travel insurance policy are suitable for your situation. Some are for UK residents only, some for EU residents. Many have a clause stating that you must have been in the UK for at least 6 months out of the previous 12 months to be classed as a UK resident. This can make it very tricky for those who travel a lot.

Legally allowed to ride abroad?

Make sure you are legal to ride in your destination country. Is a UK licence OK? Or do you need an International licence or a local permit? Is your motorcycle insurance valid for riding in your destination country? If you get nicked for riding illegally, your travel insurance won’t help. Sometimes it is not a legal requirement to wear a crash helmet, but you must wear one to be covered on a travel insurance policy, irrespective of what the local law says.

Competing?

Is there anything competitive about your riding? Motocross or motorcycle racing are not covered by normal travel policies, and in cases where these sports can be covered, there will be a large supplement to pay.

Single or annual trip policy?

If you are buying Annual Multi-Trip travel insurance, make sure that the maximum individual trip duration is sufficient for your plans. Annual Multi-Trip policies always have an individual maximum trip duration, usually 31, 45 or 62 days per trip. Longer trips would need covering on a Single Trip policy.

Medical conditions?

Declare any pre-existing medical conditions. Many policies exclude cover for claims arising from any pre-existing medical conditions, unless you go through a medical screening process and have cover accepted, often at extra cost. Some policies automatically cover some stable and controlled conditions, without medical screening.

Is your paperwork accessible?

Electronic documentation has done away with the old system of giving you a card with your 24-hour emergency details on it, that you could carry in your wallet. Make a note of this number and your policy number, so that it is readily available in the event of an emergency.

Read more on motorcycle travel guides and paperwork

Thanks for checking out the Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel paperwork that we recommend you read next. And check out our comprehensive Motorcycle Travel Guides for each country as they list visa and paperwork info.  

Liked that? Try these next…

We hope you found this Ultimate Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide helpful. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

 

29 thoughts on “The Ultimate Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide”

  1. Great article. Very, very helpful. I was wondering, would you write a guide on insurance in general? For example, what about vehicle insurance and breakdown etc? Especially for bike touring in Europe?

    Reply
  2. Fantastic guide very helpful.
    Am thinking of an extended tour through Turkey and into Asia next year (2022), covid permitting. Would welcome any updates if available.
    Thanks a million, Jim.

    Reply
    • Hi Jim, Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the guide!
      Sounds brilliant! Where abouts into Asia are you thinking of heading?
      No updates as of yet, still waiting for everything to open up again, but we’ll do our best to post as and when updates are available.
      Cheers,

      Reply
    • Oh wow, that looks awesome! Well if you’re after a rally-type event then i’d definitely recommend the Hard Alpi Tour. It’s a 24-hour rally through the French and Italian Alps. Non-competitive as well. I’ve done it twice and absolutely loved it.
      Let us know how you get on!
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
  3. Hi, we’re off to the USA next month and hiring a Harley for 1 day. We have already bought our travel insurance for the holiday but as we’ve now hired a Harley for the day need extra cover for medical expenses if we have an accident. Is there any companies that do travel insurance for a few days and do you have any names of companies who I could try? Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah,
      Sounds like a great trip you have planned! Have you tried Navigator insurance (mentioned in this article) first?
      Richard may be able to offer advice on recommended companies? Additionally, have you contacted the company who you already have bought the insurance through, they may add motorcycle cover as a bolt-on considering it’s not your primary form of transport.
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
      • Thanks for your quick reply. Yes we’ve tried our travel insurance company and they don’t cover for larger cc motorbikes. I’ve emailed Navigator and not heard back and tried calling them but they’re permanently engaged. I’ll try them again. Is it Richard from Navigator I need to speak to? Thanks

        Reply
        • Hi Sarah,
          Ah that’s a shame. Yeah a lot of companies don’t offer for larger capacity bikes. The difficulty is finding a company that will offer a single day’s worth of cover, which i’m not too familiar with as we’re usually dealing with companies that provide longer durations.
          Yes, it’s Richard who you want to speak to. Strange that it’s permanently engaged? They’re normally very good at answering.

          If not, for the US you can try these two companies: Voyager travel insurance and Big cat travel insurance,

          Please do let us know how you get on,
          Cheers,
          Andy

          Reply
  4. I’ve used Navigator for a few years now and recommend. Good rates, easy to set up and decent cover. The bit about being able to use unsealed roads is important as well. If you’re an adventure bike rider, this is potentially very important.

    As a footnote, I was AMEX family multi trip beforehand until they changed their underwriters and removed bike cover – check your policy small print every renewal.

    Reply
    • Hi Richard, thanks for your comment.
      Yeah, agreed, they’ve proved to be a great company for motorcycle travellers. And those are excellent notes regarding checking the fine print and sealed roads!
      Cheers and all the best,
      Andy

      Reply
  5. Great article, myself & my partner Sandy have a big trip booked leaving the UK at end of May heading for Canada – travelling East to West – the dropping into USA, hopefully Mexico & Central America & with an eye on getting to NZ & Australia, Philippines, Vietnam & neighbouring countries. There is a good chance this will take more than 6mths. Is it going to be possible to get cover or will it have to be renewed when out on the road?
    Many thanks, great work
    Chris & Sandy

    Reply
    • Hi Christopher, thanks for your comment and that’s fantastic to hear you’re planning such a huge trip! We will be in Canada / Alaska area around June / July / August this year and then heading south towards Texas. So it sounds like we may cross paths. It would be great to meet up for a coffee if you’re up for it 🙂
      In answer to your question, yes, you can get extended cover. For this I would contact Big Cat Travel Insurance as they offer longer terms and can be extended. Speak to Chris and he’ll help you out.
      Hope this helps,

      ps. on a side note, we’re in the process of writing guides for Australia and New Zealand including shipping procedures etc, so check back soon for those as they may help with that section of your travels.

      Cheers and hopefully see you on the road one day!

      Andy

      Reply
  6. Hello

    Thanks for writing this up. Very helpful. On the topic of insurance, I found it difficult to find any bike insurance that covers my trip to India/Nepal outside Europe. Do you have any advice on getting a bike insurance for travelling outside europe?

    Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Tian,
      Are you talking about personal travel insurance that covers you to ride a motorcycle while travelling? Or are you talking about insuring your motorcycle?
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
        • Hi Tian,
          Ah okay, so I’m assuming you’re motorcycle is registered in the UK or Europe. If so, it’s near impossible to find a company that will insure your motorcycle outside of Europe as a temporary import. You can of course get third-party insurance at borders for your bike (which is a legal requirement for many countries) but to cover against theft or damage is very unlikely.
          Cheers,
          Andy

          Reply
  7. Hi guys,
    You may have mentioned it in the comments above but do you have any names of insurers for US Citizens. That would be insurance for me while riding a motorcycle in Vietnam. I am travelling for work but trying to squeeze in the loop up north. I leave in 3 days and just saw your article now. Glad i did.
    thanks

    Reply
  8. Hi, i have another question.
    I have a limited time for a trip in Vietnam. A company recommended Black River Loop instead of a shortened Ha Giang trip. Have you guys done Black River Loop?
    thanks

    Reply
  9. Great article, Thank you so much.
    The funny thing is I am currently on a long motorcycle trip and believe it or not I didn’t even think about getting insured – something I will do tomorrow morning.
    Again thank you for the reminder and for summarizing the important topics to be checked.

    Reply
    • Hey Constantin,
      Thanks for your comment! And that’s great to hear you’re already on a motorcycle trip! Brilliant. Where abouts in the world are you?
      Ah, yeah I would definitely recommend getting insurance – I hope you never need it of course! But it’s one of those things where it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
      You may have trouble getting insurance as you’ve already left. If you’re a UK resident then I know Big Cat Insurance will still provide it, and there are other companies too dependent on where you’re from.
      Best of luck with it and please do let us know how you get on and which company you go with as I’m sure that’ll help future readers.
      Cheers!
      Andy

      Reply

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