Lonely Planet Writer

The best and worst countries to become ill in while backpacking revealed

While nobody wants to get injured or become ill while backpacking, if you’re going to require medical treatment away from home, New Zealand seems to be the best country to find yourself in. While we’re not suggesting you risk life and limb to test it out for yourself, research by London-based company, Bought By Many found that medical costs in New Zealand offered the highest quality of care at the lowest cost.

New Zealand is the best place to break a leg while backpacking. Image: Westend61/Getty Images
New Zealand is the best place to break a leg while backpacking. Image: Westend61/Getty Images

If you’re going to break a leg scaling that mountain, pray you’re not in the US, which was found to be the most expensive country for treatment. However, a medical emergency in India would cost backpackers an eye-watering nine times what they would have spent there for an entire week, and it offered the lowest value of care at the highest cost. This compares with New Zealand, where medical expenses took up 30% of a traveller’s average weekly spend.

The study concluded that New Zealand was the best place to get injured, with the highest quality of care at the lowest cost. Image: Bought By Many
A study has concluded that New Zealand is the best place to get injured, with the highest quality of care at the lowest cost. Image: Bought By Many

The company conducting the study say that 35% of travellers don’t buy insurance that protects them against the cost of injury. Examining data for the US, India, Peru, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, NepalAustralia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, it concluded that Sri Lanka and New Zealand offered the most affordable medical treatment, based on the average costs for travel insurance medical claims in 2014-15. It analysed the average cost of treatment in each country on the list, the cost of treatment compared to the travel costs and the cost of the treatment compared to the quality of care, using each country’s World Health Organisation rank.