A gap year can be the start of a love affair with foreign lands as young people explore countries and work in places they might never have thought about as a future home.

But as many start out on 12 months of travelling, which may include working on a fruit farm in Australia or an orphanage in Africa, new research suggests they are likely to not have enough insurance.

Yet many will end up having to make a claim if they do have insurance covering their gap year, while others could be left with large bills, according to research from a UK based insurance comparison website.

The research found that more than one in three said that they did not have travel insurance when they took a gap year and a quarter have had to make a claim, or would have claimed had they had insurance.

Given that 25% of people who took gap years have had cause to make a claim, the high numbers of travellers without cover is particularly concerning, says the firm comparethemarket.com.

The research also found that the number without adequate insurance on a gap year could be even higher as 46% of those surveyed undertook extreme sports on their trips, and many insurance policies do not cover activities such as sky diving and bungee jumping.

‘A gap year should be one of the most memorable of a person’s life and tens of thousands of young people will be gearing up for the trip of a lifetime. Almost half say they take a gap year to have new experiences and a quarter say they do so to meet new people and make friends,’ said Stephanie Corbett, head of travel insurance at comparethemarket.com.

‘However, with almost 30,000 gap year travellers uninsured, possibly more once those planning extreme sports are factored in, for many, it could be memorable for all the wrong reasons. A quarter of previous Gap Year travellers have had an accident where an insurance claim was necessary and this equates to over 18,000 people,’ she pointed out.

‘There are many ways to keep costs low during a gap year, such as hunting for the most cost-effective accommodation and transport. However safety and security should always be a top priority and cutting corners on insurance is simply not worth the risk,’ she added.