Travel Insurance Advice for Trekkers
Trekking in the Himalayas has many risks and that's part of what makes it the adventure of a lifetime. From a twisted sock to AMS, there's always an element of risk. One of the most important things to get right to ensure these risks don't become anything more, is getting the right trekkers travel insurance. Before we get to into this it's worth pointing out that in this instance, where your health might depend on a quick, positive response from your insurer, that cheaper is probably not better – pick your insurance based on the policy, not the price.
There are thousands of insurance providers out there and just as many variants in the levels of cover they offer, so we've compiled this handy guide to cover the key things you need to look out for when choosing a policy.
A serious injury will require evacuation from the trek, to a lower elevation, or to Kathmandu, or even back to your home country. To get there, you'll need help from any combination of humans, mules, helicopters, planes, trains and automobiles and by the time you're done, this might cost a penny or two.
To get the right trekking insurance policy you need to consider your trekking plan is this will dictate what you need from your policy, including:
- What is the maximum height / altitude of your trek; and is there any chance you'll go higher?
- Are you taking a recognised route (such as the Everest Base Camp Trek)?
- Am I already overseas?
- Are you with an organised trekking group or going solo?
- How long is the trek?
So we'll assume you've found a policy that includes activity cover (usually in levels or tiers, so look at which is included in the basic cover) and we'll take it from there.
1 Maximum Altitude
This is the most common place to trip up (sorry!). Many companies offer trekking or hiking cover, but aren't always too happy about altitude. Check, very carefully, that the maximum altitude of your trek is lower than the maximum altitude of the cover. For Everest Region Trekking you should look for cover up to at least 6000m, and for other treks in Nepal, cover should be at least 5000m, but check your specific trek to be sure.
2 Recognised Route
In much the same way as winter sports cover often only covers on-piste action, some insurers specify that you will only be covered when trekking at altitude if you're following a pre-defined route. If this is the case with the policy you're looking at, our best advice is to leave it there and move on to the next one.
Such clauses can make it extremely difficult to make a claim and more importantly, they add red-tape and hoops to jump through when you might be in dire need of a helicopter evacuation that can't take you anywhere until your insurance company is satisfied your location is compliant and agree to it. It's just not worth the hassle
3 Am I already out there?
It's extremely common for travel insurers to only offer cover to those that have yet to leave their home country. If you're already overseas and looking to find insurance, you need to check this part very carefully. You can be sure the insurance company will do their homework on your trip in the event of a big claim.
4 Going it Alone
When looking at your cover, be sure to consider the wording carefully. If the activity list specifies organised trekking or group trekking they refer specifically to full service treks, like those in our group trekking offerings. Making your own arrangements, even if you do so through our Nepal guide and porter finding service is unlikely to qualify for cover in these cases.
Not all insurers cover treks you arranged in-country (or just out of your home country) so check that too if you're doing it on-the-fly.
5 How Long is the Trek?
From the insurers side this is an easy one – the more time you spend in the mountains the more opportunity you will have to hurt yourself (even though once you're acclimatised the risks are reduced substantially). Some of the more adventurous and hardcore treks, like the three high passes and peaks, might take longer than you're insurance company will cover, so check carefully.
This list should help you stay on-side with the things specific to your trek, but on top of cover related to your specific trek, one final important thing applies to all treks, anywhere on Earth…
24 hour emergency assistance – problems when trekking, especially at altitude, can occur at any time, day or night – and you won't be in the same time zone as your insurer (we assume)! Given this, a policy that doesn't offer you a 24 hour emergency assistance helpline is all but useless to you. When you set off on your trek, make sure you write these contact numbers down along with your policy details and keep this with you at all times.