Guide to Adventure Travel Insurance

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We all know that travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. When it comes to adventure travel, insurance is all the more important – but it’s also somewhat more complicated to find the right cover that will actually protect you throughout your trip.

If you have booked an adventure with us, you will already have received an email explaining that it is part of our terms and conditions that you have adequate travel insurance cover for your trip. When you’re doing challenging activities in remote locations, the stakes are higher, so you really don’t want to skimp on cover or end up with a policy that is insufficient for your trip.

However, you probably also know that there are a lot of policies out there to choose from. So what should you look for in your adventure travel insurance cover?

Well, we have our recommendations (skip to the end of this article to find out which is our most trusted insurer for adventure travel), but to help you stay safe and protected, here are our top tips on how to find the right insurance for adventure travel.

Why you need specific cover

One of the most common mistakes that travellers make with adventure travel insurance is to simply rely on their existing insurance policy. You might already have an insurance policy with, say, your bank, but it is pretty much guaranteed that this will not be sufficient for adventure travel.

Whether you’re heading off on a trekking adventure, learning to scuba dive, going white water rafting or even booking a multi-activity trip with excursions such as zip-lining or safaris, your standard travel insurance policy will not cover it. Trust us.

You will need specific cover for adventure travel – and for the specific sports or activities that you’re planning to do. The last thing you want to do is be paying for an annual travel insurance policy, then go on holiday only to find that they won’t pay out because you’ve done something as simple as hiking. You’d be surprised how little your bog-standard travel insurance policy covers, so be sure to check the small print or look for a recognised adventure travel insurer.

What to look for in adventure travel insurance

How to find the best adventure travel insurance

So if you can’t just opt for the run-of-the-mill travel insurance, what should you look for to cover your adventures? Here is your complete checklist on how to choose the right adventure travel insurance.

Covering the basics

Specialist travel insurance

As with any overseas trip, there are certain essentials your insurance must cover as an absolute basis. These are:

Medical treatment

Your insurance should cover any medical treatment you may need from the moment you depart the UK until you return. It is important to check that any specific kinds of illness that your chosen adventure could increase the risk of are included – such as treatment for acute mountain sickness if you are going on a mountaineering trip.

Personal accident

All travel insurance should also cover personal accidents. Again, consider any kinds of accidents your sports and activities could hypothetically induce, and double-check that your insurance covers them, whether it be a something as simple as having a cut treated, or something bigger like a broken bone. Better safe than sorry!

Personal liability

Many travel insurance policies also cover personal liability – to protect you against claims should you injure another person. This is less important for adventure travel, but is always worth having.

Legal expenses

You will also want to check that your adventure travel insurance policy covers any legal expenses you may incur in the event of a problem where you need to enlist the support of, say, a solicitor.

Flight changes

The majority of travel insurance plans will cover flight changes and cancellations, but check the small print to ensure that other details such as missed transfers due to delayed flights, cancelled flights due to weather conditions and other factors are covered.

Personal items

Most travel insurance policies cover loss of personal items and valuables as standard – but check if there are any exclusions to this or value limits before buying a policy. For example, if you’re taking an expensive camera to document your adventures, it’s worth ensuring that it will be covered if it breaks or is lost.

Pre-trip illness/injury

The biggest mistake that travellers make in terms of travel insurance is leaving it until the last minute to actually buy a plan. You should always buy your travel insurance as soon as you pay for a flight, accommodation or any other element of your trip. Make sure that your insurance covers you for illness or injury that you could encounter before your trip, in case it prevents you from attending. This way, if you are unable to go on the trip and certain elements of your travel cannot be refunded, you can always claim the money on your insurance.

Rescue and repatriation

Helicopter rescue cover insurance

The main function of adventure travel insurance is to keep you safe during your trip. Therefore, your main concern should be rescue and repatriation cover. Check thoroughly whether your policy will cover your rescue – be it on a mountain, in water or simply in a rural setting – and getting you to a hospital or even back to the UK for treatment if needs be.

This is particularly important when trekking in the mountains, because helicopter rescue is very expensive, and in most countries, if you don’t have the insurance papers to cover it, you simply won’t get it. This is why, for all of our trips, an insurance policy that adequately covers rescue from any locations and situation you might encounter is mandatory to participate.


Mera Peak trek, Nepal

However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all matter. Most adventure travel policies are available at different levels, with more extreme circumstances entailing a higher premium. It is important to check the small print because even if a cheaper policy covers mountain rescue, it might only cover up to a certain altitude.

This is probably the main thing you should check for if you’re going on a hiking or mountaineering trip – what altitude you are covered for. Ensure your policy covers you up to and including the maximum elevation you will reach because you might end up needing it should you injure yourself or suffer from altitude sickness. Whilst it is rare, we have had situations where clients needed to be rescued by helicopter due to acute mountain sickness, so never assume that you are immune to the risks of the mountains – just get it covered!

Activity restrictions (in the small print!)

Morocco white water rafting
Guide to Adventure Travel Insurance 1

If you’re looking for adventure travel insurance comparisons, there are also other restrictions you should look out for. These are usually only written in the small print, so you should never simply buy a policy described as ‘adventure travel insurance’ without checking specifically what kinds of activities it covers, and where.

Common restrictions include:

  • Maximum distance from a town when trekking – some trekking cover policies stipulate that they will only cover you if you are within a certain distance from a town with, for example, a hospital – so if you are trekking in rural mountains you will need a policy that covers it!
  • Maximum depth diving – many diving insurance policies have a limit to the depth you are covered for, so check that your itinerary does not exceed your policy’s limits, or choose a different plan.
  • Maximum distance from shore when kayaking or on a boat – don’t get caught out going kayaking only to find out that you’re not covered because you paddled out further than a set number of miles from shore!
  • Maximum rapid grades when white water rafting – some plans will only cover rapids up to grade 3, so check your itinerary matches your cover!
  • Particular types of walking – some plans will cover hill walking but not mountain trekking, for example – others might not cover trails that require the use of equipment such as crampons.
  • Location – Some specialist adventure travel insurance policies don’t cover certain countries or locations. In some cases, more challenging trekking locations such as the Himalayas will automatically be on a higher-level plan than, say, the Alps, simply due to the location entailing a statistically higher risk and being more remote.

Other considerations

Best adventure travel insurance

There may be some personal restrictions to take into account when looking for the right adventure travel policy for you. In the case of adventure travel, we would strongly recommend that you are completely honest in your insurance applications. You might think that you can get away with not disclosing a medical condition for a weekend break (still not advisable!), but if you’re engaging in challenging physical activity, those pre-existing medical conditions can have much more of an impact – and an insurance company will look into all of this if you make a claim. It’s always worth paying a little more to be confident that all of your conditions are covered and you will be safe throughout your trip.

It is also worth bearing in mind that some insurance policies differentiate on their plans based on age. You should always be able to find a plan that will cover your activities, but if you are over 65 (and, for some policies, over 50), you may be looking at higher premiums. But, again, it’s worth being honest so you can rest assured that your insurance will be there to cover you in the unlikely event that you need it.

Single or annual cover?

Adventure travel insurance advice

One of the main considerations in choosing a travel insurance policy for an adventure trip is whether to buy single or annual cover. If you know that you’re only going to go on an active trip once, you might find that it’s cheaper to buy single-trip cover. However, if you are also going on lots of ‘normal’ holidays throughout the year, too, it might be cheaper to get annual adventure travel cover rather than continuing to pay your regular annual travel insurance cover plus a different adventure travel policy for one trip.

Certainly, if you are travelling frequently to tick off lots of different bucket list adventures, it will most likely be worth buying annual cover – just plan ahead to check that you’re buying a policy that will cover everything you want to do throughout the year.

Don’t leave it until the last minute!

Choosing the right travel insurance policy

Now we know that we’ve already touched on this, but it’s so important that we want to reiterate it again – do not leave buying your adventure travel insurance until the last minute!

Think about it. You’ve booked your dream Bucket List trip – the Inca Trail, let’s say – a year in advance and are paying for it in monthly direct debit payments. You reckon you can leave insurance until the week of the trip – but what if you break your leg 10 weeks before the trek? Of course, we hope that this would never happen. However, in the unlikely event that it did, you would be entitled to a partial refund from us, but not 100%. If you hadn’t bought travel insurance at this point, you would not be covered for all of the money lost on having to miss your trip.

But, if you take out your travel insurance as soon as you book a trip, you can rest assured that you will be 100% covered if something happens to you – even before you leave the country!

Too complicated? Here’s our best advice:

Adventure travel and trekking insurance

Now, if sorting through all of the adventure travel policies out there feels like a lot of work, don’t worry – we’ve got your back. We’ve been running adventure travel trips all over the world for many years, doing everything from mountaineering to diving, everywhere from Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to the Sahara Desert, to the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. We know what to look for when it comes to adventure travel insurance.

The best we’ve found on the market are specialist insurance brokers, Campbell Irvine. We know their policy includes everything we require in an insurance policy for one of our trips, and we use them personally for The Bucket List Company, Rock and Rapid Adventures – even Keith’s personal family cover!

One of the most common mistakes that travellers make with adventure travel insurance is to simply rely on their existing insurance policy. You might already have an insurance policy with, say, your bank, but it is pretty much guaranteed that this will not be sufficient for adventure travel. Whether you’re heading off on a trekking adventure, learning to scuba dive, going white water rafting or even booking a multi-activity trip with excursions such as zip-lining or safaris, your standard travel insurance policy will not cover it.

They cover a comprehensive range of all of the adventurous activities you could want, in all of the incredible bucket list destinations you could dream of – no matter what your age or background. Their process is simple to use and their rates are unbeatable.

What more could you want? Well, you can get a special rate quote from them by clicking this link. After many years of advising clients on adventure travel insurance – seeing people get it right and seeing others chose policies that don’t quite cut it – we feel confident in recommending Campbell Irvine as the no-brainer solution to adventure travel insurance.

Of course, if you’d like any more information or support in choosing the best adventure travel insurance cover for your needs, you can always contact our team of travel specialists for tailored advice. Just give us a call on 01769 309 007 today!

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