Heading to the Himalayas? Find the right cover for Nepal including treks to Everest base camp
Nepal is a country that every curious traveller should experience, from the iconic trekking adventure that is Everest to the thrilling jungles of the Indian plains. However, as you plan your travel activities, you will discover some concerns.
Do I need travel insurance?
The right travel insurance will protect you from the unique risks associated with travelling to Nepal and climbing to Everest base camp as well as typical losses such as:
- Emergency medical expenses and repatriation
- Cancellations and lost deposits
- Luggage delays and stolen items
So how do you choose the right cover for Nepal? The best way to start is by understanding your travel needs, what you plan to do in Nepal, and then comparing policies online.
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How much does travel insurance to Nepal cost?
Based on a two week trip to Nepal, the average cost of a travel insurance policy ranges from $73.82 to $323.39 depending on age.
- Earthquakes and aftershocks. The mountainous regions along Nepal’s northern border were heavily affected by an earthquake in early 2015. Nepal is in a highly active earthquake region, which can lead to loss of life, extensive damage and major disruptions to essential services. (Source: Smartraveller)
- High-altitude terrain and trekking activities. Trekking through Nepal comes with the threat of injury and possible death. Travellers should make sure they are fit to undertake any trekking and only use a reputable trekking company with professional guides. (Source: Smartraveller)
- Monsoon periods. The monsoon period runs from June to August and results in an increased risk of landslides on major roads and trekking routes. (Source: Smartraveller)
- Protests and strikes. Political protests turned violent in August 2015 in Nepal’s far west, mid-west and eastern regions. In September 2015, violent protests continued in Terai and Dhanusa districts. Travellers were advised to follow instructions from local authorities and their tour companies.
- Petty theft. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website, pickpocketing and bag snatching are common occurrences at tourist sites, airports, on public transport and in hotel rooms.
Travel insurance can provide financial protection and assistance if your trip to Nepal is disrupted by these risks, but it’s important that you understand how insurers interpret cover if something goes wrong.
There are few experiences more intriguing than a trek to Everest base camp. You are rewarded with breathtaking scenery and a sense of achievement that few other travel experiences can match.
Travel insurance can cover you for
- Medical expenses. Most travel insurers will cover you for the medical expenses you could incur if something goes wrong when trekking.
- Helicopter evacuation is covered if something goes wrong. You’re a long way from the hospital if you become ill or you’re injured while trekking to Everest base camp or on other guided treks in Nepal. In these situations, the only course of action to get you the medical assistance you need is evacuation via helicopter, which can be provided by your insurers medical assistance team.
- Cancellations. If you have to cancel a paid trek for reasons outside of your control e.g. weather conditions, travel insurance can cover you for this expense.
Conditions you must adhere to
Most travel insurers will cover you for the medical expenses you incur as a result of trekking and helicopter evacuation. There specific conditions and exclusions apply that you must follow.
- Altitude limits. Most policies have an altitude limit for trekking.
- No mountaineering. There are exclusions on professional mountaineering treks, which means a trek that requires professional equipment is not allowed.
- No search-and-rescue cover. No cover for the cost of search-and-rescue operations.
- Additional premiums. Many insurers will only cover high-altitude trekking as an extra option, which means you can expect to pay an additional premium.
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible. If anything happen you'll need to contact your insurer’s medical assistance team as soon as possible.
5,364 metres altitude
Everest base camp is located at an altitude of 5,364 metres, so make sure your provider allows treks for that altitude.
The risks of trekking in Nepal and up to Everest Base Camp
Trekking and hiking has substantial health risks that you should be wary of
- Altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can strike even the most physically fit, and acute mountain sickness can be fatal in severe cases.
- Avalanche risk. There is a risk of avalanches, particularly in the winter months.
- Trekking injuries. Falling and breaking a leg can be significantly more dangerous when you’re in the wilds of the Himalayas.
*You must take reasonable care. Looking for trekking cover around the world or in other destinations? Read the full travel insurance guide to trekking.
The tragic loss of life and widespread damage caused by two major earthquakes in Nepal earlier in 2015 received extensive media coverage. More than 8,000 people died and many more were injured.
Many Australian travellers had to cancel travel plans to Nepal and make alternative arrangements. Some were already in Nepal at the time of the earthquake. Others had booked and paid for a holiday to Nepal but had not yet departed Australia.
How you would have been covered
|If you were already in Nepal, you had cover for extra travel, accommodation and meal costs resulting from an earthquake.|
|If you purchased a travel insurance policy before an earthquake hits but you’ve not yet departed Australia, cover for the cost of cancelling or rearranging your journey can be provided.|
|If you decided to book a holiday and take out travel insurance after an earthquake hits, in most cases no cover would be available for any losses you suffer. Insurers will usually exclude cover if there are government and media warnings about a destination.|
Apples and Oranges
Alex's case. Alex booked a Nepalese trekking holiday for August 2015. As he paid for the holiday and took out travel insurance cover on April 20, a few days before the earthquake struck, Alex received cover for the full cost of cancelling his holiday because the area where he was planning on trekking was deemed unsafe to visit.
Brian's case. On the other hand, Alex’s friend Brian didn’t take out travel insurance until early May, after the earthquake had occurred. At the time Brian took out his policy, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was advising tourists not to travel to Nepal, which meant Brian could not receive any cover for the cancellation fees and lost deposits he incurred when cancelling his trip.
Nepal’s beautiful, mountainous terrain attracts trekkers from all over the globe, but there are plenty of other great adventure activities on offer that travellers may wish to participate in.
- Bungee jumping. You can discover spectacular bungee-jumping adventures just three hours from Kathmandu, by the Tibetan border.
- Canyoning. Taking a rafting trip down Kali Gandaki river is a highlight for many travellers to Nepal.
- Jungle safari. Nepal's variety of animals and birds can be encountered by taking a jungle safari in Terai.
- Fishing. The streams of Nepal feature more than 185 unique species of exotic fish.
- Rock climbing. The Himalayas offer a unique and challenging climbing experience.
Check with your provider if you are automatically covered
Some of the more extreme activities such as rock climbing will require you to add a special ‘sports pack’ to your policy, so check with your insurer to find out how you can get the cover you need.
Common illnesses in Nepal
In addition to altitude sickness and injuries sustained while trekking, visitors to Nepal are at risk of malaria, degue fever, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis.
Nepal’s healthcare system
Medical facilities in Nepal are limited, especially outside of Kathmandu in rural areas where there is a lack of trained staff. High medical costs under Nepal's private healthcare system makes travel insurance a necessity.
Travel insurance procedures
If you experience a medical emergency in Nepal, you can contact your insurer’s emergency assistance line for information on what to do and where you can go for help. Your insurer's emergency assistance team will also be able to confirm whether you are covered for your treatment costs upfront.
If it’s not an emergency and your treatment costs are unlikely to be excessive, it may be up to you to pay the bill and then claim for reimbursement later, depending on the insurer.
The best point of contact in Nepal depends on the nature of your emergency.
- Your travel insurance provider. If you need financial assistance, you may be able to contact family and friends; Your travel insurance provider can help for situations such as lost baggage and travel delays.
- The tourist police. If you’re a victim of theft or crime, you can contact the Tourist Police in Kathmandu on +977 1 470 0750 or the Tourist Police headquarters on +977 1 424 7041. Make sure to obtain a written copy of any police report.
- Australian Embassy. Consular assistance is available from the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu. Call 437 1678.
- Nepal Ambulance Service. If you need an ambulance or emergency medical transportation, call 102.
A valid visa
Australian visitors to Nepal will need to obtain a visa, which is available upon arrival.
A valid passport
Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the time you leave Nepal. If that passport is lost or stolen in Nepal, you’ll need to transfer your visa to your new passport before you can leave Nepal.
Peak travel season in Nepal occurs from October to November when the weather is warm and trekkers crowd the Everest and Annapurna regions. Spring (March to April) can produce spectacular flower displays and weather that is still quite acceptable for trekking, but you’ll want to stay away during monsoon season from June to September.
What currency do I need?
The Nepalese rupee is the accepted currency in Nepal, so it’s a good idea to stock up in bank notes before you go. Avoid airport exchange bureaus, as the rate will be more expensive.
- Traveller’s cheques are accepted at most banks, and there are plenty of ATMs around Nepal.
- Exercise caution when withdrawing money and keep an eye out for pickpockets.
- Be wary of foreign transaction fees.
- Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country.
- Don’t go trekking alone. Trekking in Nepal is dangerous, so book with a reputable tour company with professional guides.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid pre-cut fruit, and boil your water or buy it bottled.
- Don’t give money to beggars. Support a reputable charity instead.
- Take a torch. It will come in handy when you need to deal with daily power outages.
- Be aware of Bandhs. These transportation strikes could disrupt your travel plans.
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Picture: Esmar Abdul Hamid, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)
Picture: Kyle Taylor, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)