Heading off the beaten track? Compare search and rescue cover for remote adventures overseas.
There are parts of the world that are best explored off the beaten track. Whether you’re trekking in the Himalayas or off-piste in the French Alps, there are unique and memorable travel experiences all around the world for those who don’t mind a bit of adventure. Unfortunately, with adventure comes risk. What would happen if you were caught in a snowstorm and a search and rescue mission was launched to find you? Search and rescue operations aren’t come cheap, which is why it’s essential to make sure that search and rescue is covered by your travel insurance.
Am I covered for search and rescue expenses?
There are few travel insurance policies that provide cover for search and rescue missions. Policies that do include search and rescue cover will usually cover the costs incurred by an official local search and rescue organisation to:
- Search for you
- Rescue you
- Recover you if you are missing or if you’ve been involved in a serious accident
Make sure you’re aware of these conditions
- Recognised search and rescue facility. The search and rescue mission needs to be conducted by a recognised facility or organisation, not by people putting together an informal search party.
- You must follow safety advice. If you fail to follow local safety advice or severe weather warnings, chances are your claim will be refused.
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Does travel insurance cover medical evacuations?
Most travel insurance companies do cover search and rescue evacuations unless they are medically necessary. You can find out if you have medical evacuation cover by checking the table of benefits on your travel insurance policy. It’s also important to understand when your policy will and won’t pay a claim. For example, in order for your claim to be accepted you may need to:
- Be skiing off-piste with a licensed snowsport instructor
- Be on a trek organised by a commercial operator
- Treks must not require any special equipment, such as ropes or abseiling gear
- Stick within the boundaries of a ski resort
- Follow local safety advice and warnings
- Be trekking below a specified altitude limit
These conditions vary between insurers, so check the fine print and the list of general exclusions in the product disclosure statement (PDS).
Safety tips before you go off the beaten track
In the snow:
- Get a transceiver. Avalanches are a deadly risk when skiing off-piste. A transceiver can help rescuers find you as quickly as possible.
- Take an emergency survival pack. A probe and a shovel can be lifesavers following an avalanche. There are also special avalanche safety kits available containing everything you need in an emergency.
- Go with a guide. A licensed snowsport instructor can help you plan the best and safest route, and having one with you will also help your travel insurance claim if you need to be rescued.
- Follow local advice. Check the weather forecast and follow any weather or safety warnings.
- Never go alone. If you have an accident or get lost and no-one knows where you are, your chances of survival dramatically decrease.
If your cruise ship starts sinking:
- Know the drill. When you board the cruise ship, the crew will generally demonstrate and evacuation drill. Be sure to pay attention.
- Stay calm. If your cruise ship starts to sink, try not to panic. Think back to the drill and remember what you need to do to stay safe.
- Use the stairs. Avoid elevators as the ship’s electrical systems may fail.
- Put on your life jacket. Make sure you and your loved ones are wearing life jackets and get to the ship’s lifeboats as soon as possible.
- Get the right equipment. From maps and GPS units to the appropriate clothing for the weather conditions you’ll encounter, the right equipment is crucial when staying safe on a trek.
- Plan ahead. Don’t just wander off aimlessly into the wilderness. Do your research and determine whether it’s appropriate for someone with your skills and level of fitness.
- Check the weather. Check the weather forecast before you embark on a trek and if it looks like turning nasty, postpone it for another day.
- Pack light. Only take the things you need and nothing you don’t..
- Take a rest. Don’t push yourself too hard, as fatigue puts you at greater risk of making a mistake and suffering an injury.
- Get help from a guide. A guide can help you stay on the right route and avoid any pitfalls. Plus trekking with a guide may also be a requirement from your travel insurer if your search and rescue claim is to be paid.
What should I do if I get lost?
- STOP. STOP stands for “Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.” Instead of rushing off into the wilderness in a state of panic, take the time to think calmly about your next action.
- Stay calm. People make bad decisions when they panic, so try to keep your cool.
- Assess the situation. Try to figure out where you are. Examine the position of the sun to help youur bearings. Are there any landmarks that can help point you in the right direction? Is there easily accessible high ground from which you can work out where to go?
- Retrace your steps. Is it possible to get back to a point where you were sure of your exact location? Will you be able to get reoriented when you return there?
- Do you have phone coverage? If you can’t get a signal, consider heading to higher ground.
- Signal for help. Make sure you have awhistle or an emergency beacon that you can use to signal for help?
- Spending the night. If you have to spend the night out in the bush, make sure to drink plenty of water and stay nourished. Find a sheltered spot that protects you from the elements. If you’re the snow, conserve heat and build a snow cave.