Heading above the clouds? Find travel insurance that covers your hiking and trekking adventures.
Whether you're ascending to the high altitudes of Everest Base Camp or hiking along the picturesque Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, travel insurance is an essential item. Some of the common risks involved on treks include:
- Altitude sickness
Will travel insurance cover me if I go trekking?
Trekking is usually covered along with adventure sports like abseiling, kayaking and windsurfing, but insurers will have specific conditions you must adhere to.
*No altitude limits however you must take reasonable care
Important information on travel insurance for trekking
Highest point of altitude for popular treks
|Trek||Highest point of altitude||Brands that will cover this altitude|
|Fitz Roy Trek||1,200m||All brands in the table above|
|The Snowman Trek||5280m||AIG, Columbus Direct, Cover-More, Easy, iTrek, Simply Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Direct, Virgin, WorldCar, youGo|
|W Circuit||1,100m||All brands in the table above|
|Pays Dogon||500m||All brands in the table above|
|Everest base camp||5364m||AIG, Columbus Direct, Cover-More, Easy, iTrek, Simply Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Direct, Virgin, WorldCar, youGo|
|Kokoda Trail||2,190m||All brands in the table above|
|Inca Trail to Machu Picchu||4200m||AIG, Budget Direct, Columbus Direct, Cover-More, Easy, InsureandGo, iTrek, Simply Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Direct, Virgin, WorldCar, youGo|
|Kungsleden (The Kings Trail)||1,140m||All brands in the table above|
|Haute Route||2,987m||All brands in the table above|
|West Highland Way||950m||All brands in the table above|
|Te Araroa||1925m||All brands in the table above|
|K2 Base camp Trek||5650m||AIG, Columbus Direct, Cover-More, Easy, iTrek, Simply Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Direct, Virgin, WorldCar, youGo|
|Markha Valley Trek||4700m|
Some of the most thrilling treks in the world are over 4000m above sea level.
Whether or not you can get travel insurance for high altitude treks will depend on the policy you choose. For instance, Woolworths Travel Insurance has a cover limit of 3,000m, while youGo Travel Insurance has no altitude restrictions (provided that you take reasonable care).
Always check the altitude limit
A day before Joseph departed for the Markha Valley Trek, his good friend Kevin decided to join him last minute. Joseph had been told by his travel agent that the Markha Valley Trek was covered by his policy, and he safety assumed all policies would do the same. With this assumption Kevin assured Joseph that the travel insurance on his credit card would cover him.
On the third day of the hike, Kevin sprained his ACL going down a steep set of slippery steps. At this point they had reached over 4,000 metres above sea level and the only method of evacuation was by helicopter.
Kevin was evacuated to the nearest hospital and treated for his injury. After being cleared from hospital, Kevin was confident that his travel insurance policy would cover all expenses. Unfortunately Kevin's travel insurance on his credit card had an altitude limit of 1,000 metres for treks. Kevin was left with a massive hospital bill on top of the cost of the helicopter.
Cost of helicopter evacuation
Out of pocket expenses
- Altitude sickness. Your body may not be use to the effects of altitude. This can result in headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and even hospitalisation.
- Injuries. Many treks go for long distances, and feature steep inclines and declines. The combination of fatigue and difficult walks can increase your chances of injury.
- Food poisoning. When trekking overseas, the quality of food and hygiene may not be of the best standard. Food poisoning on a 10 day trek would be a nightmare.
- Theft on camp sites. Camp sites of treks can be filled with tourists, trek workers and the possibility of theft.
- Poisonous animals and plants. Depending on the terrain of the trek, there may be poisonous animals and plants around. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that between 2002 and 2005, over 5,000 hospitalisations in Australia due to contact with poisonous animals and plants.
Trekking exposes you to the elements for longer periods of time compared to other adventure sports, you run the risk of slips, falls, exposure to adverse weather and even theft. Travel insurance provides you cover while you hike with:
- Emergency medical expenses. If you're injured and require surgery for instance, travel insurance can cover you.
- Helicopter and air evacuation. At high altitude, helicopter evacuation may be the only means of assistance.
- Theft and stolen items. If you're items are stolen, your policy may be able to help you recover some of the cost.
- Cancellations. If for some reason you're forced to cancel your trek, travel insurance can cover you for non-refundable tour costs.
If you're injured on your hike, then you can get air evacuation by helicopter under two conditions:
- It must be medically necessary
- You must inform your travel insurers emergency assistance team
What is considered medically necessary?
Helicopter evacuation can be considered medically necessary by a licensed medical practitioner or by a licensed tour guide.
Why do I need to contact my travel insurer?
Contacting your insurer as soon as possible allows them to confirm cover with you so that you don't end up liable for a bill that you can't pay. Travel insurance medical assistance teams can also help organise medical evacuation and guarantee payment with the appropriate hospital for you.
According to finder.com.au's research, Insure4Less offers search and rescue cover.
Travel insurance brands typically cover evacuations for medical emergencies, but not for search and rescue operations. This means that any evacuation costs that you pick up as a result of being lost will need to be covered out of your own pocket. The best thing you can do is to organise your trek through an organised tour. If a situation arises where you're lost, the organised tour will have means of rescue.
Your policy will either:
- Automatically cover trekking
- Require you to add it as an additional item
- Require you to add an additional sports or adventure pack
While most policies do automatically include trekking and hiking, it's a good idea to double check with your policy before planning a trek overseas.
If you need to claim
Duty of disclosure is applicable if you need to make a claim. For instance if you're injured but are not honest with the activity that led to the claim (e.g. trekking with ropes), your won’t be honoured and you’ll be liable for all expenses.
This will depend on the travel insurance brand you go with. For example, if you have a policy with Travel Insurance Direct you are automatically covered for trekking cover. On the other hand, if you take out a policy with World Nomad's then you are automatically covered for treks up to 2,000m in altitude. For treks over this height, you will need to upgrade your plan for an additional price.
- Equipment. If you aren’t already familiar with maps and GPS units, you should learn how to use them before setting off on your trip. This is especially true if you’re planning to trek alone or as a duo. Be sure that you know how to use all your equipment.
- Plot your course. Selecting a trekking course starts with being realistic about your fitness levels, safety and accessibility in case of an emergency. If you’re considering a course overseas, it might be a good idea to join a group tour. Group operators always insist that your policy makes provision for medical emergencies and evacuation.
- Check the weather. Be sure to check the weather forecast for the dates and location you’re planning to visit.
- Go with a guide. A guide will accommodate to your pace and most likely will know the ins and outs of the trail.
- Know your limits. Go at your own pace, and don't be afraid to take a rest. Fatigue on tricky walking surfaces can easily result in injuries.
- Pack light. Take only the essentials and you'll thank yourself over a 5 day hike.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in a medical emergency overseas.
- Contact your insurer. You must let your insurer know as soon as possible. A good policy will provide for immediate assistance in a medical emergency and arrange for hospital expenses to be covered. You’ll also have to download, complete and send a claims form to the insurer, along with all the required documentation.
- Provide supporting information to make the claim. You’ll be asked to provide information to help the insurer better process your claim. This can include medical and police reports, statements from travel providers, original receipts and proof of ownership. Foreign-language documents must be translated into English.
- Cooperate. Be as honest and forthcoming as possible when providing information and evidence. You must not admit liability or offer to pay for damage without first consulting your insurer.
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