For most travelers, the thought of purchasing travel insurance is usually an after thought, at best. For many, it is seen as an unnecessary expense, when they’re already paying a lot for a vacation, with no tangible benefits most of the time. Travel insurance is one of those things you don’t really need, until you do.
But adventure travelers are not like other travelers. They often visit remote places that are sometimes dangerous, and are located far from urban centers, making it difficult to get medical aid should it be required. Additionally, they are often carrying highly specialized, and expensive, gear, that makes the loss of their baggage potentially far more devastating that when a typical traveler has their bags lost in transit. For these reasons, and more, travel insurance isn’t just recommended for adventure travelers, it is generally a necessity.
Basic travel insurance usually covers such things as trip cancellation or interruption. This is, by far, the most common type of travel insurance that people buy, as it will cover you if you’re traveling abroad, and something causes your expensive vacation to go awry. Usually, the insurance company will help arrange alternate accommodations and help schedule flights home, and will often reimburse you for money lost due to the trip being canceled. A lot of travelers invest in this kind of insurance “just in case”.
As mentioned above, the other benefit of travel insurance is that it usually covers loss of baggage. For most tourist, that means they are reimbursed for buying new clothes and other items so that they can continue on their trip with just a minor inconvenience. For adventure travelers however, that inconvenience can turn from minor to major very quickly. Some of their specialized gear, like climbing harnesses, cold weather sleeping bags, and backpacks, can be difficult to find when they’re actually at their destination, and even though you may have the money to replace them, who wants to trek for miles over difficult terrain in a brand new pair of hiking boots?
Many travel insurance plans will also offer coverage for emergency medical treatment and assistance, should you become injured on your trip. Freak accidents can happen anywhere, and your usual normal health insurance plans generally won’t cover you while traveling abroad. Having this kind of medical insurance is another contingency against a completely different kind of “just in case” scenario. But here’s the rub when it comes to medical insurance. It generally doesn’t cover adventure activities, such as mountain climbing, sky diving, or whitewater rafting. You need to read the fine print very closely to find out exactly what is covered, but usually you’ll need supplemental insurance if you intend to take part in those types of activities. Those supplements usually include increased medical coverage and medical evacuation to cover the costs of getting you to a hospital should the need arise. If you’re trekking the Andes in Peru for instance, it can be very expensive to get an airlift back to Lima should an emergency arise.
While buying travel insurance remains optional for the vast majority of travelers, for the adventure crowd it can be a requirement, quite literally. For instance, I have needed to show proof of travel insurance when trekking Kilimanjaro and visiting the Amazon, and I’ll need it again when I travel to the Himalaya in April to make the trek to Everest Base Camp. So far, I have never had to make a single claim, but it has always been nice to know that I am covered should the need arise.
So, all of that begs the question. Do you need travel insurance on your next trip? Well, that depends. If you’re taking a cruise in the Caribbean, you’re probably fairly safe. If you pay for the trip with a credit card, it often offers you a level of security, up to a certain dollar value (check with your card for details), should the trip be canceled, and trip organizers will usually work with you if other problems arise. On the other hand, if you’re thinking about trekking through Chile’s Patagonia region, it might be prudent to consider buying an insurance plan that offers adventure travel coverage. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but “just in case”…