It’s proving quite a challenge to get hold of extended stay/backpacker travel insurance which includes good coverage for the two most risky activities we will be doing on our trip – high altitude trekking (likely classified as mountaineering if we make it to the top of Island Peak at 6,189m) and scuba diving.
Scuba diving presents a particular dilemma, as you can often get this as a bolt-on to many travel insurance policies (as we have currently on our annual multi-trip) – but is this really sufficient for us in the very remote locations we’ll be diving such as Raja Ampat and Vanuatu? From reading up about scuba insurance, it seems like the one insurance accepted internationally by all dive evacuation and medical facilities without question is Divers Alert Network (DAN) – so it seems important to include a DAN policy card in our wallets. If something happens, you just don’t want anyone questioning the validity of the insurance or having to check with the insurance company before sending the helicopter or letting you in the hyperbaric chamber!
This goes for mountaineering cover as well. I read stories about people who had been evacuated in Nepal with acute mountain sickness – and it’s clear that a helicopter would not take off from Kathmandu unless they were certain you had valid insurance.
Furthermore, I can’t find any backpacker policies that cover trekking/mountaineering above 6000m. One of the only options for this is the British Mountaineering Council, who offer a good range of insurance products for mountaineering – under their definitions we would only need the Trek level even for Island Peak – but an extended stay policy for 10 months is very expensive (900 GBP+ for two of us). And why would we want to pay for this level of coverage for the whole 10 months when we will only be doing high altitude trekking for 3 weeks?
The only other option I can find is for “top-up” insurance for specific activities for a short duration – for example I am currently looking at DareDirect. It’s not cheap – 3 weeks insurance for 2 of us for Mountaineering level (includes many other activities too) will cost 310 GBP. But this plus a normal backpacker insurance policy still works out cheap than taking out a BMC policy for the full 10 months.
So, the current plan will be 3 policies:
- A normal backpacker insurance policy – currently looking at InsureFor – exclude the cancellation cover to save money on this – it’s not worth it as it’s only valid before departure of our first flight. Non-diving medical/accident would be covered under this policy – and it also covers us for common activities like the lower altitude trekking (e.g. Inca Trail, Macchu Picchu etc), snorkelling, and has sufficient baggage/personal belongings cover to replace most of our stuff in the event of “total theft”
- DAN Sport Diver Silver policy – only for dive accident evacuation and medical cover
- Top-up mountaineering cover – just for Nepal – includes search and rescue