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If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Insurance is vital, giving you peace of mind to focus on your trip. Even more importantly, is choosing the right insurance. A cost-effective policy suitable for a sunny week in Spain is worthless if you develop acute mountain sickness you hike up Kilimanjaro.
Here are four points you need to consider when choosing your travel insurance.
How Often are you Travelling?
Travel insurance comes in many shapes and sizes. The premium for a single trip takes into account your age, length of stay and cost of the trip. On the other hand, if you frequently travel throughout the year, it might work out better value to invest in a multi-trip policy. Be sure to check the conditions though as annual or multi-trip policies can have reduced cancellation insurance, as well as limitations on the number of trips and their maximum length.
It goes without saying, but a 24-hour helpline number for your insurance company to call in an emergency is a must.
Falling into difficulty (particularly if travelling alone) in an unfamiliar environment and reaching the out of hours voicemail for a provider is stressful and can have unfortunate consequences.
Are you Insured at Altitude?
Traditional travel insurance coverage halts at 3-4,000 metres, and this usually excludes technical climbing or advanced mountaineering. Specialist insurance policies have a higher 6,000-metre tolerance, covering you for Everest Base Camp (5364 metres) or some of the higher peaks in the Himalayas.
If your itinerary involves higher risk activities, such as kayaking, kitesurfing or advanced mountaineering above the snowline, you’ll likely require additional special insurance.
Be aware that less “extreme” activities such as horse-riding and certain types of cycling can also fall into a high-risk category, so if in doubt check with your provider.
This insurance can either be incorporated in an overall plan from a specialist travel provider or simply a bolt-on to a “standard” insurance if the activity only makes up a couple of days of your trip. The latter might be better value, however, always ensure that you’re not compromising your coverage by choosing a cheaper deal.
For others, it is not the activity but the location which is high-risk. When the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against travel to particular countries or regions, insurance providers will not cover customers in those locations. For example, Pakistan’s K2 Base camp has been downgraded by the FCO, as has Skardu, the closest city which travellers fly into from Islamabad. However, flights are often cancelled and the alternative route, the Karakoram Highway, would void your travel policy due to the FCO’s advice against visiting. High-risk providers are available, however, be sure to give them a ring and outline your itinerary.