Title photo – Camp beneath Mts Whitney and Russell USA Sierras
Notes from Dec 2018
For Australian climbers heading overseas
You need to read the PDS (Product Disclosure Statement) for each travel insurance agency of interest. All agencies have this document easily downloadable.
The following has been based on my understanding of what I have researched and may be incorrect.
Communications in the field is often necessary prior to a rescue/assistance to confirm your insurer is going to foot the bill.
Generally rockclimbing and mountaineering requiring ropes and specialist equipment is above and beyond what’s included in most travel insurance policies.
Overlapping, chunking parts of the trip, doubling up – Some people may choose a combination of rescue cover from eg, Global Rescue or Ripcord and general travel insurance from a mainstream agency. The separation of these in a claim may get messy. Mostly you have to specify the whole length of a trip when purchasing a product. Take care to disclose all aspects of a trip.
Generally you require a medical certificate in the country you are claiming for in order for your insurance agency to accept a claim for medical cover.
Differences in altitude require differing levels of trekking cover.
The following is a link to an excellent overview of international travel insurance and rescue and evacuation services suitable for mountaineering and rockclimbing with a USA perspective.
Based on this intro/review and my own research the following seem valid points.
- Recommended/used by – Mountain Madness, American Alpine Club, Adventure Consultants
- Combined with Signature travel insurance gives a product that includes rescue, evac, medical etc and standard travel insurance
- For 1 year membership and Travel Insurance for a 5 week climbing trip in USA cost is approx. $650US
- Preexisting medical conditions do not limit coverage
- Available to Aussies
- Some bad reviews
- Requires two way comms – eg satellite phone
Ripcord Rescue + Travel Insurance with TravelEx
- Recommended/used by – Adventure Consultants, IMG
- Preexisting medical conditions not excluded
- Comprehensive product
- The only available option for Australians however is medical evacuation and rescue – approx. $312 per year membership – the travel insurance additional option is not available to Australians
- Great reviews
- Requires two way comms – eg satellite phone
- Only covers medical transport
- Activity specific
- Limited rescue and evac capability
- Poor reviews
American Alpine Club
- Membership gives $10,000 cover anywhere in the world for rescue
- Gives a discount for membership of Global Rescue
Austrian Alpine Club
- Membership is available to anyone no matter country of citizenship/residence
- Yearly fee approx. 50Euros
- Rescue insurance of up to 25,000 Euros included and applies worldwide
- Also discounts at wide range of European mountain huts
- Rescue must approved prior to it being undertaken
BMC (British Mountaineering Club)
- Looks to have a great policy
- Only for residents/citizens of Britain
Agencies with Australian retailers
Following is a good review of standard travel insurance available to Australians
Most of these don’t cover hiking above 3,000m or rockclimbing. Some will cover hiking above 3,000m and rockclimbing if an additional “Adventure Pack” is purchased for an additional fee. None cover mountaineering using ropes and climbing equipment.
Allianz Travel Insurance available through eg, Teachers Health (available to non-members and members), Virgin Money etc includes with the additional “Adventure Pack”;
- Hiking, trekking or tramping, peaking at altitudes from 3,000 metres up to 6,000 metres, where specialist climbing equipment is not required;
- Outdoor rock climbing (with ropes and appropriate safety gear);
- And lots of other adventurous things
- Cost for 5 week USA rockclimbing trip with Comprehensive TI and Adventure Pack is approx. $720AU
- Some good reports from Nepal with commercial activities providers.
Seems to have a policy similar to Allianz with the Adventure Pack but at about half the price.
- Has specific policy additions for rockclimbing and mountaineering
- Not for USA, Canada, Nepal
- Formal link to VCC (Victorian Climbing Club)
- Online only
NZAC (New Zealand Alpine Club)
- Provides insurance for Australian members for mountaineering in NZ only for a fee
Travel Insurance with your Credit Card
If airline tickets are purchased with a credit card some credit card providers include complimentary travel insurance. This insurance is generally underwritten or arranged in conjunction with a mainstream travel insurance agency eg HSBC Platinum complimentary travel insurance is underwritten by Allianz. However policies will most likely not include mountaineering or rockclimbing and additional “Adventure Packs” are probably not available.
For this insurance you need to have available proof of air ticket purchase eg a copy of your credit card statement, to elicit acceptance by the card agency.
Take with you a contact for the insurance aspect of your credit card not just a 1800 number.
Pre-existing conditionsMany policies (read the PDS) include automatic coverage of a number of pre-existing conditions, but most of the listed conditions are useless (eg. acne!). If you have any potentially risky or expensive conditions which are not automatically covered, you should make specific enquiries about them. Many providers are quite helpful with this, and after asking a series of questions will give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to whether they will cover you. Different providers might come up with different answers, even if they are selling the same base product (eg. Allianz is a common product resold by TI retailers). And subtle distinctions can be important. Case study: A traveller has a blood clotting issue and is on medication that increases bleeding risk (eg. warfarin). No policy could be found that covered for claims arising from a blood clot, or from bleeding. On enquiry, some companies said they would not pay on any claim that had ANY association with these issues. However one company said that as long as the original cause of the claim was NOT those conditions, then they would cover a claim (eg. a broken arm, that was a bit harder to treat because of more bleeding). Although this could be read as at variance with the wording of the PDS, the company would not put the clarification in writing, saying they had recorded the phone call against the quote, and that was enough. Is it? Who knows.
Thanks to Ian Brown and Zac Zaharias for input.