Top tips on making sure you're covered if you're heading off for foreign hills this summer.
This week's Monday Tip is all about making sure that you're properly insured if you're heading off to foreign shores and, more specifically, mountains this summer - sounds simple, but there are a few catches to be aware of, notably that most standard travel insurance policies won't cover you for a variety of outdoor activities often including hill and mountain walking, climbing and even mountain biking.
Free Medical Cover
First thing on your packing list if you're heading out to Europe should be your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card, which replaced the old E111 back in 2006. It allows you to obtain health care in most European countries at reduced cost or for free and is free to obtain. It covers all European Economic Area countries including Switzerland and much of eastern Europe.
Most standard 'travel insurance' policies regard outdoor activities like walking, climbing, biking, paddling and so on as unacceptably risky and consequently exclude them - some may cover you for normal walking, but check the fine print very, very carefully to see what their dedfinition covers and, if in doubt, check with the insurer.
If you're doing anything remotely adventurous however, we'd look at a specialist insurance policy designed to cover mountain activities. Two of the best out there are from the BMC and Snowcard. There are other options too, but they're a good starting point.
Both give a variety of cover levels depending on what you're looking for with options for single and multi-trip cover. Both web sites are a good starting point, but if you're not sure what level of cover you need, check direct with the insurer, tell them exactly what your plans are and make sure you have the cover you need.
The crucial bits are emergency rescue, medical and repatriation cover, but on top of that you can also insure baggage and equipment and against cancellation. It's worth checking whether your home insurance policy, if you have one, will cover your belongings when away from home.
Emergency Credit Card
Last but not least, most insurance companies terms require you to contact them to authorise rescues and so on, but in the real world, that simply may not be practical, so you should carry a credit card with a substantial limit so as to be able to pay on the spot for emergency evacuation if needed.
As an example, if you were trekking in Nepal and went down with altitude sickness high up in the mountains, it might simply be impractical to wait for a UK-based insurer to authorise evacuation by a Kathmandu-based emergency helicopter at short notice and without you being able to cover the cost up front, you could be left in a potentially dangerous situation while you were waiting for the evacuation to be authorised. Much better to pay up front then sort out the cost with the insurers later on.