The private helicopter ride in the Himalayas you do not want

ADVENTURE – “Something you do that involves risk and where the outcome is uncertain”

Snow Cat Travel Insurance requirements explained

Who wouldn’t dream of a private helicopter flight into the Himalayas? We already make this dream a reality for some, with a private helicopter flight up to Everest Base Camp. We’ve done this flight ourselves…..it’s well and truly awesome! It’s very expensive, but so is helicopter rescue in Nepal. That’s private too, and it must surely be one you do not want, not least have to pay for.

At Snow Cat Travel we turn dreams into reality. Whilst we are all familiar with the phrase “making dreams come true”, we prefer own own take on this by including reality.

The reality of Adventure Travel, Nepal and Bhutan.

 

But the definition of adventure should be good reason enough to convince anyone that Travel Insurance is very important.

More than that, we insist that you must have Travel Insurance AND it must be adequate too. It’s compulsory and there are several good reasons why. The most important being for your sake.

Because there are so many variations of Travel Insurance these are the important things to ensure you are covered for that are more specific, as well as being the absolute essentials we will require too.

1- Cover that includes Nepal and/or Bhutan as applicable

2- Cover for Emergency evacuation INCLUDING Helicopter Rescue

3- Cover for the maximum altitude your chosen itinerary attains

4- Cover for ALL the activities in your chosen itinerary

There are of course lots of other things you will probably be want to be insured for too. Comprehensive cancellation, flight delays, lost baggage, medical cost cover, repatriation etc. These are of course up to you to decide, although we would certainly recommend you are covered for “anything and everything”. One thing that you might not have thought about though is:

5- End Supplier Financial Failure Protection (for your own peace of mind)

Why is all of this essential?

Please do take the time to read this to understand why, as well as what can happen if you are not properly covered. An important reality check.

With reality firmly in mind, we do need to stress the relevance and importance of travel insurance to you. It can be a bit of a nightmare in itself, especially trying to fathom out “what’s what” with travel insurance. It’s a product and there are so many variations of that product too.

Indeed, unlike (say) car insurance there is no statutory legal requirement to have travel insurance.

When you leave your own country no one checks at passport control if you have travel insurance and when you arrive in another country no one check will check there either.

The harsh reality

If you book via Snow Cat Travel, having travel insurance to take part in your trip is compulsory. No “if’s or but’s”. Our terms and conditions on this matter are absolutely clear.

You are declaring that you have adequate* travel insurance. It is quite simply your responsibility to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance. We can’t purchase it for you, we can’t sell it to you and neither can we tell you which policy you should buy and which you shouldn’t.

We can’t check all the small print of your policy either and ascertain whether you have obtained adequate travel insurance. That’s your job, as you are making the decision to purchase the travel insurance policy. All we can do here is remind  you that that with most purchases “buyer beware” exists and as there are legal implications with all travel insurance policies. It is in your own best interests to exercise due diligence before making the purchase.

Sure, if we aware that you cannot provide evidence of having valid travel insurance when you arrive, then our terms are very simple. You have forfeited your booking. No refund, no holiday.

*Adequate

Not only must you have travel insurance, it must be adequate.

You may well think that you have travel insurance already.

Maybe you got free travel insurance when you took out that credit card, opened that bank account or purchased something else and free travel insurance was part of the deal incentive?

But, is it adequate for your trip with us?

We’ll explain more about this and the consequences (all based on real events) of inadequate travel insurance. But, it’s where the dream well and truly can become the night mare.

It’s all too tempting to use a “price comparison website”. OK, you get results that usually start with the cheapest price first. But, as with anything that is cheap you usually get what you pay for.

What is the policy covering? Even more importantly what is the policy not covering?

The country you are travelling to

This might sound a bit obvious. But, it’s true. Travel insurance divides the world up and usually offers policies according to regions.

Because our clients come to Nepal and Bhutan from all over the world, we can’t be specific as to how the travel insurance industry in your country works.

But, here’s a hypothetical example for illustrative purposes based upon a UK resident wanting to travel to Nepal

1-A policy may be restricted to EU member states, EEA, other European countries only – Likely to be the cheapest

2-A policy may be restricted to the above plus North America – likely to cost a little more

3-A policy may be for all of the above plus “rest of the world”, but with some countries excepted from “rest of world” – likely to cost even more.

In this instance although it is likely that Nepal is included in “rest of world”, you must make sure it is by checking.

Certainly as far as this illustrative example goes, if an insurance policy was purchased for the purposes of visiting Nepal and Nepal is not covered within that policy, then you have no travel insurance cover at all whilst you are in Nepal. You can be assured that the travel insurance company will not entertain even the most minimal and minor of claims. Neither could you commence your trip with us either as you’re not insured for actually being in Nepal at all!

Emergency Evacuation including Helicopter Rescue

In the Himalayas this is an absolutely essential type of cover. Whilst the same applies to Bhutan, for illustrative purposes we shall refer to Nepal.

There are very few roads in Nepal, even less in the mountains. Emergency services provision in Nepal is limited at the best of times. Without access it is just impossible. Helicopter rescue becomes essential when an emergency evacuation is essential.

There is NO OFFICIAL MOUNTAIN RESCUE SERVICE in Nepal.

Again using the UK as the example, if you have a mountain emergency in the UK,  you can call 999 and the local voluntary mountain rescue will come to assist and in some instances may call in a Coastguard/ Military Helicopter.

For this there is no charge for an emergency evacuation.

In Nepal the reality is that all helicopter rescues are undertaken privately. Quite simply they are commercial ventures and rather lucrative at that.

On average the cost for a helicopter rescue is about $US 5000. The helicopter provider is probably not going to come and perform a rescue if they are not going to get paid.

That is why you must be covered for emergency evacuation by helicopter through your travel insurance. The rescue cost should be borne by your travel insurance, it’s one of the reasons for having adequate travel insurance in itself.

For the avoidance of doubt, in an emergency it is not your tour operator who covers this cost and again is why we insist on having this covered.

The following is not an uncommon scenario. Sadly (and foolishly) people do go venturing into the Himalayas either without any travel insurance at all, or inadequate cover to save a few $’s.

Every now and then an emergency situation arises where a helicopter is needed for someone whom is not properly insured.

The helicopter provider will be aware of this. It’s the first thing they ask. “Is the person insured?”

So, the person in the emergency situation may just then find themselves having to provide their credit card details!

If having to fork out around $5000 because you need to go to a hospital pronto isn’t bad enough, what happens if the credit card company won’t authorise the payment?

You hopefully by now don’t need us to elaborate further on this real night mare.

But, it’s why you must be covered adequately so this does not become your night mare.

The activities within your itinerary

Travel insurers when pricing their policies are essentially assessing the probability of risk and the costs involved. It’s not unlike gambling in some respects.

Some activities are more risky than others. Skiing backwards down the SW face of Everest whilst blindfold is quite possibly a little more risky than a tandem paragliding flight.

But, you need to be sure that whatever activities you have chosen for your itinerary are covered.

Do not assume that they are automatically covered.

Hazardous activities e.g. winter sports, tend not to be included as standard and will usually require an additional payment to have them included.

As far as we can tell, what activities that are included as standard seems to vary from company to company. So, don’t assume. Check.

Some activities like rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, even taking a micro-light flight….they just might not be standard.

So, do check and ensure all the activities in your itinerary are covered adequately. Again, it’s your responsibility.

We’ve all seen the news when a tourist finds themselves in a hospital in a foreign country after falling off their hire scooter only to find that scooter riding was not covered by their travel insurance policy and now they can’t pay their huge hospital bill or get back home. They had medical expenses and repatriation cover, but their travel insurance was void because they undertook an uninsured activity.

Altitude

This is one specific that is frequently overlooked. Often it’s not easy to find where altitude is mentioned in the wording of an insurance policy. But, it will be mentioned in the policy somewhere, and as with all the other specifics above, it’s down to you to read the small print.

Generally speaking most standard insurance policies will state a maximum altitude. Just as with non-included activities, exceeding the altitude stated in a policy will usual render the policy null and void.

The maximum altitude again seems to vary from policy to policy, although 2500m-3000m seems to be about the norm.

In Nepal and Bhutan such altitudes are easily exceeded. Not always the case, but the majority of Himalayan treks certainly do.

Yet, thousands go trekking to Everest Base Camp every year and that’s almost twice the altitude of the standard policy average. Sometimes the insurer will cover higher altitudes for an additional cost.

But again, it is your responsibility to to ensure you’re covered or the maximum altitude your particular itinerary attains.

You’ve gone to the effort of ensuring you’re covered for (say) Nepal, helicopter rescue, the activities etc, but if you’re only covered to 4000m and you need a rescue helicopter at 5000m it’s unlikely your travel insurer will cover this. It’s credit card time and $5000 worse off. It’s common practice that following a costly emergency evacuation an insurance company will also investigate, even if they initially covered the costs.

Other things

Travel insurance tends not just cover things like the above i.e. the really bad stuff that can turn a dream into a night mare. It covers inconveniences, your own financial risks etc

What you want cover for and how much in terms of monetary cover value is ultimately up to you.

Certainly you’ll probably want to have costs for medical cover (Nepal and Bhutan hospitals, doctors and other health service providers aren’t free) and repatriation (i.e. the costs involved in getting home after you’ve been discharged).

Having comprehensive cancellation cover is a really good idea, items insured against loss, flight delays, flight cancellations, lost luggage etc etc etc etc. These are all things you need to think about too.

End Supplier Failure

This is an “up to you” too. Some policies include it as standard. Although you can often request it be added for a small extra amount.

As much as we hope you don’t ever need to use your travel insurance policy for anything other than a “piece of printed paper” you carried around on your trip, this specific is cover for if your end supplier (i.e. us) fails financially.

For your own financial protection and piece of mind, although it isn’t an element of cover we are insistent upon, it is something you should at least consider.

How to get adequate travel insurance for all this lot?

Sadly we can’t tell you specifically. It’s different in most countries and there certainly seems to be an overwhelming amount of choice out there.

But, we hope you realise that with adventure travel it’s not exactly the same as a package holiday to a beach resort.

So, just as there adventure travel specialists (like us)….there are also specialist insurers for adventure travel too.

Because laws apply to insurance policy, it is usually best that you arrange your travel insurance through an insurer in your own country. For example it’s unlikely that a UK based insurance company can provide travel insurance for a resident of the U.S.A.

Sure, you can still probably manage all of this with a bit of Internet browsing.

Our opinion (for what it’s worth) is that it is usually easier to do the old-fashioned thing and speak to an adventure travel insurance professional and explain the specific aspects that you need cover for i.e. matters 1-4 in particular that we require as essential.

If you are uncertain about any aspect of what we require as essential cover, please contact us at: sales@snowcattravel.com

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