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A guide to adventure travel insurance

A guide to adventure travel insurance

If you’re the active type, your holiday may include a few adventure sports that travel insurance providers don’t automatically cover. So what kind of insurance do you need for adventure sports, and how do you get hold of it?

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
minute read
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Posted 6 JULY 2020

What is adventure travel insurance?

Adventure travel insurance is one of the terms commonly used for add-on travel insurance that covers adventure sports, which aren’t typically covered by basic policies. So, if your holiday plans include things like surfing, rock climbing and zip-lining, adventure travel insurance can provide the additional cover you need.

A regular travel insurance policy will only cover you for low-risk activities. You can’t just say “I want adventure sport insurance” – you have to decide what activities you’d like to do, then choose the right policy and add-ons to make sure you’re covered for all the activities you want to enjoy or try out in advance.

However, most insurance providers will let you increase your coverage to include adventure sports. They might offer one of these options:

  • Various different policy levels (e.g. bronze, silver and gold) with an increased list of activities as you go up.
  • A basic policy with activity pack add-ons available for an extra premium – usually with several levels.


On 7 September 2020, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated the list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCDO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.

For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.

For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.

How do you know if your adventure travel insurance covers your activities?

It’s easy to tell if an activity is covered by a particular travel insurance policy – you just need to look at the small print.

When you compare travel insurance with us, you can download the policy wording for each of the options we show you. There you’ll find a list of basic sports activities that are automatically insured with the policy, from netball to table tennis to yoga. If an activity isn’t on the list, it isn’t covered – it’s as simple as that. 

If the insurance provider offers several different policy levels you will usually be able to see which adventure sports are included at which level. 

The policy will also have sections listing the activities insured if you pay for add-ons. For example, a winter sports travel insurance add-on might include skiing, snowboarding and so on. Other activity packs would include other sports – perhaps surfing and paintballing at the lower levels and bobsleigh and sledging at the higher ones. Insurers lists are usually very specific and cover all kinds of activities from abseiling, banana boating and camel riding to zorbing and zip lining. 

Make sure everything you plan to do is on one of those lists, and look out for any exclusions. Insurance provider's activity lists should make clear what activities are and aren't included, and any limitations and conditions, for example, if it has to be done under the supervision of a qualified instructor, or there might be a maximum altitude for trekking, distance from shore for sailing or depth for diving.. With some providers, a variety of activities might be included if you do them once or twice, but excluded if they’re the main purpose of your trip. 

Most travel insurance policies cover you as an amateur on a casual basis but won't cover professionals.

If you’re not sure, don’t just hope for the best. Contact the insurance provider and ask.

When do you need adventure travel insurance?

Adventure travel insurance is something to consider if your holiday includes activities that aren’t covered by basic travel insurance. This can include:

  • Bungee jumping
  • Rock climbing
  • Skydiving
  • Hand gliding 
  • White water rafting
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Horse riding
  • Winter sports

This list is by no means exhaustive. As suggested above, it’s vital to check the details of your policy to see if your activity is covered and you require adventure travel insurance.

What do you get with adventure sport travel insurance?

If you have adventure travel insurance that covers a particular activity, you’ll usually be insured for:

  • the cost of medical treatment if you’re injured while doing the activity
  • personal accident cover – a payout if you’re seriously injured, e.g. you lose a limb
  • personal liability cover in case someone else gets hurt
  • legal expenses to cover hiring a lawyer for you if you need one

Having medical cover could save you from a life-altering level of debt. For example, if you break a bone while skiing your bill is likely to come to £8-12,000 for medical costs, £600 for mountain rescue and £2,000 for transfers or flights to get you home. If you need an air ambulance you can add another £10,000 to the bill.

If you are taking your own sports equipment, such as skis, check to see if these are covered, if an additional premium is needed, and what any excess you might have to pay.

Can you add adventure sports cover after you leave?

Say you’re on a beach holiday and, on impulse, you decide to try parasailing. You didn’t pick any adventure sports packages when you bought your insurance, and parasailing isn’t on the basic list… what can you do?

It depends on the insurance provider. Some will let you call up and add cover – but most won’t. In that case, you should sit it out. Unfortunately it’s hard to be spontaneous about risky sports if you want to stay covered by your insurance. 

Adventure travel insurance: Other things to consider

If you have travel insurance included with your bank account, it’ll probably only cover the basics. You usually have the option to call up and add extras, such as winter sports cover, but this may not be great value. Ask your provider what it will cost, then compare travel insurance quote for the same level of cover as a separate policy.

If you have annual travel cover, you might assume it's more comprehensive than a single-trip policy – but it usually isn’t. You’ll have similar protection for basic sports, and riskier activities will only be included if you buy the add-ons.

There are specialist insurance providers out there. In the rare situation where you can’t find any travel insurance policy that insures the activity you plan to do, you can contact a specialist insurance provider for a personalised quote.

Compare adventure travel insurance

At Compare the Market, we help you compare travel insurance from a wide range of providers. Just give us a few details and we’ll show you a wide range of quotes – plus show you all the documents you need to check if your adventure sport plans will be covered.

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