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?

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?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
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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.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

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 policy wording for each of the options we show you. 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 extra cover. For example, if you’re going somewhere like Switzerland or Canada, a winter sports travel insurance add-on might include skiing, snowboarding and so on. Other activity packs could include water sports like surfing or more extreme sports like paintballing, bobsleigh and sledging.

Make sure everything you plan to do is on one of those lists, and look out for any exclusions. 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.

When do you need adventure travel insurance?

Adventure travel insurance is something to consider if your holiday includes high-risk activities that aren’t covered by standard travel insurance policies. Examples include rock climbing, skydiving, white water rafting and various winter sports.

It’s important to check the details of your policy to see if your planned activities are covered or whether you need 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
  • repatriation if you need to be brought back to the UK for specialist treatment
  • personal accident cover – a payout if you’re seriously injured, e.g. you lose a limb
  • curtailment/cancellation cover if you need to cancel holiday plans or cut your holiday short
  • 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.

Will I be covered by my EHIC/GHIC?

The GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) was introduced to replace the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which is being phased out after Brexit. The EHIC/GHIC scheme offers you a basic level of medical care for travellers who need it while travelling through EU countries. It does not apply to other regions outside of Europe, like the USA, Canada or Caribbean.

It’s important to know that the level of care available will be similar to the NHS, which means you could be subject to longer waiting times and a more basic level of cover.

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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