A guide to adventure travel insurance

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

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

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
6
minute read
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Last Updated 28 DECEMBER 2022

What is adventure travel insurance?

Adventure travel insurance is one of the terms commonly used for add-on travel insurance that covers adventure sports and higher-risk activities, which aren’t typically covered by basic policies. If your holiday plans include activities such as 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.

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 pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean any claim you make is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

What activities are covered by adventure travel insurance?

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. 

Here are some adventurous activities that may not be covered by your typical travel insurance policy:

  • Skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports
  • Water sports such as surfing, kitesurfing, white water kayaking and rafting, sailing, water skiing and scuba diving
  • Trekking, especially at altitude, and summer and winter mountaineering
  • Caving and spelunking
  • Climbing, abseiling and canyoning
  • Cycle touring and mountain biking
  • Bungee jumping, paragliding and skydiving
  • Horse riding 

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

When you compare quotes, it’s easy to tell if an activity is covered by a particular travel insurance policy –  just 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 such as Switzerland or Canada, a winter sports travel insurance add-on might include skiing, snowboarding. 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, your chosen activity may have 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-adrenaline, 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, even if you are in Europe and you’re able to cover some medical costs with your EHIC/GHIC card, getting rescued on-piste could easily cost over £400, while the bill for off-piste helicopter rescue to a local hospital could be £1,500-£2,500 or more. If you need repatriation to the UK by air ambulance you can add another £9,000-£14,000 to the bill. And that’s nothing compared to the staggering medical treatment and repatriations costs you could face in the USA, for example.

If you’re 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, such as the USA, Canada or the Caribbean.

t’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. And medical treatment may not be free - it depends on the rules of the state healthcare system in the country you’re visiting.

Compare adventure travel insurance

At Comparethemarket, 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.

Frequently asked questions

Can adventure sports travel insurance cover me for sporting competitions?

If you’re heading abroad to compete in a sporting event as a ‘professional’, where you’re paid to participate and there’s prize money involved, you’ll likely need to arrange specialist cover. Make sure you read the fine print of any adventure sports travel insurance policy to make sure you’ll be covered.

Does adventure travel insurance cover search and rescue?

It depends on the policy - check the terms to make sure. If you’re heading off grid, for example to go trekking in the Andes, you’ll need to look for a travel insurance policy that covers you for your chosen activity (look out for any altitude exclusions) and includes essential cover for search and rescue costs.

Do I need specialist adventure travel insurance?

It depends on what you’re planning on doing while you’re abroad. If you’re planning a holiday with some fun, adventurous activities thrown in – say a morning mountain biking, the odd spectacular day hike, and a spot of paddleboarding – you can normally add on cover to a standard travel insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for these activities.

But if you’re planning an ‘out-there’ adventure with potentially more hazardous activities – perhaps hiking to Everest Base Camp, running through the Sahara in the Marathon des Sables, or cycling-touring in a remote corner of the globe – a specialist policy could be better tailored to your needs.

Are there any high-risk activities that won’t be covered by adventure travel insurance?

Even the most comprehensive adventure travel insurance in the world is unlikely to cover you for certain activities that are considered extremely dangerous, for example base jumping or free climbing.

When you compare travel cover, it’s also important to be aware of the parameters of the cover for your chosen activities. For example, a policy may cover scuba diving, but only up to a certain depth, or it may cover white-water rafting or kayaking, but only up to Class V or III respectively.

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