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Climbing & Trekking Insurance

22 September 2020 By Eugene Wylde

Ain't No Mountain High Enough!

Fancy two weeks sunning yourself on a beach? How about a fortnight by the pool of a posh hotel complex? Thought not.

If you’re the kind of traveller that finds a lazy beach holiday a little boring, you’re not alone. The number of Australians opting to ditch the lazy beach-side bungalows in favour of exhilarating outdoor hikes is on the climb.

Whether you're planning on strolling through the shadows of mighty peaks or looking for a challenging trek that sees you standing on top of the world, there are endless opportunities for walking, trekking and hiking tours that explore scenic wonders of the world. However, not all climbing, trekking and mountaineering expeditions or destinations are covered by travel insurance. So if you've got a mountain to climb, be sure to pack the right cover.

Trekking and mountaineering hotspot Nepal was found to be the fastest-growing travel destination for Australians heading overseas last year. With the Everest Base Camp trek at more than 5,000 metres, it pushes the altitude limits of some insurers. Additionally, even though some insurers cover up to 6,000 metres or have no altitude limit, some exclude Nepal altogether. So if you're headed to Nepal, you'll need to review your options very carefully. Discover insurers that cover trekking in Nepal.

Insurers Altitude Limits

Thank heavens for me, the king of travel insurance. I've researched many insurers to make the task of finding cover for high altitude limits easier for you. But pay close attention to conditions as each insurer will have different limitations around abseiling, rock climbing, and mountaineering activities, particularly those that require specialised equipment such as support ropes.

General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal circumstances.

A ban on overseas travel from Australia remains in place. You can’t leave Australia unless you get an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.

Due to COVID-19, the resultant travel restrictions and the uncertainty surrounding travel, not all insurers noted above are issuing policies.  Some travel insurers have started to sell international travel insurance to Australians again. However, the policies may not cover COVID-19-related claims.

A ban on overseas travel from Australia remains in place. You can’t leave Australia unless you get an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs. 

Most standard policies also won't cover you for 'Do not travel' destinations. Check with your travel insurance provider.

Climbing and Trekking Insurance FAQs

Does travel insurance cover helicopter evacuation and rescue?

Yes, if you found yourself in an emergency situation and needed to be evacuated or transported to the nearest medical facility, your helicopter rescue or medivac would be covered by travel insurance.
As a trekker, you’ll often find yourself in inaccessible locations and a helicopter service is often the only way out.  This combined with the heightened medical risk of higher altitudes makes emergency evacuation a crucial component of travel insurance when trekking.

1. No Free Joy Rides (it must be necessary): A licensed medical professional or licensed tour guide must determine that the rescue is the only way to get you the treatment you require.

2. Alert Your Insurer (as soon as possible): You, your guide or travelling companion must advise your travel insurer of the situation. All travel insurers have 24/7 medical assistance teams that can help organise the evacuation and guarantee payment with the hospital and medics.

Is there an altitude limit for trekking or hiking insurance?

Yes, different insurers will have varying altitude limits on their policies.  Some charge an additional premium to increase the limits and some have no restriction on the heights you can reach.
Exclusions apply for any hike or trek that requires the use of support ropes for treks that include a rock-climbing component. Explore our guide on rock climbing and mountaineering cover if you’re looking to abseil or do a more intense climb.

Does hiking and trekking insurance cost more than standard cover? 

Most standard travel insurance policies will cover you for bushwalks, walking trails, and basic treks and hikes up to 3,000 metres without additional charge.  However, for treks with higher altitude limits such as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Markha Valley, The Snowman Trek and Everest Base Camp additional premiums may apply.

Will i be covered if I climb beyond specified altitude limit and come back down?

Unlikely, so it’s not worth the risk. It is important to be honest with your insurer and be properly protected for the activities and experiences you are embarking on.
If your policy only provides cover up to 3,500 metres and you hike higher than that, you could invalidate your cover.  Even if you fall ill below that altitude when you hike back down, the lack of oxygen at those higher levels is likely to have contributed to the illness you developed later.

Can i get cover for outdoor rock climbing and mountaineering?

In short, Yes cover for the average Australian rock climber is available.  There are many different styles and types of climbing and you can get travel insurance for some types of climbs but not others.  View our guide on rock climbing and mountaineering cover.

Australian travel insurers do not provide cover for free climbing. However, it is possible to get travel insurance for rock climbing on graded routes.

Most travel insurance policies only cover basic trekking or hiking holidays, not mountaineering. Mountaineering generally requires you to use ropes, crampons and other specialised equipment, which will require specialised cover.


What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

A standard travel insurance policy will usually insure you for holidays that go off the beaten track, as well as activities such as abseiling, moderate climbing and scrambling, there are general exclusions you need to pay attention to when going on an adventure holiday.

You’ll Be Covered...

  • If you injure yourself when taking part in any of these activities, or become ill, your insurance will cover your helicopter evacuation, medical expenses and repatriation back to Australia if you need it. In many cases, your policy also pays the costs to fly a family member or friend to be with you in hospital and escort you home.
  • If severe weather or another unforeseen event occurs (such as a family emergency) and you can no longer go on your trip - any pre-paid tours, travel and accommodation expenses will usually be covered by your insurer.
  • For your gear if it gets damaged or is stolen. Remember that all luggage and personal effects benefits have single item limits which could range anywhere from $700- $1500. This includes items like your hiking boots, camping equipment, sleeping bag and Gore-Tex jacket etc.

What Isn't Covered?

Trekking holidays need trekking travel insurance! Make sure you don’t start your trip without appropriate cover.

  • Climbing where ropes are required: The majority of Australian travel insurers do not cover for mountaineering, rock climbing, free climbing, canyoning, caving or any leisure activities where the use of support ropes or specialist climbing equipment is required.
  • Gear left unattended that was not under your care or supervision when it was stolen.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions that exist before you start your hike. For example, previous knee surgery that stops you mid-trek would not be something typically insured.
  • Travel warnings already in the mass media: You can’t claim if you didn’t already have travel insurance when the warning was raised. For example, if you hear about an avalanche warning in the mass media and then you decide to buy insurance, you couldn’t cancel your holiday and claim.
  • Altitude limit: Some insurers have a limit as to how high you can go.

Where Can I Buy Cover If I Want To Use Ropes?

Insure4Less rock climbing or alpine travel insurance is a good option for independent climbing parties. They cover for trekking with the use of ropes up to a max of 6,500 metres. You are unable to buy a policy if you are already overseas or are over 65 years of age.

World Nomads cover for climbing with the use of ropes – but you must be with a professional, qualified and licensed guide or operator for it to be covered. 6,000 altitude limits apply.

Insure and Go do not have any specific exclusions regarding the use of ropes. However, you are not covered for hikes over 5,000m in altitude.

Allianz Australia Insurance Limited new “Adventure Pack” add on now includes cover for outdoor rock climbing with the use of ropes and appropriate safety gear.

(Whilst insurers such as 1Cover, AIG, Budget Direct, Citibank, Cover-more, First For Women, itrek, Virgin Money, TID, SureSave, etc may NOT cover you for climbing when you need to use ropes, they do cover trekking and hiking in general.)

What’s The Difference Between Hiking, Trekking And Mountaineering?

The million-dollar question! Most tour guides will name the trek based on the degree of fitness needed, the amount of walking each day and type of terrain you’ll cover.

Mountaineering generally requires you to use ropes, crampons and other equipment, so these treks require a specialist cover that not all travel insurers cover as standard.

Take A Walk On The Wild Side

Whether it is a gentle stroll in the foothills of Australia's Blue Mountains you are after, or a multi-pitch Leviathan of an ice climb in the Himalayas of Nepal, there's no end of trekking and climbing options at your disposal!

  • Veteran climbers may prefer a solo adventure, or to organise an expedition themselves.
  • Families will usually opt for a gentler adventure tailored to the needs of younger kids.
  • Relative novices benefit from group trips with expert guides who can ensure your safety and enjoyment throughout.

Packing For A Climbing Or Trekking Trip: 101

  • Hiking boots: A tough, durable but comfortable set of hiking boots is an absolute must for any trip.
  • Sunblock: Do not underestimate how long you could be spending in the sun. Take enough sunblock to cover you for the whole trek.
  • Layers: Bring clothing in layers rather than one big coat or jacket. Layers can be easily donned or shed as the temperature changes.
  • Road-tested backpack: You and your backpack are going to become well acquainted. Make sure you’ve tested it to make sure it is comfortable first.
  • Dry pack: Don’t want your belongings ruined by a freak rainstorm? Invest in a good quality dry pack.
  • Flip flops: You’re not going to be hiking all the time, and when you’re not, your feet will be glad of the rest.
  • Sturdy water bottle: You need to stay hydrated, so a reusable water bottle is an important item.
  • Sleeping bag and mat: If you’re going to be camping outdoors, a sleeping bag and sleeping mat will keep you warm and comfortable.

Time To Get Those Boots Dirty: Where To Go

Kathmandu Valley, Nepal: Perfect for relative trekking novices and hardcore veterans alike, the Kathmandu Valley is the gateway to the Himalayas.

Yunnan, China: China’s mountainous province of Yunnan is famous for its Tiger Leaping Gorge, maybe the most well-known trek in southern China.

Inca Trail, Peru: Peru’s Inca Trail combines stunning scenery with a fascinating history to provide an unforgettable experience to visitors.

Picos de Europa, Spain: The Picos National Park in Asturias, Spain provides a wealth of fantastic trekking options and is well worth a visit.

Himachal Pradesh, India: On the Indian side of the Himalayas is the Himachal Pradesh, home to some of the most rewarding terrain anywhere in the world.

Routeburn Track, New Zealand: Lord of the Ring’s fans rejoice; this trail winds its way through NZ’s Southern Alps, taking in breathtaking vistas along the way.

The Haute Route, France and Switzerland: There are few more stunning trekking locations anywhere in the world than the French and Swiss Alps.

Cradle Mountain, Australia: Take an unbelievable trip through Tasmania’s highlands on one of the trekking paths that criss-cross this region.

Are You A Danger-Seeker? You're In Luck!

Trekking is generally a safe activity but, like all the best things in life, it is not without its dangers. Here are a few tips on how to avoid them.

Invest in High-sided Hiking Boots: Twisted ankles are among the most common trekking and climbing injuries. Make sure your hiking boots provide support to your ankles on uneven terrain and remember to watch your step.

Acclimatise Slowly: Altitude sickness is no joke and can seriously derail your trekking adventure. Do your research before you go and take the necessary precautions as you familiarise yourself with your surroundings.

Know Your Own Level: Only experienced trekkers should try to tackle high mountain routes alone. Know your level and stay within that level at all times to ensure a safe, thrilling and rewarding trip.

Stay with the Group and Heed Warnings: If you’re travelling with a group, don’t be tempted to wander off. Always heed warnings about local dangers. Stay attentive and alert and keep yourself safe.

Read The Small Print

Before you head off on the adventure trail it’s vital to read the policy wording (PDS) to ensure you understand what is and isn’t covered. Remember the level of cover and exclusions varies between insurers, so check it out to suss out what’s the deal with your chosen cover. And if there’s something you don’t understand you can contact the provider directly.

Do you yearn for adventure? Do you laugh in the face of vertigo? Trekking and climbing holidays could be for you, just remember to take out the proper adventure holiday travel insurance before you go!

Contributor Carolina

Carolina Tran

Carolina has been working exclusively in the travel insurance industry for over two years. With a customer consultancy background and currently studying law, she is a fine-print wizard who loves helping travellers find a policy that actually works for them. Speaking two languages and having travelled all over the world, Carolina discovered that she is not cut out for working holidays after a stint on her grandparents’ southern Vietnam farm, and is definitely a lounge-by-the-pool kind of lady.

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