Why you need travel insurance for trekking?

This trekker is suffering from altitude sickness. She needed travel insurance to help her back.

If you don't have insurance when trekking in Nepal then not only is your life in real danger but it will end up costing you your health and your bank account.

The obvious afflictions when trekking are things like a sprained ankle or even a broken bone. I've seen plenty of these when trekking.

The not so obvious are afflictions like altitude sickness, food poisoning, hypothermia, appendix ruptures, skin infections and respiratory infections.

If any of the above happens to you at 4,900 feet up a mountain then there's a strong chance you won't want to be spending days or weeks trekking back to Kathmandu to a hospital. You'll need a helicopter to get you down.

A helicopter evacuation in Nepal costs a minimum of USD $5,000. That's not including any hospital treatment or in-flight medical services which are now mandatory.

Due to this cost alone, many insurance companies are no longer fully covering trekkers.

Good hospitals in Nepal are rare. The rare, good hospitals make a lot of money from trekkers in need of medical care. They charge a lot!

Without the right travel insurance covering you then the bills can be astronomical.

How often do people get sick trekking?

I've never been on a trek where I haven't seen at least one person turning back due to sickness or injury. In all but one trek I've seen helicopter evacuations.

The most common ailment I see is altitude sickness. I've seen plenty of people be sensible and turn back early. I've seen the mistakes of others who continue on until they start to vomit and pass out. At this stage nothing saves them other than an emergency helicopter evacuation to a compression chamber in Kathmandu.

I've seen plenty of sprained ankles and two broken ones. Anyone with a broken bone in their leg needs a helicopter. The guy with the sprained ankle tried to wait a week so he could walk out. But in the end the altitude and isolation was too much so he called a helicopter.

The list goes on.

Yes, taking safety precautions helps a lot in reducing the need for medical care when trekking. But the best precaution is ensuring you have good travel insurance.

Personal Experience

I met Carl on the Annapurna Circuit. He'd been held up in a remote tea house just below Manang for three days. He was using a trekking pole as a makeshift crutch.

He was pale, in pain and dejected. He explained that he'd lost his footing on the main trail coming down, twisted his ankle and asked a passing villager to help him here.

Helicopter rescue in Nepal
Getting rescued when trekking means a $5,0000 helicopter evacuation! - you need travel insurance that will cover this for you.

Carl thought the ankle would be better in a day or two. But instead it swelled up and became very painful. His biggest problem was that he didn't have travel insurance and needed a helicopter to get out. It was going to cost $5000 which he didn't have on him.

The guesthouse had a phone. But the cost to call his parents in the USA to ask for a money transfer was huge. Not only that but to arrange the money transfer at all was problematic as the emergency evacuation team needed it up front or an insurance number.

It took Carl days to arrange for his parents to contact the medical team in Kathmandu and then to arrange immediate payment via wire transfer which added 15%! This afternoon the helicopter would arrive and take Carl to Kathmandu and a hospital where yet more bills would await him.

I remember looking at my own policy that night and was so grateful I chose a policy that covered me up to 6,000m.

Do you need special travel insurance for trekking in Nepal?

Basically, yes. What you really need to do is check the small print of your policy and make sure you are covered for A) adventure activities B) over a certain altitude.

Many travel insurance companies do not cover people over 4,000 meters! Considering popular treks like the Everest Base camp and The Annapurna Circuit all have passes over 5,000 meters this is something you have to make sure about!

Do note that most credit card travel insurance companies or cheaper policies do not cover you for trekking at altitude either!

Similarly in 2023 with COVID-19, you will need to make sure that you are covered.

The best thing you can do is call up your insurance company and ask if you are covered for trekking in Nepal up to and just over the altitude you will be trekking to.

The great thing with my travel insurace is that they have add on's which allow me to trek up to various heights e.g., 4,000 meters, 5,000 meters and even 6,000 meters.

How high can I trek with a Travel Insurance policy in Nepal?

When selecting your trekking insurance you must ensure that your policy covers you up to the maximum altitude of your trek.

  • Everest Base Camp 5,368 meters (17,598 feet)
  • Everest Base Camp with Kala Patthar 5,644.5 meters (18,519 feet)
  • Annapurna Circuit 5,416 meters (17,769 feet)
  • Ghorepani Poon Hill 3,210 meters (10532 feet)
  • Langtang Valley Trek 5,000 meters (16,347 feet)
  • Gokyo Ri Trek 5,554 meters (18,222 feet)
  • Manaslu Circuit Trek 5,213 meters (17,103 feet)
  • Upper Dolpo Trek 5,550 meters (18,209 feet)
  • Yala Peak Trek 5,732 meters (18,806 feet)
  • Mardi Himal Trek 4,500 meters (14,764 feet)
  • Upper Mustang Trek 3,8000 meters (12468 feet)

Many "normal" insurance polices will only cover you up to 3,000 - 3,500 meters. You really need to check when selecting your trekking insurance that your policy covers you up to the maximum altitude of your trek.

5 things trekkers should check their   travel insurance for when getting a policy

Trekkers should get travel insurance that specializes in "travel insurance". Watch out for insurance that does not cover you up to a certain altitude.

  1. Who can buy it? Make sure your travel Insurance is available to where you are resident.
  2. Do they cover trekking? You'll need travel insurance that covers adventure sports & mountain activities which includes trekking. That's not all. If you decide you want to cross a high pass should make sure they cover you up to that altitude. A good company will allow you to see this online easily.
  3. Could I just get coverage for my trek? Yes, with the correct insurance you can take travel insurance out for a just a few days, weeks or months. You should also be able to extend your policy from anywhere in the world including Nepal.

  4. I'm already traveling! Can I get travel insurance? Yes, you can select to start when you are already traveling with a good travel insurance company. Where can I buy it? You can buy trekking insurance directly from a companies website right below here.

Get a quote today!

World Nomads offers travel insurance for independent travelers and intrepid families.

Or for UK/European residents True Traveller insurance.  

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World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.