Travel Insurance: it is something I have heard every blogger talk about and recommend. While I think it is truly an important safety net to have in your back pocket while traveling, I have found that many of the top “nomad” or basic “travel” focused insurance companies simply don’t offer the sort of coverage I need for my more serious adventures. I need high risk travel insurance – duh.
Most bloggers will tell you that World Nomads insurance is all you need – and that you would be a fool to not use World Nomads. If you are planning a holiday to Thailand or Europe – then yes, World Nomads is probably enough.
But what about high risk travel and the insurance one needs for destinations and activities beyond your average South East Asia backpacking holiday?
I found myself scouring the internet in search of a company that offers real, affordable insurance for mountaineers and high altitude adventures – along with insurance and evacuation plans for my travels in some of the most remote mountain areas in the world.
Below, I’ll cover the best options I have found and used for high risk travel insurance (yes even war zones) and extreme, high-altitude sports in remote regions.
And trust me – it ain’t World Nomads.
It is worth mentioning here that this is not a paid or sponsored post. I have personally used the travel insurance and emergency evacuation coverage I cover in this article and did not purchase those services at a discount. I do have an affiliate relationship with several of the companies mentioned in this post – which means I earn a small commission if you decide to go with one of my recommendations (at no extra cost to you). Cheers guys – now let’s get to it.
Why Does One Need High Risk Travel Insurance
As mentioned above, if you are planning a classic backpacking trip around Europe or South America, then you probably don’t need high risk insurance.
Here are a list of things you might need insurance for:
- High altitude mountaineering – most basic travel insurance put limits on the altitude you are covered up to. In most cases it is less than 5000 meters and in other cases it applies only to hiking and not proper mountaineering with ropes and a harness.
- Remote expeditions – Think Gobi Desert, North Pole, Siberia, Mongolian Steppe, Alaska, etc.
- Travel to war zones or a country with active militia threats – Maybe you too like visiting extreme destinations like Somalia, Chad, Yemen, Iraq, or Afghanistan, etc – all countries with active military threats.
- Travel to countries on your government’s “red list” (but not with an active war) – You find yourself buying plane tickets to a country your government has on a “do not travel” list.
Something to consider when you buy regular insurance: the bloody exclusions. Take Pakistan for example – a company like World Nomads or Safety Wing might issue you a policy for coverage in Pakistan BUT if you travel to certain parts of that country – you won’t be covered since there are government warnings in place warning against travel. A good rule of thumb here is if your government warns against travel to a whole country or a specific region – your standard travel insurance will be useless here.
Best Travel Insurance for High Risk Destinations and Activities
Try Googling “mountaineering insurance” – very little in the way of interesting options come up.
It was not until this year that I finally found a company that covers the sort of crazy adventures I tend to go for: Global Rescue.
Global Rescue is unique in many ways. First, it is important to note that they offer several different plans and add ons.
A Global Rescue Insurance Membership is what you need to get started. Memberships can be for 7, 14 or 30-day options for individuals or families or you can buy a year membership (which is what I do).
The membership includes:
- Global extraction and field rescue: Get a medical or emergency evac anywhere on earth.
- Medical Evacuation: They can evac you to your hospital of choice from anywhere in the world.
- Destination reports and event alerts: Destination reports for 215 countries and principalities worldwide include entry requirements, COVID-19 travel status and restrictions, detailed health and security assessments and required immunizations.
Global Rescue Travel Insurance Add On: This is an add-on to the Global Rescue Membership. It is one of the most comprehensive insurance packages for travelers that I have ever seen or used.
Depending on your budget, you can opt to get a Global Rescue Membership and then pair it with cheaper insurance like Safety Wing. Just be sure to read all the fine print and exclusions if you go that route.
Why Global Rescue Insurance is Perfect for High Altitude Mountaineering in Pakistan or Nepal
When some shit happens in the big mountains of the world you don’t have to think about bureaucracy or insurance companies or all the red tape. You just want action to be taken and for help to be on the way.
Take Pakistan for example. If you are climbing anywhere in Pakistan, in order to be eligible for a helicopter evacuation, you need to first put down a $5000 deposit with Askari Aviation – the only company doing heli rescue service in the country.
If you don’t pay upfront – they will not come – even if you are dying. If you leave it to a standard insurance company to sort this out – it could take days and some insurance providers will only come if they have a doctor’s recommendation for a medical evac. Don’t have a doctor on hand? Then you might be fu****.
Global Rescue has companies like Askari Aviation on retainer all over the world – so in the event of an emergency – the deposit has already been paid and they can immediately trigger a response. Now that was refreshing and comforting news to hear.
I confirmed this with Global Rescue and thus I now require all of my client’s trekking or climbing in the K2 region of Pakistan to take Global Rescue insurance.
If you plan on climbing in the big mountains – Global Rescue seems like the best option out there from a cost and services perspective.
Global Rescue Staff Will Actually Answer Your Questions
On a few occasions, I have had specific questions about some of the services Global Rescue offers. Whenever I have had the need to get more information, the Global Rescue staff have organized a phone call to speak with me directly or emailed me back within a day or two with the answer.
It is refreshing to know that insurance companies can be accessible and honest when you need some basic questions answered.
I truly appreciate that no matter who you are – be it an adventure traveler, a journalist, an NGO worker, a business person – Global Rescue folks are professional and inclusive for all clients – that has been my experience with them anyway.
What is Covered By the Global Rescue Insurance Add On?
If you want to pair your Global Rescue membership with proper travel insurance as well – you can have additional benefits like trip cancellation, medical coverage, baggage loss, dental, rental car damage, etc.
Global Rescue Travel Insurance is one of the most comprehensive packages you will find out there – but it is not as cheap as other companies. As an example, insurance for an 18 day trip to Pakistan will cost around $150 for US citizens.
With insurance, it is really a you-get-what-you-pay-for-industry. If you want cheaper insurance, Saftey Wing is a pretty good option (about $40 a month) – though they offer way less in terms of what the insurance can do for you.
An additional option to tack onto the Global Rescue travel insurance is the “cancel for any reason” option. This means if you cancel your trip or your flights for any reason – you are entitled to receive compensation from Global Rescue – which is pretty awesome in an era where plans can change last second.
If you simply want emergency evacuation services – then going with the Global Rescue Membership is all you need – you just won’t have any medical coverage beyond the rescue itself.
Here are some screengrabs of exactly what is covered by Global Rescue insurance:
Does Global Rescue Cover All Countries?
Upon consulting the list of countries on Global Rescue, there does not seem to be many countries left off the list (if any). Countries like Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Venezuela – are all on the list of countries that you can get travel insurance for.
When you sign up to Global Rescue travel insurance, you have the option to select which country (or countries) you will be visiting. The price of coverage will depend on which countries you select. Easy.
The fact that you can get insurance for just about any destination is something that really sets Global Rescue apart from other insurance providers.
Note that one can not get travel insurance for more than 3 months at a time.
Wrap Up: High Risk Travel Insurance – Should You Buy It?
Since you took the time to read this article – then the answer to the question “should I buy high risk travel insurance” is probably yes.
For extreme adventures, having the right insurance coverage is key to being properly prepared and in some cases, it can be the difference between you getting out of a situation alive or not.
When it comes to high altitude mountaineering, risky travel to dangerous countries, or somewhere in between you simply don’t want to go into those situations empty-handed. Imagine breaking your leg on the side of the mountain in Pakistan and then having zero external support to help you.
I never want to be in that situation and I imagine you don’t want to be either.
For my own travels, expeditions, climbs, and group trips I recommend going with Global Rescue since they cover all the bases I need covered and then some.
Please note that I am not an insurance agent or expert, lawyer, or doctor. It is up to you to read and fully understand the sort of policies you buy before you go into the field and try to use them. I can only give reflections on my personal experiences using these products and offer my advice based on that. If you do have specific questions, I am sure that the folks at Global Rescue or Saftey Wing would be more than happy to speak with you!