While trekking is the most popular activity in Nepal it is by no means the only reason to visit Nepal. The country is a hotspot for adventure and culture junkies alike. The unique aspects of Nepal, the altitude, and the remoteness of many of the locations to which you will travel bring challenges in terms of the altitude that you’re traveling to and the risk that brings. If you plan to attempt any of the famous treks, then many outfitters require that you have trekking insurance and especially if you are trekking to higher altitudes. In this article, we’ll share our experiences of trekking to Everest Base Camp and why we considered and bought Nepal travel insurance.
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Why did we take out travel insurance for Nepal?
You can travel anywhere without travel insurance, mostly, if you so choose. Apart from Cuba, where the government mandates that you must have health insurance before entering the country. You can also travel to Nepal without travel insurance. However, if you plan to trek at altitude, then many trekking companies, including ours, require you to have insurance that covers you at altitude. If we hadn’t taken out insurance for Nepal our trekking company simply wouldn’t have allowed us to join the trek.
As it happened, one of our group – most likely the fittest of all of us – suffered from Acute Mountain Sickness and had to be helicoptered out of the mountains to a hospital in Kathmandu, after spending the night in an oxygen tent. The helicopter company wouldn’t take off to collect him until he’d paid the US$5,000 fee it cost for his rescue.
TLDR: Consider a quote for Nepal travel insurance here. Even if you’re already traveling.
Anyways, back to the reasons we took out travel insurance for Nepal.
I try and avoid unforeseen costs with travel insurance
None of this is a surprise, and this is one of the reasons we look for travel insurance. We’ve had to return home early in our trips, twice in the last few years for family emergencies and I can tell you that last-minute tickets are not cheap and neither is losing out on more than 60% of a pre-planned and prepaid overland trip. Luckily our claims were dealt with quickly and efficiently – without which we’d have been nearly US$10,000 out of pocket
There is a high risk of road traffic accidents in Nepal
Poor road conditions in Nepal, combined with the effects of monsoon rains lead to a high rate of road traffic accidents. In a five-month period in 2017 more than 1,100 people died in traffic accidents.
Our overnight bus trip from Kakarvitta to Kathmandu didn’t have an accident, but driving on Nepali roads overnight is an experience that will have you gritting your teeth.
Serious Crime in Nepal is low, but opportunistic robberies can be a problem
While the rates of serious crime are low in Nepal you should still be aware of your surroundings and protect valuables. We always travel with a portable safe from Pacsafe and secure our valuables in it in the room when we leave. Our 15-liter Pacsafe can fit two laptops, two kindles, a camera, passports, and money in it. We locked out valuables inside it when we trekked to Everest Base Camp and left it in our hotel in Kathmandu.
Adventure activities come with higher risks of injury
Visitors to Nepal come to experience the great outdoors. They visit Nepal to canyon, to white-water raft or mountain bike – and like us, they come to trek at altitudes that they’ve never been to before (read how we got to 5643 meters above sea level on day 15 of our “longer route” Everest Base Camp trip here) If you’re considering travel insurance for Nepal, then you can get a quote here.
Nepal is a malarial and dengue fever area
Malaria is endemic in Nepal, although most visitors won’t travel to the areas most affected. There is not thought to be a malaria risk in Kathmandu, Pokhara, or the trekking regions. There has, however, been a dengue fever outbreak in southeast Nepal. Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease that may cause a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle, and joint pains. Treatment may require hospitalization.
Safe drinking water is not always provided in Nepal
While Nepal supplies drinking water to more than 80% of the population, water treatment facilities in urban and rural areas are somewhat limited and the drinking water may not be safe. Nepal has a high degree of water-borne diseases – like diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, gastroenteritis, and cholera. In urban areas, it is possible to buy bottled water – or better still take a filter water bottle (read our guide to the best Filter Water Bottles here) with you and save the environment and money.
However, when you’re trekking you’ll be relying on your guide or teahouse to provide you with boiled and filtered water. This doesn’t always work out (I ended up ill for 8 weeks with travelers gastroenteritis following a trek in Nepal). My intravenous antibiotics and hospital stay were not nice (typical British understatement there) and it’s not cheap either. I always travel with a filter water bottle and control my own safe water. Trust me it’s worth it.
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Many of the treks in Nepal are at high altitude
Many visitors come to Nepal to trek. And to trek at altitude. The most popular treks in Nepal – such as the Everest Base Camp Trek, the Annapurna Circuit, the Langtang Valley Trek, and the Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek all feature routes that are over 4,900m meters. They travel through remote areas, where rescue and assistance are difficult, and take time. Our experience in Nepal showed us that Acute Mountian Sickness is very real and what shocked us most is that it was apparently the fittest member of our group affected.
Here in Nepal helicopter rescue to lower altitudes costs a minimum of US$5,000. Trekking insurance in Nepal is a requirement for many of the international trekking companies that work in this region. Your Government may also give specific advice, here’s what the UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office says about traveling to Nepal
The following hazards exist throughout the year, especially above 3,000m:
- sudden weather changes
- avalanches and snowdrifts
- landslides and flooding
- glacial crevasses and hollows
- thunderstorms and lightning
- altitude sickness
- sun exposure
Flight cancellations due to weather are likely
If you plan to trek to Everest Base Camp your trek will likely start with a flight from Kathmandu to the world’s most dangerous airport, Lukla. It’s an amazing airport to fly in and out of. When we flew it was in good clear weather, but at an altitude of 2,800 meters, Lukla often gets “weathered in” and flights are canceled when this happens. Rearranging flights can be an expensive business. In the most difficult of situations, a helicopter is one, albeit extremely expensive, alternative way to get off the mountain.
Natural Disasters Occur
We were lucky enough to leave Nepal the day before the massive 2015 earthquake. Friends weren’t so lucky and were still there – in both the Langtang Valley and also in Kathmandu. None of our friends or the trekking team we’d hiked with were hurt, but disruption following the quake was significant to them all.
What do we take into account when buying travel insurance for Nepal?
The altitude to which we plan to travel
But for Nepal and our trip, we knew we planned to trek to Everest Base Camp and so the altitude was important to us.
Many travel insurance policies will cover you to an altitude of 2,000 meters and then allow you to buy extra packs that cover you to higher altitudes. Many travel insurance companies, however, limit this to 4,000 meters. If you’re trekking to Everest Base Camp, you’ll be starting most likely at 2,800 meters from the airport at Lukla, and heading up through the Khumbu Valley, Everest Base Camp is located at 5,380 meters.
If you’re traveling to Nepal for a specific trek, then it’s easy to work out what altitude you need coverage to. Here are the top altitudes for the major Nepali treks.
- Everest Base Camp Trek: 5,600metres (Kalapathar Summit)
- Annapurna Circuit Trek: 5,416 meters, (Thorong La Pass)
- Annapurna Base Camp Trek: 4,320 m, (Annapurna Base Camp)
- Manaslu Circuit Trek: 5115 meters, (Larkya Pass)
- Ghorepani Poon Hill Trekking: 3,210 m, (Poonhill)
- Langtang Valley Trek: 4,984m, (Tserko Ri)
- Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek: 5,160 m, (Lapsang Pass)
Where we are when we take out the insurance policy
The vast majority of insurance companies will ONLY provide travel insurance if you are at home when you take out the policy. AND many others require that you have been resident in that country for at least six months AND that you need to be registered with a local doctor.
We found this out when we started our travels in 2014 – have returned from 4 years working in the USA, we were not registered with a doctor and had been in the country 6 days not 6 months!
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Our age and the age of travelers on the same policy
Nigel hit 59 this year. And that means that our insurance policies need a review, as many companies will no longer cover us as he’s over 55.
Pre-existing medical conditions
If you live with existing medical conditions or have had surgery within the last 6-12 months you usually have to declare it before buying a travel insurance policy. And yes, this included my badly broken wrist (that was Dunstanburgh Castle in the UK)!
Read the forms carefully while you are buying insurance. And if you have questions, the only people who can answer them are the insurance company or their agents.
We’re a World Nomads affiliate and World Nomads provides travel insurance. We do receive a fee for any quotes generated via our links to World Nomads, but if you want information specifically about their policies – then you must take this directly from World Nomads.
High Altitude Travel Insurance
Primarily most people traveling to Nepal are looking for high-altitude travel insurance. A peace of mind policy that will get them home safe if the worst happens at the top of a 5,000-metre pass. But remember to check what the definition of high altitude is.
FAQS on why we bought Nepal Travel Insurance
Got questions about why we use travel insurance for Nepal? Check out the questions we had on insuring for travel to Nepal below.
Is trekking insurance mandatory in Nepal?
No. Trekking insurance is not mandatory in Nepal. It may, however, be mandatory with the trekking company that you hike with. Organizations like World Expeditions require that a copy of insurance be shown to your guide, or sent to their administrative staff. It’s a sensible policy to have, as the guides will be responsible for getting you off the mountain if something goes wrong.
On our Everest Base Camp trek, the fittest member of our group went down with Acute Mountain Sickness. Our guide stayed up all night pumping oxygen into the tent that kept him alive all night until he was heli-vaced off the mountain at Macchermo. The helicopter would not leave its base until our fellow trekker had provided his credit card for the US$5,000 fee, which he was subsequently refunded by his insurance company.
Do I need Helicopter Evacuation Travel Insurance Cover in Nepal?
If you are trekking at altitude this may be a requirement of your trekking company. Check with them.
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
What happens if I don’t have travel insurance?
If you don’t have travel insurance and need medical assistance you have to pay for it. If you require evacuation off the mountain, then the helicopter will not take off until you have provided a credit card to pay for your evacuation. Getting travel insurance is one way to reduce stress when traveling – here’s our guide to other ways.
Essentials for an Everest Base Camp Trek
- To do the Everest Base Camp trek, a medical evacuation by helicopter will cost at least US$5,000. The fittest member of our group was evacuated from Macchermo with altitude sickness. Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
- Hiking Poles – these are lightweight, packable, and a great aid. Want more options for trekking poles? My guide to the best budget trekking poles is here.
- Good layering thermals
- Great sunglasses – the glare here is amazing- my Maui Jim sunnies have been to Everest Base Camp, and Macchu Picchu, they’ve sailed the Atlantic, and been to the Galapagos & Easter Island.
- Amazing socks – I’ve hiked in Bridgedale Socks for 8 years now and they’re amazing.
- If you’re looking for hiking boots on a budget – then here’s our guide to the best budget hiking books for men
And… the most important thing…
- A great team to trek with – you can check options here.
Read a Day by Day Guide to Trekking to Everest Base Camp
- Day 1: Lukla to Monjo
- Day 2 – Monjo to Namche Bazaar
- Day 3 – Namche Rest Day – Exploring the Khumbu Valley
- Day 4 Namche to Phortse Tenga
- Day 5 Phortse Tenga to Dhole
- Day 6 Dhole to Macchermo
- Day 7 Macchermo Rest Day
- Day 8 Macchermo to Gokyo
- Day 9 Gokyo Ri
- Day 10 Gokyo to Thangnak
- Day 11 Thangnak to Phortse Tenga
- Day 12 Phortse Tenga to Dingboche
- Day 13 Dingboche to Lobuche
- Day 14 Lobuche to Gorakshep
- Gorakshep to Everest Base Camp
- Day 15 Summiting Kalapathar
- Day 16 Dingboche to Deboche
- Day 17 Deboche to Monjo
- Day 18 Monjo to Lukla
Travel Tips for Exploring Nepal
- Read about Nepal in these incredible books
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
- Book the best Nepal tours and guides on GetYourGuide, Klook, and Civitatis
- Save money in Nepal with a Wise debit card
- Book accommodation in Nepal with Booking.com and Hostelworld
Final Words on Travel Insurance in Nepal
Our final words about why we opted for travel insurance in Nepal. Our personal experiences on visiting Nepal led to two instances where travel insurance was a requirement – one a helicopter evacuation (read about it here), another an 8 weeks illness. Both situations would have cost hundreds and thousands of dollars if insurance hadn’t been in place.
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