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, the remoteness of many of the locations to which you will travel bring challenges that require specific travel insurance requirements. If you plan to attempt any of the famous treks, then trekking insurance is key and high altitude travel insurance has some specific policy requirements. In this article, we’ll share the key requirements for Nepal travel insurance and what you need to look out for.
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Why do you need 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 prior to entering the country. Travel insurance is there for you to pay for the unknown. The cost of hospital and doctors bills if you get sick, replacement items if your gear gets stolen, the cost of flying you home if you need to be repatriated, or if events with family members mean that you need to return home.
Avoid unforeseen costs with travel insurance
None of this is a surprise, and those are the reasons we all buy travel insurance. For the peace of mind that we can travel without the worrying of those unforeseen costs dogging us.
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.
Serious Crime 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 litre Pacsafe can fit two laptops, two kindles and 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 to mountain bike. These activities come with higher risks of injuries than more sedentary activities and they are classed as higher risk by insurance companies.
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 the south-east of Nepal. Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease which may cause a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains. Treatment may require hospitalisation.
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. When you’re trekking you’ll be relying on your guide or teahouse providing you boiled and filtered water. This doesn’t always work out (I ended up ill for 8 weeks with travellers gastroenteritis following a trek in Nepal). My intravenous antibiotics and hospital stay were provided for in my travel insurance policy.
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 metres. They travel through remote areas, where rescue and assistance are difficult, takes time and often a helicopter to repatriate sick and injured to safer altitudes. Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness is a real threat to the health of those visiting. Helicopter rescue to lower altitudes costs a minimum of US$5,000. Trekking insurance in Nepal is a necessity.
The UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office gives the following advice on 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 you trek will likely start with a flight from Kathmandu to the world’s most dangerous airport, Lukla. At an altitude of 2,800 metres, Lukla often gets weathered in and flights are regularly cancelled. Rearranging flights can be an expensive business. In the most difficult of situations, a helicopter is one – 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 and were still there – in both the Langtang Valley and also in Kathmandu. If there is a natural disaster while you are in the country and your government advises you leave the area, then your insurance company may pay for you to be evacuated.
Do you need special travel insurance for Nepal?
In a nutshell, yes, especially if you are planning to trek.
It’s extremely important to check the small print of your policy to ensure that your policy covers you for
- Adventure activities (if you intend to undertake them)
- Trekking to the altitude that you plan to trek to.
Most travel insurance policies will cover you to an altitude of 2,000 metres and then allow you to buy extra packs that cover you to higher altitudes. Many travel insurance companies, however, limit this to 4,000 metres.
World Nomads provides cover at various altitudes – 4,000 metres, 5,000 metres, 6,000 metres. So if you’re trekking to Everest Base Camp, you’ll be starting most likely at 2,800 metres from the airport at Lukla, and heading up through the Khumbu Valley, Everest Base Camp is located at 5,380 metres.
What do you need to take into account when buying Travel Insurance for Nepal?
There are a number of things you need to take into consideration when buying travel insurance for Nepal. We’ve detailed these below.
The altitude to which you plan to travel
If you’re travelling to Nepal for a specific trek, then its 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 metres, (Thorong La Pass)
- Annapurna Base Camp Trek: 4,320 m, (Annapurna Base Camp)
- Manaslu Circuit Trek: 5115 metres, (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)
The activities you plan to undertake
Nepal is an adventure junkies mecca. You can bungee jump, white-water raft, go canyoning, take a jungle safari, go mountain biking, rock climbing, paraglide, zip line, even skydive within view of Everest. If you plan to undertake any of these activities, then you need to ensure that it’s specifically covered on your insurance.
Where you are when you 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 to the rescue with our policy that we took out, and then renewed while we were on the road.
So if you’re already on the road or find yourself living a nomadic lifestyle I really recommend that you take a look at World Nomads for your travel insurance for Nepal.
Your age and the age of travellers on the same policy
Nigel hit 56 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. Your age and the age of your companions is of key interest to the insurance companies. Luckily for us, World Nomads is one of the companies that continues to provide policies for those aged over 55. And those under 55. Their flexibility is superb.
Pre-existing medical conditions
If you live with existing medical conditions, have had surgery within the last 6-12 months you usually have to declare it before buying a travel insurance policy. Read the forms carefully while you are buying. Providing deliberately misleading information on a travel insurance form is likely to end badly and expensively for you.
High Altitude Travel Insurance
Primarily most people travelling 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, that to many insurance companies, high altitude is more than 2,000 metres, so be sure to check the small print before you buy.
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FAQS on Nepal Travel Insurance
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 their 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 you should ensure that this is provided in your cover. World Nomads provides helicopter evacuation cover in Nepal. There is an excess payable for air evacuation. You can read why Nepal is an expensive destination to insure for here.
What insurance do you need for trekking in Nepal?
Your insurance for travelling to Nepal should cover for the altitude that you plan to hike to, for the valuables you have with you, or stored securely in your hotel and for the activities that you wish to undertake.
Why is Travel Insurance for Nepal so expensive?
Travel insurance in Nepal is expensive, and premiums have risen considerably recently because there has been a big increase in claims from travellers to Nepal. Rising from 15% to 60% in the 2019 trekking season. There has also been a big increase in trekkers needing helicopter evacuation. In April 2019 alone, World Nomads air evacuated 140 people. 140 people in a month! That’s at a cost to them of US$5,000 per evacuation. You can read more about that here and how World Nomads is working with locals on the ground to manage this situation.
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.
Our final words on travel insurance in Nepal
Our personal experiences on visiting Nepal led to two instance where travel insurance was a requirement – one a helicopter evacuation, 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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