why we got travel insurance in nepal

All you need to know about Nepal Travel Insurance

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 that require specific travel insurance requirements.   If you plan to attempt any of the famous treks, then many outfitters will require that you have trekking insurance and for high-altitude travel insurance they have some specific requirements.   In this article, we’ll share the key requirements for trekking and Nepal travel insurance and what you need to look out for.

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Travel Tips for Exploring Nepal

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 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 require you to have insurance that covers you at altitude.

Depending on the policy that you buy, travel insurance is there for you to pay for the unknown.  The cost of hospital and doctor’s 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 look for travel insurance.  For the peace of mind that we can travel without worrying about 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-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 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 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 diarrhea, 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 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 covered 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 meters.  They travel through remote areas, where rescue and assistance are difficult, take 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 requirement with many of the international trekking companies that work in this region.

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
  • rockfall
  • 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.  At an altitude of 2,800 meters, Lukla often gets weathered in and flights are regularly canceled.   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 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 to leave the area, then your insurance company may pay for you to be evacuated.

Do you need special travel insurance for Nepal?

It depends.

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.

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.

What do you need to take into account when buying Travel Insurance for Nepal?

There are several 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 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)

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, and 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!  We were able to take out a policy with World Nomads and then renewed it while we were on the road.

World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

Your age and the age of travelers 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.  

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.  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 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, that to many insurance companies, high altitude is more than 2,000 meters, so be sure to check the small print before you buy.

FAQS on Nepal Travel Insurance

Got questions about travel insurance for Nepal? Or want to know more about buying Nepal travel insurance and we haven’t answered your questions?  Check out our frequently asked questions about insuring for travel to Nepal below, or ask us yours in the comments.

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 insurance do you need for trekking in Nepal?

Your insurance for traveling to Nepal should cover the altitude that you plan to hike to, the valuables you have with you, or stored securely in your hotel, and 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 travelers 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

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.

Essentials for an Everest Base Camp Trek

And… the most important thing…

Read a Day by Day Guide to Trekking to Everest Base Camp

Our final words on 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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