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Rescue helicopter on Teri La

Travel insurance for treks in Nepal:

Almost all trekking companies in Nepal and your home country will REQUIRE proof of travel insurance for a trek in Nepal, and they should. While trekking is generally a safe activity, as with all outdoor activities, there is some risk. Most importantly, your insurance should include coverage for emergency medical and repatriation including helicopter evacuation. Crystal Mountain Treks strongly encourages you to call your insurance company and check specifics before you arrive in Nepal. Do check that trekking and hiking in Nepal is covered, and to what elevation. Also, if your trek involves a climb of a peak, with ropes and crampons, make sure that such climbing is covered. We have worked with Travelex Insurance and found them to be responsive with claims. Unfortunately, Travelex Insurance will only insure American nationals.

Rescue scams:

Sadly, over the past decade, there has been a rise in insurance scams in Nepal. Essentially, some less-scrupulous trekking companies have been working together with helicopter companies to book unnecessary helicopter rescues, share the exorbitant helicopter fees, and thus defraud insurance companies.

They do this by offering cut-rate budget treks, and then use various tricks to ensure that the trekkers must be evacuated. In some cases, the trekking companies create itineraries that climb too high, too fast, all but ensuring altitude sickness. In others, they immediately demand that trekkers take a helicopter down at the slightest hint of headache or nausea, instead of simply descending and waiting, which is the normal procedure for light cases of altitude sickness. Sometimes the trekkers themselves are complicit in the scam; they’re offered a free helicopter ride and other complimentary services and even cash to claim illness.

Here are some articles on the subject:

New York Times: Nepal Everest Rescue Fraud

The Guardian: Nepal cracks down on lucrative helicopter fraud

The Independent: Nepal helicopter rescue scams…

Sadly, this has been a huge issue for legitimate trekking companies, like Crystal Mountain Treks, who must deal with the backlash of these scams. Insurance premiums are up, many insurance companies simply will not insure trekking trips to Nepal, and most now require that all evacuations be pre-approved. This is time consuming and can be dangerous in emergency situations. Additionally many of these companies offer trips at budget prices that are attractive to potential trekkers, but offering those prices means they must make money in other ways.

How to avoid scams:

If you want to help keep trekking a safe experience for everyone, it’s important that you help shut down these scams, and protect yourself from them when trekking in Nepal. Here’s some things you can do:

1)    Make sure your trek itinerary allows for enough time to acclimatize.

If your trek involves several days of ascent of more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) without a few acclimatization days included in the program, that is probably too much. Remember, unless you plan to fly out on a helicopter from Gorakshep to Lukla/Kathmandu, there is NO way you can complete the Everest Base Camp trek in under 12 days without severely risking altitude sickness. If your guide or trekking company insists you can, they are putting your health at risk, and you should reconsider trekking with them.

2)    If your trip price is too cheap to be true, it probably is.

On the Everest trek, the Lukla – Kathmandu – Lukla airfare is around US$ 420. Daily lodging and meals cost around US$ 40 – US$ 50. Permits cost US$50. Add to these the guide and porter wages, ground transfers, hotels, sightseeing etc. If anyone offers you an ALL INCLUSIVE TREK 15-day trekking package to Everest Base Camp for under US$ 1,500, again, you should reconsider trekking with them. They will need to make that money back somehow, and it’s likely through such a scam..

3)    You are your best judge.

A slight headache is common. And so are slight stomach ailments, coughing and sore throat. These probably don’t warrant a helicopter evacuation. While for most first-time trekkers it would be difficult to judge the severity of altitude sickness, you can still tell when your guide is being pushy and insistent on a helicopter evacuation. In most cases of moderate altitude sickness, taking an extra acclimatization day or descending on foot is normal, and should be the first course of action, not an expensive helicopter ride. You should insist on a helicopter evacuation only if you have a combination of symptoms listed in our article on altitude sickness.

List of insurance companies:

Most travel insurance companies will only insure travelers from a particular country. See list of insurance companies that will provide travel insurance for a trek in Nepal below:

US-Canada citizens (Some of these will only cover US residents/citizens):

Travelex Insurance

Atlas Travel Insurance

IM Global

Travel Insured

Travel Guard

Canadian citizens

TuGo – travel insurance for trekking and mountaineering

UK citizens

UK companies will only cover residents of UK-Ireland.

Big Cat Travel Insurance

Campbell Irvine Direct

JS Insurance

New Zealand and Australia citizens

Covermore

Allianz

World Nomads

Worldwide

Global Rescue

World Nomads

(Note: World nomads will not insure anyone 65 years or older)

Europe Assistance

Allianz

A special note about Travelex Insurance:

For Americans, we highly recommend Travelex Insurance. We’ve used them in the past for many years and they have been the most responsive. We notify Travelex prior to an evacuation. After evacuation, the evacuee must pay for his/her helicopter evacuation and hospital bills prior to departure to their home country. We will then help provide all necessary documents for the reimbursement claims.

When buying insurance for a trip with us, we only require helicopter evacuation and medical coverage. For this you must use $1 in trip cost. If you would like trip cancellation and interruption coverage, you will also want to include the value of your pre-paid, non-refundable trip expenses (generally airfare and trek cost). It’s worth remembering that Crystal Mountain Treks will credit your deposit to a future trek if you decide to cancel your trek a month prior to the start of your trek for any reason. You can book another trek with us with the same deposit to begin within a year of cancellation. If there is another lock-down, we will honor your payment for whenever you decide to book a trek in the future.

Pam Perry works as an agent for Travelex Insurance. Pam and I worked together at a US travel company for about 10 years, and I highly recommend working with her for your insurance needs.

Some key things to remember about buying trekking insurance from Travelex:
  • Travel insurance must be purchased within 15 days of making the first trip payment in order to cover pre-existing conditions (that is anything you’ve seen a doctor for in the past two years)
  • Travelex insurance will cover Covid just like it would cover any other sickness. So if you get sick before traveling and cannot travel, insurance kicks in. Or, conversely if you are mid-trek and get Covid and need to quarantine it will pay for hotel and other expenses. It will also reimburse you for any unused portion of your journey.
  • Insurance will cover medical expenses up to $50,000 (can upgrade to $100,000 for a minimal extra cost after pushing “purchase”.)
  • It will cover lost or stolen luggage and personal items.
  • It will also cover repatriation – that is getting you back home if something catastrophic should happen while traveling (think broken back or even death)
  • People can choose to NOT get trip cancellation and interruption coverage and the cost of the insurance goes down pretty dramatically. If you do that, it will still provide medical coverage, baggage coverage, but not any trip or flight expenses. Put $1 as your trip cost to get this basic coverage.

To purchase Travelex insurance through Pam, you can text her directly and she’ll set up a time to speak with you about your personal needs. Or use this link:

https://www.travelexinsurance.com/?location=47-0333&go=bp

Or, go to Travelex insurance and use “Location #47-0333” (that’s Pam’s code)

For international travel, always choose Travel Select and not Travel Basic. If your trip includes roping up and or more extreme activities please add the Adventure Travel option. You will see this after the first screen.

Pam is available to speak with clients on the phone on Sundays/Mondays or most evenings if you have questions. Email is a great option for communication as well, and she always try to get back to folks within 24 hours. Text also works! Pam Perry (206)-617-0102.

 

Written by Jwalant Gurung on July 27, 2022

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