Do I need Supplemental Insurance?
This is a big question for many travelers, no matter what trip they are going on, from a family visit to a Himalayan trek. If you are going on an Embark trip, the answer is yes, you need insurance. Insurance can be a confusing topic that seems overwhelming at first. We are going to try to guide you through this process.
Types of Insurance
You will often hear the phrase “Travel Insurance.” It is so vague that it is confusing and almost useless. There are, in fact, several kinds of insurance available to the traveler, and we will discuss them here:
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption
Another term you will hear is “Comprehensive Insurance,” which essentially means something that covers all of the above. Of course, there are still details to consider, and Embark requirements to meet.
So let’s go through the different types of insurance.
Medical insurance, which Embark requires, covers medical costs you incur because of injury or illness during the trip. In some cases, your medical policy back at home will cover some of these costs, with an additional policy filling in the gaps; for example, a policy just for your trip might cover the deductible on your home policy. Another advantage of a trip-specific policy is that the medical clinic or doctor caring for you during your trip might work with that insurer directly, so you don’t have to spend out of pocket and then go to your home carrier for reimbursement.
It is important to note that some places and activities are not covered by trip cancellation or basic medical insurance. For example, the U.S. State Department keeps a list of countries considered too dangerous to offer coverage (Embark doesn’t travel to any of these at the moment, but it’s something to keep an eye on). Some policies will also have limitations on hazardous activities or locations, such as rock climbing or whitewater rafting, or exceeding an altitude limit, such as 15,000’.
Evacuation insurance, also required by Embark, is coverage to get you to a place where you can receive necessary medical care. For example, if you break your leg on a trek in Nepal, you will need to get to Kathmandu, probably via helicopter. That will be very expensive, making evacuation insurance a requirement for Embark trips.
Note, also, that in the broken-leg scenario, all of the above policies work together: evacuation insurance to get you to the hospital, medical to get you care, trip interruption to reimburse some of the lost expenses since your trip ended early.
It is very important that your medical and evacuation policy for an Embark trip does not include an altitude limit or an exception for any activity you will be participating in, such as trekking or mountain climbing. Read the fine print and ask the carrier detailed questions! You might need a supplemental policy to cover these activities.
Trip cancellation insurance, not required, but STRONGLY encouraged by Embark. Trip cancellation insurance will reimburse you for lost expenses if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip. There are usually different levels of cancellation insurance ranging from cancellation due to an unforeseen circumstance such as illness to missing a flight because of something that wasn’t your fault.
The coverage limit for this form of insurance is often expressed as a multiple, such as 1.5 times, or a percentage (perhaps 150%) of the cost of the trip. The more comprehensive policies sometimes require you to purchase this insurance within two weeks of submitting a deposit for your trip. Be sure you don’t miss this deadline if you purchase this insurance!
Baggage insurance is actually a supplemental policy that adds to other coverage you already have. For example, the airline you fly with will have a liability policy for your checked luggage – ask them what the limit is – and additional coverage can be bought for more valuable luggage or equipment. Likewise, your homeowner or rental insurance probably covers your possessions wherever they are, but only up to a certain limit and with a deductible. In both of those cases, buying baggage insurance will add to the protections and help with deductibles.
Baggage insurance is also typically included in a comprehensive policy.
More on Embark Requirements
Given the remote destinations and conditions encountered on many Embark trips, and the fact that things can happen that are beyond anyone’s control, we require that everyone who tours with us have travel insurance.
This means that you are responsible for personal insurance on all Embark tours. You are responsible for arranging this insurance and ensuring that you are in possession of private travel insurance for the full duration of the tour that covers at least medical expenses, injury, death, and repatriation, with adequate benefits. Be sure there are no exclusion clauses limiting protection for the type of activities (or altitude) included in your tour.
Your policy must include the following:
- $100,000 emergency medical evacuation, including repatriation
- $100,000 medical expenses
It is important that you make sure to that your individual policy not have the following exclusions:
- Limits on the elevation
- Limits on activities such as mountain climbing.
- For those on our technical hikes (Cotopaxi and Chimborazo) your policy may not have an exclusion for “mountaineering that requires the use of equipment such as pick-axes, anchors, bolts, crampons, carabineers and lead or top-rope anchoring or other specialized equipment.”
Submit full documentation of the policy to Embark as soon as possible but not less than 90 days prior to the start of the trip date.
Trip cancellation insurance is not required for Embark journeys, but we highly recommend it. Again, remember that these policies have a deadline for purchasing them, often 10 days or two weeks after sending us your initial deposit.
Where to Obtain Supplemental Insurance
Squaremouth is a comprehensive website that sells many different insurance policies and to lets you filter based on your needs to compare different policies. Here is a very helpful link to help you purchase a policy that could cover your trip if you have to cancel your trip due to COVID:
Once you are ready to start looking for a policy, click “Start a New Search” and answer their initial questions as fits your personal needs.
This will get you to a quote page showing their different plan options.
Next you’ll apply some filters (located on the left side of the page) to meet Embark’s and your needs, this can be found on the left side of the page. The two filters which meet Embark’s minimum requirements are:
- Emergency Medical (choose $100,000 to meet our minimum)
- Emergency Evacuation (choose $100,000 to meet our minimum
- For those doing Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp: Enter a filter for Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp
- For all other trekking/hiking trips (including Aconcagua): Enter a filter for Mountaineering above 14,000ft
- For Safari-goers: Enter a filter for Safari:Wildlife/tourist
Other options you might consider are:
- Trip interruption
- COVID Pandemic
- Cancellation for any reason (this is the one that is dependent on you having purchased this insurance policy within a set amount of time of having given Embark a deposit).
By selecting the mandatory filters outlined above you’ll know you are only getting policies that conform to our minimum requirements for supplemental insurance.
Go through all the benefits, comparing the plans and note that some are fixed amounts and some are percentages of the trip cost. You can also adjust the trip cost if you’d like, perhaps not including the airfare or other personal costs beyond what you’re paying Embark. This will bring down the quote but, obviously, reduce the coverage you receive.
In fact, to see the absolute minimum coverage required by Embark – medical and evacuation – you can enter “0″ or other low number as the trip cost in the first part of your search. The fixed amounts of medical and evacuation coverage will not change, but the price will come way down – and all the percentage coverages will go to zero.
Finally, once you have decided on a policy and made a purchase, forward your confirmation to Embark. You will also want to print a copy of the declaration page, usually page one of the document, and carry it with you during your trip. This will allow you to have at your fingertips a quick summary of the coverages you have purchased, and importantly, the toll-free number with which to contact the insurer in the event of an occurrence for which you may need pre-authorization, such as evacuation, medical treatment, or hospitalization.
Remember, you are free to choose any insurer as long as our minimum coverage requirements are met, it is up to you to determine which insurer and policy is the best choice for your needs.
What Will Insurance Cost?
Obviously this varies quite a bit, depending on factors such as the nature of the trip, country you’re going to, activities, coverages chosen, and your age. In general, you can expect a comprehensive policy that meets all of Embark’s requirements and gives you peace of mind to cost anywhere from 5% to 12% of your total trip cost. “Cancel for Any Reason Policies” can cost up to 40% of your trip costs.
Of course, all of these supplemental insurance companies are available to answer your questions via the toll-free number on their site. You should also start with a call to your medical and homeowner/rental insurance companies to see how their coverages will help.
And, as always, we at Embark are happy to discuss our requirements and suggestions with you. Just give us a call or shoot us an email!