Complete listings of all the best travel insurance companies for expeditions and adventure.
Including: cycle touring, mountaineering, climbing, Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland icecap.
Updated February 2020
Expedition travel insurance is a topic about which I have received a lot of emails. People struggling to get cover for trips of a long duration, particularly cycling tours, but also for Greenland, Arctic and polar expeditions, as well as in combination with climbing at altitude.
It used to be that I would just point people towards the BMC but it appears that their remit has narrowed somewhat. No doubt this is partly explained by the financial climate at the moment and companies operating with a greater risk aversion. But, expeditions still need travel insurance so where does that leave us?
To help with this, I thought I would compile some of the information I’ve gathered recently with a list of possible companies that might be able to help those looking for insurance.
For further reading about expedition travel insurance, try the RGS’ Insurance for Expeditions chapter. It’s a bit dated but quite thorough.
What insurance company do you use?
Most of the information I have gathered has been through bits and pieces other people have mentioned. As such, it would be really helpful if you could share any experiences you’ve had below.
Have you struggled to find someone to cover your trip? Can you recommend a good company?
Leave a message at the bottom of the page.
(A lot of the information in the first draft of this article came courtesy of Harriet and Neil Pike who have a couple of great cycle touring websites)
Expedition Travel Insurance Companies
Below is a list of travel insurance companies that recent expeditions have either used, recommended or suggested as possibilities. If you have had any experiences with them or any other companies, please share your comments at the bottom.
I’ve always used these guys for mountaineering expeditions and no doubt they are still the people speak to for an alpine climbing trip. However, they apparently no longer insure bicycle tours of more than a couple of weeks or Arctic expeditions (that includes Svalbard but mainland Scandinavia should be OK).
These guys were suggested as a possibility by a cycle tourist and provided cover for a recent Arctic expedition so could be worth trying.
These guys sponsored my Around the World in 80 Ways trip many moons ago. Apparently they are often used for cycle tours and even allow you to take out insurance after you’ve left home. They are very active in the adventure travel community with lots of blogs, travel writing and competitions so certainly worth trying.
- Cover long duration trips – you don’t need to know an end date. The insurance works on monthly subscription (no upfront payment)
- Worldwide cover – with exception of Cuba, Iran and North Korea
- After departure – you can take out insurance even when you have already left
- Cycling is covered – except if part of a sporting event or you are receiving sponsorship
- Altitude – hiking is generally covered up to 4,500 meters
For more info on what adventure activities are/aren’t included in Safety Wing’s packages, see page 21 of their Description of Cover document
Travel Insurance Direct
These guys can cover long backpacking and cycling trips as well as non-technical trekking at altitude.
Sports Cover Direct
This was the company that Neil and Harriet ended up using. The policy was expensive but met their needs for a long trip (9 months) covering roped climbing up to 6,000-metres. They also allow you to “top-up” your insurance if you want to do a particularly dangerous/fun activity whilst you’re away.
Providing insurance for the Land Rover Andy Campbell’s going to drive around the world. I’ve also seen them listed as underwriters for other travel companies’ insurance policies.
Campbell Irvine travel insurance
‘Most unusual risks insured’. They were a sponsor of adventurer Sarah Outen‘s expedition which includes an expensive rowing boat shipped and paddled around the world over a couple of years.
International health and travel insurance. Provided cover for adventurer Sarah Outen cycling and rowing around the world. Do not do Greenland SAR insurance cover.
These guys provide bespoke travel insurance and say they’ll cover almost any type of activity. As mentioned in the advert above, they sponsored us for a long distance cycle tour, England to Australia. UK residents only.
Do not do Greenland SAR insurance cover.
Offer insurance for “action minded” travelers and I have heard good reports on them.
A mainstream travel insurer but with options for backpacker trips (i.e. long duration which is good for big cycle tours) and adventure. Commenter Lizzy Maskey, below, reckons they have a good system in which you can just buy add-ons for the specific activites you want and net a cheaper price overal..
Columbus Direct travel insurance
Apparently they do ski, climbing and activity insurance although I’ve not got any experience with them.
Another travel insurance company that have been mentioned but, again, I have no feedback on them yet.
Annual travel insurance aimed at backpackers.
Greenland Icecap Insurance
Expedition travel insurance for crossing the Greenland icecap seems to be a common source of agitation for many aspiring adventurers, particularly the requirement for underwriters to cover search and rescue (SAR).
You can try the Greenlandic company Kalaallit Forsikring who provide Greenland SAR cover. Where I know that companies in this article do not cover Greenland, I have made a note.
If you have recommendations for Greenland insurance then please add a comment below or email me.
Emergency Evacuation Support
For some expeditions, it may be appropriate to work with a company to provide support for logistical emergencies, medical problems and evacuations. Typically this involves becoming a member of an organisation and may include insurance cover.
International SOS (ISOS)
ISOS provided logistical support for medical evacuations at BSES so I worked with them for several years. Their base in Sakhalin was also very useful when organising Sarah Outen’s crossing of the island in 2010/11. They have a network of contacts and doctors all over the world.
Global Rescue (GR)
Provide “medical, security and crisis services”. Look similar to ISOS. Do not do Greenland SAR insurance cover.
GEOS offer Worldwide search and rescue (SAR) and medical evacuation. They apparently have well priced SAR packages. (I am grateful to Greg Annandale and Liam Wilton for this recommendation in the comments below)
Sometimes you’ll be looking for unique, bespoke insurance to cover a hard to place risk not covered by usual policies. I have a contact who’s part of a Lloyds broker in the City who has offered to help with such situations. Just get in touch if I can help.
Please add any of your own experiences in the comments below.
Handy post Tim – agreed insurance is getting harder (and certainly pricier) these days.
Might be worth mentioning GEOS, who supply the SAR insurance for the SPOT Messenger devices & also do ‘standalone’ SAR insurance it seems: http://www.geosalliance.com/medivac-cost.html
Great article (as ever!)
These folks do good dedicated sailing trip insurance which includes crewing and amateur racing.
For search and rescue in the GEOS have a $100,000 SAR package available. Only around $200 to so quite the bargin, it is capped at $50,000 per incident though.
GEOS Doesn’t cover Paragliding or other air sports….. just when you need it!
Really useful article! Thanks!
I was looking for travel insurance to cover a months 4×4 driving round europe, any hill walking I might do in the next year and scuba diving in egypt. I looked at Dog Tag and BMC, but ended up with columbus, they only let you walk to 4000m which is a bit of a shame, but have a really good cover system that allows you to add on sports you want. The website is clunky, but the price was cheeper than dog tag, and the BMC do not understand you going underwater!
Najeeb Ahmed Khan
Thanks Tim, great help, I am writing to most of them based in the UK for representation in Pakistan. although it’s very difficult to convince people to cover Pakistan but let’s see how it goes.
Thanks and Best Wishes Najeeb Ahmed Khan
Himalayan Holidays (Pvt) Ltd
Glad it’s helpful Najeeb. Good luck finding a provider.
Do come back and let us know how you get on.
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This is great. We have an unusual one which is we are skateboarding 500 miles in 14 days across 5 countries for the charity Skate-aid. We are new to ‘adventures’ and getting insurance is something we are currently looking at and have struggled to find anything of the sort. A very helpful link, thank you ever so much!!
Thanks Gareth. That’s a lovely comment to receive and I’m glad it was of some help. Just shout if you get stuck otherwise, best of luck with the skate!
I wonder if you could advise on finding insurance for a team of biologists who will be conducting research on an isolated island in the Southern Ocean. I.e. we are not travelling for leisure but will be working. Much of it could be classed as manual labour.
Interesting question Greg. Before I do any digging, have you deduced that the fact you will be working prohibits you from taking travel insurance? I would have thought you could still get standard travel insurance. If so, the first step would just be a quick check if any the providers above would cover travel to your island. If you don’t need the cheapest then you should try Adventures Insurance as they reckon they’ll cover most things.
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This has been extremely useful to me Tim. I’m walking, unsupported, across America next year, to raise awareness/funds for Combat Stress (UK) and The Wounded Warrior Project (USA) and I’m just not sure that regular Travel Insurance will give me sufficient enough cover.
Although, I’m not going to be completely “off the grid”, there will be days when I’ll be “medically” isolated (when I’m walking through the desert areas of New Mexico, Arizona and California). Heli and even road CASEVAC can be costly in the US.
I’m camping out every night during my walk, which opens the door to a more bizarre range of risks (bear attack, flash flood, tornado, snake bite) as well as the more routine risks (medical emergency, lower limb injury, road traffic accident) and although some of these risks can be mitigated by me through planning, awareness and avoidance, I just need medical insurance that will cover all eventualities.
I’ve had a look at the companies listed and have made a note of the ones that I think might be able to cover me. You’ve saved me hours of shopping around time.
Neil, that sounds like a great undertaking. Thanks for taking the time to add your comment.
We just cycled through the NM/AZ deserts and dreamed about hiking off into the desert. Looks fantastic.
Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with for your expedition. You might like: ’10 Tips for your first Walking Expedition’.
Worth trying “mainstream” insurers. The AA do single trip cover with a bolt on that covers cycle touring. Premium for 2 people for travel in Europe excluding Spain (including Balearic & Canary Islands), Cyprus, Turkey and Malta was £106.87
In response to my email to clarify the terms, I got this reply from the AA: “I am pleased to confirm that you would be covered for Cycle Touring throughout the duration of your trip (providing you wear a helmet) from 07/04/2015 to 14/08/2015 as you have purchased the relevant upgrade (Hazardous Activities Grade 2).”.
Brilliant. Thanks for adding that Steven.
Thanks tim, struggled to get a reasonably priced quote to cover me for this latest adventure.
Sports Cover which you have listed, have all the critical options in the included section rather than not included or cannot insure or ring to see if we can help, at a reasonable price as well when compared against BMC and Snowcard and some of the others all of which required a plethora of info before quoating.
One interesting one I came across which I notice you don’t have for emergency rescue is below.
Thanks for sharing that Roy. Really useful. Battle Face look interesting too. Glad you got it sorted in the end.
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