This guest post is by Jacob Bushmaker, an international climber, and author of the The Wandering Climber. The cover photo is climbing El Diente de Oro in La Mojarra, Colombia.


One of the best parts of climbing is traveling the world and experiencing new and exotic places. Whether it’s climbing at a new crag or learning about new cultures, we are able to see parts of the world where few people will ever go.

Though we can do everything in our power to mitigate climbing risks, they are inherently amplified when we travel: we are out of our normal routine and are exposed to new factors and dangers.

The best way to protect yourself medically and financially while climbing abroad is with a comprehensive medical and travel insurance plan.

Unfortunately, in the fine print you’ll notice most travel insurance plans do not cover rock climbing. This makes shopping for insurance confusing and time-consuming.

We have scoured the internet and have assembled this list of the top 3 medical travel insurance companies (and many plan options) for you next climbing adventure.

The insurance plans listed below all cover rock climbing. In addition, most include separate trip insurance benefits in case you were to (for instance) lose your bags or have to cancel your trip all together.

Hatum Machay - Peru at Sunset
Hatum Machay – Peru at Sunset

Travel Insurance Vs Medical Insurance and Why This Is Important

With insurance, the process is rarely cut and dry. There are many factors which can make huge differences on the plan best for you such as: what activities are covered, what are the plan’s coverage limits and the cost of the coverage.

Travel Medical Insurance

Travel medical insurance is medical insurance which provides you temporary coverage in the event that you become injured or ill during your trip. These generally cover things like doctor/hospital visits, ambulance/emergency medical evacuation, or emergency surgery.

If you have medical insurance at home, check to make sure you’re covered abroad. Most of the time you won’t be. However, this varies greatly depending on your individual plan, country of origin, and where you are traveling. For instance, if you’re Australian, you automatically have medical insurance in these 11 countries, whereas Americans have none.

Travel Insurance (Trip Protection Insurance)

Travel insurance, or sometimes called “trip protection” insurance, is going to cover you for any unexpected disruption in your travel plans, such as: natural disaster, severe power outage, political unrest, death of a family member, riots, etc. These plans usually cover any lost bags or flight delays as well.

What Type Travel Insurance Do I Need?

Sometimes insurance plans offer nearly 100% medical benefits with almost no trip benefits. However, many plans are a mix of both, offering some medical benefits with some trip protection while the percentages cover vary widely. For that reason it is very important to read the fine print to know what you’re buying prior to purchasing a plan.

To be totally covered, you’ll need both travel medical insurance and travel insurance, or, at least a plan which offers some coverage in both areas is going to be your best bet. 

At the very minimum , I always suggest to have some sort of basic travel medical insurance to protect you in case the worst happens. After years on the road, I have experienced first hand too many horror stories to ever travel with with zero insurance. As described later in this article, there are plans which offer you up to $100,000 USD coverage for less than $1 a day, which is a bargain against the worst case scenario.

Travel insurance on the other hand is a bit more difficult decision to make, as it is more expensive and in many cases not worth the added cost.

If you’re considering purchasing travel insurance, ask yourself, could you afford to loose all of your trip expenses, including climbing equipment? Is where I’m going remote or a “high-risk” area? If your flight home gets canceled and you have to buy another full price, could you afford it?

Let’s say, for instance, you have a remote alpine expedition planned to Cochamo (South America’s Yosemite) in Chile. The flights are thousands of dollars, you have a huge amount of expensive equipment to bring, there is unpredictable weather and sometimes unreliable infrastructure. Here is a clear instance where you would want to strongly consider travel insurance.  

Or perhaps you are heading down to Monterrey to do some sport climbing at El Potrero Chico. The flight is a few hundred dollars and all you’re bringing with you is some basic climbing gear. Travel insurance would still be helpful in case of some mishaps, though for this type of trip you may consider purchasing a cheaper plan with lower limits.  

Otherwise, if you live in the US and you’re doing a long road trip climbing in the US at crags like City of Rocks or Ten Sleep, this is one case that travel insurance is less helpful as your car insurance likely covers the gear in your car.

No matter where you’re traveling, if you’re rock climbing it is highly advisable to have, at the very least, some sort of basic medical insurance to protect yourself from crippling out-of-pocket expenses. 

Comparing Plans – My Trip Assumptions

Before I dive into comparing individual plans, let’s cover the basic info I used to generate the following price quotes. Keep in mind that the prices below are to be simply used as a comparison point. Your specific info and the desired coverage may have different rates. 

  • Age: 29
  • Residency: USA (WA State)
  • Travel Dates: June 1 – June 30
  • Destination: Colombia
  • Max medical coverage desired: $100,000
  • Deductible: $0
  • Estimated Trip Cost: $3000

World Nomads LogoWorld Nomads – Standard and Explorer Plans

The fast and easy, popular but expensive option


World Nomads is definitely one of the world’s most popular and trusted travel insurance companies, recommended by some of the biggest names in travel such as Nomadic Matt and the Lonely Planet. They’re also backed by Nationwide Insurance.

They offer two straightforward insurance plans, “standard” and “explorer” plans. In addition to medical benefits, both offer trip protection. So if you’re looking to purchase both travel and medical, this is a great option. Not to mention, their website makes buying a plan super easy: you can enter your information, get a quote, and purchase the plan in a matter of minutes. 

The standard plan only covers indoor gym climbing. Check out more details for the standard plan here.

The explorer plan covers outdoor climbing. Click for more details on the explorer plan. The explorer plan also covers any type of guided alpine-style mountaineering excursion under 7000m, making it one of the best “one size fits all” plans out there. A full list of the activities which are covered and excluded can be found here.

World Nomads Quote
My Quote for a 30 Day Trip

 

Bottom Line

World Nomads is the most straightforward travel insurance provider out there. By only offering two plans, they have streamlined the process and have removed pretty much any need for extra work or research. If you need to be covered for outdoor rock climbing, go with the Explorer Plan, done. In addition, the World Nomad plans offer a good mix of medical and travel insurance benefits. Both of their plans not only offer good medical coverage limits and emergency evacuation coverage in case you are injured, but also protect you again delayed or missed flights, or loss of baggage or personal effects. World Nomads has given travelers piece of mind knowing that they’re covered no matter what. 

But this level of ease comes with a price, as they are by far the most expensive option (nearly 10 times the cost of the competitors!!).

Personal Note: I used World Nomads for years and I was always happy with their service and is a solid choice for comprehensive travel insurance. I recently I switched to using IM Global as the prices are significantly cheaper.


IMG logo

IM Global – Patriot International and iTravelInsured Travel Plans

The most flexible coverage with 3 customizable plans


At this point we no longer recommend IMG and are actively working on updating this post. 

We talked with IMG multiple times and were assured by their employees that they cover rock climbing with the Patriot Plan and iTravelInsured LX Plan. After reading the comments on this post, we again contacted IMG multiples times and were assured rock climbing is covered. When we asked to see proof of it’s coverage, the employees could not point us to any information saying rock climbing is covered. Since IMG never explicitly states that rock climbing is covered we can no longer recommend it. 

It does seem that IMG covers mountaineering under 4500m with the Patriot Plan and additional “Sports Rider” option or the iTravelInsuranced LX Plan coverage but we have no evidence to say that would include rock climbing like you would do at a typical crag. IMG does not have a list of sports that are specifically covered. They do have a list of sports that are not covered, which includes mountaineering over 4500m and ice climbing.

 

IM Global offers a range of travel medical and travel insurance plans. They offer four different plans which cover rock climbing, all described below. Each of these four plans can be further modified to fit your own needs and budget, making IM Global by far the most flexible of coverages out there.

IMG offers both trip protection plans and medical insurance plans and these plans offer a mix of both types of coverages. So no matter which plan you choose, you will have some mix of coverage, no matter what happens. 

We’ll get into the details below, but quickly: For Americans looking for medical coverage specific plans outside of the US, the Patriot International plans are the way to go. If you’re an American looking to get trip protection coverage with medical coverage, similar to the World Nomad Explorer Plan, the iTravelInsured Travel plans are the best options.

Patriot International Medical Insurance

IMG gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of coverage limits and deductibles. With medical coverage limits starting at $50,000 USD and going all of the way up to $8,000,000 USD. IMG has broken their travel medical plans into tiers, Patriot International and Patriot Platinum International.

If you’re on a tight budget, the basic Patriot International plan is a great cost-effective option. In many cases you’re only going to have to pay between $15-$20 for the month. If you’re looking for more coverage limits, the Patriot Platinum plans start at $80 a month. I now purchase Patriot International every time I travel because it is the best bang for your buck medical insurance on the market.

Patriot International
A Full List of Prices With Deductibles

 

The only downside of these plans is that they offer almost zero trip protection insurance, meaning that if you miss your flight or lose your bags, you will be paying 100% out of pocket. But with a price this good, there are going to have to be some trade-offs.

 

iTravelInsured Travel LX Insurance

In addition to medical insurance plans, IM Global offers trip protection travel insurance options. IM Global offers three tiers of coverage: iTravelInsured Travel Lite, iTravelInsured Travel SE and iTravelInsured Travel LX.

Unfortunately, only the most expensive Travel LX option covers rock climbing!

Travel LX

These travel plans are more expensive when compared to the IM Global medical plans, but the coverage is much better. With this plan, your medical expenses are covered up to $100,000 in addition to 150% costs associated with trip interruption, trip delays, missed connections, equipment and car rentals, and even movie rentals and internet usage fees!

Additional Benefits

This is a screenshot from details while filling out the quote. 


See the brochure for more benefits like:

Insurance benefits

 

Bottom Line

IM Global offers good plans to fit almost anyone’s budget and needs. If you’re looking for economic medical insurance the Patriot International plan is the way to go. If you’re looking for trip protection insurance with medical insurance included, go with the Travel LX plan.

Similar to World Nomads, IM Global has an easy to use website which has streamlined the process, making it easy to get a quote and buy the plan you want. In addition, they have customer services agents online to chat to answer any questions you have within minutes.

Their flexible plans, cheap prices and great customer service makes IM Global is my pick for travel insurance.

At this point we no longer recommend IMG and are actively working on updating this post. 

Since IMG never explicitly states that rock climbing is covered we can no longer recommend it. Multiple employees have told us it is covered, and we have saved records to prove this, but nobody can provide evidence that shows rock climbing is guaranteed to be covered.


liaison-travel-insurance

Liaison Travel Medical

Most economic options


Liaison Medical offers three different travel medical plans, all of which cover rock climbing. Their options are straightforward and the prices are economic. Their plans also have a good mix of medical and travel benefits, and you can easily increase or decrease your protection level if desired. Warning: Their website interface is a mix of very outdated and recently updated interface styles.

Liaison Travel

 

Liaison’s cheapest plan has medical coverage of $100,000 staring under $20 a month.

What I liked about Liaison is the way they broke up the plans. The medical coverage limits stayed the same for for each level plan, and each step up in plans greatly increased the limits of the “add-ons” like emergency evacuation, AD&D, emergency dental and trip protection. See the brochure for more information on each plan.

Custom Liaison Plan
Make sure to select “Hazardous Activities”

Bottom Line

Straightforward and affordable travel medical insurance which cover climbing. They offer two optional plan upgrades in if you’re looking for purchase more trip protection, making it easy if you’re trying to add on more trip protection insurance at a faction of the cost of World Nomads. Overall, it’s a really great price for what you get, but with the IM Global, you have slightly better benefits for the same price.


Side By Side Price/Benefits Comparison


Each of these 4 plans comes with their own advantages. If you’re looking for more pure “medical” insurance, the IMG Patriot Travel plans and the Liaison Travel Economy plans are the way to go.

The cost of the two plans for $100,000 of coverage was nearly identical, however with IM Global’s plans, you generally get higher coverage limits. For instance $1,000,000 of evacuation coverage for IM Global vs $250,000 for Liaison. That coupled with IM Global’s easy to use website and super attentive customer service people gives them my vote.

IMG Patriot Insurance
Side-By-Side Comparison Between IMG and Liaison

World Nomad’s Explorer and IMG’s iTravelInsured plans fall more into the “trip insurance” realm, as they offer much more protection in terms of your travel expenses. When comparing these two plans side by side IM Global beats World Nomad’s across the board. IMG’s prices are 30% lower. But in this case the lower cost in no way means less coverage, as their coverage limits are much higher.

World Nomad comparison
Side-By-Side Comparison Between IMG and World Nomads

Final Thoughts

I believe some insurance is better than none and I highly recommend you protect yourselves from the worst.

This list does not cover every insurance company that covers rock climbing. It does cover the most reputable and recommended insurance companies we could find. If you have suggestions for a company you’ve had experience with and would recommend, let us know in the comments so we can thoroughly check them out.

Just like climbing gear, there’s no right answer, and we hope this post opened your eyes to the possibilities.

 

At this point we no longer recommend IMG and are actively working on updating this post. 

We talked with IMG multiple times and were assured by their employees that they cover rock climbing with the Patriot Plan and iTravelInsured LX Plan. After reading the comments on this post, we again contacted IMG multiples times and were assured rock climbing is covered. When we asked to see proof of it’s coverage, the employees could not point us to any information specifically saying rock climbing is covered. Since IMG never explicitly states that rock climbing is covered we can no longer recommend it. 

It does seem that IMG covers mountaineering under 4500m with the Patriot Plan and additional “Sports Rider” option or the iTravelInsuranced LX Plan coverage but we have no evidence to say that would include rock climbing like you would do at a typical crag. IMG does not have a list of sports that are specifically covered. They do have a list of sports that are not covered, which includes mountaineering over 4500m and ice climbing.

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Jacob Bushmaker

Jacob Bushmaker

Avid Climber, Professional Traveler, an expert on South American climbing destinations, and Founder of The Wandering Climber. Go here to download his free PDF and learn the Best Places to Climb in South America to help plan your next adventure.

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