Sports Activity Travel Insurance is aimed at those who are taking part in an activity while they are on holiday. This could range from extreme sports, such as bungee jumping or skydiving, to more standard activities, such as golf or windsurfing.
Why choose it?
People often make the mistake of assuming that their chosen activity will be covered under their general insurance policy. The truth is that this is often not the case. Many general insurers do not include ‘dangerous or hazardous activities’ whatsoever, with the problem being that they do not state clearly what they define as dangerous or hazardous. This can result in the customer finding out from their hospital bed that they will be expected to pay for the treatment themselves.
Although many general insurance providers purport to cover a whole range of sports and activities, the likelihood is that these will come with certain restrictions. For example, if they claim to cover scuba diving, will you be covered if you dive more than 30m? And if you are skiing, will you be covered if skiing off piste? Even if the provider offers a specific ‘Activities’ cover, always read the small print carefully.
Travellers often assume that their particular activity is not considered dangerous or hazardous, as often happens with people who have been doing a certain sport for a long time. However, you can almost be certain that the insurance provider will see it as an increased risk activity, which could lead to some serious problems if you need to make a claim.
Major advantages of Sports Activity insurance
The most important aspect of any policy is medical cover. This is even more important when taking part in an activity, because the risk that you will get injured will go up. It’s important to know that even though the activity may not be considered ‘dangerous’, the risk of having an accident is still increased.
The cost of the policy will be higher to reflect this increased risk factor. For example, it may be as much as 50% higher than a basic policy. However, when you consider that a minor injury can set you back £500 for treatment, and a major injury can cost well into thousands of pounds, it is imperative that you are fully covered.
A good provider will make it clear exactly what you are covered for. This needs to be specific, as when it comes to making a claim you can easily be refused if you are in breach of the rules. Firstly, this means that your chosen activity will be stated clearly on the policy, something which you absolutely must check before buying. And secondly, the activity that you are involved in may in fact be separated into numerous different risk levels. The specialist policy will state exactly what risk level you are covered for (eg. climbing above a certain altitude), so you can rest assured that you will be covered.
Depending on the activity, the specialist provider will usually offer ‘Search & Rescue’ cover. Although many standard policies will come with high medical cover costs, this does not include Search & Rescue unless clearly stated. The potential to require this service is higher with certain sports, such as skiing or hiking, and making sure that you are covered is imperative.
Whereas a general insurance policy will cover ‘Baggage’ or ‘Personal Possessions’, don’t make the mistake of assuming that this covers your sports equipment as well, as this is almost never the case. A specialist policy will do this for you, and may offer further levels of cover, such as paying for the renting of equipment should yours be lost or stolen.
You will also normally be covered for lost guide fees or course fees should you have to cancel your holiday. This differs from the cancellation cover on standard policies, which will often only cover you for accommodation and transport costs.
Also be careful with general providers who state that they cover a particular activity, as sometimes they will charge a far higher excess. Even if their standard excess is £50, this could go up considerably should you make claim as a result of your activity.
The bonus of a specialist cover is that you can customise it in the same way as you would a normal policy, meaning you get all of the benefits of the normal policy with the activities included.
Don’t be put off by the higher premiums straight away. Many providers offer different premiums for different activities, so that cycling will not incur such a hefty premium as mountaineering. You will usually have the option of taking off baggage cover or cancellation cover, with some providers even offering a special cover for medical expenses only.
If travelling for a longer period, you may also have the opportunity to take out a separate ‘Long Stay’ policy with all of the same cover levels.
Things to look out for
- Competitive activities – these are not usually covered. This means that even though your activity will be covered, if you are taking part in a competitive event you will not be able to make a claim.
- Manual work – although it may seem a lot less dangerous than the activity that you are doing, this is often not covered under any circumstances.
- Age of equipment – although equipment cover may be included on your policy, this often comes with an age restriction. For example, it may only be covered if it is less than 5 years old.
- Theft – be careful with theft of equipment, as there are specific rules regarding this. Your equipment may only be covered if it was stolen from a locked room, whereas in many situations this may not be realistic.
Many policies differ depending on each sport or activity undertaken. For unusual events there may be specific options available. JS Insurance for example offer many options for sports and activities insurance and it’s worth spending a little bit of time to find the right policy.
Extreme sports are categorised into such things as high altitude climbing, white water rafting, bungee jumping and skydiving.
Although some of these are considered quite normal activities when you go on holiday, especially to somewhere like New Zealand, they are normally considered a high risk activity. Although some general providers claim to cover for these, always check the small print as they may come with restrictions.
Golf is not considered a dangerous activity, and is one of the most popular types of cover additions in a general insurance policy, where it can often be added on as an optional extra. For this reason, there is generally no need to take out insurance with a specialised sports insurer.
However, be careful to check that the levels of cover are sufficient. This means that the equipment is covered for loss, theft and damage (which will normally come with a maximum article limit of around £250), and that you are covered for loss of your golf pass and guide fees.
Scuba diving is a complex activity because there are so many different levels and risk categories. For example, Snowcard has five different levels, including ‘open water up to 18m’ at the lower end, going up to ‘cave diving’ or ‘expert diver over 40m’ at the highest. Many general policies state that they cover scuba diving, but on closer inspection this turns out to only cover open water. Make sure that the right level for you is covered.
Also check that you are covered for equipment and course fees in the event of cancellation, although these will not normally be available on a general policy.
Climbing is again difficult to categorise as it is also divided into different risk levels. If your trip involves abseiling, you may be surprised to learn that it is often listed as a higher risk than open water scuba diving.
Other levels include ‘ice climbing’ and ‘alpine mountaineering’, both of which have varying degrees of risk, but if you are climbing up to 7,000m this is considered an extreme activity which carries a huge risk, and you will need to be sure that your insurance covers this.
A popular activity on holiday, mountain biking is nevertheless associated with numerous minor injuries, and considering that even minor injuries can incur large fees, getting insured for this is a must.
However, be careful that you are covered under the right category, as it is often divided into ‘downhill’ mountain biking and ‘tracks’ mountain biking, both of which will require a specific mention in your policy.
Sailing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Surfing, Windsurfing and Cycle Touring
All of these are generally considered low risk activities. However, you should make sure that the policy covers the essentials such as Equipment cover and Search & Rescue cover. Despite their low risk level, these often cause the most problems with tourists as it is the ‘normal’ activities that are assumed to be included on the standard policy, when in fact this may not be the case at all.