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Insurance for Kilimanjaro

Insurance for climbing Kilimanjaro

When buying insurance for climbing Kilimanjaro you must make clear to the insurer that you will be trekking on a very big mountain. But note I said ‘trekking’, not climbing.

Because when looking for an insurer for Kilimanjaro, you must remember that are not actually doing any climbing.

You are just walking.

In other words, you won’t be using any ropes, crampons or other climbing gear. The insurance company should know this – but many of the staff they employ don’t!

(If you are going to be mountaineering and using ropes then you need to tell them that too. This will probably increase your premium and may even exclude you from being covered altogether. But if you don’t make this clear from the start you may find, should you have to make a claim, that you weren’t actually covered at all.)

So do make this clear that yo’re just walking – or they’ll be charging you a higher premium unnecessarily.

Remember, too, that you must read the small print of any insurance policy before buying one to protect you.

In addition, it pays to shop around, for each insurance policy varies slightly from company to company.

Details to look out for in your travel insurance policy for Kilimanjaro

  • How much is the deductible (aka the excess) if you have to make a claim on your Kilimanjaro insurance?
  • Can the insurers pay for your hospital bills etc immediately, while you are still in Tanzania? Or do you have to settle all the bills yourself initially, then hope the insurer refunds you?
  • How long do you have before making a claim and what evidence do you require (hospital bills, police reports etc)?
  • Does your policy include mountain rescue services, helicopter call-out and so forth?

There’s a good argument to be made that if your travel insurance for Kilimanjaro doesn’t cover helicopter rescue, then you shouldn’t get it. But do remember that helicopter rescue is limited on Kilimanjaro. For one thing, helicopters can fly only up to a certain altitude and can’t land anywhere on the Kibo summit (which is where you are likely to need helicopter rescue!). Secondly, they can take a loooong time to arrive (4 hours is not unusual!), as they need a guarantee that somebody is going to pay. Indeed, by the time they do arrive, it may be too late, or you would have been better off heading down to a lower altitude on foot/stretcher. 

So while it’s always worth having cover that includes helicopter rescue, it won’t 100% guarantee your survival. Nothing can. And if you do find yourself in a situation where helicopter rescue could come in useful, there’s a chance that by the time they arrive you’ll either be: a) Dead. Or b) Bouncing down the slopes on a stretcher (which they keep at the ranger’s huts).

Which would probably be the quickest way to get to a safer altitude anyway.

Finally, note that the cost of helicopter rescue on Kilimanjaro is currently US$8000. If you can’t afford that, then getting insurance to cover you is even more important.

Covering Your Trip

As you’re probably aware, you must expect the premium for the entire trip to double when you mention that you are climbing Kilimanjaro, even though you will actually be trekking up the mountain for only a few days. However, you will need to be covered for your entire trip.

Because there are just as many nasty things that can happen to you when off the mountain than on it. You are not going to contract malaria, for example, while you’re on the mountain. And theft becomes a much bigger issue away from the mountain too.

The following is a list of companies that offer insurance for Kilimanjaro. Note that these often change. One week a company offers insurance for Kilimanjaro, the next week it doesn’t. So we apologise if some of these links are out of date.

So which is the best insurance for Kilimanjaro in the UK?

The British Mountaineering Council You will need to join the BMC to claim insurance from them, but the insurance is cheap and comprehensive and there are lots of benefits if becoming a member. (This includes discounts in many outdoor/camping and trekking shops. Insurance for Kilimanjaro currently comes under their ‘Alpine & Ski’ cover.

  • Big Cat I really like these people as they include helicopter rescue as part of their coverage and seem to pay out on it with minimal fuss.
  • Insure & Go Cheapest Kilimanjaro insurance we found the last time we were looking, but doesn’t seem to cover helicopter rescue
  • True Traveller Again, seem to offer helicopter rescue as standard in their Kilimanjaro insurance
  • World Nomads The nearest thing to a ‘global’ insurer, offering insurance to people from all over the world (and not just the US and UK). Their website seems to imply they provide helicopter rescue but according to reports they ask that you foot the (US$8000) bill and (hopefully) they’ll then repay you.

And what’s the best Kilimanjaro insurance you can buy in the USA?

Insurers in the States seem to change rapidly. Many of the ones we listed in the last edition of the guide book are no longer offering insurance for Kilimanjaro. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the insurance offered by insurers can vary from state to state. In the past climbers have told us that they were able to buy insurance with one company but when their friend tried he was unable to do so because he lived in another state!

So do be careful who you book your insurance with. And it’s even more important to remember to read the small-print and go through the contract thoroughly.

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