Travel insurance is not included with your trip, but it is essential. Patagonia is a wild, remote place and it could be extremely expensive to be flown to a big city if you were to need serious medical treatment.
99% of the activities our customers enjoy in Patagonia are typically covered by a standard policy. It's highly unlikely that you will trek above 3,000m (10,000 feet) which is typically the threshold for many underwriters.
It's helpful to think about insurance covering you against 3 different types of event:
- A minor accident, incident or delay that disrupts your holiday and incurs an unexpected cost (e.g. flight delay, broken ankle, lost luggage).
- A major accident or event that requires emergency attention, evacuation and/or repatriation (e.g. a landslide or avalanche causes a broken leg, requires helicopter evacuation to the nearest hospital, and then onwards transportation back to your home country).
- Cancellation of your holiday by yourself, most likely in advance, as a result of poor health or the requirement to support a family member.
Customers often choose to 'self-insure' or accept any risk/costs in the event of #1. However, for #2 (e.g. when helicopter evacuation is required), costs can be very high and helicopter operators often demand insurance company details early on.
#3 can come at a significant premium to the insured party; we recently had an American customer visiting Latin America for 4 weeks who was quoted $2,000 USD for full cover and $200 USD for emergency medical care and evacuation (i.e. #2 and aspects of #1).
Swoop, and our local operators, recommend full cover for all 3 types of event, however we insist that you have cover in the event of #2: recovery and evacuation in the event of a major accident or incident.
Patagonia Specific Risks
Much of the majesty of Patagonia derives from having the Andes running down the entire region from north to south. It is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. There are some 500 volcanoes in Chile, 123 of which have erupted in the past 12,000 years.
In the last 5 seasons there have been a few natural disasters, including an earthquake with its epicentre to the north of Patagonia. This resulted in a tsunami alert and subsequent evacuation of all its coastal towns in Chile, including Puerto Natales. It also caused a major ash cloud which closed one of the airports for about 3 months.
It is always worth protecting yourself against factors beyond your control.
Ask your insurance company:
- Why delay and disruption cover is provided in the event of a volcanic ash cloud, or other natural disaster?
- Do they offer an 'add-on' policy to include National Disaster insurance?
It is worth noting the different types of travel insurance. Medical and Emergency Insurance is essential and you should not travel without it. It is relatively inexpensive. Cancellation Insurance, on the other hand, can be expensive. This isn't necessary if your trip has been booked close to its departure date.
There are a number of standard requirements every travel policy should include, such as:
- Cancellation and Curtailment Charges
- Financial Failure
- Emergency Medical and Other Expenses
- Hospital Inconvenience Benefit
- Personal Accident
- Loss of Limb(s)/Sight
- Permanent Total Disablement
- Baggage and Passport
- Personal Money and Documents
- Personal Liability
- Journey Disruption including Airspace Closure
- Delayed Departure or Trip Cancellation
- Missed Departure/Connection
- Travel Risks: Hijack/Mugging etc.
- Legal Expenses
Luggage delays and flight disruption with Argentine and Chilean airlines are, unfortunately, not uncommon. This might be an area where you choose to upgrade in order to be provided with a higher level of cover.