Insurance for Cavers

Insurance for participation in caving expeditions to China

Jump to notes for:
STA
BCRA
Endsleigh
BMC
Snowcard

This page summarises the cover provided by various insurers for caving in China, with a focus on aspects of the 'small print' that are of particular concern to members of caving expeditions.

In particular, expedition members would be well advised to be alert to the following points:

  • Original exploration: Don't automatically assume that if a policy covers 'caving', it covers cave exploration.
  • Search and rescue/'recognised rescue service': Many insurers will cover search and rescue expenses only if the rescue operation is carried out by a 'recognised rescue service'. As China has no recognised cave rescue service, what you really want is a policy that will pay for your mates (and their mates) to fly out and rescue you; unsurprisingly, this is an alien concept to most insurers. It is doubtful whether, from the point of view of a China caving expedition, a policy whose rescue cover genuinely excludes expenses incurred during such a self-organised rescue is any better than a policy that doesn't profess to cover rescue at all. (One possible way forward here may be to find a recognised caving or cave rescue body who would prepared to state that the actions of an expedition that had organised its own rescue were appropriate and necessary. We have yet to figure out whether this is possible, or whether it would satisfy the insurers whose policies include the 'recognised service' clause.)

This page is very much a work in progress - please send comments/suggestions/additions to h_c_greaves@yahoo.co.uk. Among other things, we'd be keen to hear of any successful or unsuccessful claim stories relating to particular companies.

STA

Policy: Premier Worldwide (excl. USA).

Premium: e.g. GBP 64 for 6 weeks

Original exploration: Not covered. (STA consider that entering a previously unexplored cave would constitute “taking unnecessary risk”, thereby bringing original exploration under one of their exclusions.)

Rescue: Rescue following an accident sustained during cave exploration is not covered for the reason given above. For other incidents, the Premier policy covers ‘Search and Rescue’ up to a maximum of GBP5,000:

  • Rescue by a recognised service: Covered.
  • Self-rescue: Covered, but a statement must be obtained at the time of the rescue from local authorities, stating that the actions taken were necessary.

Personal Liability: Covered up to GBP 2 million. You are not covered for claims brought against you by your "travelling companions".

Other comments: STA also offers ‘Backpack’ and ‘Standard’ policies, which you might want to consider as alternatives to the Premier one. These are cheaper; they don’t cover caving, but if the only caving you’re doing is exploration, then strictly speaking the Premier policy doesn’t cover your caving either.

BCRA

(Insurer: Jardine Lloyd Thompson Leisure)

Policy: Worldwide excluding USA, Canada and Carribean

Premium: e.g. GBP 87.78 for 31 days.

Original exploration: Unknown

Search and rescue (recognised rescue service): Covered

Search and rescue (self-organised): Not covered, at the mo. (This is under negotiation.)

Personal Liability: The information available online states that personal liability is covered up to GBP 2,000, but I presume this is a misprint...

Endsleigh

Policy: Extreme Activity, Essential cover, Worldwide. Covers "potholing (as part of a group only)".

Premium: e.g. GBP88.75 for 6 weeks (20% discount if luggage cover is excluded).

Original exploration: Covered

Search and rescue (recognised rescue service): Covered

Search and rescue (self-organised): In a telephone conversation, Endsleigh were "doubtful but unsure" of this.

Personal liability: Covered up to GBP 1 million. You are not covered for claims brought against you by your "travelling companions".

Other comments: Endsleigh confirm (telephone conversation) that ‘group caving’ refers to non-solo trips (i.e. it is not a requirement that the insured be part of a professionally led group).

BMC

Policy: Expedition

Premium: e.g. GBP 330 for 31 days

Original exploration: I haven’t asked, but I expect so (since this policy covers any kind of first ascent you care to name).

Search and rescue (recognised rescue service): covered up to GBP 50,000

Search and rescue (self-organised): unknown

Personal liability: Covered up to GBP 2 million. You are not covered for claims brought against you by your "travelling companions".

Other comments:This policy is nuts. The BMC’s scheme classifies caving expeditions as the same risk level as the most extreme mountaineering activities, so that their cheaper sports policies (Trek, Rock, Apline & Ski) don’t cover caving.

The BMC’s 'Travel' policy may be of interest as a basic travel insurance policy (very reasonably priced; won’t be any use if you have an accident caving).

Snowcard

Policy: Level 3

Premium: GBP 76 for 31 days

Original exploration: Not covered.

Search and rescue (recognised rescue service): Covered. Search and rescue fees plus medical have a combined limit of GBP 10,000,000; there is no separate cap on search and rescue claims.

Search and rescue (self-organised): Unknown

Personal Liability: Covered up to GBP 2 million. You are not covered for claims brought against you by your "travelling companions".