Are you covered for your action-packed holiday?

In the excitement of booking your holiday, building an iPod beach playlist or loading your Kindle will probably trump reading the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy.

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But failing to check the small print could cost you dear.

These details are especially important if you’re going on a holiday that might involve activities considered “hazardous” by your insurance provider. The reason is that you might not be covered if you are injured while taking part.

That raises the prospect of having to pay hefty medical bills, and even the cost of repatriation to the UK.

So what are these hazardous holiday activities, and how do you make sure you’re properly insured? Here’s a look at some of the activities that make insurers nervous, and how to get insurance cover if you need it.

Holiday hazards

The range of sports and activities that are considered “hazardous” by your travel insurance provider should be listed in your policy documents. It will probably include things such as mountain biking, horse riding and bungee jumping.

What constitutes a hazardous activity varies from insurer to insurer, so don’t assume your new policy will provide cover just because your old one did.

If you are planning to take part in hazardous activities while away, or think it might be a real possibility, you can ask if your policy covers you as standard or if you need to pay an additional fee for extra cover.

If you’re off skiing or snowboarding this year, you’ll probably be taking out winter sports cover, either as a stand-alone policy or as an extension of an annual contract. But you should still take note of what your policy does and doesn’t cover. For example, when you get to the resort you might find there are tobogganing facilities and fancy having a go, but tobogganing might not be included in your standard winter sports cover.

Some insurers will add 50%, 100% or even 200% to your travel insurance premium for the addition of hazardous activity cover that embraces their full list. You could pay a smaller fee if you choose just one or two of the specific hazardous activities they identify.

For example, a basic policy from the Post Office for an adult travelling to Europe (excluding Turkey and Egypt) would be £27.58 at the time of writing. Add cover for hazardous activities and that figure increases to £48.

Spur of the moment

Of course, you don’t always know what activities you might want to take part in on your holiday. And when you’re away and having fun, you might not give a second thought to travel insurance before saddling up for a horse ride or making an impromptu bungee jump. That’s why it’s worthwhile giving it some consideration before you set off.

Hazardous activities or not, it is always important to take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you for reference. Some insurers will provide a plastic card with useful contact details and the all-important policy number. If you don’t have the documents, you could go online to see the list of exclusions and restrictions so that you know what you are covered for.

If you want to take part in an activity not covered by your policy, get in touch with the insurer to find out if you can add cover for that one activity while you’re away. You may be able to get cover for an additional fee.

Alternatively, it may be possible to buy insurance from the organiser of the activity (such as the bungee jump company), but you should ask to see the policy wording and read it carefully. If you can, compare the price of their policy against the cost of adding the cover on your existing travel insurance policy.

You may find that the price you pay to take part in the activity automatically buys you some insurance cover. As ever, it is worth checking.

Ultimately, getting cover might be a matter of speed and convenience – if you make a spontaneous decision to do something exciting, you don’t want to be hanging around for ages trying to contact your insurer back home, especially if there is a time difference between where you are and the UK.

Most important, though, is to get cover of some sort as the cost of medical care while on holiday can be extremely high.

What if I have an accident and I’m not covered?

In a recent case, a 23-year-old UK woman was injured while riding a quad bike as part of her work experience on a Tasmanian farm. The woman and her family were left with expensive medical and repatriation bills because her travel insurance did not cover the “extreme sport” of quad biking.

The fact she was at work rather than undertaking a leisure activity did not affect the outcome – another point to bear in mind if you are taking a longer trip and planning to work to fund your travels. Check to see if there are any restrictions on your insurance relating to employment.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) it would cost a skier with a fractured vertebra £9,420 to be airlifted in France and then repatriated to the UK. The same rescue in the US could cost almost double this amount.

Get specialist cover

There are insurance policies and providers which specialise in cover for high-risk activities, including everything from husky dog sledding to wrestling to heli-skiing.

The range of hazardous activities covered by each insurer will differ, so when comparing policies, check with the provider exactly what is and isn’t covered.

If you have any doubts or concerns about what your travel insurance covers, read the policy wording. Failing that, get on the phone to your insurer and ask them direct.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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