Volunteer Travel Insurance - Help!

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Volunteer Travel Insurance - Help!

Postby jo-burgess » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:31 am

I am going away with G Adventures on a multitude of tours across SE Asia - and during that I am going to be volunteering at the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai for a week.

I work for Aviva so have a good understanding of insurance which has brought to my attention that barely any insurance companies actually cover for volunteer work with animals. With Aviva I wouldn’t be covered AT ALL during my week at the sanctuary regardless of if it was during my volunteer work or related to any work I was doing. EG: if I was popping to a shop to buy some water and was hit by a car or mugged (extremes I know! - Not planning on either but I guess that’s the idea of insurance) I then wouldn’t be covered. This goes for all mainstream insurers even ones that claim to cover for 'Elephant Trekking' etc. Cover for volunteer work (as a rule) with insurance covering over seas only covers administrative work and no manual labour or interaction with animals.

I have looked into STA's insurance (who I booked through) which covers for 'volunteering' however there are no personal accident covers during a volunteer period - again should I accidently encounter an angry elephant and gain an injury (due to size of an elephant if the unlikely did happen, extensive damage could be a possibility) I wouldn’t be covered. Their reasoning is it should be safe so the cover isnt included. I am not a prone worrier but when forking out for the trip of a lifetime Id rather search and pay a little more for peace of mind.

My dilemma - do I try and find a cover which would be inferior to the cover I'd receive from Aviva but would cover during the elephant week - or do I risk it and should anything happen I would have to front any costs incurred?

What insurance have you guys taken out and are there any ex volunteers that can help me?!?
I don’t really want to have to grasp hold of any valuables for fear of theft or loss during that week but cant even imagine having to pay a medical bill if the unlikely did occur and I had an accident.

Thank you :) Jo
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Re: Volunteer Travel Insurance - Help!

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:43 am

I just get standard travel insurance that covers medical (including expatriation) expenses. There shouldn't be any difference between a random safari jaunt and volunteering -- in fact, you're likely to be safer despite the more frequent exposure to animals.
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Re: Volunteer Travel Insurance - Help!

Postby jo-burgess » Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:48 am

Thanks Explorer,

The thing is no standard insurance companies cover for volunteer work other than administrational work. Luckily I have since found that cover with American Express will cover me for everything other than any injury directly relating to the volunteer work so at least my belongings and random illness will be covered just unfortunately not anything directly relating to the elephants.

Unfortunately the majority of travel insurance states that the trip must start and end in the UK so I couldn’t even take out a specialised insurance for week to cover me during my stay as due to that clause it would be invalid.

Anyone taking out insurance for this sort of thing make sure you call them as they can discuss with the underwriters who will let you know your exclusions!
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Re: Volunteer Travel Insurance - Help!

Postby ExplorerWannaBe » Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:05 am

My point was that what you're doing might as well be vacation travel as far as the insurance companies are concerned. Tourists take lots of stupid risks and the insurance actuarials have to take that into account. I've taken out standard travel insurance policies from TravelInsured.com for volunteer work that were no different from the one I had when I took G's overland trip across Africa.

The only activity exclusions in my standard travel policy were:

1) Pre-Existing Conditions, as defined in the Definitions section (except Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains), unless the policy is purchased within 21 days of the initial Trip deposit. The booking for the Trip must be the first and only booking for this travel period and destination, You are not disabled from travel at the time You pay the premium, and You must purchase this policy for the full non-refundable cost of Your Trip;
2) Suicide, attempted suicide or any intentionally self- inflicted Injury while sane or insane (in Missouri, sane only) committed by You, Traveling Companion, or Family Member whether insured or not;
3) War, invasion, acts of foreign enemies, hostilities between nations (whether declared or not), civil war (does not apply to Cancel for Work Reasons coverage); Note: This exclusion does not apply to Part A, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption g) and h);
4) Participation in any military maneuver or training exercise (does not apply to Cancel for Work Reasons coverage);
5) Piloting or learning to pilot or acting as a member of the crew of any aircraft;
6) Mental or emotional disorders, unless hospitalized;
7) Participation as a professional in athletics;
8) Being under the influence of drugs or intoxicants, unless prescribed by a Physician;
9) Commission or the attempt to commit a criminal act by You, Traveling Companion or Family Member whether insured or not;
10) Participating in bodily contact sports; skydiving; hang gliding; parachuting; any race, bungee cord jumping; speed contest; spelunking or caving; (Does not apply while on Your Trip if You purchase Sports Coverage);
11) Participating in extreme skiing or mountaineering (mountaineering below 15,000 feet is covered while on Your Trip if You purchase Sports Coverage);
12) Dental treatment except as a result of Accidental Injury to sound natural teeth;
13) Pregnancy and childbirth (except for Complications of Pregnancy or as specifically provided under Part A);
14) Traveling for the purpose of securing medical treatment.


Perhaps there's a difference in the UK but I think you're making a false distinction here. Biosphere Expeditions (the outfit I volunteered with last month) is headquartered in the UK -- perhaps you can e-mail them and see what they usually use? http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/
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