Scuba Diving Insurance Advice, Which Plan?

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Diving Insurance Companies – More about policies, what they cover, and who the best insurers are

Fathoming the Risks

While the very concept of many kinds of insurance relies on an atmosphere of fear for events that almost certainly aren’t going to happen, the stakes are much higher when it comes to insurance for higher-risk activities. Though diving is a relatively safe pastime for those who are trained properly, the inherent risk in above-water pursuits is significant enough; move things under the water, and the risk goes up even further.

The risk involved in water sports, particularly diving, is why there exists a massive number of insurance companies out there offering diving insurance both in both dedicated-policy form, and also under the blanket of more general travel-insurance policies. But why does one need diving insurance in the first place? Which diving insurance policy should you choose for your specific needs? What exactly do these insurance policies cover? Will you be better off choosing specialised diving insurance, or would coverage from a general travel-insurance policy be sufficient? These kinds of questions can mean the different between being covered and being liable for a huge sum of money whilst abroad. This article hopes to shed more light on the subject, and answer the questions posited above.

Why Insure? Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

It should be common knowledge among virtually everyone old enough to leave the country on their own that travel insurance in general is a good thing. Even if you aren’t an avid fan of water sports, or wouldn’t dream of going diving, the level of financial and personal devastation that can arise should you require medical assistance whilst abroad is almost unfathomable.

You’d be surprised, though, how frequently people in the UK neglect to arrange the proper cover, whether for voluntary or involuntary reasons. The NHS is, after all, one of the gems of the infrastructure of the UK, but very few countries - particularly ones that one must venture to in order to experience the greatest and most rewarding diving experiences – have a health system that shines quite as brightly. For this reason, people often forget that medical eventualities in countries further afield don’t come free of charge. In these countries, it would be extremely costly to undergo any medical treatment – any accident would certainly ruin the holiday at very least.

While those travelling the EU can feel warm and snug under the safety blanket of the European Health Insurance Card, and all of the state-specific, essential medical needs that are covered under its purview, if you find yourself in bodily in a land that’s further afield, the financial repercussions can be utterly devastating. Having even the most basic of travel insurance if you happen to get injured abroad can provide peace of mind for you and your family. Getting travel insurance, therefore, is really a case of remaining cautiously optimistic about your travels by properly insuring yourself first.

Why Diving Insurance?

The section above shows a few of the many reasons why general travel insurance is essential not only for peace of mind but for the health and safety of you and your family when abroad. The same risks and general need for insurance coverage also applies for those with an affinity for diving, but with one crucial caveat: both the extent of coverage and specificity of the policy providing said coverage for divers can mean the difference between a company paying out and them refusing to do so based on a technicality. For this reason alone, it is essential to check that your policy covers precisely the kind of diving you’ll be doing, with attention paid to specifics like the location of your dive as well as the depths at which your diving will take place.

I won’t go into massive amounts of detail pertaining to the risks of diving in general. This is because the important point here is that the degree of risk in diving is simply greater than the risk of the kinds of activities that are covered in many regular travel insurance policies as standard. It is the inflated quantity of risk in diving that makes the careful choosing of insurance coverage an essential component of your diving holiday.

About Standard Policies, Wording, and the Need for Specificity

Not every holidaymaker is going to need to take out specialist diving insurance. However, if you plan on engaging in any water sports activities, it will be wise to carefully check the wording of your particular policy. A majority of standard travel-insurance policies cover run-of-the-mill water activities such as swimming and hired-boat rides.

Thankfully, many travel insurance policies also cover water sports – diving including – as part of their standard coverage. For example, the general travel-insurance company Direct Travel’s standard insurance policy states that it covers diving up to 30m. However, this is a prime example of the importance for specificity when it comes to you own particular diving needs. If you check the Direct Travel Standard Policy Wording, you will find that Scuba Diving is covered up to the depth of 30m, “if qualified and not diving alone”, otherwise you’re restricted to “18meters if not qualified and must be accompanied by a qualified instructor”.  Moreover, the policy also includes wording that specifies the diving that is taking place must be on a “recreational or amateur basis” in order for it to be covered.

As you can see, checking the wording of a policy is absolutely essential. However, what should also be abundantly clear to divers from the above wording is that many divers, particularly experienced ones looking to traverse depths exceeding 40m or engage in diving that may be seen as exceeding standard “amateur/recreational” guidelines, may need to consider purchasing specialist diving insurance in order for their diving activities to be covered.

In these cases (and for the wording/specificity reasons listed above), general travel policies will leave a majority of the more adventurous diving activities without proper coverage.

Specialist Diving Insurance: Types of Insurance and What’s Covered

If, after checking the specific wording of the various general travel insurance policies available, you find that your diving needs exceed/differ from said policies, the sensible option is to consider specialist diving insurance. This is the only way to ensure that experienced and avid divers have sufficient coverage for their activities. After all, many divers will wish to exceed the maximum 30m depth covered by many standard, non-specialist travel insurance policies, and their diving may also fall outside the parameters of standard recreational/amateur scuba diving.

IDEC (International Diving Emergency Cover)

Once you’ve established the need for specialist diving insurance, you’ll likely want to know exactly what is covered. Though the many policies available from specialist companies differ in the type and level of coverage, there are coverage types common to a majority of them. The standard kind of coverage for divers is known as IDEC, or International Diving Emergency Cover. This is likely to be the cheapest form of coverage you’ll find on any specialist diving insurance websites.

IDEC is essentially a personal accident insurance plan, covering the policy holder for accidents that take place anywhere in the world. Items covered include: Immediate Emergency Medical Expenses (£100,000), Hyperbaric Chamber Treatment Costs (£100,000), Air Evac, Medical Repatriations (£75,000), Search and Rescue (£50,000), and Additional Transport and Accommodation (Covers you and your family, up to £5,000).

IDEC insurance is available from a multitude of online companies, with many offering a variety of options from Single-Trip IDEC to multi-trip and even annual cover.

Travel Insurance + IDEC

Many specialist diving-insurance companies also offer IDEC on a single or multi-trip basis, with the addition of general Travel Insurance included in the premium. Purchasing combined Travel and IDEC insurance benefits the policy holder by allowing for multiple eventualities that go beyond personal accident costs/reparations. For example, Westfield Sub Aqua Travel Insurance, which is specially tailored for sport divers, covers not only the IDEC-specific items, but also costs such as Personal Liability, Hire of Dive Kit, Journey Delay, Personal Money, and Legal Expenses.

Choosing whether you wish to go for single-trip, multi-trip, or even annual cover is merely a matter of personal preference depending on the frequency of your diving trips.

Advantages of Specialist Insurance Over Standard Travel-Insurance Coverage

Whether a standard travel-insurance policy will be sufficient for your needs really depends on the nature of your trip. If you’re going to be engaging in relatively shallow diving exploits in the sub-30m range, you will likely find a standard travel-insurance policy that will cover it. One of the most impressive of these can be found offered by a company called Columbus Direct – coverage is provided under the standard policy for depths of up to 40m – which is discussed in the ‘Best Diving Insurance Companies’ section below.

If you’re planning on engaging in diving expeditions exceeding 30/40m or are practicing scuba diving on a more professional level, then Specialist Diving Insurance is going to be essential in order to cover the higher degree of risk. There are certain advantages to Specialist Diving Insurance when compared to standard policies, too. The main advantage is the lack of depth limitation, allowing you to literally push your diving exploits to greater depths. Specialist Diving Insurance is also superior because IDEC in particular doesn’t imposed exclusions for more specialist diving activities such as Cave Diving, Shark Diving, and Wreck Diving.

Other advantages of specialist diving insurance over regular travel are based around the many exclusions found in the latter kind of coverage. These include exclusions that mean you’re not covered for essentials such as Sea Rescue, Hyperbaric treatment, Dive Kit, Shark/Wreck/Cave diving, and even exclusions that mean there will be no pay-out if the holiday booked was a trip planned specifically for diving purposes.

It is therefore highly advantageous, for any serious diver anyhow, to consider specialist diving insurance over the comparatively meagre and restrictive coverage that falls under the purview of standard travel-insurance policies.

Best Diving Insurance Companies

Now to highlight some of the stand-out travel and specialist diving-insurance companies. For those not looking to engage in serious scuba diving, some travel insurance companies will cover Scuba Diving up to certain depths. One such company worth mentioning is  Columbus Direct, whose travel insurance policy will cover a diver for up to 30m  as standard, or between 30-40m of depth as part of the “Adventure Pack”. The policy even covers Cage-based Shark Diving, too!

For Specialist Diving Insurance, one of the best companies offering the most comprehensive range of options is Dive Master Insurance. The website is well-designed and presents the multitude of policies available plainly and simply. The “Which Policy Do I Need” tab in the main menu at the top allows you to choose between the different types of coverage offered, which included IDEC-only, Travel Insurance + IDEC, Annual Diving Travel Insurance, and “Worldwide” Cover for extended-period trips. An example price for Travel + IDEC coverage spanning 24 days Worldwide for a 28-year-old male is £88.79.

Diving Insurance UK’s Travel Insurance is also a great option tailored for sport divers. Single and Annual Trips are covered here, and the insurance is also more comprehensive than standard IDEC cover alone. We have covered More Scuba Diving Insurance Companies to consider in a separate article.

Finally, if you’re a diver who also enjoys other extreme sports, then standard insurance policies aren’t going to cover you. One of the most impressive extreme-sports coverage companies is DogTag. The DogTag Sports Insurance page offers 4 levels of coverage ranging from standard extreme sports, to more exotic water-sports and even coverage for those sports on the upper end of the extreme scale such as Ultra-Marathon Running and Mountaineering for altitudes of over 4,000 meters.