Insurance- General Advice
Whatever your trip you will need to take out travel insurance approriate to the countries you are visiting and what you will be doing when you get there.
In general terms policies will be for an individual trip or on an annual basis. They may also be lumped together with other insurance products such as house or life insurance. The level of insurance cover, and therefore cost of the premium, will be affected by the location you are travelling to, the perceived risk to yourself or your belongings, the value of your belongings and the potential cost of any rescue or repatriation. If you are on an extended trip you may also have to pay a suppliment if you go over certain number of days away.
Another important aspect of travel insurance is cancellation cover. Sometimes this is an optional extra on the basic policy and it can be tempting to save money by omitting it from the policy. We would always advise that you do take out the cancellation option so that if for whatever reason you are unable to travel you are able to claim back the costs of your bookings and flights. Your insurance policy should be taken out directly after placing bookings and buying flights. In this way the money that you have just spent is immediately covered. If you were to suffer any issues that meant you were unable to travel between buying flights and buying insurance you would of course be unable to claim back the air fare.
When looking for insurance the policy must be checked for validity in the regions through which you will be travelling and for the activities (and altitudes if relevant) that you will be involved in there. Most companies will show lists of activities that fall into different categories of cover. You will need to read these very carefully and preferably contact them to explain the exact nature of your trip and any expensive equipment that you have.
Note that some of the more basic policies may exclude 'volunteering work', but you need to explain to the company what you are actually doing. Make sure they don't think you will be working on big construction sites etc.
An important aspect relating to all treks, climbs or travel in wilderness areas is that the policy needs to explicity cover Helicopter Search & Rescue. The costs of this can be extremely high and it is essential that it is covered.
Please note that some of the cheaper or less specialist travel insurance policies may exclude certain activities, environments and rescue methods. You need to check that your policy covers you for all the locations and altitudes that you will be travelling to. Some policies have a maximum altitude ceiling on them that you may have to upgrade. If it is at all unclear then do speak to them and get them to explicity confirm that you will be covered.
If you can get them to email you back with words to the effect of "We can confirm that these are the details of a policy that will cover you for your trek to X and climb of X to a maximum altitude of X including helicopter search and rescue, also including X activities and covering your shiny new X to the value of X" it will mean that there should be no questions later on if you come to claim.
You need to make sure that you fill out the medical declaration accurately and disclose any conditions or history that may be at all relevant however small. In the unlikely situation where you need to make a claim any undisclosed issues that may have affected your risk may cause your policy to be invalid and can quickly rack up huge medical, rescue and repatriation costs.
If you have any concerns or queries regarding your insurance cover you should raise them specifically, in writing, with the insurance provider. It is also worth shopping around for the best deals especially if you can get a student rate or a preferred rate with a company that you already have a membership or other policy with.
A few companies that might be worth contacting include:-
Volunteer Travel Insurance (Campbell Irvine)
The British Mountaineering Council
Sports Cover Direct
Insure and Go
There is also other advice available online, such as here.
There are also providers who specialise in cover for people with existing medical conditions. Some general providers may either not provide cover or offer much higher premiums. If you do have specific requirements or conditions it is worth contacting companies such as All Clear Travel.