Travel insurance for scuba divers – Forbes Advisor UK

For over 50 years, scuba diving has enabled us to explore the Earth’s seas and oceans. But it is a risky pursuit, accidents can happen, and participants can be injured or even killed.

Having standard travel insurance in place that specifically includes scuba diving can provide travellers with peace of mind that they’ll be financially protected, should they need medical treatment or repatriation to the UK. 

Alternatively, a specialist policy will provide cover for equipment or a missed day of scuba diving due to illness. 

We explain how the cover works below. And just in case you’ve ever wondered, ‘scuba’ comes from Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

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Does standard travel insurance cover scuba diving?

Many travel insurance policies offer some level of cover for scuba diving as part of a package of sports and activities, as standard, which means there’s no additional cost attached. 

There may be conditions, however. For example, you may only be covered up to depths of, say, 30 metres, with solo dives excluded. On our travel insurance journey, you can download the policy document before buying a policy, search for ‘scuba’ and see the details.

However, some insurers consider scuba diving more high risk than others and therefore charge an extra premium. 

Alternatively, they may limit the depth at which the policyholder can scuba dive, to 18 meters for example, before they must pay an extra premium which rises with the higher depth limits covered – usually up to 30 or 40 meters.

The policy will usually cover medical treatment and repatriation in the event the policyholder is taken ill or is injured while scuba diving. It often also pays out if the policyholder injures someone else or damages their equipment, under the ‘personal liability’ aspect of the policy.

What else does a standard travel insurance policy cover?

Typically, policyholders will be able to make medical claims that are unrelated to scuba diving, and claim for trip cancellation due to an emergency, such as a bereavement or redundancy.

A standard policy can also cover loss of passport, money, documents and baggage, though not necessarily scuba diving equipment. It’s best to check with the insurer whether cover for equipment is included. 

Depending on the insurer, the policy may also compensate for a host of other mishaps, including travel delays and missed departures. Exactly what’s covered will be stated in the policy wording.

What won’t standard travel insurance for scuba diving cover?

Standard policies usually require that policyholders follow the local rules and regulations for scuba diving in the country they have travelled to, and may specify that the guidelines of the relevant diving organisation, such as the  British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) or the The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), are followed.

For cover to remain valid, they also typically require the policyholder to scuba dive with a qualified instructor, not dive alone or participate in cave diving, which involves entering caves under water. 

Policyholders usually also have to use recommended safety equipment for their claims to be considered.

Is a specialist scuba diving policy better?

Whether a standard travel insurance policy or specialist scuba diving cover is more appropriate will depend on the traveller. 

Specialist policies can provide cover that a standard policy typically won’t, such as cover for:

  • cave diving
  • depths exceeding 40 meters
  • diving equipment 
  • missed days of scuba diving due to illness.

Even between specialist policies there are differences in cover, so do check the policy wording for the specifics.

Is it worth taking out travel insurance for scuba diving?

Travel insurance for scuba diving can be a useful resource for travellers who prefer to avoid upfront costs if anything should go wrong while away.

Costs for emergency treatment and repatriation alone can easily reach into the tens of thousands of pounds, and without insurance in place, travellers need to know they have the means of covering this.

What is the most common claim on specialist scuba diving insurance? 

According to specialist scuba diving insurance provider, Snowcard, decompression illness (the ‘bends’) is the most common claim made by scuba divers. 

This is when a diver surfaces too quickly or holds their breath for a prolonged period of time while surfacing, sometimes leading to a lung rupture, and ultimately causing bubbles of nitrogen to form in their bloodstream and tissues.

If a gas bubble blocks an artery, this can cause a gas or air embolism, which can lead to symptoms such as unconsciousness, a stroke or heart attack.

Is there annual travel insurance for scuba diving?

For travellers going away more than once in a year, an annual travel insurance policy for scuba diving could work out more cost effective than a single trip policy.

Taking out an annual policy eliminates the need to purchase a policy for each trip taken in a year.

However, travellers will need to have an idea of the countries they plan to visit for the next 12 months as they will usually have to choose between three types of policy based on planned destinations.

  • Europe
  • Worldwide (excluding the USA, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean)
  • Worldwide (including the USA, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean)

Policies for Europe tend to be the cheapest, while policies for worldwide travel (including the USA, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean) are usually the most expensive, accounting for the higher cost of emergency medical fees in these countries.

Can travellers with pre-existing medical conditions get cover?

Whether a traveller with a pre-existing medical condition will be covered by a travel insurance policy, and be protected specifically for scuba diving, will depend on the policy provider.

Some providers may not offer cover at all, while some may for less serious conditions, and a limited few for the more severe. If they do, travellers should expect that they will likely pay a higher premium to account for the higher risk that they will claim for medical treatment related to their condition.

Travellers need to declare the details of their pre-existing condition on applying for travel insurance. If they omit this information, any possible future claim relating to their pre-existing condition is likely to be refused.

How to find the best travel insurance policy for scuba diving

Our online travel insurance comparison tool allows travellers to compare policies based on price, cover levels and excess (the fixed amount payable by a policyholder on any claim made).

Travellers can simply enter a few details about themselves and their trip, such as their age, holiday destination and holiday duration, and the tool will show the most competitive quotes that best match their requirements.

By clicking on the link provided, to the policy wording, travellers can find the details of the scuba diving cover included, under the section for sports and activities.

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