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Maui-Hawaii-Sept-2009-355I was recently interviewed by NBC’s Today Show to comment on a zipline accident in Mexico that left a California man tragically in a coma. The show asked me how travelers can tell if an adventure company outside the United States is safe, and to comment on the importance of travel insurance. Below is the video with my answers and below that, my notes—most of which did not make the short segment:

How can you tell if an adventure company is safe?
According to America Now News, the number of injuries on homemade ziplines is far greater than the number on professional ones. So, make sure it’s professional to start. The best way to tell if an adventure company is professional/safe is to see if a cruise line or a nationally or internationally known resort (like a Hilton or Marriott) has endorsed the company. If it is, you can bet it’s going to be safe and established. Such endorsement will also mean that the company has been licensed and insured and has gone through the inspections.

You can also research what standards the zipline course was built to meet and educate yourself about the process for training their guides. When in doubt, ask to see a copy of their inspection report and find out if they’re fully insured.

Is ziplining covered by travel insurance?
One thing that was cut from my interview—and that I personally found interesting—is that ziplining is actually covered by most travel insurance plans. Still, you should keep in mind that with most travel insurance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket before getting reimbursed no matter what the accident is. I learned all of this in my experience with (here’s why I use them), known as the “Kayak of travel insurance.” They work with 27 different insurance providers to help you find the right plan.

I’m planning on going to Mexico for a conference in September so I called (the same information can be found on their website) to find out what’s generally covered. Here’s what I learned:

The insurance plans offered me aren’t expensive, and they all include medical evacuation. For my Mexico trip, travel insurance costs $50 for a $50,000 policy or $64 for a $100,000 policy. I could get more if I wanted. It’s secondary insurance and I told them that my primary insurance probably wouldn’t cover me for anything outside of the U.S. As they told me, that’s okay but in event of an accident I’d still need to file a claim with the company and then send the rejection letter to the secondary insurance provider, who would then reimburse for any costs up to the amount you purchase.

Another surprising thing? Scuba diving without a dive master was not covered, nor was skydiving and mountaineering.

Don’t worry: I’m not planning on doing any of those activities—including ziplining. I’ve done ziplining four times in four different countries (Costa Rica, Belize, South Africa, and the USA) and it was fun each time, but I think I’ve got my fix for now.

How about you? Have you been or would you go ziplining in a foreign country? Would you do it without travel insurance? Let me know in the comments below!


3 Comments On "How to Tell if an Adventure Company is Safe Abroad"
  1. Katja|

    Sadly the video didn’t work for me, however…you should absolutely ALWAYS travel with insurance, it’s simply not worth the risk not to. You should, however, always check to see what your insurance covers before travelling as you often have to pay more if you want to participate in riskier activities (diving, bungee jumping etc..) and this in not always obvious.

    When travelling to places such as India – where there is zip lining – it’s unlikely that companies will have been endorsed by e.g. a Hilton or a Marriott.

    In these kind of situations it’s worth thoroughly researching the background of the company; who is owned by, what safety standards to they adhere to (local v.s. e.g. UK safety standards) and where else they have zip lines, as well as checking what safety precautions they publish on e.g. their website. It’s worth checking reports by other travellers on e.g. Tripadvisor too.

    And finally, it’s tempting (especially if you’re younger and don’t have a huge amount of money) to go for the cheapest option. Don’t, unless you can be absolutely certain that they’re safety standards are up to scratch.

  2. JoAnn|

    I have done zip lining in Fiji and Mexico. I don’t think either line would have passed OSHA standards. It was pretty primitive in both areas,and, knowing what I know now from your report, I won’t be doing it again. I am also a proponent of travel insurance, but read the policy very carefully so you know exactly what is covered.

  3. Mike|

    Thank you for info on travel ins I’m always torn whether to take or not now ill use sight you mentioned

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