Water-based holidays

You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy a water-based activity holiday. While some people may relish the prospect of scuba diving, white water rafting or windsurfing others may enjoy sailing the high seas or hiring a boat and taking a leisurely cruise.

Whatever type of water-based holiday you’re planning, unless you’re taking your own boat you need to make sure you book with a reputable firm that has a good safety record.

If you’re doing water sports you should receive appropriate training and supervision for any activities you take part in from qualified instructors and the company should follow strict safety precautions and provide suitable safety equipment.

If you’re hiring a boat or barge you should receive appropriate training on how to manage the boat and what to do in an emergency. There should also be suitable safety equipment on board.

You should be able to find out all this information from the company you’re thinking of booking your holiday through before you commit.

If you’re taking your own boat abroad the Royal Yachting Association website has lots of useful information on this.

Travel insurance

It’s essential to get the right travel insurance because if you have an accident or run into trouble and are not covered you will have to pay all your own medical and other expenses. This could include any rescue or repatriation costs which could run into thousands of pounds.

If you book a water-sports holiday through a travel firm it may recommend a particular policy. But if you’re arranging your own insurance you need to make sure it covers you for the sports you plan to do.

Standard travel insurance policies will cover you for things like going swimming or hiring a rowing boat on a lake. But if you’re planning something more adventurous you need to check if you’ll be covered. Some water sports may be covered by a standard travel insurance policy but only up to a certain extent. For example, a policy may cover scuba diving but not below depths of 30 metres, and while white water rafting may be covered this may only be up to an intensity of grade three.

If you find the sport you want to do is excluded on standard travel insurance policies you’ll need to take out specialist water-sports insurance.

Similarly, if you’re planning to go on a sailing holiday you’ll need specialist insurance.

If you’re holidaying within the European Economic Area (this is all countries in the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Switzerland make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you as this entitles you to the same state-provided healthcare as the people who live in the country you’re visiting.

Going solo

All water sports involve a degree of risk so no matter how experienced you are you should always double check equipment and if you’re going out on your own make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you should be back.

If you’re hiring equipment make sure you thoroughly check it before leaving the premises.

Safety advice

For more on water sports safety abroad and what to look for in an operator see the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the UK’s National Standards Body the BSI have produced a useful checklist to help you choose a good travel organisation that takes good preparation and planning seriously.

And for more on water safety in open water and beach and sea safety see our guides.

Accidents out of the water

Of course not all accidents on holiday occur in the water. In fact the most common are trips, slips and falls. If you’re staying in a hotel or self-catering our guides have tips on how to stay safe in your accommodation.

Staying safe on board a boat

The Boat Safety Scheme has lots of useful information and safety tips for people staying on a boat. It includes guides on fire, carbon monoxide and electrical safety on boats.

Other guides which might interest you

We have several other guides which may interest you including: