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I am going on holiday to Tenerife and La Palma, and planning to do some hiking in the mountains. Nothing unusual, sticking to marked trails.

When looking for travel insurance many of the mainstream ones seem to specifically exclude any "search and rescue" costs (separate to medical evacuation which is covered). It is included in some more specialist policies, but they are relatively expensive and over the top for what I need otherwise.

Is there actually any charge for mountain search and rescue in Spain, specifically the Canary Islands, that I would need to cover through insurance, or is it a free service?

Edit after seeing answers: Some interesting food for thought. I don't think we would be charged as we have no plans to do anything high risk, and we do lots of hiking here at home so know what equipment to take etc. But it probably isn't worth the risk given that the increased insurance cost is much less than the potential fine.

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    Have you looked at high-risk sport, adventure activity travel insurance? – Giorgio Aug 12 '17 at 19:34
  • @Dorothy Yes, but they are quite a bit more expensive, so I don't want to spend the extra if it isn't necessary – ammonite Aug 12 '17 at 20:01
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    Yes, and one of the reasons is that rescues are usually not free (someone pays), and why countries require travelers to have insurance to pay for emergencies, and not those who live and work in the country and fund them through taxes etc. – Giorgio Aug 12 '17 at 20:16
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    Depends on the country. In Iceland hotels I often found a card saying something like "We do not want any crisis untaken care of and so we never charge for rescue". – Itai Aug 12 '17 at 21:08
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    It is also always free here in the UK – ammonite Aug 14 '17 at 9:47
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In many regions of Spain and depending on the circumstances, the costs associated with search and rescue are passed on to those who need it. It has been the subject of intense media coverage in recent years.

Tenerife News: Reckless behaviour will cost you dear.
The new rule which allows the Canary government to charge for rescues caused by “reckless actions” is beginning to bite.

The rules identify a wide range of activities and sports which could be deemed risky such as climbing, quad biking, bungee jumping, canyoning, microlight flights, paragliding, surfing, water ski-ing and caving amongst others.

The government would look at the circumstances before deciding whether to charge or not. Factors will include ignoring warning signs or bans or not having the right equipment. Fines vary depending on the extent of the rescue and the number of people in the group but could be as much as 12,000 euros for bigger parties.

Catalonia to start charging for mountain rescue
As if getting lost in the mountains wasn't bad enough, hikers who lose their way in Catalonia from October will now be charged for their rescue.

The Spanish region announced this week that people deemed to have got into trouble in the mountains through their own negligence should foot the bill for their rescue.

The charges imposed will range from €300 to as much as €70,000 in line with the cost of the resources used and the number of days needed for the rescue.

Spain to charge for rescue services
The Basque regional government is following the example of Catalonia in 2009 and will start charging for mountain rescue if a law currently going through parliament is approved. They cite the increasing number of operations and the costs to provide a good service and a number of abuses, such as people calling in helicopters just because they are tired.

Catalonia only bills where the rescue is due to negligence. In the Spanish Basque country the law will be more wide ranging. First of all it will apply to the following list of what they describe as “high risk” sports[.] The Basque government recommends that everyone visiting the region is properly covered by insurance.

Victims will only be charged if they are on a “high-risk routes” or go to the mountains in bad weather such as “snow, fog, wind or extreme temperatures.”. High risk routes covers areas which are identified as hazardous or where there are bans or restrictions. Weather conditions will apply to where there is an Orange or Red weather alert (these correspond roughly to avalanche risks of 4 and 5). Any rescue where there is no justification will also be charged. This last point may lead to delays in calling mountain rescue until it is too late.

Charges will be € 2,244 per hour for helicopter time, € 76.50 / hour for a motor vehicle and € 37 / hour for each rescue worker.

Navarra to charge for rescues caused by imprudence
Navarra thus joins the list of regions that have put a price on the bailouts. Cataluña was the first to do so in 2009, was followed by the Basque Country in 2011, and to date Cantabria, Asturias, Castilla & León and Valencia have joined the initiative.

Spokesmen from the NSA explained that each case would be studied separately, but they said that by "imprudence" is understood "recklessly disregarding weather alerts" or "not being properly equipped in a particular context." ...

The price for a rescue evacuation by helicopter ascends to 1,400 euros. However, this is not the actual cost of aircraft utilization, since the government of Navarra explained that the true cost for sending a helicopter crew, a pilot, a doctor and a nurse, costs just over 2,000 euros. For this reason, they explain, the rates are designed to be dissuasive and not a means of collecting revenue.

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    Could you rephrase your first sentence to make it clearer? As it stands, it’s quite confusingly worded and doesn’t seem to be directly answering any part of the question (what can and does do what exactly? and what [is] the subject of intense media coverage?). You may also want to add (aside from the quotes themselves) words to the effect that imprudence is an important factor, and that regular hiking on marked trails in normal conditions would usually not lead to these laws being applied. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 13 '17 at 9:54
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After a rescue operation, there will be an enquiry to determine the circumstances that led to it.

They will check everything you did, what kind of equipment you had with you, clothing, shoes... If they are not happy with what they see you may be accused of "conducta imprudente" (reckless behaviour) and will have to pay for the rescue.

So yes, you may have to pay for the rescue (I've seen figures in the range of 5000 - 10000€) but only if you do something stupid. If you go by the book you should be fine.

Here (in Spanish) you can find legal advice by a well known Spanish lawyer firm (and with which I have no affiliation).

  • If you are affiliated with the firm in any way, please disclose that (just edit and add it), so that your answer isn't removed as spam. – Giorgio Aug 12 '17 at 23:51
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    @Dorothy What should he do if that page was just a search result? Will the answer be removed as spam if no action is taken? – user35810 Aug 13 '17 at 5:20
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    @dorothy I've got nothing to do with the firm. As Bailey S said, it is just the first search result that provides sound advice. Do you always need to disclose if you are/are not affiliated with every link you provide? – Diego Sánchez Aug 13 '17 at 5:42
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    @Dorothy: I would be disappointing if such an answer was removed as spam. What would be spam is a disclamer for each link one provides (when not affiliated). Disclamer: I do not work for Wikipedia, nor have any interests with the organization - except funding I participate in. – WoJ Aug 13 '17 at 7:47
  • @DiegoSánchez no problem: I just added that bit, at the end, that you have no affiliation with the firm. Here, it's not done with official or widely-available sources (like Amazon) but should be when there is a fee-based service. – Giorgio Aug 13 '17 at 12:17

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