Updated on September 9, 2020
You will encounter here steep cliffs, narrow canyons, reddish walls, the sound of water, deer, squirrels, and much more. It is one of the most beautiful national parks: Zion National Park in Utah. We love hiking trails in Zion, like the Narrows, Angels Landing, and the Subway. So we share our experience from this park: where to stay, how to get there, how to prepare for the hikes, best things to do in Zion National Park, and much more.
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Where is Zion National Park & How To Get There
Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah near the picturesque town of Springdale. The Park has the 229-square-mile (590 km2), and its unique feature is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 feet (800 m) deep. The canyon walls are reddish, and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the Virgin River, which makes the Park most photogenic. The highest peak of the Park is Horse Ranch Mountain and is 8,726 ft (2,660 m) high.
The most convenient airports to get to Zion National Park are Las Vegas International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and
St. George Regional Airport. So, you can find the best flights on TripAdvisor or Skyscanner.com
Car is the best option to get to Zion National Park. If you plan to rent a car, we recommend Alamo. We have been using this company for many years, and it is our favorite one. However, in the Park, cars must be left at the parking lot, and visitors have to use the free shuttle bus, which is a very convenient solution.
Zion National Park Entrance Fee
Private vehicle is $35 per week. Person entering by foot or bicycle: $20 (under 15 is free of charge). But if you plan to visit more than two parks the best idea is to buy America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, for the reason that it costs only $80 per year, and you have access to more than 2,000 National Parks and federal recreation sites in the United States.
Zion National Park Permits
Some activities require a wilderness permit, which can be obtained on Zion website.
- The Narrows hike (top-down)
- The Subway hike (top-down and bottom-up)
- Overnight backpacking
Getting around Zion – Zion Shuttle Bus & Springdale Shuttle Bus
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
First of all, the most important road in the Park is Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and it is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava, which is named for the coyote god of the Paiute Indians. During the most of the year, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only accessible by a free shuttle bus to protect wildlife. So, the Zion Canyon road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October. As a result, you have to leave your car on the car parking next to Visitor Center and take a shuttle bus from the parking.
The buses ride every 15 minutes, or even more often, and start services from 6 am.
You can drive your car on this road only if you are going through the tunnel to East Entrance. So then you have to take a right in Canyon Junction (bus stop number 3). Or you can drive if you have accommodation in Zion Lodge (stop number 5).
Above all, see the shuttle schedule on the Park website for the times and dates of this free service. The coaches are wheelchair accessible and have room for backpacks, climbing gear, and bicycles.
While in Zion Canyon, you may get on and off the shuttle as often as you like.
If you are staying in Springdale, you can take a free shuttle bus from Springdale to Zion, too. In coordination with the Zion Canyon Shuttle, the Springdale Shuttle will pick up and drop off passengers in the town of Springdale. To avoid parking hassles, park in Springdale, and ride the free shuttle to the pedestrian entrance of the park, the closest stop to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You can check hours and stops from Springdale here.
Zion Shuttle Stops
So, there are 9 stops on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Therefore, you can take the bus and get off at any stop. Buses ride every 15 minutes, or even more often. Below you will find information on which trailhead starts at each stop and what are the best views.
1. Visitor Center is located just inside the South Entrance of the park, near Springdale. It’s worth to start your visit from the Visitor Center; you can take the latest maps, check the weather, and get information about the trails, and safety on the trails. Furthermore, you may check whether the trails have not been closed due to the weather conditions. Finally, you can get wilderness permits here. The visitor center is open daily during the following hours:
- Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.;
- Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.;
- Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.;
- Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
|Zion: The Complete Guide||Day Hikes of Zion Map-Guide||Zion Trails Illustrated Map||Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon|
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2. Museum. Zion Human History Museum is a second stop. Located one-half mile north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the museum is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily with longer summer hours. It is closed from November through February. You can see here permanent, and temporary exhibits display the history of Zion National Park. There is also shown a video about the Park, bookstore, and water bottle filling station. Finally, from this stop, you have the views of the Towers of the Virgin and Bridge Mountain, and access to the Pa’rus Trail.
3. Canyon Junction. From this point, you can take Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to East Entrance to 8 and 89 to Mt. Carmel Junction, Grand Canyon National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park. There is a tunnel on this road. Furthermore, no bikes or pedestrians allowed. The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was built in the 1920s when large cars were less frequent. From Canyon Junction point you have views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon, and access to the Pa’rus Trail.
Vehicles 11’4” tall or taller, or 7’10” wide or more full, require one-lane traffic control through the tunnel. Visitors requiring traffic control through the tunnel must pay a $15 fee per vehicle in addition to the entrance fee. Vehicles not permitted in the tunnel include the following: Vehicles over 13’1” tall; Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles; Vehicles carrying hazardous materials; Vehicles weighting more than 50,000 lb; Combined vehicles or buses over 50 ft.
4. Court of the Patriarchs. From this stop, you have to take a short and steep trail to the viewpoint with views of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Peaks, Mount Moroni, and The Sentinel.
5. Zion Lodge. On this stop there is a historic lodge with restaurants, bookstore, restrooms, and water bottle filling stations. You can get here by private car only if you have a reservation in the Lodge. From this stop, you have views of Lady Mountain, Heaps Canyon, and the Virgin River. Finally, from this point, you have access to the Emerald Pools Trails, The Grotto Trail, and Sand Bench Trail.
6. The Grotto. It is a shaded picnic area among cottonwood trees, with restrooms, and water. From this stop, you have excellent views of the Virgin River and Angels Landing, and access to The Grotto Trail, Kayenta Trail, West Rim Trail, and famous Angels Landing Trail via West Rim Trail.
7. Weeping Rock. Dripping springs create hanging gardens. From this stop, you have views of Angels Landing and Big Bend. Furthermore, there is access to the Weeping Rock Trail, as well as Hidden Canyon and Observation Point via the East Rim Trail.
8. Big Bend. From this stop, you have views of the Virgin River, Angels Landing, and The Great White Throne.
9. Temple of Sinawava. First of all, this point is the gateway to The Narrows. One of the best Zion hikes. There are restrooms and water bottle filling stations at this stop. From this stop, you have access to the Riverside Walk with beautiful views, Virgin River, and The Narrows. The Narrows gorge is only 20 feet (6 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) tall.
PROTIP: if you like reading guides, we can recommend our favorite one: Zion: The Complete Guide. It describes all the trails in the park. It not only tells you all the things to see and do in the park- but it has tons of information on the ecology of the park, plants, animals, the history of the park. James Kaiser is an award-winning author and photographer whose work has appeared on the cover of National Geographic. Buy it here.
If you are looking for a good map of Zion National Park our favorite is Zion National Park Trails Illustrated Map.
But if you are planning to visit other parks in Utah, it is most profitable to buy a set of 5 maps for Utah’s Mighty 5.
Zion National Park Weather
The weather in Zion National Park can be surprising. So, always check the Zion weather and alerts on the Park website before your visit. Always be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. Temperatures in the park can vary dramatically with changes in elevation and the time of day. The best idea is dressing in layers to prepare for changes in temperature. Take also a lot of water and extra food.
So, what is the best time to visit Zion National Park? In our opinion it is Autumn.
Spring. You should have warm, sunny weather (rarely over 90 degrees), but it can get rainy often, so be prepared for the rain. Furthermore, temperature also varies with elevation and time of day. It is best to dress for hike in layers. The snowmelt and high water levels last until May, so check the weather before the hike, and finally, check if the trail is open (might be closed because of the weather condition).
Summer. In the summer months, Zion gets hot, with temperatures regularly surpassing 100 °F/38°C. Higher elevations may have temperatures above 90°F/32°C. The monsoon season is from July to September, surprising with thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rain. As a result, some trails like The Subway or The Narrows might be closed due to weather and high water level. Bring extra clothes and check the weather before your hike. Finally, remember that flash floods are often and can be built from even a small amount of water.
Fall. Fall is the best season for visiting Zion. Temperatures cool down, it’s dry, and the trees go full with autumn color. It’s the most beautiful season for hiking and taking pictures. But as always, check the weather before your hike. Be prepared for chilly mornings and evenings.
Winter. It might be cold and wet. Furthermore, some trails might be closed, and roads too, so check alerts before you go. It might be very cold, even freezing temperatures, so take warm clothes.
Zion National Park Lodging – Where to Stay in Zion?
First of all, Zion Lodge is the only “in-park” lodging in Zion. It’s located next to the bus stop number 5, about 4.8 miles to Springdale center and 3.8 miles to Zion National Park South Entrance. It’s a fabulous hotel with excellent reviews. It has cabins, hotels, rooms, and suites. As a result, it’s not cheap, because of it’s unique location and history. Furthermore, if you stay in this hotel, you can drive to this place by your car. But after this point, you have to take a shuttle bus in front of the hotel to get to stops 6 to 9. Finally, Zion Lodge enjoys a lot of interest among tourists, so we advise you to book it for several months in advance.
Lodging in Springdale Utah
Springdale, Utah, is a charming little town. Incredibly picturesque, surrounded by red walls of Zion Canyon. Furthermore, the city has a beautiful aesthetic architecture, too. Finally, you will find here the accommodation, restaurants, souvenir shops. And most of all you will find here outdoor equipment rentals if you need climbing equipment, bikes, or water trekking equipment. Most noteworthy, we advise you to book hotels well in advance. Always check the reviews before making a reservation, e.g., on TripAdvisor. Below you will find hotel suggestions with the highest guest rates and best value for money. But it is not easy to find a cheap and pleasant room in Springdale. So it is also worth checking out towns which are 30-40 minutes’ drive from the Zion National Park. Accommodation prices are much lower in Hildale or La Verkin.
Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites is our personal choice. So, we highly recommend it. We like its high quality. It is located just outside Zion National Park. They are within walking distance to the park, restaurants, and shopping. There is a bus stop for the free shuttle service into the park and around town. Mountains surround the hotel, so you can relax on your balcony and enjoy the views. SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel is surrounded by the canyons of Zion National Park, so every hotel room has a view or partial view of the canyon or Eagle’s Craig.
Driftwood Lodge is less than 2 miles from the entrance to the Zion National Park. It features a seasonal outdoor pool, a hot tub and a picnic area. Access to the Virgin River is also available. Free WiFi is provided.
La Quinta by Wyndham at Zion Park is just 3 miles from Zion National Park. A seasonal outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and fitness center are provided at Zion Park La Quinta Inn and Suites.
Zion Park Motel is set in Springdale, 1 mile from Zion National Park and is 92 metres from the free shuttle to Zion National Park. This 2-star motel offers barbecue facilities. The property provides a children’s playground.
Red Rock Inn Cottages offers a terrace and mountain views, Red Rock Inn Cottages is located in Springdale. Free breakfast is served daily. Zion National park is 1.2 mile from the property.
Hotels near Zion National Park
Apart from Springfield, you have several other towns with attractive accommodation in the area of Zion National Park. Furthermore, the prices are much better. And it’s not so far from the Park, too. So it’s worth to consider lodging in Virgin, La Verkin, Hurricane, Hildale, and Kanab. Finally, you can find budget options, but luxury and original lodging is possible too.
Virgin Utah is around 15 miles from Zion National Park. It’s only 20 minutes’ driving.
A good choice is Zions Tiny Oasis featuring mountain views, free WiFi, and free private parking.
Under Canvas Zion offers a unique lodging experience just as incredible and unique as the park itself. It provides luxury tents. The camp seamlessly blends in with its dramatic surroundings (the majestic red rocks that make the park so famous), and the three options of luxury tents allow guests to enjoy Utah’s spectacular desert without giving up the comforts of home.
Kanab is our favorite town in Utah. We love stay overnight in this charming town. Also, it’s only 30 miles and 40 minutes driving to the Zion National Park. We like its atmosphere, and hiking possibilities. We spent there a few weeks. Our lodging choice in Kanab is Best Western Red Hills, but we also like cheaper Red Canyon Cabins.
Hildale Utah is around 47 miles from Zion National Park (50 minutes driving). If you are looking for original accommodation, it is worth considering luxury tents. You have two option in this area:
Canaan Cliffs Glamping offers tents with a terrace. This tented camp has a garden and free private parking. It is the best location in the area. It is situated on the side of the mountains where you get to see amazing sunsets (and beautiful starry nights).
Zion Luxury Camping offers luxury tents with mountain views that features a bathroom with a shower. This property has a patio and free private parking.
Zion National Park Campgrounds
Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South Campground and Watchman Campground are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. Camping is permitted in designated campsites, but not in pullouts or parking lots. Camping is popular; all campgrounds are often full by mid-morning. From mid-March through late November the campgrounds are full almost every night. So, to make reservations at South Campground and Watchman Campground visit www.recreation.gov if you would like to guarantee a camping spot.
RV Camping near Zion National Park
Zion Canyon Campground & Quality Inn is located in Springdale. It’s only 0.5 mile from South entrance to Zion National Park, and has great reviews.
In Virgin you will find Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground surrounded by majestic mountain views.
WillowWind RV Park is located in Hurricane, which is great home base for Zion, Bryce & Grand Canyon Parks.
But if you are looking free overnight stay you can use BLM area in Utah (Bureau of Land Management), and park in the public lands.
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Best Hikes in Zion National Park
For us, the three best hikes in Zion National Park are Angeles Landing Trail, The Subway and The Narrows. In separate articles you will find details about each of these three hikes with maps and all the necessary information. Below you will find basic info about the most exciting hikes in Zion. Furthermore, they are divided into easy, moderate, and demanding trails.
TRIP TIP: If you are planning holidays in Utah, check our detailed Utah Photography & Travel Guide, where you can find the most exciting & must-see places in Utah and useful hints for trip planning.
Best Easy Hikes in Zion
Shuttle Stop: 1
Hike Location: Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Round Trip Duration: 2 hours, 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Elevation Chage: 50 feet (15 m)
Trail Description: Easy, paved trail follows the Virgin River from the South Campground to Canyon Junction.
Lower Emerald Pool Trail
Shuttle Stop: 5
Hike Location: Zion Lodge
Round Trip Duration: 1 hour, 1.2 miles (1.9 km)
Elevation Chage: 69 feet (21 m)
Trail Description: It’s a nice paved trail which leads you to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Connects to the Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pool Trails.
Weeping Rock Trail
Shuttle Stop: 7
Hike Location: Weeping Rock
Round Trip Duration: 0.5 hour, 0.4 mile (0.6 km)
Elevation Change: 98 feet (30 m)
Trail Description: It’s short, but a little bit steep hike. This paved trail ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs, which looks amazing.
Shuttle Stop: 9
Hike Location: Temple of Sinawava
Round Trip Duration: 1.5 hours, 2.2 miles (3.5 km)
Elevation Chage: 57 feet (17 m)
Trail Description: We love this easy trail. It’s essence of the Zion. Paved trail follows the Virgin River along the bottom of a narrow canyon. It offers beautiful views, sounds of the river and wildlife.
Best Moderate Hikes in Zion
Upper Emerald Pool Trail
Shuttle Stop: 5
Hike Location: Zion Lodge
Round Trip Duration: 1 hour, 1.0 mile (1.6 km)
Elevation Chage: 200 feet (61 m)
Trail Description: It’s a sandy and rocky trail that climbs to the Upper Emerald Pool at the base of a cliff. It’s a great idea to connect it with Lower Emerald Pool Trail.
Shuttle Stop: 6
Hike Location: The Grotto
Round Trip Duration:1.5 hours, 2.0 miles (3.2 km)
Elevation Chage: 150 feet (46 m)
Trail Description: It’ s an unpaved climb to the Emerald Pools. Connects The Grotto to the Emerald Pools Trails.
Best Strenous Hikes in Zion
Angels Landing via West Rim Trail
Shuttle Stop: 6
Hike Location: The Grotto
Round Trip Duration: 4 – 5 hours, 5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Elevation Chage: 1488 feet (453 m)
Trail Description: We love this hike, so you can find details with map in separate article. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit.
The Narrows via Riverside Walk
Shuttle Stop: 9
Hike Location: Temple of Sinawava
Round Trip Duration: up to 8 hours, 14.0 miles (22.5 km)
Elevation Chage: 334 feet (102 m)
Trail Description: We love this hike, so you can find details with map, and how to prepare for it in separate article.
Trailhead Location: Begin the on the Kolob Reservoir Road about 8.2 miles above the town of Virgin.
Round Trip Duration: 8.0 miles, 8 to 10 hours
Trail Description: We love this hike, so you can find details with map, and how to get a permit in our separate article.
One Day in Zion National Park – what to do?
If you have only one day in Zion and would like to see the beauty of the Park, the best idea is to take a shuttle bus at the Visitor Center and drive to the last stop of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive: 9. Temple of Sinawava.
Then get off the bus and go on Riverside Walk. It takes you about 1.5 hours, and views are spectacular. Go to the and of the path, where The Narrows starts. Return to the bus. And then get off at point 6, at The Grotto. From this point, you can get to Angels Landing Trail. You can go to the top, or you can go to the platform where you have spectaculars views too. You can find details in separate article. If you don’t want to climb high, and if you prefer easier hikes, take Lower Emerald Pool Trail (bus stop 5) or Weeping Rock Trail (from bus stop 7). Finally, return to the bus and get off at the 3rd stop. From the bridge next to the road you have a beautiful view of the river and Zion. It is an excellent point for the sunset.
13 Essentials for Your Day Pack
No matter if the trail is short or long, easy or demanding, you always have to be prepared for your hike. Accidents happen, or the weather can change dramatically in a few minutes. That’s why we pack carefully, even for shorts and leisurely walks. Below is a list of our essentials, the most necessary things you must have on the trail. So we pack the essentials even on day hikes. We do not use most of them, but take just in case of emergency. If you are hiking responsibly and carefully, you should have them. They might save your life or someone else life. If something happens on the trail, these items could be essential to your survival.
|Water is most important even during short hikes, so bring a sufficient amount of water, and extra water in case of emergency. Always carry a water treatment method, f.e.tablets. Check before the hike if there any water sources on the trail. The best idea is to take a light water reservoir.|
|Take a salty snack, as high energy protein bars and beef jerky or other high - calorie meals, as nuts and sandwiches. Always take extra portions.|
|Always take a
|GPS watch or GPS device allows you to find your location on a digital map accurately. They are waterproof and robust. Another option is to use a smartphone with a GPS app, but often there is no connection on the trails. If you have a phone, remember not to use its battery. Finally, monitor your battery power.|
|First aid kit with blister care, duct tape. It will help you handle unexpected moments (includes CPR Mask, Bandaids, Blanket, Tourniquet and more)|
|Headlap or flashlight with spare batteries. Yes, we take it with us even if the hike is lasting only a few hours during the day. A long time ago we lost during the day and then we had to come back through the wilderness at night. You never know what will happen, that's why we always have headlamp with us.|
|Emergency sleeping bag, which serves as your emergency blanket, survival shelter, and emergency bivy sack all-in-one.|
|Pocket Knife with Multitool it's ideal for outdoor activities like camping, and hiking. It's essentail for gear repair, food preparation, first aid.|
|Fire Starter, because in case of an emergency, you need to have reliable supplies with you for starting and maintaining a fire.|
|Emergency Whistles is must-have, too. Battery in the cellphone will run down, or there will be no coverage on the trail, and this is the only way you can call for help.|
|Sun protection. Always pack with you and wear sunglasses, sun-protection hat and sunscreen.|
|Always carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stranded or injured on the trail.|
|Extra Clothes. Even for short hikes, we dress in layers. We always have high trekking shoes with reliable traction, and we use trekking poles, too. But we always put it in the backpack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. We add a warm hoodie, raincoat, gloves, a hat, and socks,in case of weather breakdown.|
Balance Water and Food
Do not force yourself for fluids. Drink when you are thirsty and stop when you are quenched. Snacks are also important during your hike. Because over-hydration can lead to hyponatremia. So take high-proteins snacks and balance water and food during your hike.
Knows the Signs of Hyponatremia, Hypothermia and Heat Illness
Signs of Hyponatremia
Hyponatremia is a low sodium concentration in the blood. It is caused by over-hydration. So you should always balance hydration with salty and high-protein snacks and meals, or electrolytes, or protein bars, and you should rest frequently. Mild symptoms include a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, difficulty walking, and poor balance. Severe symptoms include confusion, seizures, and even coma.
Signs of Hyphothermia
Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) in humans. Symptoms depend on the temperature. Hypothermia is a condition in which heat is lost faster than the body can produce it. It occurs when someone is exposed to external factors that lower body temperature for a long time, e.g., ice water or in the cold. Signs of hypothermia: uncontrolled shivering, exhaustion, and confusion. The best idea is to take extra dry clothes, like thermal underwear (for men or women), and put on dry clothing. Drink warm water and liquids, protect yourself from cold, wind, rain, or snow by using warm clothes (as waterproof layers, warm hoodie) and emergency shelter or emergency sleeping bag.
Signs of Heat Illness
Heat illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure human body to heat. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat exhaustion, as well as the more severe disease known as heat stroke. Signs of heat illness are headaches, dizziness, vomiting and nausea, cramping, and decreased urine output. So remember that hydration is most important during your hike, take a lot of water, but you should balance it with high-energy foods, as high protein bars or beef jerky. Rest in the shade, and remember to protect your head, and body by the sun.
Take Care of Your Body
Watch your body while hiking. Even experienced hikers have weaker days. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, take a rest. Drink and eat salty and high-proteins snack and rest as long as you feel better.
If you are cold, put on extra layers and eat. If you are hot, drink more water and rest in the shade. Protect your body by the sun.
Restore Your Energy & Avoid Heat
We use much more energy during the hike. So eat more before you start hiking, even double your average intake.
And take extra snacks for the trail. Calories play an essential role in regulating body temperature and affect our behavior during hiking.
If you go on the trail in the summer months, start hiking early in the morning. You will avoid heat. During noon take more extended breaks in the shade, relax and enjoy the views, but avoid exhausting hiking at noon.
Always take extra clothing. Even in summer, you can cool down the body. Be prepared for the weather changes.
During winter, take extra clothes too, especially waterproof and windproof and extra socks. Always take a warm hat, gloves, and thermal underwear.
Remember about Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is the basis of the journey. No matter if you are going an easy or slanderous hike, accidents may happen. It’s crucial to travel safely. We always use World Nomads.
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
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We want to make sure you get the most from WorldNomads.com. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.