Advisory for Travel Insurance to the Middle East

As of January 31, Canadian, US, and British governments have warned their citizens to avoid all travel to Egypt and have sent aircraft to evacuate those who want to leave.

Canada’s government has offered to fly Canadians stranded in Egypt to Europe on a cost-recovery basis, leaving them to make their own arrangements to get home. This means that their evacuation will be charged back to them—but if they had trip interruption insurance in place before the warning was issued, they will be able to recover their costs of repatriation. However, any insurance purchased for future travel that might include Egypt will not provide benefits in that country so long as the “Avoid All Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel” warnings are posted.

Also, if you had a trip to Egypt planned in the coming months and you had already purchased insurance with trip cancellation benefits (prior to the travel warning being issued), you may be able to cancel and recover any prepaid portion of your trip that is not recoverable from your airline, destination hotel, tour operator, or other vendor.

Because the situation in Egypt is so explosive—and its effects could reverberate throughout the region—you need travel insurance protection for any anticipated travel to any part of the Middle East and North Africa for the foreseeable future, and you should be constantly aware of any official government alerts and warnings for travel to your planned destination. (You can find these alerts on our Travel Links page.)

Travel insurance can’t protect you from a stray bullet, a bomb blast, or a physical assault if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it can help you and your travel partners get help and guidance if you’re stranded, or if you get stuck in an airport or hotel, or lose your baggage, or run up medical bills due to an injury caused by incidental and unforeseen exposure to rioting or disobedience.

The rule of thumb is that if your government issues a travel warning before your insurance is effective and your trip is underway, insurance will not cover you to the country or region under warning. But if the warning is issued only after you are already in the country and you have valid insurance, you will be covered within the limits of the policy. But you need to understand those limits. For example, if you intentionally wander into an area where rioting is going on, or you get involved, or you carry a placard, or you don’t follow instructions from authorities to stay confined to your hotel or otherwise stay out of harm’s way, your chances of recovering losses or getting benefits are minimal.

Also, you will not be covered for losses that are recoverable from your tour operator, or airline, or hotel—or if your government offers to evacuate you by any means and you decline because you want the first-class seat you paid for. You can’t double dip. Travel insurance is there for emergencies only. It is not a backup in case you get inconvenienced by other circumstances.

This coming spring and summer, and possibly beyond, travel to any part of the Middle East  or North Africa will involve heightened risk—in some cases a lot of risk. Travel to this region without insurance has become unthinkable. But in buying your insurance you have to know the exclusions as well as the benefits, and though it is daunting to consider reading all of the fine print—this is one time when you really must. Discuss exclusions as well as benefits with your travel insurance specialist, especially those relating to trip cancellations, disruptions, and evacuations, and read the civil disruption/terrorism clauses.

To stay abreast of official government travel warnings, consult the sources on our Travel Links page. They are official and up-to-the-minute.

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