With civil disturbances and uprisings erupting in countries around the world, you need to check your official government travel advisories before beginning any trip abroad. (The easiest way to do that is right from our travel links page.) Failure to check could invalidate your travel insurance. We’ll explain how.
Most travel insurance policies specify that if your government issues an official warning against travel to a certain country, or parts of it, BEFORE your travel insurance goes into effect, some or all parts of your coverage may be curtailed. It may limit your medical benefits, losses due to disruption, or loss of baggage—and you may need to make your own arrangements to get out of that country and/or return home.
If the warning is issued only AFTER your coverage goes into effect and you are already in the country, you will usually be fully covered (so long as you abide by the conditions set down when you bought the policy, and you aren’t an active participant in the disturbance). There are some policies that will also allow you a short time, for example 10 days, to get out of the troubled area or country before you encounter coverage restrictions.
Since travel insurance policies vary, we can’t be more specific right here. But you need to read the part of the policy that covers “exclusions” and check with your insurance agent to make sure understand those limitations. Also check out the warnings not only for the country you are intending to visit, but those you may be travelling through on your way there and home.
This is how you can find that information:
Canadians, consult the Canadian government’s travel reports and warnings. You can click on the countries you want to investigate and if you see “avoid all travel,” or “avoid all non-essential travel” to a country or part of it, that’s where your limitations may kick in.
Americans can consult the US Department of State’s travel warnings page, which lists all countries with warnings and alerts and describes the specifics of the danger zones. You can also click on specific country warnings and find the same information.
Citizens of the UK should visit the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s travel advice page, where you can click on specific countries to find the various warning levels.
There occasionally are differences in how the countries rate their alert levels, but I find it a good idea to scan all three government pages and go by the highest alert level as your guide. Usually, if one country posts an alert to avoid all travel, the others will follow soon enough.
It’s also a good idea to check on the country you are planning to visit to find other advice, such as visa requirements and health requirements. More and more countries are now requiring visitors to have proof of travel insurance before being allowed entry. We’ll be doing a more extensive post on that issue very soon, so stay tuned.