If you’re planning any offshore travel out of the western hemisphere this summer, take a good look at your World Atlas and be prepared to prune down your choices. We’re living in dangerous times, but that doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off from civilization and content yourself with backyard barbecues.
With Russia chipping away at the Ukraine, recent memories of the Paris shootings still fresh and frightening, and the beheading of Egyptian Christians in Libya seared into our brains, this is not the time to become an explorer. But if you take common-sense precautions you can still enjoy your travel.
At various times over the past four years we have advised international travellers to be vigilant and prepared for the unexpected, no matter where they are headed. We have gathered the key articles into sequential order so you can review them all, and perhaps find some answers to apply to your own travel plans.
Preparing for the Unexpected
Connect yourself to travel.gc.ca, Canada’s travel warning system. It’s a great site that gives you daily reports on trouble spots to avoid, health risks, terrorism, or civil disruptions, all in real time, along with warning levels for every country you might be travelling to: 1) Exercise normal security precautions, 2) Exercise a high degree of caution, 3) Avoid all non-essential travel, 4) Avoid all travel. (You can find this and more resources on TIF’s Travel Links Page.)
The government site cautions that private supplemental travel insurance is necessary, no matter where you go or how long you stay. But pay attention to the warning levels. They are more than just advisory.
- If the government issues warnings at level 3 or 4 before you begin your trip, the insurer may place limitations on your benefits (e.g., no coverage for accidents or other medical emergencies while in the specified country or zone). If the warning is issued after you have begun your trip and you are already in the danger zone, your insurer may give you time to get out. You’d better do it.
- Trip cancellation or interruption insurance is also a necessity in case level 3 and/or level 4 warnings change your travel itinerary. Trip insurance does not cover everything, but it does cover some accommodation and tour deposits you have paid, as well as some meal and hotel costs while your trip is rearranged. But there are limits and you need to read the fine print. Don’t expect to be staying at Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carlton while your itinerary is being rearranged. We’re talking subsistence here, not luxury.
- It’s also wise to connect yourself to the US Department of State’s travel warning services. They give you some added information.
Both government sites also urge you to register with them so that if you do get caught up in areas of incipient danger, they can more effectively offer some assistance. Not money or plane tickets. But assistance.
You also need to make sure you have plenty of time left on your passport. At least six months. You never know where your detours may take you. And definitely carry proof of your supplemental private insurance. Many European countries require at least €30,000 ($46,000 CAD) worth of health care. Canadian travel insurers’ benefits range from $1 million to $5 million, so that’s no problem. But showing only provincial health insurance cards just doesn’t cut it. It’s also a good idea to carry the complete policy with you.
In addition, follow our usual guidelines for travelling abroad: Don’t look like a tourist with a camera around your neck, jewellery dripping from your wrists, or jackets and hats emblazoned with the maple leaf or the flag. Enjoy your trip. But don’t leave your common sense behind on your living room credenza.