Not since the Second World War has international travel been as precarious as it is today. No matter what your destination, check your government’s international travel advisory agency before leaving. And if you have travel insurance, check to see if it will cover you at that destination.
In the US, the Department of State; in Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD); and in the UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issue round-the-clock travel advisories warning their citizens about travel to certain countries, or areas within countries, because of natural or manmade disruptions—for example, civil riots, earthquakes, war, volcanic ash, epidemics, and so on.
Most travel insurance policies will suspend coverage of all or some of their key benefits if “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel” warnings were posted by your government before you purchased your travel insurance or began your trip. If the alert was raised after you began your trip, your insurer may assist you out of the area, or may give you a short time to get out of harm’s way before cancelling any of your benefits. Since insurers have different rules about what they cover or exclude, you need to be familiar with the fine print on this issue for any plan you buy.
Some policies will also restrict their limitations only to benefits directly related to the cause of the government advisory. For example, if you recently travelled to Japan after your government warned you not to, and you then become ill due to unsanitary conditions in a tsunami-ravaged area, don’t expect to have your hospital bills paid.
This year, government travel warnings have been issued for countries, or regions within countries, on every continent except Antarctica. Some have been generated by natural disasters, others manmade. But it is now becoming a traveller’s rule for survival to carefully check out one’s destination before leaving home. Travel insurance can protect against a multitude of eventualities. But its protections are not absolute.
You can access all three government travel warning sites from our Travel Links page.