Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has warned Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to downtown Christchurch in the wake of the recent earthquake. What does that mean for your travel insurance?
If you are already in New Zealand, your benefits will remain intact so long as you follow all of the warnings and directives issued by local authorities and don’t put yourself in harm’s way in the restricted downtown area. There is a curfew in effect—heed it. If you want to take pictures to send back home, or if you volunteer for rescue services in that area, you may impair some of your benefits. Stay away. Let somebody else take the pictures and do the rescue work.
If you have not yet left for New Zealand and your insurance is not yet in effect, follow DFATD’s warning advisory and stay out of downtown Christchurch. And if you plan on staying downtown with friends or relatives or intend to check into a downtown hotel within the limits of the restricted area, don’t. Any injuries or losses you incur there—say from looters, for example, or from aftershocks—may very well void some of your coverage, as travel insurance policies tend to sharply limit benefits in areas for which the government has issued “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” warnings. Until those warnings are downgraded or withdrawn, just stay away.
Similarly, if you have not yet begun your trip to New Zealand and choose to cancel, talk to your travel insurance agent before you make any major cancellations or changes to your itinerary. Some of these changes may be covered by your insurance, but others may not, and you don’t want to make an error that’s going to forfeit some of the money you have already paid out. Don’t assume that any change you make will be covered, 100 per cent. It won’t be. There are exclusions and just a few minutes with your agent can help you avoid the pitfalls that sometimes lurk in the fine print. Just make sure your agent is a specialist in travel insurance.