Planning a trip to Europe this summer? Stay on your guard. Be flexible with your itinerary, pay out as little money as possible for reservation deposits, make sure you get trip cancellation and interruption benefits when buying your travel insurance, and keep close watch on government travel alerts and advisories about the countries you will be visiting or through which you will be transiting. (You can access these official websites directly from our Travel Links page.)
The Russian intervention in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula has raised warning levels throughout Europe and beyond. This is not a local altercation. It has potentially global implications, and you can be confident that security forces in all major airports and land border-crossing points (especially in Europe) will be on heightened alert through the summer.
Consequently, you need to understand how travel insurance can protect you, should a country you are heading to suddenly turn from friend to foe. Remember how quickly Egypt went from trip-of-a-lifetime to chaos, just two years ago, and how thousands of vulnerable tourists relied on the expertise of emergency assistance professionals to get them out of harm’s way and bring them home.
The lesson from that experience was not to stay at home. It was to prepare yourself for whatever might happen.
As of March 7, 2014, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) was advising travellers to Ukraine to “exercise a high degree of caution… due to the prevalence of crimes of opportunity.” That warning was for the country as a whole. But DFATD also issued a supplemental regional advisory warning “against all travel to Crimea due to the armed operations, demonstrations and clashes.”
The advisory continues, “If you are presently in Crimea, you should consider leaving while it is safe to do so. If you are unable to exit the country safely, remain indoors and avoid large crowds and demonstrations. The airports in Crimea are not currently operational…” This split decision is similar to DFATD’s advisories for Mexico: “high degree of caution” for the country as a whole, but “avoid all travel” for Mexico’s northern states that are embroiled in drug-related murders and other forms of violence.
Related: Mexico Still Under Security Warnings
DFATD monitors safety and security in virtually all countries on a routine basis and rates them according to four levels:
- Exercise normal security precautions (what you would expect in the US, UK, France, etc.)
- Exercise a high degree of caution (Mexico, India, Brazil, etc.)
- Avoid non-essential travel (Nigeria, Lebanon, etc.)
- Avoid all travel (Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, etc.)
Travel insurers differ somewhat in their application of these warning levels. But generally, if the government issues a warning to “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” to a country or region prior to your purchase of travel insurance for a trip to that country or region, your benefits may be restricted. In effect, they warned you not to go before you went, making it your responsibility.
However, if DFATD issues the warning only after you started your trip, you may retain all of your benefits, but you will likely be warned to get out of harm’s way: you will need to leave the country or region under warning. Some will give you 10 days—others less.
In a world growing more dangerous, you have at least two options: prepare for it, or stay home. That’s an easy decision.