With Mexico’s drug wars now extending into Cancun (they have long affected Acapulco and the rest of the Pacific coast), some prospective tourists are asking if travel insurance might (or might not) protect them in case they fall into harm’s way. I can only say: It depends on where you are and what you’re doing.
First: Read this sobering report—to add to the many that come out of Mexico almost daily. According to the article, three people were tortured and killed in Cancun on Wednesday of last week. On the same day, an 8-year-old boy was killed in the crossfire of a gunfight between drug cartel members and policemen.
The report goes on to state that “nearly 30,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico after President Felipe Calderon took office in Dec. 2006.”
Of course, travel insurance can’t protect you from getting shot or blown up in a café, but if you are wounded and need medical attention it can cover your costs of medical care—but there are limitations. We asked one of our resident travel insurance experts, Matt Davies, Senior Product Specialist for Ingle International, to give us his perspective.
Davies told us that Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has already issued warnings to avoid non-essential travel to the northern states bordering the US, where drug violence is most rampant. But it has also recommended that travellers exercise “a high degree of caution” throughout Mexico. Davies notes that “all Canadian travel medical insurance policies exclude expenses related to a DFATD warning and/or expenses related to a criminal act.” Some medical policies also exclude expenses related to civil commotion, or civil unrest, or terrorism. The wording of these is important. Study those words well.
What this means to you is that if you are in an area you have been expressly warned to stay away from by your government, your travel insurance benefits may be nullified. On the other hand, if you are an innocent bystander and you take a bullet or piece of shrapnel by being too close to an unexpected outbreak of violence, you will likely be covered—unless you were trying to buy some drugs from one of the participants in the crossfire. And if you were, you’re probably not smart enough to have bought insurance anyway. If you’re a participant in the crime or uprising or civil unrest, you will very likely not be covered.
All travel insurance policies in Canada now have some reference to coverage in areas stricken by war, terrorism, civil unrest, political protest, or a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, or volcanic eruption. It’s important for you to know the exclusions that apply for such unexpected events, no matter where you’re travelling.
For example, if you were in London last week and inadvertently got hit by a bottle or a brick thrown by a protester, you would likely be covered for the costs of getting your head patched up. But if you sided with the protesters and started throwing a few things yourself, or tried to pull a policeman off a horse, you would be on your own.