Travel Insurance for Countries with Travel Warnings
Thinking of visiting an unstable country against official government advice? Make sure your travel insurance covers the destination.
If you’re planning to travel to a country that is unstable, it’s crucial you find out if your destination is covered by your insurer. Insurers exclude certain countries from cover due to the high risk they present to travellers.
Often travel insurers will reference the alert levels from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading (DFAT). Exclusions may apply to destinations with DFAT warnings advising either:
- Do not travel
- Reconsider your need to travel
If Australian Government warnings exist or are upgraded to before the date your policy is issued, this is how you will be covered:<
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*Reasonable care: not deliberately putting yourself in danger and avoid specific parts of a country which may actually be considered "Do not travel" and minimising potential claims.
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*Last confirmed as correct on 28 March 2018.
Some countries are considered dangerous but not enough to attract any official warning from travel advisories.
For example, India is known for high levels of crime, civil unrest and traffic accidents, but no more so than many other developing nations, so they do not attract an overall travel warning. However, the Australian Government advisers against travel to some parts of India due to local political and religious tensions and the threat of terrorism. The same is true for parts of southern Thailand.
While you are covered you must avoid dangerous areas and take care
If a country is not under an official government warning, you should be covered by your travel insurance policy as long as you exercise caution at all times and avoid high-risk situations. Failure to do so could mean you fall foul of the following exclusion found in many policies:
We will not provide cover if you fail to take reasonable precautions to avoid a financial loss after a public warning of a strike, riot, civil commotion or natural disaster has been issued.
All travel insurance policies have exclusions that apply if you don’t take necessary precautions to avoid high-risk situations or at the very least reduce the likelihood of a claim. Events you are unlikely to be covered for include:
- Severe weather
- Contagious diseases and epidemics
- Terrorist attacks
- Any act of war, whether war has been declared or not as a result of rebellion, revolution, insurrection or taking of power by the military
- Nuclear reaction or contamination as a result of nuclear weapons or radioactivity
- Biological and/or chemical materials, substances or compounds
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The only circumstance in which you will be covered for countries with travel warnings is if the warning is issued after you have booked your trip and purchased your travel insurance. In this situation, you are sometimes covered for any cancellations that occur.
You won’t be covered if you purchase your trip and policy and then decide not to travel to a country where no warning has been issued because you feel you would be unsafe. Most insurers will not accept change of mind as an acceptable reason for trip cancellations, although some providers such as InsureandGo will cover you if a travel warning is upgraded before you leave and you decide not to travel to the destination as a result.
Direct losses from civil unrest, violence or terrorism are not covered by most insurers. If sudden instability in country is unforeseen, you can still get cover if you are injured in the country you are visiting due to these reasons. However, you must adhere to government advice and not deliberately put yourself in danger.
How travelling against government advice can void your travel insurance:
Simon travelled home to visit his family in Somalia, a country where a civil war has been raging for years. Simon knew there was a government warning advising against travel to Somalia but he took out travel insurance anyway, believing he would be covered.
Simon had his belongings and travel documents stolen at gun point by a young group of thugs, as he made his way through a backstreet in a rental vehicle . Simon tried to make a claim with his insurer, only to discover he was not covered. He was forced to remain with his relatives in Somalia for several harrowing weeks until his travel documents could be replaced by friends in Australia. If he had been covered by travel insurance, the problem would have been fixed in a matter of days.
A "do not travel" warning means a country is extremely dangerous to visit, if not because it is a war zone then at the very least because there is armed conflict or violent crime occurring and the risk to personal safety is extreme.
If must travel to a 'do not travel' country
If you must travel to such a country for personal or business reasons, the Australian Government advises that it’s not responsible for your safety and consular assistance won’t be provided. You must take your own security precautions while you are there.
Countries with a "do not travel" status are generally highly unstable environments and you should not visit them for this reason. If you’re already there, consider leaving immediately if the status is upgraded to "do not travel".
According to the Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the world’s five most dangerous travel destinations are:
- Somalia. A civil war has been raging since 1991, claiming hundreds of thousands of casualties.
- Iraq. The Iraqi people are dealing with the expansion of the Islamic State.
- South Sudan. Ethnic violence between rival nomadic tribes has led to numerous casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
- Afghanistan. The ongoing Afghan civil war and military action by allied forces has seen tens of thousands of casualties since 2001.
- Syria. The civil war is believed to be responsible for almost 200,000 deaths since 2011.
Not sure whether your destination is considered high-risk? Jump on the Smartraveller website to see the latest travel warnings. You might also want to check our travel destination pages to learn more about the common travel risks of these countries. If you’re still not sure whether or not you will be covered, check with your insurer before purchasing your policy.
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