Travel Insurance for Countries with Travel Warnings
If the Australian government advises you against travel to a specific country, travel insurance typically won't cover you.
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
How do travel warnings work?
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) maintains Smartraveller, a website for Australians who are planning travel or are already overseas. Along with general information and advice on a range of travel topics, Smartraveller provides official travel advisories for destinations worldwide.
What are the advice levels?
As part of Smartraveller's travel advisories, each destination is assigned an official advice level which reflects the risks for Australian travellers. Sometimes, cities or regions within a country will have different levels because of specific risks or safety concerns. There are four levels:
- Level 1 - Exercise normal safety precautions
- Level 2 - Exercise a high degree of caution
- Level 3 - Reconsider your need to travel
- Level 4 - Do not travel
Why do countries get tagged with 'do not travel' warnings?
A higher advice level is applied to countries that are more dangerous to visit. This could be due to civil unrest, a severe weather warning or an act of terror. Some recent examples of travel warnings include the Zika virus outbreak in 2016, the Lombok earthquake in 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do travel warnings affect travel insurance?
Travel insurance policies detail what is and isn't included in its Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and this is where you will find a list of general exclusions. These are scenarios where you will not be covered for any reason.
One common exclusion is if your trip is affected by a natural disaster or known event. Some insurance providers will consider an event a known event if there is a travel warning against visiting that destination.
What is a known event?
A known event, in insurance terms, is when an event that's unexpected, sudden or unforeseen actually happens. For example, if a volcano erupts at your destination, that becomes a known event. If you choose to book a trip once the event happens or are already overseas and choose to continue travelling, then your insurance will likely become void for that event.
When am I not covered?
Like any type of insurance there are certain conditions you need to be aware of before you purchase. When it comes to travelling after a travel warning is issued, it's clear that you will not be covered. Some insurers will not cover you for destinations with a 'Do not travel' warning and others will also include destinations with a 'Reconsider your need to travel' warning in its list of exclusions.
There are, however, other scenarios when you may not be covered on your insurance policy:
Travel insurance purhased after the fact
Most insurers will not cover a claim if you buy travel insurance before your trip but after a travel warning is issued for your destination. This includes both cancellations fees if you need to cancel and medical expenses if you do decide to travel and become sick or injured.
Changing your mind
You won't be covered if you purchase your trip and insurance 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 cancellation.
If you decide that you must travel to a country with a travel warning in place or after an event occurs that can be considered a known event, you will not be covered by your travel insurance. The Australian Government advises that it's not responsible for your safety and consular assistance won't be provided.
Regardless of when a travel warning is issued, your insurance policy might consider certain events to be excluded across the board. Events you are unlikely to be covered for include:
- Severe weather
- 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
- Contagious diseases and epidemics
- Terrorist attacks
- Nuclear reaction or contamination as a result of nuclear weapons or radioactivity
- Biological and/or chemical materials, substances or compounds
What happens if there is a travel warning issued after I've booked my trip?
The only circumstance in which you will be covered for countries or regions 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.
If you've purchased insurance and already started your trip when a travel warning is issued, you may not be covered if you receive advice from the government to leave and choose not to.
How can I make sure I'm covered?
- Review your destination's travel advisory and check the travel warning before booking any travel
- Purchase insurance as soon as possible after booking your trip and make sure to review the PDS for inclusions and exclusions
- Sign up for Smartraveller alerts for your chosen destination so you're aware when a travel warning is issued
- Avoid unsafe areas and high-risk situations
- Follow advice from local media or any government or official body while travelling
- Don't intentionally expose yourself to unnecessary risk
Can I get travel insurance if I'm going to a risky country that does not have an official warning?
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 advises 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.
Claiming for the avoidable
While you might be technically covered under your policy if there is no travel warning, your insurance may not be valid due to another common travel insurance exclusion: If you fail to act responsibly or take care.
- Smartraveller Travel Warnings
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