Most seasoned travellers are aware that it is wise to check the current situation in their destination country before booking any trips. Once plans are in place it is a good idea to purchase travel insurance – with immediate effect so that it includes protection for Cancellation and Curtailment.
Travel plans may be affected by weather events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, heavy snow, flooding, and tropical storms. Other travel problems include disease outbreaks or pandemics, volcanic eruptions, political unrest, civil war and terrorist attacks. Information of this type is normally easily picked up through the media via newspapers, television, radio, and the internet.
The internet is, without question, the most useful tool available to travellers in today’s world as it is so quick and easy to do a search for your destination country, resort, and hotel and find any relevant and updated information. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have also made it much easier to communicate information – good and bad. Hotel review sites tend to be controversial but many travellers still rely on them before booking their hotel or accommodation.
To find the very latest travel updates and to check whether any advisories against travel are in effect, it is wise to check the government website of your country of residence. This is a good habit to get into and it should be at the top of your travel checklist along with checking your passport expiration, visa requirements, taking out travel insurance, and checking with your doctor regarding any needed vaccinations..
Before planning any travel or holidays visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, or similar government agency for your country, to check if there are any potential problems brewing in your destination country. For example:
- Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (smartraveller.gov.au)
- Canada: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (voyage.gc.ca)
- Ireland (Eire): Department of Foreign Affairs (dfa.ie)
- New Zealand: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (safetravel.govt.nz)
- UK: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk)
- USA: Department of State (travel.state.gov)
In the case of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they provide extensive and updated travel advice and information on their website as part of their ”Know Before You Go’ campaign, which is aimed to assist travellers and help them avoid inadvertently getting into trouble overseas. The wealth of important information includes local laws and customs, visa and passport requirements, driving advice, the political situation, transportation advice, street crime and scams to watch for, emergency contact information, healthcare, travel insurance, and much more.
As an example, let’s imagine that you decide to treat your family to a sunshine holiday at a Red Sea resort in Egypt. You find a great package deal and go ahead and book. You check the family passports to make sure they have not expired, book the airport long-stay parking and purchase travel insurance. You arrive at your destination and the next day discover that there are protests and demonstrations in the streets of Cairo – and they are turning violent. You discover that your home country’s government has issued an advisory for its citizens against all non-essential travel to Egypt. You are worried and wonder if this will affect you – or your travel insurance. Fortunately, because the trouble did not occur until after you had booked the holiday you could not have reasonably foreseen the problem and your insurance should still cover any valid claims.
The difference is that If you book a trip to a trouble spot after a serious problem has arisen and it has been covered in the media most insurers will view this as having taken an unnecessary risk because it is reasonable to assume that you should have been aware.
Travel Insurance policies vary in their terms and conditions and what is and is not included. Play it safe and, at a minimum, always check to make sure that the policy covers all your planned activities, has adequate medical insurance, and includes medical repatriation. A cheap policy may be perfectly adequate for your needs but sometimes it is worth paying a little extra – just in case.
Jean Andrews is an employee of Travel Insurance Agencies Ltd (TIA Ltd). Jean regularly contributes informative articles about travel insurance and travel related matters.