International travel can be one of life’s most wonderful experiences for travelers of all ages. But what if your travel plans include a country with civil unrest or growing tensions with neighboring countries?
If you have relatives or friends in these countries or can’t postpone travel to high-risk areas, trip insurance should be a top priority when planning and budgeting for your trip. Many travelers wonder if travel insurance covers an act of war, and we’ll explore this topic in detail below.
Most travel insurance policies exclude war, acts of war, and political unrest from trip cancellation coverage, meaning most claims related to those events are denied. However, trip insurance policies are vague regarding the definition of war, resulting in each claim being handled individually.
If you are concerned about coverage, typically, compensation is given to travelers who meet the policy’s specific definition of Terrorism (if the policy offers terrorism as a covered reason) or have added Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage to their main policy.
Let’s look at what travel insurance coverage is available for covering an act of war, what you need to know when traveling abroad and how to stay safe when visiting a high-risk destination.
Emergency medical insurance is often a compulsory component of travel insurance. It covers treatment and costs resulting from an unexpected illness or accident while traveling.
It generally covers illness and injuries resulting from war (or war-like situations) while on vacation. However, the insurance does not cover illness or injury after a declaration of war at your destination. Since the war was evident before you traveled, any illness or injury is an added risk that you were already informed about and will not be covered.
If your travel insurance policy is vague or lacks coverage for acts of war, you might consider purchasing an optional CFAR upgrade when purchasing your policy. A CFAR policy allows you to call off your trip for any reason, including fear of war or an act of war.
To be eligible to add CFAR to your policy, you must add it within 7-21 days of putting any money toward your trip booking. You must also insure 100% of your prepaid and non-refundable travel costs.
A CFAR policy allows you to cancel within 2-3 days before departure. Typically, with CFAR, you will receive a reimbursement of 50%-75% of your trip costs. However, CFAR plans can have different requirements and payouts, so it’s best to read the fine print of your policy for complete details. A CFAR policy or any reputable travel insurance should offer financial compensation and overall assistance when you need it.
Some travelers who purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy believe that it provides complete coverage for every event, but that is not the case. For example, most comprehensive policies have an exclusion for trip cancellation due to civil unrest.
The main reason you will be denied compensation is due to “known peril.” A known peril is something the traveler would reasonably know before purchasing the policy. The insurer must decide whether the event was unforeseen or common knowledge at policy purchase.
Insurance companies will sometimes look to the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory System to determine a known peril.
Travelers can also access this website that lists countries with high-risk travel advisories. If you decide to travel to one of these high-risk countries, your insurance provider will sometimes assume that you know the added risks and not cover trip-related issues.
However, if you are visiting relatives or deem the trip benefits outweigh the risks, you can purchase a CFAR policy to help you get a refund if travel plans are delayed, changed, or canceled due to civil unrest or acts of war.
Some travel insurance plans may include political or security evacuation coverage. If your policy has this coverage, you will receive compensation for transportation to the nearest safe haven during your trip.
The political or security event must be a natural disaster, a civil, military, or political unrest in a foreign country (local or the United States authorities must issue a written recommendation), or expulsion by a country in which you are traveling in order to qualify for compensation.
Keep in mind that high-risk countries are generally excluded from the coverage list, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, North Korea, etc. Travelers also have a limited time to request transportation to a safe haven (usually seven days).
In general, civil unrest is different from acts of terrorism. Although both events are not to be taken lightly, civil unrest and terrorism must remain black and white when a trip insurance company reviews your claim.
All policies generally differ in wording on what they cover and what separates civil unrest from terrorism. For example, travel insurance companies rely on the United States federal government to declare the time and location as an act of terrorism. Therefore, you also must buy the policy before an act of terrorism has been declared. Otherwise, you assume the risk if able to travel.
An act of terrorism is commonly defined as:
- United States government deems the attack an act of terrorism
- The act of terrorism must occur in or near a city on the traveler’s itinerary
- The act of terrorism must occur within 7-30 days of arrival
- The location of the act of terrorism must be incident-free for a specified amount of time before the attack
It can be challenging to speak the native language, navigate a new area, or reach friends and family when traveling abroad. Therefore, the United States State Department has created a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for U.S. citizens and nationals to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The STEP program is free, and you will automatically receive alerts and warnings as they are released while traveling. The program also keeps tabs on who is traveling when, so you will have additional help to get to safety if the unthinkable happens.
It’s essential to be observant when visiting an area known for civil unrest. Always keep an eye out for areas that can be tourist traps, seek out exit points, respect cultures, and never go out alone at night. Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times during your trip.
It would be best if you also carried a passport with you when traveling to your destination and as you travel out and about during your trip. Some countries do not recognize your United States driver’s license as a valid form of I.D., but a passport is accepted in all countries. A passport can also help you expedite help from the United States Embassy and Consulate.
Insurance companies recommend purchasing a policy in conjunction with booking plane tickets or a travel package. The earlier you purchase, the longer you can be covered for unforeseen events and the easier it is to be eligible for optional upgrades such as CFAR. In order to save money, it is best to compare travel insurance plans to find the right coverage at the right price.
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