Travel insurance protects you from unexpected out-of-pocket costs for eligible expenses when you are travelling outside of Canada – but you must pay attention to government travel advisories.
The Government of Canada closely monitors conditions abroad and sometimes issues travel advisories – advice to help you ensure your personal safety and security. SBIS has detailed what a travel advisory is, where to find up-to-date advisories, and tips for safe travel here.
In countries where the government advises against non-essential travel, your travel insurance coverage may be affected. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on how a travel advisory affects your travel insurance.
It’s up to you to decide whether to travel to a country that has a travel advisory. It is also up to you to decide what constitutes “non-essential travel” based on family or business requirements, knowledge of a country or region, and other factors.
Likely, your concern is that cancelling your scheduled trip will cost you money. Travel insurers consider the Canadian government’s travel advisories when determining whether your choice to cancel your trip will qualify for a refund. They have no legal or contractual obligation to make the refund based on a travel advisory, but sometimes they allow it if the warning was issued after you booked your trip.
First, always make sure to buy your travel insurance early when booking a trip, because timing affects what will be covered. For example, coverage purchased on or after the day a weather advisory storm is named will usually make any weather-related claims ineligible. And if severe weather or a natural disaster may be a risk, check in the fine print of your agreement to see what natural disasters are covered under your policy.
If you’ve paid for your travel arrangements and insurance and an “avoid all travel” advisory is issued for your destination before you leave, you may be covered under your trip cancellation policy (which is different than your Emergency Travel Medical coverage). To learn more about Trip Cancellation and Interruption policies go here.
Your first step should be to contact your travel provider or tour operator, the rental car company, and the accommodation provider as soon as possible if your booked travel plans have been affected by an advisory. You can explain that you want to cancel (or at least postpone) your trip because of the travel advisory.
If they won’t allow you to cancel your arrangements, check with the credit card company you charged those prepaid expenses to. You may be able to have them dispute the charge, or reimburse you for all or part of the expense. Any amount they reimburse will be based on the card’s limitations (for example, a maximum dollar amount, which your trip costs may exceed), or how long it was between when you charged the costs, when the advisory was issued, and when you make your request for reimbursement.
If you cannot get a refund or reschedule your trip, your trip interruption and cancellation insurance will be there to cover the cost of cancelling your trip.
While you are at or en route to a destination and there is an unusual weather forecast or pending civil unrest, make sure to check for travel advisory updates. Based on that information, you may want to head home. In this case, you may be able to claim a portion of the expenses for that trip. The cost of prepaid, unused trip arrangements and your travel home are usually covered.
Review your trip cancellation and interruption policy carefully after you purchase your coverage (before you leave on your trip) to understand what you may be entitled to. There may be limitations that require you to choose the most cost-effective way possible to return to your home province or departure point.
If you decide to ignore warnings about the country you are travelling to, this could impact your medical travel coverage. Many insurance companies will not pay any benefits or accept any liability for claims made for emergency medical care expenses incurred in a country the government has issued an “avoid all travel” or “avoid all non-essential travel” advisory for.
Your world-wide array of options for travel are amazing, so choosing a destination where you will be safe and secure can be a smart part of your travel plan. Another smart thing to do is ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place. That’s where SBIS can help. Call us today.