Will My Travel Insurance Cover Me in Time of War or Civil Unrest?

Riot On Illuminated Street At Night
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As you shop for travel insurance, you may wonder whether your insurance provider will pay on claims related to civil unrest or war. You will need to check each policy's certificate of insurance to be completely sure, and you should do this before you buy a travel insurance policy.

You must read your policy's certificate before you buy travel insurance. Do not read a summary of benefits. Read the certificate of insurance itself and pay close attention to the exclusions and limitations of the policy.

Exclusions for War or Civil Unrest

Nearly all travel insurance policies exclude war and civil war, declared or undeclared, from covered events. This exclusion means that if your trip is delayed or you must cancel it entirely because of war or civil unrest, you will not be entitled to a payment from your travel insurance provider. 

This does not mean that all war-related or unrest-related delays will go uncompensated. Each travel insurance provider makes independent decisions about coverage. For example, during the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, some travel insurance companies chose to cover trip delays related to the cessation of flights between the US and Turkey during and after the coup attempt for people who were already traveling when flights were canceled. However, the same companies issued position statements that said the coup attempt did not qualify as an "unforeseen event" for purposes of trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage.

Insured travelers who have booked trips to Turkey will not be reimbursed if they cancel their trips unless they purchased Cancel For Any Reason coverage.

Can I Find a Travel Insurance Policy That Covers War-Related Problems?

A few policies offer benefits that include "political evacuation" or "non-medical evacuation." This coverage will pay to transport you to a safe location if war or unrest breaks out at your vacation spot.

MH Ross, RoamRight, Tin Leg and several other insurers offer policies that include some non-medical evacuation coverage. Benefits range from $25,000 to $100,000. 

Other policies may include "riot" under covered reasons for travel delay claims. For example, as of this writing, the MH Ross Asset Plus policy includes "riot" under its covered reasons for missed connection and trip delay benefits. However, the same policy specifically excludes "war, invasion, acts of foreign enemies, hostilities between nations (whether declared or undeclared), or civil war" from coverage. RoamRight's Essential policy has similar provisions. Travel Guard’s Basic (Essential) policy specifically names "war," "riot," "insurrection" and "civil commotion" in its General Exclusions list; losses relating to wars, riots, uprisings and the like are not covered.

Issues to Consider When Traveling to an Area Experiencing Civil Unrest

If you know that civil unrest is likely at a destination you are considering, take a moment to think about how you will stay safe if problems arise and how you will get home if things get out of hand. Flights are likely to be canceled, and your embassy or consulate may be overwhelmed by requests for help.

 

Should you decide to go ahead with your travel plans, you will not be able to get your money back because you are worried about your personal safety. Here are some travel insurance tips to consider:

  • You cannot cancel your trip because you feel that you will be unsafe at your destination and get your money back unless you purchase Cancel For Any Reason coverage. Even then, you will probably only get about 70% of your money back.
  • You must typically purchase Cancel For Any Reason coverage within 30 days of your first deposit payment.
  • Expect to pay more for a travel insurance policy that includes Cancel For Any Reason coverage.
  • You may not purchase Cancel For Any Reason coverage if your departure date is within the required cancellation period. This period is typically two or three days before your trip begins, but policies vary.
  • Cancel For Any Reason policies pay you a percentage of the amount you have spent on your trip if you call off your trip and  file a claim. You will not be able to recover the entire amount with this type of policy, but you will be able to cancel without having to explain why.
  • Military members who have leave orders revoked due to war may or may not be covered under Cancel For Work Reasons or Trip Cancellation policies. Each policy is different, so it is worth spending some time reading policy certificates to see if you can find one that covers revocation of leave orders due to war.

The Bottom Line

If you are traveling to an area where civil unrest is likely or already occurring, the only way you can be sure you can recoup some of the costs of your trip if you cannot travel is to purchase Cancel For Any Reason coverage. Even then, you must cancel your trip within the prescribed period or you will lose your benefits. If you cancel, carefully document all communication with your insurer.