Peter and Jane were planning a big trip to Europe for their honeymoon. They booked some cheap flights which had a two night stopover. Unfortunately for Peter and Jane, over the months leading up to their honeymoon, civil unrest broke out in the country where their flight was scheduled to stop over. They had paid for travel insurance, and thought they had ticked all the boxes and were fully prepared for all eventualities. But they had forgotten to check the exclusions on their travel insurance policy.
The Australian government posted a bulletin on SmartTraveller.gov.au, updating their alert level for the country to “Do not travel”. Upon reading the exclusions of their travel insurance policy, Peter and Jane realised that if they chose to travel to that country whilst the ‘do not travel’ warning was in place, they would not be covered by their travel insurance. There was an exclusion in the policy for travelling to countries for which there is a current Australian government travel warning ‘do not travel’.
The country in question had a history of civil unrest, and if the couple had known about the exclusion prior to booking their stopover, they might have decided it wasn’t worth the risk, and booked via a different route. They had already paid for their two night stopover accommodation in full, and now it looked like they would have to change their flight bookings and pay for another hotel in a different country, all at their expense.
The moral of this story is you should always make sure you understand completely what you are covered for under your travel insurance policy. Even if that document is 90 pages long, you need to take to time to look through it until you are satisfied that you have adequate cover for your own personal travel plans.
If you are travelling to countries where there is a chance of war breaking out, and the worst eventuates, then you probably won’t be covered by your travel insurance. Other events which may not be covered include natural disasters such as earthquakes, nuclear-related events, chemical or biological terrorism, epidemics and pandemics, and in general any country or city you visit willingly where the media and/or government have advised against doing so.
You also may not be covered if you are found to be acting in an irresponsible manner (for example if you get drunk and lose your wallet), or have not taken reasonable precautions to prevent loss. You may not be covered if you fall victim to acts of fraud, or if your travel agent goes bankrupt.
While some travel insurers clearly spell out the exclusions on their web site, many do not. It is therefore up to you, the buyer of the policy, to read the ‘product disclosure statement’. A product disclosure statement or PDS is a legal document which details the conditions, coverage and exclusions of the insurance in full.
It’s no easy task comparing travel insurance, so the CANSTAR star ratings may help you narrow down the options to a short list of products that offer outstanding value. At this point, examining exclusions and other policy details becomes a must.