Travel Insurance Advice: Traveling Abroad When Terrorism Strikes
As worldwide terrorist attacks fill headlines, anxiety about traveling abroad has increased. Routinely, travelers to popular destinations such as Paris, London and other European cities may be asking: Is it safe to travel? How can I prepare for an act of terrorism when planning my international trip? Travel insurance is one important component of managing your risks.
The U.S. Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution to all U.S. citizens traveling to help increase awareness and vigilance in going abroad.
Staying Safe – Prepare in Advance of your Travels
The best thing to do to travel safely is to avoid travel to areas known for terrorist attacks.
Terrorism Coverage in your Travel Insurance
Most international travel medical insurance plans include coverage for terrorist acts, as do trip cancellation and interruption insurance plans which allow you to cancel or change your plans within a set time before your arrival.
The details of when the plan needs to be purchased and how far ahead you can cancel can vary. Asking questions and researching the best insurance options for you will help to alleviate anxieties you might have about traveling. Purchasing the right insurance at the right time can help put your mind at ease.
Two plans we recommend as they include Political Evacuation and Terrorism Coverage:
- Atlas Travel Medical:
- Terrorism Coverage: “In these turbulent times, the risk of a terrorist attack is a reality. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the country you’re visiting is NOT under a travel advisory, Atlas Travel offers coverage for medical expenses ($50,000 in expenses) resulting from those (terrorist) acts.”
- Political Evacuation Benefit: “If during the coverage period and after your arrival, the United States government issues a travel warning for your destination country, Atlas Travel will coordinate your alternate departure arrangements from that country and cover the associated costs.”
- Liaison Travel Insurance:
- Terrorism Coverage: If you are injured as a result of terrorist activity, Liaison will provide benefits (up to the policy maximum selected) if the following conditions are met: 1. You have no direct or indirect involvement. 2. The terrorist activity is not in a country or location where the United States government has issued a travel warning within 6 months prior to your date of arrival. 3. You have not unreasonably failed or refused to depart a country or location following
- Political Evacuation Benefit: “If a formal recommendation is made for you to leave the country, (Liaison) will pay to transport you to your home country. This benefit will not apply if a formal Travel Warning was issued by the State Department, and you did not follow it.”
Consider the following examples…
Honeymoon in Europe and Terrorist Strike
You plan a second honeymoon to Europe, planning to hit all the sights! A week before you are supposed to leave, there is a terrorist attack in your first stop. If you decided to cancel your trip, travel insurance would reimburse you for the otherwise nonrefundable expenditures, since insurance was purchased before the attack.
Terror Attack in Turkey
Your dream tour through Turkey turns into a nightmare when a terrorist explosion occurs a couple of weeks before your trip. You decide to purchase insurance. Another week goes by, and there is another terrorist incident. You want to cancel your trip. Unfortunately, because you purchased your insurance within 30 days of a terrorist event happening, trip cancellation doesn’t apply.
Cancel For Any Reason Insurance and Terror Attacks
You have booked travel to a destination that is starting to look unsafe. A travel alert is issued, and you are thinking about traveling elsewhere instead. Since there had not been a terrorist attack, travel insurance might not apply. In this situation, it would be great if you had purchased Cancel for Any Reason insurance. It pays if you cancel your trip two or more days before your departure date. This insurance does have eligibility requirements and a time-sensitive purchase window. Typically, Cancel for Any Reason insurance will reimburse up to 75% of your prepaid expenditures. However, if your Cancel for Any Reason insurance was purchased after a terrorist travel alert or warning was issued by the U.S. government, the plan would not cover your cancellation.
What if there is Civil Unrest While I am Abroad?
You’ve just arrived at your hotel and rioting is breaking out on the street below after contentious election results are announced. You want nothing more than to turn back to the airport and head home. Civil unrest is different than a terrorist attack and not typically covered by trip cancelation insurance. However, if you were scheduled for a tour and service from your tour operator was interrupted for more than 24 hours. As a result, that would likely be covered by your travel insurance.
It is important for travelers to know that even violent civil unrest might not be covered under their travel insurers definition of terrorism. Typically, the U.S. government needs to declare that a situation is an act of terrorism. There is a clear distinction between terrorism and civil disorder. In certain circumstances, your travel insurance company can help you to evacuate. They often offer a Political Evacuation benefit that would assist in covering costs of leaving a country during a period of unrest.
How About Terrorism on Airplanes?
If a terrorist attack happens on another airplane before your trip, it is not a reason for trip cancellation. A terrorist attack that causes your airline to stop service for 24 hours may be covered by your travel insurance. If this happens while you are out of the country, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate and make alternate travel arrangements to return home safely. Always use good judgment in making your travel plans.
Tips for Staying Safe During an Incident
Terrorist attacks are the result of the methodical and deliberate strategy. However, there are sometimes targets of opportunity. The U.S. Department of State offers some practical tips on avoiding becoming a target of opportunity.
The tips offer some protection and may also serve as a deterrent to potential terrorists.
- Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
- Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.
- Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area.
- Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas.
- Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
- As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress, and behavior that may draw attention to yourself.
- Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
- Avoid obvious terrorist targets, such as places where Westerners are known to congregate.
- Watch for people following you or “loiterers” observing your comings and goings.
- Report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals.
- Formulate a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire nearby.
- Select your taxicabs at random. Don’t take a vehicle that is not identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with the one on his or her posted license.
- If possible, travel with others.
- Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room.
- Don’t meet strangers in your hotel room, or unknown or remote locations.
- Refuse unexpected packages.
- Check for loose wires or other suspicious activity around your car.
- Be sure your vehicle is in good operating condition.
- Drive with car windows closed in crowded streets. Bombs can be thrown through open windows.
- If you are ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don’t move until you are sure the danger has passed. Do not attempt to help rescuers and do not pick up a weapon. If possible, shield yourself behind a solid object. If you must move, crawl on your stomach.
For more information, visit: US Dept. of State Website, Terrorist Advice