Many travellers book their travel far in advance of the actual trip. This is particularly true for snowbirds, seniors and boomers, who often plan their winters away – as well as other travel like cruises and guided tours - several months or even a year ahead of time.
Unfortunately, much can change between the time you book and your departure date, from natural disasters to disease outbreaks and even civil unrest and violence that didn’t exist at the time of your booking.
When such events occur, the Government of Canada will usually issue a travel advisory warning Canadians about the risk of travel to the affected country or region.
What you may not know is that travel insurance policies include language that can exclude coverage if you travel to a region for which the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory, resulting in your insurance claim being denied.
Here’s what you need to know about this often-overlooked clause in your travel insurance policy and how to reduce the risk that your claim will be denied due to a travel advisory.
What is a travel advisory?
The Global Affairs Canada travel information team analyses incidents affecting international travellers and promptly updates travel advisories in order to inform Canadians of situations that may affect their health, safety and security abroad.
The Government of Canada recommends that all Canadians read these advisories before booking their trip or leaving Canada, and while travel advisories can be issued for any number of reasons, the most common ones are related to:
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, tsunamis and wildfires
- Infectious disease and illness outbreaks
- Violence and civil unrest
Travel advisories have become increasingly relevant for snowbirds, as growing numbers are choosing to spend their winters in more exotic locations, some of which are more susceptible natural disasters, disease and violence.
How do travel advisories work?
The Government of Canada employs a 4-risk level system to assist travellers in assessing the threat in a particular country or region. The four possible risk levels are:
- Exercise normal security precautions
There are no significant safety and security concerns. The overall safety and security situation is similar to that of Canada. You should take normal security precautions.
- Exercise a high degree of caution
There are identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. You should exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Avoid non-essential travel
There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk. You should reconsider your need to travel to the country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should reconsider whether or not you really need to be there. If not, you should consider leaving while it is still safe to do so. It is up to you to decide what “non-essential travel” means, based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with a country, territory or region, and other factors.
- Avoid all travel
There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
Many travel insurance policies will exclude coverage if you travel to a country or region for which the Government of Canada has issued a Level 3 or Level 4 travel advisory.
However, you should always check the specific language in your policy for travel advisory related coverage exclusions before purchasing travel insurance, as terms and exclusions may differ among providers.
How can travel advisories affect my travel insurance coverage?
Travel advisories can affect your travel insurance coverage a little differently depending on the type of coverage.
Emergency Medical Coverage
If a travel advisory was issued for your destination before you departed on your trip and you became sick or injured during your trip, the coverage exclusion would apply and your travel insurance provider could deny your claim.
However, if the travel advisory was issued after you already departed for your trip and you became sick or injured, the coverage exclusion would not apply and your claim would be eligible for coverage
Trip Cancellation Coverage
If a travel advisory was issued for your destination before you purchased your insurance coverage and you need to cancel your trip before you leave, the coverage exclusion would apply and your travel insurance provider could deny your claim.
However, if the travel advisory was issued after you purchased your insurance coverage and you need to cancel your trip before you leave, the coverage exclusion would not apply and you would be eligible to make a claim.
Trip Interruption Coverage
If a travel advisory was issued for your destination before you departed on your trip and you need to return home early, the coverage exclusion would apply and your travel insurance provider could deny your claim.
However, if the travel advisory was issued after you departed on your trip and you need to return home early, the coverage exclusion would not apply and you would be eligible to make a claim.
Travel Advisory Tips
Follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of having a travel insurance claim denied due to a travel advisory and stay informed if a travel advisory is issued while you are travelling:
- Make sure you read and understand the policy exclusions related to travel advisories before you purchase travel medical or trip cancellation & interruption insurance.
- Check to see if there is a travel advisory in place for your destination before you book your trip and purchase insurance as well as prior to departing on your trip. You can check for Government of Canada issued travel advisories here. You can also subscribe to receive daily emails that summarize changes made to travel advisories while you are away.
- Register online with the Government of Canada’s Canadians Abroad program before you depart on your trip so the government can provide you with assistance like notifying you about emergencies and travel advisories while you’re travelling.
Disclaimer: The material provided in the Snowbird Advisor Insurance Learning Centre is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute insurance, legal, financial or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should speak with a qualified professional to assist you.