Just as it seemed the pandemic was starting to slow down and the travel industry was starting to recover, Russia invaded Ukraine. This act of aggression has caused travelers to wonder whether it is safe to visit Europe right now.
In a recent Skift article, it was noted that travel insurance companies have “seen an increase in the number of travelers who are calling with questions about how travel insurance would help them if their trip is affected by the war,” and that people are “understandably concerned.”
While it seems obvious that plans to travel to Ukraine or Russia should be canceled, neighboring countries may be unsafe as well. The U.S. Department of State has issued “Level 4 — Do Not Travel” advisories for not only Ukraine and Russia, but also Belarus where there has been a buildup of Russian forces along the border with Ukraine.
The following advisory levels explain the level of risk travelers take when visiting another country:
Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
The Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia are also under a standing “Do Not Travel” advisory. Other regions of unresolved geopolitical conflicts such as Transnistria on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border are under the same travel advisory.
Jenna Scatena notes in an article for Condé Nast Traveler that these advisories can affect travel insurance policies by limiting your benefits. She explains that non-essential travel when a travel advisory is in effect “can be considered high-risk behavior by your provider, which could compromise your coverage.”
While many of these areas are not typical tourist destinations, travelers should be aware that heightened tensions in Eastern Europe could potentially affect travel anywhere on the continent. For example, refugees from Ukraine are streaming into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. Because of this humanitarian crisis, tourists may have limited access to transportation and accommodations as these countries prioritize assistance for the refugees.
Travel to Western Europe is less likely to be affected by the war in Ukraine, but it is always a possibility that flight patterns and schedules can be disrupted by unexpected circumstances or borders may be temporarily closed.
No one knows what will happen next—in Europe or anywhere. That’s why it is important to purchase travel insurance for your next business trip or vacation.
Travel Insurance Terms
Most travel insurance policies offer coverage for trip cancellation or interruption, emergency medical care, and lost or delayed luggage.
The glossary at TravelInsurance.com provides easy-to-understand definitions of these coverage options and links to more detailed information for each:
Trip Cancellation: This provides reimbursement for non-refundable trip payments if you must cancel a trip due to injury, illness or death or other unexpected circumstances covered by the policy.
Trip Interruption: Injury, illness, strikes, weather or death that interrupts travel.
Medical Expense Coverage: This is for medical emergency consultation during the trip.
Baggage Delay: A problem that many travelers experience focuses on the delay of baggage or its redirection to another destination.
Baggage and Personal Effects Loss: This term refers to the loss of luggage, personal belonging, documents or any other items that the traveler has been carrying along.
You can also get add-on waivers that cover things like pre-existing conditions or participation in extreme sports.
Pre-Existing Condition: Any illness or injury the insured has sought medical treatment for within a specified time frame (varies by provider) before the effective date of the travel insurance policy.
Adventure Sports Coverage: Coverage focuses on activities that are especially high risk. Skydivers, snowboarders, and other people who practice extreme sports are very familiar with the term adventure sports coverage and its meaning.
However, losses caused by or resulting from acts of war are generally not covered by travel insurers under a standard policy. When you read through your policy, you’ll likely find that acts of war are specifically named as an exclusion. This exclusion means that you would not be entitled to reimbursement if you must cancel your trip because of an act of war.
Investopedia’s definition of a war exclusion clause states that it “specifically excludes coverage for acts of war, such as invasions, insurrections, revolutions, and military coups.” They further explain that the clause “refers to the protection of an insurer who will not be obligated to pay for losses caused by war-related events.”
CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) Coverage
However, there is a way to recoup at least some of your financial losses if that were to happen. A policy that includes a CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason) upgrade will ensure that you are reimbursed for up to 75% of any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses if you decide to cancel your trip for any reason at all—including an act of war.
CFAR coverage must be purchased at the same time or shortly after the initial payment for your trip is made. Buyers should understand that CFAR coverage is an add-on to a standard trip cancellation policy, not a substitute. Standard travel insurance policies with trip cancellation coverage offers you reimbursement for 100% of any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses, but only for specific covered reasons, whereas CFAR coverage offers lower reimbursement rates, but covers cancellation for any reason, not just those named in the policy. Be sure to take note of the cancellation timeframe, though. Most CFAR policies require you to cancel your trip at least 48 hours in advance of your scheduled departure date.
With the potential threat of increased conflict in Europe, a CFAR policy is the best way to protect your travel investment. You can get a quote for standard travel insurance policies and upgrades like CFAR coverage from trusted providers at TravelInsurance.com, with an online quote system that provides consumers with plans, prices, and benefits from multiple top-rated insurers so you can choose the option that works best for you.
The added protection from a CFAR upgrade will allow you to cancel your trip if the war in Ukraine (or any other destination) affects your travel plans. Although CFAR coverage is an added expense, the benefits you’ll gain from having this coverage in times of geopolitical instability is priceless.
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