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Travel insurance can be helpful, but only if it covers you for the risks you are anticipating.

This article gives you an appreciation of some of the risks that may be excluded in a typical travel insurance policy's fine print.

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Ten Things Your Travel Insurance May Not Cover

No need to just 'cross your fingers and hope' if you have chosen travel insurance wisely!

Part 3 of a series on Travel Insurance - please also visit

1.  Travel Insurance - Yes or No
2.  What type of travel insurance do you need
3.  Ten things your travel insurance may not cover



Travel insurance is a good thing, but it is not a panacea, and it is important to understand what it will and will not cover.

Although the promotional materials may seem to list a huge long list of risk the insurance will cover you for, with only a few lines of exclusions, do not assume that the risks you think you may encounter will be included.

Here is a list - but a far from complete list - of some of the things that you probably will not be protected from when you buy normal travel insurance.

Travel Insurance Policies Vary

Travel insurance policies vary enormously in terms of what they do and don't cover, what they cost, and their intrinsic value too.

Don't assume that all polices have the same coverages and the same exclusions.  Don't even assume that all coverages from the same insurance company have the same coverages and exclusions.  Instead, you should check any insurance policy you're considering to make sure it protects you in the areas where you feel you most need protection.

Sure, travel insurance is sometimes only moderately priced, and there's a limit to how much time and effort it makes sense to invest in a $100 or $200 purchase.  But you should evaluate insurance policies with the care you'd give not to their $150 or whatever cost, but rather with a care commensurate to the tens of thousands of dollars of protection they may or may not provide you in return for your premium.

Don't Be Surprised

You've probably heard horror stories of people who have been caught without travel insurance.  Ending up stranded in foreign lands or bankrupted by hospital bills is no one’s idea of a good vacation, and so most of us choose to purchase a travel insurance policy, particularly for international travels.  We do this for the peace of mind from knowing that when we travel we will be protected against the vicissitudes of life.

The problem comes when a travel insurance policy fails to cover us.  There are a surprising number of things which fall between the cracks of most standard travel insurance policies.

Below, we look at 10 things your travel insurance may not cover you for.

1. Swine Flu and Pandemics in General

If you have already booked your trip, it may be that your travel insurance policy won’t cover cancellation due to a pandemic outbreak.

If the insurance policy won’t cover the costs of cancelling, or of perhaps cutting a trip short and returning home early (and do check as some policies are covering it) you may still have recourse if you booked with a credit card of if you booked through a tour operator.  Investigate all of your options.

2. Visa Refusal

The problem of visa refusal arises when you have already purchased your plane ticket, or booked your vacation, and you, or one of your party, are subsequently refused a visa (if you need one prior to travel) and/or refused entry to a country upon arrival (and this can sometimes - rarely - occur even if you do have a visa).

Most travel insurance policies refuse to pay out for cancellation of your trip in such cases, although sometimes airlines will refund your ticket to you if you are denied a visa subsequent to buying a ticket and prior to commencing travel (in theory, if you need a visa and don't have one, they won't allow you to board the flight to the foreign country, because they'll be fined if they fly you to a country you don't have a proper visa to visit).

Be sure you are eligible to travel to your destination before spending money on your travel to and in the country you wish to visit.

3. Working Holidays

It isn't only young people who may choose to take a year, more or less, to travel and experience life.  It is a great opportunity for anyone to see the world, a good introduction to the world and its complexities for younger people, and a lovely lifestyle break for adults.

It is common, particularly for younger people, that a lengthy holiday becomes, at least on occasion, a working holiday.  Most people get some type of travel insurance, particularly if traveling for an extended time such as with this type of travel, but these policies usually exclude covering any injuries which are work related, and possibly may also exclude injuries, whether working for pay or not, in situations involving manual labor, using power tools or driving heavy duty machinery.

4. Closed Pistes or other Weather related Disappointments

Skiing holidays have always been a winter favorite and there is so much competition now in the skiing industry that there are some very reasonable deals available.

But what if you arrive for your ski vacation to find that the piste is closed due to no snow or avalanche conditions?  Chances are you’re out of luck.  Read the small print on your policy and discover that most will not cover cancellation costs or early returns under these conditions.

On the other hand, sometimes some tour operators will include some form of weather guarantee as part of a travel package - this is more common in sunny climates, where sometimes you might see a promise of no more than a certain minimum amount of rain during your visit.

5. Drunk Skiing (or other things, too)

Sticking to the skiing theme, many skiers and boarders are not aware that if they have a few drinks with their chalet lunch and then injure themselves, or someone else, in a skiing or boarding accident, their insurance policy is void and will provide them with no cover at all.

This means that the second cheap bottle of wine with lunch could end up being pretty costly!

The exclusion on such activities most likely will extend to other types of activities while intoxicated.

6. Hurricanes and other Weather Related Disasters

Everyone loves a winter vacation somewhere sunny. The lure of the beaches of the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico draw millions of tourists annually.

The problem is that the best bargains to these resort areas also fall during hurricane season. T rip cancellation insurance is worded very carefully in regards to this and if you don’t read the small print carefully you may be in for a surprise.

Most policies will cover you for the cancellation costs of your vacation if your destination is entirely shut down by hurricane.  But if the resort or the airport remains open, however terrible the conditions might be, your insurer is likely to refuse to refund your money - which could mean a very damp and very windy vacation for you.

Update :  as has been vividly demonstrated to millions of people in April 2010 who fell victim to the Icelandic volcano eruption and consequential flight cancellations throughout Europe, weather and other 'acts of God' can have extended and costly ramifications.

7. STI’s/STD's

Far flung romances are not unheard of.  Lying by a pool all day in the hot sun, downing margaritas, and dancing ‘till sundown, means that a lot of tourists lower their guard when abroad.  Sadly, many of them pick up something far nastier than just a few souvenirs.

A sexually transmitted infection, or an unwanted pregnancy, may be an unpleasant surprise, and if you are still abroad, your travel insurance may not cover testing and treatment, and if your regular medical insurance does not cover you when you are out of the country (or only to a very limited extent) you may find yourself with significant costs.

This leaves you in a situation whereby you either have to wait until you are back home or seek private medical advice.

8. Adventure Sports

It is amazing how a mild-mannered accountant can turn into Tarzan when abroad.  The range of opportunities for people to have adrenalin thrilled experiences seem to increase as the temperature climbs higher.  Someone who would never cross the street against the light at home is found hurling themselves off bridges with just a bungee cord on their ankles in Australia and New Zealand.

Most travel insurance will not cover any injuries incurred during adventure sports.  If you think you will be undertaking any extreme experiences you are well-advised to seek out a specific travel insurance policy that covers adventure sports – otherwise you really may be throwing yourself off a cliff.

9. Security Threats and Terrorist Attacks

Part of the modern world we live in is that security threats and terrorist attacks are on the increase, as is the fear of such things and occasional over-reactions to imagined rather than real terrorist events.

These can often impact on people’s ability to travel.  As flights are cancelled, planes re-rerouted or airports closed your travel plans can be greatly altered.

Most standard insurance policies do not cover the costs of purchasing new tickets, rerouting existing tickets, paying for accommodation or subsistence costs due to delays to your journey that relate to various different terrorist type activities.  These costs can add up quickly.

Specialist insurance is available, which can be purchased on top of your existing insurance policy, and will cover the above the circumstances.  Or you could choose to try and sleep on the airport floor.

9.1  Political and civil unrest and commotion

Related to security threats and terrorist attacks is what happens if you are in - or planning to go to - a country that suffers massive civil disorder, strikes, chaos, demonstrations, and disruptions of all sorts.

For example, Thailand has had a series of political problems.  So too has the seemingly idyllic peaceful nation of Fiji.  And, most recently, Egypt (and, it seems much of the Middle East) has suddenly found itself overwhelmed with citizen protests against the governments in power.

In other words, these types of risk are real and far from impossible to experience.

Will your travel insurance cover either the costs of cancelling or rescheduling travels in such cases, and/or the costs of changing your travels or possibly coming home early?

10. Evacuation vs Repatriation

Evacuation insurance covers the cost of getting you somewhere that you can receive medical attention should you injure yourself in a foreign country.  In practice this means you will be transported to the nearest large hospital in order to receive treatment.  This does not mean you will be transported home to receive treatment.  That is medical repatriation.

If it is important to you that you be transported to your home in order to receive medical attention in your own country (and your own language) then you need to ensure that your policy covers you for repatriation and not just evacuation.  One word can make a very big difference to the care that you receive.  Read the fine print whenever you buy a travel insurance policy and ask questions before you travel.

Note also that your family travel insurance may or may not cover the costs of a family member traveling with you on such flights.

Medical evacuation insurance can sometimes be insufficiently provided in many insurance policies.  If you're going to be somewhere - for example, diving off the coast, or a cruise going to remote areas - where you might need a twin engined medium/long range helicopter to fly out to collect you and take you to a hospital, you can quickly find the Medevac costs reaching significantly into five figures.

How to Get the Cover You Need

If there are specific travel risks you're concerned about and if the travel insurance policies you're looking at do not cover these risks, you can always go to a regular insurance broker and see about getting a special policy - or perhaps a rider added to your home or other existing insurance policies - to protect you from this extra risk factor.

How to Shop for Travel Insurance

As you might expect, there are now excellent insurance shopping services available on the internet.

Simply plug the parameters of what you're looking for into either (or both) of these two website shopping services, and you'll be presented with a list of potential insurance policies and premiums for you to choose from.

The website offers comparisons between 100 different policies offered by 18 different insurance companies, and you can match this information alongside any additional insurance policies offered by your travel agent or tour operator and make the best decision accordingly.

A similar insurance shopping service is offered by

Read more in Parts 1 & 2

Part 3 of a series on Travel Insurance - please also visit

1.  Travel Insurance - Yes or No
2.  What type of travel insurance do you need
3.  Ten things your travel insurance may not cover


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Originally published 12 Jun 2009, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.



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