As if the world isn’t a complicated enough place, terrorism has to make it that much more so. For the majority of people, travelling is an opportunity to see the world through different eyes, to appreciate the multitude of diverse cultures and embrace ethnic differences. Unfortunately for others, the desire to cause conflict and inflict pain and suffering is the only motivation. When it comes to travel insurance, terrorism events can make things extremely difficult.
Knowing what counts as ‘terrorism’ is an important part of understanding what your travel insurance will cover you for, and what it won’t. Keep in mind that not all insurers offer this kind of policy, so when you find one that does, you need to understand your obligations and responsibilities.
In the event that someone is injured from a terrorist event, the majority of travel insurers only provide medical cover.
When travel warnings are issued, does that mean I’m covered for terrorism?
No, and in fact, if you voluntarily travel to a place for which a travel warning has been issued, you may not be covered by your insurance at all. As an example, the 2016 outbreak of the Zika virus meant that people who travelled to affected countries had effectively ignored warnings and as such, would not be covered for medical expenses arising from a Zika infection.
Similarly, with terrorism, if you do not take action to avoid entering locations where terrorism warnings have been issued, you will likely not be covered. Likewise, civil unrest, riots, severe weather systems, political uprisings, nuclear contamination and other potential catastrophes are also common exclusions.
The unpredictability of terrorism
Unfortunately, the current world climate means that a number of terrorist organisations are hell-bent on destruction. They are unpredictable and ruthless and pay absolutely no regard to traditional conventions of war. A terrorist strike can occur in places where they have never occurred before in history, and without apparent rhyme nor reason.
Sometimes, a terrorist organisation merely ‘inspires’ the event and is not literally behind it. These are occasionally known as ‘lone wolf attacks’. Think of the Martin Place café siege, where people were going about their regular daily activities and enjoying a morning coffee. Think of the Boston Marathon bombing, a popular annual event where families and communities had gathered to celebrate sportsmanship. Also consider the Bali bombings, the London, Paris, Brussels, Orlando and Madrid terrorist attacks and the countless events that occur in countries such as Turkey, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.
Sadly, there is no guarantee offered anywhere in the world that, despite all your best efforts, you won’t find yourself caught up in an attack. So it is up to every traveller to be vigilant.
Whether or not you have travel insurance, terrorism events happen and no amount of financial coverage can protect you from physical harm. Still, there are ways you can reduce your chances of being in the midst of potential danger.
- Smart Traveller – Before you even book your flights, you can drop by the Smart Traveller website and subscribe to their free email notifications. You can subscribe for specific notifications from particular destinations, issues and events and if something appears in your inbox that suggests not to travel to your desired destination, pay heed. You might prefer to – or additionally – subscribe to the Twitter or Facebook feeds for up-to-the-minute information.
- News reports – Pay attention to news reports of terrorism activity at or near your intended destination. All major worldwide news platforms have online presences that are constantly updated.
- Travel agent - You may also want to check in with your travel agency as they will be up to date with latest warnings.
- Familiarise yourself – When planning a trip, make a list of the places you intend to visit and familiarise yourself with the local customs, the recent history of threats to tourist safety, the current terror alert level in each location and how socially, financially and politically stable the location is. Many elements can point to the possibility of danger.
- Plan to avoid highly populated events – Unless you really have to or want to be in a heavily attended location such as a major sporting event or crowded marketplace, plan to avoid these. Still, you don’t want to miss out on attractions that are meaningful to you. If you do find yourself in the midst of crowds, be aware of escape routes and be mindful of any growing ‘buzz’ or unusual increase in crowd-swell or encroaching panic.
- Choose wisely – Do you really have to go to your first choice country? Is it worth the possible risk? While we can all say we don’t want to let terrorists win, how will you feel about that mantra when the worst happens? Value your personal security and consider postponing a trip to that particular location for when the terrorist risk has subsided.
Fear should never be a reason to avoid seeing the world. There are more countries, cities, towns and villages than you will ever be able to visit in a lifetime. Go where the security is, and whatever you do, don’t overlook travel insurance, terrorism or no terrorism. Meanwhile, consider the following:
- Don’t be so obsessed with terrorism risks that you forget to look both ways when crossing the road or to re-apply your sunscreen.
- Though unpredictable and increasingly prevalent, the chance of being caught up in a terrorist attack is also vastly improbable if you consider statistical data.
- Just because a location is at a higher than normal alert level doesn’t mean that you yourself will be the victim of a terrorist attack there.
- There are so many other risks to life and limb in the world that you automatically discount as ‘unrealistic’ – for example, trying to save money by walking at night in a foreign place instead of taking a taxi and ultimately being mugged – that it’s wise to maintain a balanced view.
Yes, travel and enjoy seeing the world. No, don’t expose yourself to unnecessary high risks. Be smart, be cautious and be judicious, but don’t give up your travel dreams based on the chance of being caught up in a terrorist attack.