The last few months have seen the world rocked by a spate of extreme weather and travel disasters. Because of these, we’ve received unprecedented volumes of calls from worried travellers over this time, wanting to know what they should do and what they’re covered for.
Understandably, recent world events have created a lot of uncertainty for travellers, so we’ve created a list of some common questions we’ve received.
From hurricanes across the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, to wildfires in California, earthquakes in Mexico, volcanic activity in Vanuatu and Bali, and the Auckland Airport fuel crisis – dozens of countries around the world have faced challenges. Many travellers have been affected too, with flights grounded both at home and abroad, as well as citizens around the world facing huge losses.
Some of these disasters have passed and others continue, but their legacy of damage is far from over. Many of the areas damaged by these and other disasters will need months, or even years, to rebuild and once again function as they did before. Before we get into answering your travel questions, our thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone who has been affected by these terrible events.
If you’ve booked a trip to visit somewhere that’s recently been hit by a natural disaster, you may be considering cancelling or postponing your holiday. It’s your choice, but remember it’s important to talk to us first about what you’re covered for if you do.
How can I find out whether it’s safe to travel?
The official government travel website is smartraveller.gov.au, where you can find warnings and advice on all destinations.
It’s also a good idea to register your details with them before you go, so you can be kept informed of any travel warnings that arise before and after your departure. If you’re listed as travelling in an area where a disaster occurs, they’ll also be able to check on your safety.
It also pays to check our website, as we often post information about travel insurance cover for major events that affect our customers, which includes the dates where cover is provided.
You can find this information on our website in the Travel Advice section.
Of course, you’re always welcome to get in touch with our friendly customer service team, too.
If you're considering whether you should still travel or not, it’s important to consult our team on what you’re covered for, before making any major changes to your trip.
Should I plan a trip to an affected area?
If you’re planning to visit an area that has been affected by a disaster, the first thing to do is check whether there are any major risks to your safety on places like smartraveller.gov.au or the World Health Organisation website.
As always, it’s worth doing your homework first. Just as you’d research accommodation to make sure it’s what you’re after, you should also research the risks, dangers and warnings at your destination.
Again, it's a good idea to contact us so we can explain what cover is available to you under the TravelCare policy, at the time of the event.
Should I still go on holiday if my destination has been struck by a disaster?
If there are government travel warnings in place, your flights have been cancelled or delayed, or you’re placing yourself at immediate risk due to the event, then you may wish to reconsider your holiday plans.
If you choose to proceed, it may be useful to confirm a few important things before you depart, such as accessibility to healthcare, risk of illness, and safe food and drinking water.
It may be worth taking things like water sterilization equipment and pre-packaged food with you if you’re concerned about access to these things, as well as checking you’ve got all the necessary vaccinations. Check out our tips on how to avoid catching any illnesses on holiday.
Of course, you can still choose not to travel in these circumstances, just be aware that some or all of the costs may not be covered by travel insurance.
What if a disaster strikes while I’m travelling?
If you’re on holiday and a disaster strikes, the most important thing to keep in mind is your safety. Follow the instructions of any officials or emergency personnel and seek medical attention if you need it.
Keep in touch with your family and advise them of your safety as soon as you can. If you’re registered with Smartraveller, they’ll be able to offer advice on what to do and check on your wellbeing. When you’re able to, please notify our Emergency Assistance team on +61 2 9191 1180. They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you need to change your travel plans to get home, it may be useful to contact your service providers, such as the airline or tour operator, for assistance in the first instance. If you’re concerned about what costs you’re covered for, it’s important to (where possible) speak to us or check our website before making any changes. That way, you can be confident knowing what costs you’re covered for.
If you’re overseas and your return to Australia is delayed due to an unexpected event, your cover will extend at no charge until you are reasonably able to return home. To make things easier, keep all your cancellation notifications from your airline, including emails, along with receipts for any expenses incurred by the event, such as accommodation and meals, to submit with your claim.
What if my flights are cancelled?
The Auckland Airport fuel crisis grounded many international flights, which left plenty of people asking what to do if their flights were cancelled.
First, keep in touch with your airline or travel agent. They may be able to offer you alternative options or refunds if necessary, as well as liaise with connecting flight providers to reschedule. Travel delays can be a real pain, so check out our tips on how to deal with travel delays.
If you’re overseas and your return flights are cancelled, the same applies – keep in touch with your airline first and foremost. Our TravelCare policy provides cover for up to $30,000 for either additional costs to enable you to continue your original planned journey; or your unused, prepaid costs. Check out our infographic to find out what the true cost can be of getting stranded overseas.
If there are costs that your airline can’t reimburse you for, get in touch with us to find out what you’re covered for.
Won’t the embassy get me home anyway?
Plenty of people think they don’t need travel insurance, because if a disaster occurs the embassy and diplomatic organisations will ensure they get home safe.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The embassy is not responsible for getting you home and consular limits vary depending on the country and the situation, so you can’t rely on them in the event of an emergency.
If there’s one thing these last few months have shown us, it’s that almost anything can happen, no matter where in the world you are. Buying travel insurance as soon as you have paid for your flights, accommodation or tours can give you peace of mind that you won’t be left out of pocket should the unexpected happen.