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Does Travel Insurance Cover Terrorism? Yes and No

when travel insurance covers terrorism
Allianz - when travel insurance covers terrorism

Acts of terrorism and even general anxiety tied to terrorism can be enough to put you on edge for upcoming travel. And it makes sense that you might turn to travel insurance for a little reassurance, whether you have a policy in place for planned travel or simply want to consider all your options in what can be uncertain times.

But this is also one of those times where doing a little math can help put you at ease, providing some much-needed perspective and a well-timed reality check.

First, remember to separate the likelihood of an act of terrorism with the likelihood of you being directly involved in such an incident. Look, we’re not trying to split hairs or sugarcoat anything; this is a tough subject matter to digest no matter the current geopolitical environment, your destination or your own apprehension. Between today’s non-stop news alerts and threats we learn about in real time, it’s easy to think that if there is a terrorist attack, it’s going to impact you. But that’s simply not the case. Far from it, in fact. If you need some more comfort, here are the numbers: according to U.S. State Department statistics, 350 U.S. citizens lost their lives in overseas terror incidents from 2001 to 2013. While this is deeply tragic, this also puts your odds at suffering such an outcome at 20 million to 1, which is far less than being struck by lightning (one in 5.5 million).1

If those numbers don’t put you at ease, or you’re simply stressed at the potential of acts of terrorism playing havoc with your travel logistics, one good way to keep your travel options open is to purchase travel insurance that includes terrorism as a coverable reason. Yes, travel insurance can provide benefits for many scenarios involving acts of terror, including the scenario in which a terrorist attack occurs at your destination within 30 days of your scheduled arrival (Of course, you always want to consult your specific provider and plan details). We’ll dig into the specifics, as well as provide some safety precautions and other helpful info to wrap your head around this difficult topic of travel and tourism.

Avoiding terrorism when you travel

"The first and best protection is to avoid travel to areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or kidnappings," the U.S. Department of State advises. If you're not sure about the safety of your destination, check the State Department's website to see if any travel warnings or travel alerts have been issued.

Terrorist acts, by their very nature, are unpredictable. But there are ways to reduce the risk of being directly or indirectly targeted by terrorists, the State Department says. For the most part, these are common-sense precautions. Here are some examples:

  • When flying abroad, book direct flights whenever possible, limiting stops in high-risk airports and avoiding highly public areas.
  • Always try to travel with others, selecting your own taxis at random when needed (as opposed to having someone call or hail one for you), keeping a well-charged cell phone on hand and always keeping your vehicle’s windows closed.
  • Avoid opening your hotel room door for strangers, and never handle or accept unexpected packages.
  • Report all suspicious activity to authorities, exercising your best judgment.2

Does travel insurance cover trip cancellation because of a terrorist incident?

Yes, travel insurance can cover trip cancellation because of a terrorist incident. But it all depends on the timing. Specifically, Allianz Global Assistance's travel insurance considers international and domestic terrorism to be a covered reason for trip cancellation if a terrorist event happens at your U.S. or foreign destination within 30 days of the day you’re scheduled to arrive under the OneTrip Prime Plan. However, you're not covered if there has been a terrorist event at your international destination generally within the 30 days before your plan's effective date. So how does terrorism insurance work?

Let's consider some examples:

  • You buy travel insurance for a week sightseeing in Prague with your daughter. Then the news reports that a bomb has gone off in the Old Town Square in an apparent terrorist attack three weeks before you’re scheduled to arrive. If you decide to cancel your trip, your travel insurance would reimburse you for prepaid, nonrefundable travel costs, because you purchased insurance before any incident occurred.
  • A bus explodes in Athens two weeks before your planned tour of Greece. Rightfully feeling anxious, you immediately purchase a travel insurance plan to protect your trip. Shortly before you leave, another bus bombing occurs and you decide you're going to cancel the trip. Your travel insurance would not cover your trip cancellation because you purchased the plan within 30 days of a terrorist incident occurring at your destination. (Note: You may still receive travel insurance benefits if another covered reason applies to your travel experience.)

Does travel insurance cover terrorist attacks on planes?

If a terrorist attack causes your airline or other carriers to cease services for 24 hours, that's considered a covered reason for trip cancellation or interruption by Allianz Global Assistance. If you or a travel companion is hijacked, that's also a covered reason for trip cancellation. In situations such as these, contact Allianz Global Assistance's global travel assistance hotline for help, if possible. Allianz Global Assistance's travel experts can help you contact local authorities or the United States Embassy and make alternate travel arrangements to get home safely. If a terrorist attack occurs on another plane before your scheduled trip, that's not a covered reason for trip cancellation.

What if I'm afraid a terrorist incident will occur?

Shortly before your scheduled trip to visit family in the Philippines, a separatist group begins making terrorist threats. The State Department issues a travel alert urging caution. You're considering calling off the trip and rescheduling it for later in the year. Will travel insurance cover your trip cancellation because of fear of a terrorist incident? No, because no incident has occurred. The fear or threat of a terrorist incident at your destination is not a covered reason for trip cancellation. However, you should use caution when making your travel arrangements.

Does travel insurance cover riots or other violence?

You've just arrived in Cairo and are preparing to depart for a grand Egypt tour. Then a riot breaks out in Tahrir Square as protesters and police clash. Terrified, you retreat to your hotel room and begin making plans to fly home. Will travel insurance cover your trip cancellation because of the riot?

No, because civil unrest is not the same thing as terrorism. Allianz Global Assistance's travel insurance defines terrorism specifically as "when an organized terrorist group, as defined by the U.S. State Department, injures or kills people or damages property to achieve a political, ethnic or religious goal or result." Terrorist events don’t include general civil protest, unrest, rioting or acts of war. If a strike or unrest results in your carrier or tour operator ceasing services for 24 hours, then that could be considered a covered reason for trip cancellation.

If the comfort of having math or a travel insurance plan on your side still isn’t enough to calm your nerves when traveling abroad, then perhaps consider the recent and relevant advice of New York Times writer and traveling journalist David Shaftel:

“The more I travel, the more I feel at ease about traveling. My anxiety generally rears its head in the run-up to a trip. When we’re actually traveling, those fears tend to be displaced by more practical matters, like whether we have enough diapers, snacks, and patience to last through the day."3

The short of this difficult subject matter is that, yes, travel insurance can provide some coverage in the event that terror attacks impact your travel. But when it comes down to quelling general anxiety about what could happen, the best advice may just be to make responsible travel plans, exercise sound judgment — and don’t look back.

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