With four weeks to go until Wes Mountain’s holiday to Mexico and Cuba, he’s cautiously optimistic that coronavirus won’t disrupt his plans.
“I think the urgency around coronavirus has only hit me as I have been hitting ‘buy’ on the tickets,” the 36-year-old says.
“I’m growing aware that travel at this time is a little bit more risky than it normally would be.”
One big issue is travel insurance.
Because Wes only booked his flights recently, travel insurance polices won’t cover him for travel disruptions or medical costs due to the virus.
If you’re thinking about travelling soon, or if you have plans, here’s what you need to know.
Will you be covered by travel insurance?
To be covered for coronavirus while travelling, you’ll need:
So why aren’t insurers covering the virus in some cases?
Jodi Bird, a travel expert at consumer advocacy group Choice, says it has to do with how insurance is designed.
“In general, insurance is there to cover against future unknown events. Once they become known, insurers tend to cut off cover,” he says.
“Most of the insurers classified [the coronavirus outbreak] as a ‘known event’ from somewhere around January 21 to January 31.
“If you bought a policy before that time that covered pandemic or epidemic, then you should be covered. If you bought a policy after that time, you probably won’t be covered.”
Lisa Kable, an Insurance Council of Australia spokesperson, says the cut-off dates vary depending on the provider.
If you’re unsure, it’s best to check with your insurer.
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What your travel insurance policy might not cover
If you booked your travel after your insurer’s cut-off date, or if your policy has exclusions for pandemics and epidemics, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered for any events relating to coronavirus.
That includes medical expenses, changes of travel plans and anything else you can imagine.
“If you go overseas and contract coronavirus and become unwell, or if your plans are changed due to coronavirus, you won’t be covered for that component of your trip,” says Ms Kable.
Otherwise, your travel insurance should cover you for everything it usually would, Ms Kable adds.
Why you might want to consider ‘cancel for any reason’ insurance
One option that is available is something called “cancel for any reason” insurance.
It’s a new product, having been in Australia only for a couple of years, Ms Kable says. It’s available from travel agents and some insurers.
Here’s how it works, according to Mr Bird:
Again, each policy will vary, so make sure to read the terms and conditions before signing up.
What can you do if you need to cancel your trip?
If you need to cancel your trip, and you aren’t insured, you might still be able to get some money back.
Some airlines and accommodation providers have waived fees or are offering cancellations or changes for free.
“If you’re worried about cancelling, the main option we’re aware of is that ‘cancel any time’ insurance,” Mr Bird says.
“Other than that, if you really don’t want to travel, maybe have a look into your options with the airline and accommodation that you’ve booked.”
Depending on the airline, you might be able to reschedule, get a credit or even get a refund.
If you’re flying on an Australian carrier, Mr Bird suggests checking their polices around cancellations.
To do this, you can search for the carrier name and “compensation policy”.
If you’re travelling soon, another good tip is to subscribe to updates from the Smart Traveller website. It’s the best way to stay informed about developments.
“I’ve got a trip planned to Singapore and I’ve got alerts that they’re now using thermometers at the airport for people with high temperatures,” Mr Bird says.
“In Italy, for example, it will state the specific areas where the virus has been seen … so you can make your decision based on that.”
This content was originally published here.