On March 11 2020, the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a pandemic, which means it is a worldwide threat. In an effort to stop the further spread of the disease, almost all countries in the world have put up travel restrictions, against all but essential travel. This, in turn, has increased the probability that your trip will be cancelled, which has led travel insurance companies to make changes to their trip cancellation policies.
You can see a detailed map of world-wide travel restrictions here.
However, if you travel during the coronavirus outbreak, you will likely want to know how to keep yourself safe during your travels and whether you need coronavirus travel insurance.
There are two main components of travel insurance: health insurance which will cover any medical expenses due to sudden illness or accidents and trip insurance, which covers other travel-related problems, such as prepaid expenses for flights, hotels or expenses related to lost luggage.
Do I Need Coronavirus Travel Insurance?
Under normal circumstances, getting travel insurance for an international trip is recommended – if not required.
However, there is no specific “coronavirus” travel insurance. As a matter of fact, since the disease was declared a pandemic, travel insurers stopped covering for coronavirus-related claims altogether or made changes to their existing policies.
So, while you can still buy travel insurance, how much coverage you will be getting depends on the specific policy. It is up to you to very carefully read the policy and what you are purchasing, so you are not met with surprise charges down the line.
Changes to Travel Insurance Plans Due to Coronavirus
Some travel insurance companies have made the following changes to their policies:
- They no longer offer cancellation cover
- They no longer offer trip disruption coverage
- They no longer offer coverage for any coronavirus-related claims
Keep in mind that these changes come into force for new policies. If you had an existing policy before the coronavirus outbreak or before your government put up travel restrictions and advised against non-essential travel, your travel insurance will still cover you.
Travel Health Insurance Coronavirus Coverage
Whether your travel insurance plan will cover coronavirus depends on three things:
- Your travel health insurance policy. Read the travel insurance policy carefully to learn just what it will cover.
- When you are travelling.
- Where you are travelling to and from.
When will the travel insurance plan not cover you?
- If you travel to a high-risk country. If the competent bodies have issued warnings against travelling to a country (such as Italy or Iran), but you decide to travel there anyway, then your travel health insurance will not cover any of your medical expenses if you get sick with COVID-19.
- If you have purchased the plan previously, not if you purchase a new plan.
- If you travel from a country with a high number of coronavirus cases.
When will the travel insurance plan cover you?
- If you arrived in the foreign country before there was a coronavirus outbreak.
- If you arrived in a foreign country before the competent authorities in your home country (such as the CDC) issued travel restrictions.
- If your plan includes coverage for an epidemic or pandemic. Most travel insurance plans don’t have this specific type of coverage, however.
Cancel for Any Reason Coverage
Fear of the coronavirus is not included as a valid cancellation reason in any standard travel insurance policy, even if you have a trip-cancellation package. But if your government issued a warning against travelling after you bought the policy, then you may have some coverage. Still, the only time when you are most likely to have coverage for trip cancellation is if you purchase a “Cancel For Any Reason” add-on to your existing plan.
You can purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage as an addition to any type of travel insurance plan. This type of health insurance will cover the types of situations that basic trip cancellation plans usually do not. However, that doesn’t mean you will be covered regardless of the conditions of the cancellation. Cancel for Any Reason Plans will only reimburse you with the following conditions:
- The insurance company will reimburse you only up to a specific coverage amount, which usually falls between 50% and 75%. This is specified and agreed upon when you purchase the policy. There are different coverage amounts for different plans.
- You have to purchase the plan within 20 days from when you make your initial payment or deposit for your trip.
- You have to purchase insurance for the entire cost of any nonrefundable prepaid trip arrangements that can be cancelled or restricted.
- You cancel the trip no less than 48 hours before you are scheduled to depart.
Having trip cancellation insurance is an optional feature that you can add on to any basic travel insurance plan. It will help you save money if you have to cancel your plan for some reason. Usually, if you purchase trip cancellation coverage.
Where Can I Purchase Cancel For Any Reason Trip Insurance Plans?
You can purchase Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance plans via a local travel insurance company such as:
- AXA Assistance USA.
- HTH Travel Insurance.
- Seven Corners Travel Insurance.
- Travelex Insurance Services.
- TravelSafe Insurance.
- Trawick International.
- USI Affinity.
Will I Lose Money If I Cancel My Trip Because of Coronavirus?
Unless you have purchased a “Cancel For Any Reason Plan”, then you likely will lose all your prepaid trip expenses, such as hotel reservations and flight tickets if you decide to cancel your trip. Trip cancellation policies can offer coverage for things like injury or illness, natural disasters or worsened weather conditions, bankruptcy, if you are called for jury duty as well as in the case of death, but they do not usually offer coverage for coronavirus.
So, if you learn that there is suddenly a coronavirus outbreak in the country you want to visit or you’re feeling uneasy about the trip, your travel insurance company will only reimburse you for any expenses if you purchased a “Cancel For Any Reason Plan”. As the name implies, this type of plan will partially (depending on the policy) cover wasted expenses because of trip cancellation – whatever the reason is, even coronavirus.
So, although the coverage is not all-encompassing, Cancel for Any Reason Coverage plans are better than nothing. Especially, if you have paid a substantial amount of money which you risk to lose.
Should I Cancel My Trip Because of Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus disease has already spread worldwide. Most countries in the world have enforced travel restrictions, which means that your flight will likely be cancelled, regardless of your personal choice.
Travel to and from the US and Europe, as two of the most affected areas, is nearly impossible, unless the trip is essential. Certain EU countries have also reintroduced border checks among themselves as a result of coronavirus.
Overall, during this time, the World Health Organization WHO advises that you avoid any non-essential travel.
If the trip is essential, or you are travelling to a country with a low number of cases, then you must be able to keep yourself safe during your trip.
Should You Cancel Your Flight Because of the Coronavirus?
As the situation stands, you will likely not have any other choice other than to cancel your flight. Because of the large-scale travel restrictions that are currently in place, more and more airlines are cancelling international flights, often leaving passengers stranded abroad.
But, whether you should cancel your flight depends on:
- Is there a travel restriction for the place you intend to visit? If the place you want to visit is considered high-risk, your government will most likely already have restricted travel.
- Is the trip essential? An emergency or for medical purposes? If it is not, even if you are travelling to a low-risk place, you are advised to reconsider your trip. The WHO is advising people to practice social distancing and remain home as much as possible in order to curb the spread of the pandemic.
- Are you travelling from a high-risk place? If you are, you will likely be denied entry into whatever country you are travelling to.
What If My Trip Is Cancelled Because of Coronavirus Travel Restrictions?
If your trip is cancelled because of the coronavirus, you will have to read your travel insurance policy to find out whether you are protected for cancellation in this case or not. One way to figure it out on your own is by checking whether your travel insurance policy was purchased before the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic (March 11, 2020) or after.
- If your travel insurance policy was purchased before March 11, 2020, then you are likely still protected. You are not protected if the policy has a pandemic exclusion.
- If your travel insurance policy was purchased after March 11, 2020, then it is already a “foreseeable” event and your insurance will not cover for it.
What If I Have to Cancel My Trip Because I Got Sick With the Coronavirus?
If you have to cancel your trip because you are sick with COVID-19, then your travel insurance should cover the trip cancellation costs if one of the cancellation reasons in the insurance policy was “illness”.
Basic trip cancellation policies consider illness and accidents as a valid cancellation reason.
Can Travel Insurance Help If I Am Stuck Abroad During Coronavirus Pandemic?
If you are stuck abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic, then your travel insurance won’t be able to help you return. That’s because the decisions were taken by the respective governments in your home country or the country you are in. So, there are no flights that the insurance company can arrange for you.
You will have to contact the Embassy of your country located where you are to get more information on any scheduled flights back home.
What your travel insurance may be able to help you with is flight delay compensation. If you included delay coverage on your travel insurance policy, then the company can help you with the costs of food and accommodation until the next flight. This will only be for a limited time, however, which depends on the specific policy.
Do I Have Travel Insurance for COVID-19 If I Travel to an Affected Area?
As of March 11, 2020, the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic. This means it is spread worldwide, and almost everywhere is an affected area. Moreover, a pandemic is a foreseeable event, and travel insurance companies do not usually offer coverage for foreseeable events.
However, it really depends on the specific insurance policy and what type of coverage you need.
If you’re looking for trip cancellation coverage, you will only be covered if you purchase “cancel for any reason” insurance.
Can Travel Insurance Help Me If I Get the Coronavirus While I Am Abroad?
If you become infected with the coronavirus while you are abroad, you should contact your insurance company to find out whether you’re eligible for compensation. You are likely entitled to coverage if you were already abroad, or if you bought your insurance policy before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the WHO.
After the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, travel insurance companies changed their policies, making it almost impossible for new clients to be covered for the novel virus.
However, some travel insurance companies can still cover your medical bills which come as a result of coronavirus treatment.
Can Travel Insurance Help Me If I Am Quarantined Abroad Because of Coronavirus?
If you are quarantined abroad because of coronavirus, your travel health insurance can help you get home only after you are discharged. They can also help with financial costs resulting from medical treatment. However, as with all other claims, it really depends on the specific policy, so make sure to read it thoroughly to learn what coverage you have and contact your insurance company.
You may have less coverage (or none at all) if you travelled against government advice.