If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re probably concerned about the threat of terrorist attacks while travelling overseas and if so, you’re not alone.
Since the September 11 attacks in New York City in the United States, the threat of terrorism has sadly become one of the leading fears for many travellers planning an international holiday.
Targeted attacks on popular tourist destinations like the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, multiple shootings and stabbings in the United Kingdom, and the infamous Bali bombings as far back as 2002 have understandably made many Australians think twice about taking a trip overseas.
Just like natural disasters or accidents, we can never be certain when or where the next attack might happen. However, knowing what to do in the event of a terror attack and understand how travel insurance may assist you in an emergency situation can at least give you some peace of mind and help you and your family stay safe overseas.
Read on for the answers to the most frequently asked questions when it comes to terrorist attacks and how travel insurance fits into the picture.
Is it still safe to travel overseas with the threat of terrorism?
With recent tragedies in international travel destinations like Paris, Istanbul, London and Brussels, it’s no wonder many travellers are hesitant to leave home these days.
Countless publicised bombings in airports, train and bus stations by extremist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have also made the act of travelling itself seem more dangerous than ever.
However, the threat of terrorism shouldn’t necessarily deter you from overseas travel if you want to see the world. There are still millions of Australian travellers that head overseas every year and have a wonderful time without any incidents.
Illness is still by far the leading cause of death for Australian travellers overseas. In fact, a report from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade indicated that illnesses were responsible for 25 per cent of all overseas deaths in 2013.
This means that poor traveller health has been the cause of more deaths than anything else including natural disasters, violent crime, transport accidents and terrorism.
So if you suffer from any pre-existing medical conditions, it might be worth checking that your travel insurance policy covers that condition before purchasing the policy and heading off on your overseas trip.
What does travel insurance cover?
A travel insurance policy may cover expenses such as:
- Overseas emergency medical treatment and hospitalisation
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
- Emergency medical transport
- Loss or damage to luggage and personal effects
- Theft of travel documents, credit cards and travellers cheques
It may also include other benefits such as:
- 24 hour emergency medical assistance
- Rental vehicle excess insurance
- Personal liability insurance
- Permanent disability insurance
- Loss of income insurance
- Accidental death insurance
Every insurance company will have a different set of inclusions and exclusions, so remember to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully before you buy travel insurance.
Why do I need to purchase travel insurance?
Accidents, natural disasters and even terror attacks can happen anywhere in the world, including on home soil, as evidenced by the Sydney Hostage Crisis at the Lindt Café in 2014.
In Australia, we’re fortunate to have a public health care system and private health insurance companies to assist with emergency medical costs and hospital bills. However, while overseas, you may not be covered for medical costs unless you’ve purchased a travel insurance policy.
Travel insurance includes 24 hour emergency assistance as well as cover for the cost of medical treatment and hospital expenses that arise overseas. It may also cover the cost of emergency transport if you need to be medically evacuated or even repatriated home.
Depending on your cover type, some travel insurers may also provide other financial benefits such as cancellation cover for lost deposits and tour operator fees if you have to cancel your trip or return directly home for an unexpected reason.
Keep in mind that most insurance companies may exclude some benefits for terrorism-related incidents, so it’s important to always read the PDS if you're unsure.
It’s also generally better to buy travel insurance direct from the insurer so you can ask questions and get the correct information, not to mention save on travel agent or tour operator fees!
How does having travel insurance help me in a terrorist attack?
Although statistically you’re far more likely to make an insurance claim for petty theft or lost luggage than you are for any terrorism-related events, one of the many benefits of purchasing travel insurance is that it may also provide cover for emergency evacuation and overseas medical expenses that arise as a result of a terrorist attack overseas.
This may include medical evacuation and emergency transport, or even funeral or cremation expenses and the cost of returning your remains home to Australia if the worst should happen and you are killed overseas.
Travel insurance can also connect travellers with a direct 24 Hour Emergency Assistance helpline which you can contact for travel advice or medical assistance anywhere in the world.
If you’re nervous about travelling overseas on holidays or a working holiday visa, knowing you’ll have 24 hour access to the right advice and assistance in an emergency situation can also help to set your mind at ease.
Do all travel insurance policies cover terrorism?
If cover for terror attacks is your main priority when comparing travel insurance policies, keep in mind that some insurers may list acts or threats of terrorism in their General Exclusions section. This means no claims that arise from any terrorism-related events would be paid.
Other travel insurers may still provide overseas medical cover if you’re injured in an attack or need to be medically evacuated for treatment, but may not pay cancellation or alternative transport expenses if you voluntarily choose to cancel, change, or delay your travel plans because of a terrorist threat.
You can use insurance comparison websites to get a snapshot of the benefits offered, but you should always read the Product Disclosure Statement so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered before you buy travel insurance.
Read our Compare Travel Insurance guide for more tips.
How do I know if my travel insurance policy covers terrorism?
Each travel insurance policy will have a different set of exclusions and benefits, so it’s always best to carefully consider the Product Disclosure Statement (including policy wording) to decide if a policy is right for you. You can read it online or request a hard copy to be mailed out to you.
Familiarise yourself with the list of General Exclusions and check the fine print for any specific terrorism-related exclusions or limits relating to:
- Emergency overseas medical and hospital expenses
- Cancellation cover
- Travel delay expenses
- Alternative transport expenses
- Evacuation and repatriation expenses
- Accidental death and disability insurance
Keep in mind insurance companies may also take into account any advisories issued by the Australian Government and exclude cover if you ignore the Smartraveller travel warnings.
What are travel alerts and advisories?
The Australian Government website Smartraveller uses four levels to assess the threats that a traveller may face in different destinations:
- Level 1 - Exercise normal safety precautions
- Level 2 - Exercise a high degree of caution
- Level 3 - Reconsider your need to travel
- Level 4 - Do not travel
Your policy may exclude cover for countries or regions that have a ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ rating, which could be due to the high risk of terror attack.
This means that if you decide to visit a level three or level four listed country, you may not be covered under your policy.
Visit Smartraveller.gov.au to check the advisory level of the country you intend to travel to, then check the PDS or ask your travel insurer what level is covered under their policies.
If a warning is issued or a region is upgraded to level three or level four when you’re already overseas, you may have provision to claim for cancellation costs or fees involved in changing your travel plans to evacuate the area immediately.
If you’ve already purchased travel insurance but haven’t yet left home when a new warning is issued, you may also be covered under your policy for cancelling or delaying your trip until it’s safe to travel again.
If something does go wrong, find the latest updates and what you’re covered for in our Travel Alerts page.
How do I choose a safe travel destination?
The Australian Government website Smart Traveller posts the latest travel warnings and security status updates. It also has a wealth of travel advice you should read before venturing overseas, including the most common risks in different regions and how to avoid or minimise them.
If you’re still feeling a bit anxious and want to opt for the safest possible destination for your next overseas holiday, check out the table below to compare the 10 safest countries to visit with the 10 most dangerous countries to avoid.
Nordic countries consistently top the list as some of the safest travel destinations in the world, but if you’re looking for a travel destination that’s closer to home, why not pop over and visit our friendly neighbours in New Zealand?
At the opposite end of the scale, if you’re concerned about safety you may wish to avoid parts of Africa and Middle Eastern regions which have a much higher threat of terrorism.
The 10 safest countries in the world*
The 10 deadliest destinations for terror attacks*
|1. Iceland||1. Iraq|
|2. Denmark||2. Syria|
|3. Austria||3. Nigeria|
|4. New Zealand||4. Afghanistan|
|5. Portugal||5, Yemen|
|6. Czech Republic||6. Pakistan|
|7. Switzerland||7. Libya|
|8. Canada||8. Egypt|
|9. Japan||9. Somalia|
|10. Slovenia||10. Ukraine|
|*Source: 2016 Global Peace Index||*Source: Statista: 2015 Fatalities from terrorism|
Travel tips to prepare for a safe and happy holiday
There are a few things you can do to prepare before leaving home to help your future self if something does go wrong on your holiday.
Check current travel warnings
Check that the countries you’re travelling to are not listed as ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘Do not travel’ or words to that effect by Smartraveller.
Get the right advice
Purchase a travel insurance policy directly with the travel insurance company to make sure you get the correct information (and avoid paying travel agent fees!).
Make digital copies
Scan, print and keep digital copies of all your travel documents handy.
Save important contacts
Save the address and phone number of the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate as well as the Australian Government 24 hour consular assistance number: +61 2 6261 3305
Subscribe to Smart Traveller
Download the app or subscribe to Smart Traveller email bulletins for up-to-date travel alerts and warnings.
Remember, if you need emergency help or advice while travelling overseas, contact our 24/7 Worldwide Emergency Assistance team as soon as practically possible.
Details on how to contact us are listed on our Emergency Contacts page as well as on your travel insurance policy certificate.
For new or existing policy enquiries, please Contact Us on 1300 409 322 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org