The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides travel advisories for all countries in the world. The advice is reviewed once a month, but is also updated immediately it a specific requirement requires it.
What advice is offered?
For each country, the FCO offers a summary of security and safety warning, based on information from British embassies, British security services, and local information. It also offers details about entry requirements, health concerns and natural disasters.
What about warnings?
There are a total of five levels of warning for each country, one of which is that there are no travel problems. The other levels are combinations of two factors: whether the advice covers an entire country or a specific area, and whether the FCO advises against all travel, or all but essential travel.
What counts as essential travel?
That is left to the individual, though the FCO gives the examples of "urgent family or business commitments."
How does the advice affect insurance?
This is technically down to the insurer. In most cases, an insurance policy will be invalid if you visit a country or a specific area that is covered by a warning against any travel. With warnings against non essential travel the situation may be different, so you will need to check with the insurer.
What if I'm already abroad when the advice is issued?
Normally insurance will cover you for a trip that you began at a time a travel advisory wasn't in place. You will be expected to follow any official advice once a security threat begins, such as a government-ordered curfew, and not doing this may invalidate any claim.
What about cancelling the trip?
If your tour operator or airline cancels a trip, it will be responsible for refunding your money. If your flight is cancelled because of a travel advisory, your policy may pay out for any accommodation you have already paid for.
If you choose to cancel a trip because of fear about a country, but an FCO travel advisory isn't in place, your policy won't pay out.
If you choose to cancel a trip that is covered by an advisory, the insurer won't necessarily pay for the cancellation-related costs, even though the policy wouldn't have been valid for travel. In these circumstances what matters is the specific reason for the advisory, and whether this is covered under the cancellation cover section. Some reasons for cancellation, such as wars, are specifically included.
What if I change my destination because of the advice?
This is again down to the specific policy. Many insurers will let you transfer a policy to a new destination in these circumstances; you may not have to pay an administration fee, but will have to pay the difference if the premium for the new destination is higher.
Is there any other advice I should look out for?
The World Health Organization issues advice against travel to areas affected by outbreaks of communicable diseases. Some insurers may include WHO advice in their policies and refuse to cover people who travel to countries affected by such advisories, even if the FCO hasn't issued an advisory.
PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular travel insurance product or provider. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at www.unbiased.co.uk
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