The coronavirus outbreak has caused panic around the world. Also known as the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it’s is a respiratory illness that can easily spread from one person to another.
In order to avoid spreading the virus, many airlines and cruises have canceled domestic and international routes. The CDC has advised travelers not to travel to certain high-risk countries that have been exposed to the virus altogether.
With more people becoming infected each day, many travelers are reassessing their travel plans. You might be one of those people. And you might be wondering if it’s possible to get reimbursed for your canceled trips.
Along with trip cancelations, travel insurance will typically cover unforeseen events and emergency medical issues. However, it does come with its limitations, and that has never been more apparent than now.
This article is not about whether or not you should travel at this time—that’s a controversial topic on which I have my own opinions, but will not get into here. If you are traveling right now, my one request is to please be smart.
The Scoop on Coronavirus, Travel Insurance, Epidemics & Foreseen Events
Generally speaking, travel insurance companies will not cover cancelations related to the coronavirus. That’s because the coronavirus outbreak is considered an epidemic and now a foreseen event.
And most travel insurance policies have exclusions for epidemics and foreseen events.
It’s also important to keep in mind that most travel insurance policies will not cover cancelations due to fear over the coronavirus.
For many travel insurance companies, the coronavirus outbreak was designated as a foreseeable event from January 21 – 24th. So if you purchased a travel insurance policy after those dates, you’re probably not covered for issues related to the outbreak.
If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Warning Level 3 for your destination, and you have arrived there or purchased your policy after it was issued, you may not be covered.
If you purchased a policy before these dates, you might be covered if you cancel your trip. If the CDC has issued a Warning Level 3 for your location when you’re already there, some companies will give you 10 days to get out of the country before your insurance is void.
It depends on your plan and you’ll need to call the company for specifics.
But since most travel insurance policies do not cover any sort of epidemic or pandemic, your chances of getting anything covered are pretty unlikely, no matter when you purchased your policy.
Note that most hotels and rental car agencies allow cancelations up to 48 hours in advance, so you may still be able to get refunds for these expenses, just not your airfare.
What to Do if You’re Planning a Trip
The coronavirus outbreak is spreading rapidly, and even if your destination isn’t currently at risk, it might be impacted in the future.
If you have an upcoming trip and are concerned about what might happen, there is an option: adding Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) coverage to your travel insurance policy.
CFAR coverage allows you to cancel your trip for other reasons outside the typical travel insurance policy’s covered reasons. And in most cases, this includes canceling a trip due to issues around the COVID-19 coronavirus.
But with most insurance policies, you’ll need to purchase CFAR within 14 to 21 days of making your first trip payment. And in some cases, you’ll need to cancel several days in advance before your departure in order to receive reimbursement for your otherwise non-refundable trip costs.
If you have already bought travel insurance and have decided not to travel, some insurance companies will reimburse some (or all) of your money if you cancel on time. Check your policy!
Travel Insurance Companies That Offer CFAR Coverage Include:
What to Do if You’re Traveling to an Infected Area
If you are planning to travel to an area that has been impacted by the coronavirus, then there are several steps you can take to stay safe.
First, and the most obvious, add Cancel for Any Reason coverage to your travel insurance policy. So if you do need to cancel your trip, you’ll at least be reimbursed for a portion of your travel costs.
It’s also important to have comprehensive emergency medical and emergency evacuation coverage. In the instance that you do get sick, you’ll be able to seek medical care and attention while abroad, and get covered for it.
While traveling, there are certain measures you can take to help reduce your risk of becoming infected. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly for 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid touching your face when possible.
You might also want to consider wearing an N95 or P95 protective face mask.
The World Health Organization has stated that healthy individuals do not wear a mask. If you’re traveling somewhere with an outbreak, however, I think you absolutely should.
What to Do if You’re Already in an Infected Area
While there is not a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus, you can still take precautionary measures to avoid getting sick while traveling to an infected area.
Most importantly, avoid contact with those who are sick or could possibly be infected by the virus. That means staying inside your home or hotel as much as possible.
Fun trip, huh?
And like mentioned above, remain diligent about washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and avoiding contact with your face. If you’re in an infected area, it’s also important to disinfect any surfaces or objects you might be touch.
What to Do if You Contract the Coronovirus While Traveling
If you think you have been infected, then you need to seek medical care. This is when travel insurance should actually cover you, assuming you purchased your travel before this was considered a foreseen event.
If you purchased a travel insurance policy with emergency medical benefits—with which most do come—then you will likely be covered for hospital visits and treatments.
Remember, in any emergency, you should visit the nearest hospital immediately. You should also contact your travel insurance provider for information regarding next steps once you are being treated.
What to Do if You are Quarantined While Traveling
It’s also very possible that you could be quarantined while traveling in or from an infected area. If this does happen to you, then it’s important to stay calm and assess the situation.
Although being quarantined may impact your travel plans, keep in mind it’s a precautionary measure and the quarantine is in your best interest as well as the general public’s.
If evacuation is organized by the government, then your return expense is likely covered by your travel insurance policy.
But generally speaking, you cannot be evacuated while being quarantined abroad. You will need to wait to be cleared in order to return back home.
Although the coronavirus outbreak is an epidemic, there are measures you can take to stay safe during this global crisis.
If you do decide to travel, make sure to invest in Cancel for Any Reason coverage. Since most policies do not include coverage for coronavirus related cancellations, Cancel for Any Reason coverage will be your saving grace and reimburse you for any non-refundable travel costs.
Although nobody wants to cancel their planned trip, please just be smart out there, regardless of your stance on this whole thing.