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are Greece bushfires covered by travel insurance?

01/08/2023 By Natalie Smith 

Amidst Europe's heatwave and Greece's bushfires, what are traveller's rights?

Greece’s bushfire crisis has met catastrophe levels, forcing the evacuation of 20,000 people off the island of Rhodes. Extreme heat has been affecting large areas of Europe, including Spain and Italy. Amid the devastation, thousands of travellers have had to cancel or cut-short their holidays.
So, can travel insurance help those who are out-of-pocket as a result? 
Natalie Ball, director, says that travellers should pay attention to government warnings and understand your cover rights.
“The Australian government to date has not upgraded its level of advice to Greece, rather advising travellers to monitor local developments and follow any instructions issued by the local authorities, including evacuation orders. Travellers should keep up-to-date with media coverage and bushfire warnings and ensure they understand which areas are most affected wherever they are travelling.” 
Ball says that the majority of comprehensive policies cover natural disasters, so if your travel plans are directly affected and you purchased cover in advance, you may have a provision to claim for cancellation.
“A comprehensive travel insurance policy, purchased prior to news of the heatwave and bushfires becoming widespread, would give you provision to claim for out-of-pocket costs in the event that you were unable to reach your planned destination.”

Am I covered for medical emergencies due to extreme heat or bushfires? 

Yes, if you are injured or become ill due to a bushfire or heatwave you would be covered by travel insurance, provided you were not travelling against government advice.

Am I covered if I'm overseas and can’t partake in planned activities?

In some destinations, it is advised for locals and tourists to stay inside due to the extreme heat - this includes avoiding popular tourist attractions. If you were planning on visiting an attraction but decided not to go, typically travel insurance policies do not cover loss of enjoyment. If the tour operator cancelled as a result of the extreme weather conditions, or your accommodation was uninhabitable you would likely be covered.”

Can I choose not to travel?

Those wanting to cancel their trips to Greece or other destinations affected should note that fear or disinclination to travel is not generally covered by travel insurance.
“Your travels would have to have been directly affected in order to claim. Wishing to cancel a trip due to loss of enjoyment or a change of mind would not be covered by travel insurance,” says Ball.
“Contact your travel agent or travel provider first to see the best option for altering your trip. Some travel providers may provide penalty-free options to amend travel arrangements.”
Those with health conditions that may be exacerbated by the bushfires could have provision to claim.
“Should specific circumstances preclude you from travel you may have provision to claim. However, travellers in doubt over their holiday plans should speak with their insurer before cancelling their trips outright and expecting compensation.” 

In the event that Smartraveller upgrades its travel warning to Greece or other areas and it is no longer safe to travel, you may be covered by travel insurance.

What if my flight or accommodation is cancelled?

If you’ve contacted your flight or travel provider and are unable to get a refund or receive credit you should then contact your travel insurer.

“If your travel provider is unwilling to refund or change your dates of travel, insurers would then assess your need to claim,” says Ball. “Just know that basic, medical only policies would not provide this type of cover.”

What policy should I buy?

Even if you are not directly affected, bushfires are so devastating and unpredictable that they can cause massive disruption to travel. For future travel, ensure your policy provides cover for natural disasters in order to be covered for the following:

Cancellation: If the area where you are travelling is affected and your accommodation is closed, the area is unsafe to travel to, or the government has advised against travel.
Alternative accommodation: In the event you arrive at your destination and are unable to use your original accommodation. This includes any additional accommodation required due to flight delays or cancellations.
Lost or damaged belongings: Any losses or damages to your belongings as a result of a bushfire.
 Medical costs for personal injury: Costs associated with treatments, stays in hospital, medication or other expenses.
Any extra costs linked to the bushfire: Hire car charges, missed bookings or any other costs that you incur as a direct result of a bushfire.
Lastly Ball says that natural disasters can erupt at unpredictable times, which is precisely the reason travellers should invest in a comprehensive policy. 
“We would encourage everyone to buy travel insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed. Be sure to understand the terms of your policy and any exclusions that may apply. Lastly, buying cover, sooner rather than later, is always the way to go.”

Contributor Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith

Having travelled to over 40 countries, studied tourism management and worked as a flight attendant for over three years, Natalie knows more than a thing or two about travel! She’s an adventure-lover, whose favourite trips have been trekking Machu Picchu and volunteering in an animal shelter in the Amazon. Qualified in Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice and specialising in travel insurance for the last five years, she in passionate about helping travellers get the most out of their holiday.

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