13 October 2016
The death of King Bhumibol has triggered nationwide mourning in Thailand, as the country’s fractious politics seem set to unravel.
The destabilising impact of the death of the king has forced travellers to question their options.
Natalie Ball, director of Comparetravelinsurance.com.au, says;
"We’ve already seen an influx of travel insurance quote enquiries for Thailand, as many Australians that were planning to visit the country scurry to purchase a policy. Numerous customers with plans already in place have been in contact regarding their rights and ability to claim for cancellation. At present, there is a lot of fear swirling as an official mourning period commences in Thailand.”
There has not been any change to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)’s current travel advisory. For the majority of the country, tourists have been warned to remain alert and exercise caution while travelling, with a ‘do not travel’ warning in place in the southern provinces.
What is covered by travel insurance?
Australians heading to Thailand may have provision to claim if their flight is delayed or cancelled due to civil unrest/strikes or riots as opposed to an ‘act of war’ or a military rebellion.
Importantly, most travel insurers are there for their customers in time of critical need. Generally speaking, you would be covered medically if you were caught up in a riot or rebellion and travellers are strongly advised to take out cover.
However, when it comes to claiming for cancellation because you no longer want to travel due to the potential threat in Thailand, chances are you won’t be covered.
Ball adds “It’s unlikely that you would have provision to claim for the current climate of political unrest in Thailand following the death of King Bhumibol if you decided you no longer want to travel. Unfortunately, you would not be covered for ‘fear of travelling’ to a destination or ‘fear of disappointment.”
Nevertheless, the numerous benefits of travel insurance can hardly be discounted and tourists who have pre-booked tours and entertainment on their trip may have provision to claim for lost deposits.
“Travellers may experience disruption to planned activities due to the closure of popular tourist venues during the mourning period. Out of pocket expenses for pre-paid tours and events that have been cancelled would likely be covered by your travel insurance policy.”
Caution in Thailand
Although DFAT has not upgraded its travel warning at this point in time, they are advising travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand. To minimize risk, travellers have been advised to abide by local laws, respect Thai customs at this time and dress and behave appropriately.
Travel insurance policies will be void for travel to certain parts of Thailand (including the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla) due to high levels of ongoing violence. A ‘do not travel’ warning has been enforced for these regions.
Ball adds, “Thailand is and will always be one of most well-loved travel destinations. Although travelling in times of uncertainty can be nerve-wracking, we simply recommend you exercise caution when moving around crowded areas and take all the regular safety precautions when travelling through a foreign country.”
Whilst you may not be able to rely on travel insurance for the death of a royal, ‘acts of war’ or related claims, it is still vital to take out a policy before you head away. Additionally, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) website, Smart Traveller can be a very useful resource and one worth checking regularly to stay abreast of any current events. The Australian government can help travellers during and after an incident of civil unrest, so be sure to register your travels with DFAT as well.