Natural disasters. They're a part of life and yet we're so incredibly unprepared for them when they do come along. The effects of a natural disaster can be truly shocking, hitting fast and leaving behind a trail of epic destruction. So can you ever really be guaranteed protection from the ires of mother nature? Yes, no and maybe, is perhaps not the cut and dry answer you’d like to hear. But when it comes to travel we all like to know that should the very worst happen, we'd have a life raft of sorts to get us home safely. According to most travel insurance plans natural disasters are typically defined as a “flood, fire, hurricane, cyclone, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard or avalanche that is due to natural causes.” It’s worth knowing that not all policies will cover the same events, for instance, some may omit volcanic eruptions or avalanches, and it's important to note those exclusions.
In this handy guide you’ll learn all about travel insurance in regards to avalanches, bushfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and storms. You'll find out what type of cover is available for each of the above and how to ensure you will be protected should the unexpected take place.
Looking to do a bit of natural disaster research? We also provide you with some helpful information as to where the worst types of events take place. Remember, the better prepared you are, the more informed your decisions can be.
Finally, if your holiday does take a hit we’ll tell you how to best salvage the situation. Knowing what’s required of you can take a load off should you run into trouble.
Bushfires, brushfires, wildfires, whatever you call them, large-scale fires can erupt out of the blue and cause major devastation to surrounding communities. With a tendency to spread rapidly, an uncontrolled fire combined with dangerous weather conditions can have lethal and unprecedented results.
Australia in particular is prone to some of the world’s worst bushfires thanks to hot, dry conditions and recent ongoing droughts. Those in the vicinity of a major bushfire are advised to stay informed, stay aware and avoid all known danger zones.
Get fired-up for your trip, but don't get burnt! Follow these tips and enjoy an exciting, inspiring and, above all, safe holiday.
Fires tend to strike in hot, dry destinations. There are a myriad of factors that can combine to cause a bushfire, but usually they are triggered by tinder-dry conditions and a spark from a dropped match, a lightning strike, or another seemingly innocuous event. That said, that doesn't mean a fire can't strike anywhere. Hover over the map to see if your travel destination is a typical "hot zone"! NOTE: The information in the map below is provided as a general guide only.
The Earth’s tectonic plates are constantly moving, at times even colliding with one another. This produces a tremendous amount of energy in the earth’s surface, creating huge vibrations, leading to earthquakes. Although we only tend to hear about the worst occurrences, thousands of little earthquakes actually take place each year.
Earthquakes can strike anywhere but they are particularly likely to happen near a fault line (a place where two tectonic plates meet). The largest quakes will usually occur when two plates collide. For this reason, regions such as New Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan, the Americas and Indonesia are highly prone to earthquakes. PLEASE NOTE: The information in the map below is provided as a general guide only. Please refer to earthquaketrack.com for up-to-date information.
The following earthquakes take precedence as some of the absolute worst of recent times.
Luckily, major earthquakes occur only a few times a year and the odds of an earthquake occurring during a short visit are unlikely. Additionally, modern technology continues to improve and has made it easier to predict when and where an earthquake is likely to rumble.
If an earthquake has occurred at your holiday destination either before or after you’ve left home, you may be covered. But, before you travel it’s worth understanding the terms of your cover.
If the earthquake was not a known event when you bought your policy you would be covered for:
The recent devastating earthquake in Nepal killed and displaced thousands of people. Whilst a tremor this size is said to occur only once every hundred years, the quake had catastrophic consequences due to Nepal’s poorly built infrastructure. Whilst the odds of getting caught in an earthquake on holidays are unlikely, it’s always good to prepare for the worst. With popular tourist destinations such as Japan, Nepal and Indonesia all bearing the brunt of sizable earthquakes it’s important to have the facts and understand any necessary safety procedures.
Firstly, if you’re travelling to an earthquake-prone region you should buy travel insurance and get a good understanding of the fine print. As well, make sure you’re registered at Smartraveller. Get to know the emergency phone numbers procedures for the region and keep your passport and photo ID secured or with you at all times. If you happen to be living overseas when an earthquake strikes an emergency back-up plan can be a very wise idea.
Earthquake survival tips will vary but it’s worth understanding the local safety codes. For instance, in countries with modern infrastructure, such as Japan, it’s thought that the best place to be during an earthquake is under a table in the middle of a room. On the other hand, in countries with structurally unsound buildings, the rule of thumb is to evacuate immediately. Brushing up on the area’s safety procedures can make all the difference when it comes to your security.
Depending on the state of disaster around you it may be advisable to return home immediately. If you are safe but have found yourself stranded due to cancelled flights and damaged infrastructure, you may incur significant accommodation and travel costs. Although these would be reimbursed by travel insurance, it’s advisable to keep any additional expenses to a reasonable minimum and hold on to your receipts.
No matter how experienced or conscientious a traveller you are, an unpredictable event such as an earthquake can turn your holiday upside-down. Making sure you’ve got travel insurance and understanding any significant exclusions can be the first step in managing a natural disaster.
Hurricanes are just strong winds, right? Wrong. By definition, winds must reach 120 kmph before they are classified as a hurricane. They are amongst the most indiscriminately lethal and devastating events that nature can throw at you. While hurricanes are relatively rare, they are powerful enough to ruin a holiday.
Hurricanes can strike almost anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you need to cancel your trip and spend the holiday wrapped in a blanket under the bed. You just need to know the risks associated with: a) the location you are visiting, and b) the time of year. The Atlantic hurricane season usually lasts from May to September, but it is vital to read up on information specific to where you are going. Places such as the coast of North Carolina, the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands have hurricanes on average once every 1.5 years, so the risk is fairly high. Always keep an eye out for weather warnings and take heed of advice from the government before you travel.
Our map shows the typical paths of tropical revolving storms.
The following hurricanes take precedence as some of the worst of recent times.
It's getting windy! In most cases travel insurance does cover you for natural disasters. The following are some of the typical events you can claim for.
Even if your travel insurance does cover losses, damage or injury caused by a hurricane can still be invalidated. Here’s how:
You might think of hurricanes as random, rampaging monsters, but in fact the weather bureau will often give out warnings well in advance of a hurricane. Always heed weather reports and travel warnings; if you are specifically advised not to travel because of a hurricane warning, your insurance company is unlikely to cover you in the event of a wind-related mishap!
Something else that could pose a problem is taking out insufficient cover. You wouldn't wander into a rainstorm without an umbrella, so don't stray into hurricane territory without appropriate insurance. Basic travel insurance will cover you for medical bills only, leaving you unable to claim for damaged belongings, cancellations or other monetary losses in the event of a hurricane.
Top tip: Keep an eye on the cut-off dates for claim submissions, and keep a copy of your insurance policy's fine print with you at all times. You don't want to be precluded from claiming because of a technicality!
A handy rule of thumb; to ensure a successful claim, keep everything! Keep a record of every event that occurs as a result of the hurricane and get documented evidence or confirmation from airlines, local authorities, hotels or other businesses.
After you contact your insurer, don’t make any large payments until you receive confirmation that the payment will be covered. Keep a record of your communications and ask your insurer to do the same.
Once you’ve got the green light from your insurer, make the payment, but don’t forget to hold onto your receipts! All insurance companies will need proof of purchase before they agree to a payout, so keep hold of any evidence of the transaction, whether that is receipts, bank statements or any other documentation.
We love a storm! There’s nothing like being safe and sound at home when the rain starts to fall and forks of lightning start to flicker on the horizon. But what about when storms get out of hand? Big storms can be bad news for anyone, but for travellers, they can be disastrous. A good storm makes for a great photo-opportunity, but when that storm grows in severity, your travel plans can be ruined as a result.
Storms can affect you virtually anywhere in the world. Whether it's a catastrophic cyclone in Fiji, torrential tornado in Toronto or horrendous hail storm in New York that shuts down road traffic or a snowstorm that freezes the tarmac and grounds flights, storms can have a devastating effect on international travel.
You should never underestimate the powerful impact of a storm. A storm can combine all the very worst weather conditions and wreak havoc on those unlucky enough to find themselves in its eye. The following weather conditions can prove incredibly dangerous and should be treated with utmost caution:
Travel cancellations, injuries, damaged belongings, spiralling costs; all of these can result from a particularly bad storm. This is why cover is crucial for your trip; you can't always predict which way the weather can turn.
There is a veritable deluge of things that you can claim for in the event of a storm, here are some examples:
Travel cancelled before you leave: If a major storm happens in your holiday destination before you leave, this is likely to put your travel plans on standby as flights to and from the destination may be affected by poor visibility. As long as you have kept all the paperwork relating to your travel plans and to your insurance policy, you should be able to claim. You must have purchased your cover BEFORE the storm!
Being stranded: While storms are usually predictable, they can also happen suddenly, which can cause a bit of a headache if you are mid-trip. If a storm has cancelled or grounded your flights, you may find costs beginning to spiral as you make alternative travel and accommodation arrangements. It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as you are affected whilst keeping a record of all correspondence and additional expenses you incur.
Personal injury or loss of belongings: If the worst happens and you get caught in the vicinity of an treacherous storm, keep a record of all medical treatment received and all belongings damaged or lost. Contact your insurance company immediately and keep a record of all communication.
If you get caught in a storm, or if a storm causes mass travel cancellations, you will want to claim back the costs incurred. Follow these tips to make this process as seamless as possible:
Read your policy documents: The best way to understand your cover and the claim process is to look at your Product Disclosure Statement.
There are several reasons why Hollywood loves a volcano; they are big, loud, spectacularly scary and also very deadly, making them perfect for a starring role in an action movie. Unfortunately, it is for these same reasons that an erupting volcano can be a pretty dangerous beast.
On the other hand, volcanoes are easy to spot (they are huge, immovable mountains after all) and their temper tantrums are fairly easy to predict. That said, their eruptions still manage to catch people off guard now and again, and even a dormant volcano can pose some serious hazards of its own (take for example, the continuing Bali ash cloud). If you are planning on entering one of Planet Earth’s volcanic danger zones anytime soon, you'll need to take note of the current travel warnings and get yourself insured early. As well, you'll need to make sure that your insurance covers injury, travel cancellation or loss of property; don’t just assume it does!
Volcanoes occur at the edge of tectonic plates. These plates are always moving, causing a large amount of friction where two plates meet. Often, one plate is forced beneath the other in what is known as a subduction zone. This process creates enormous amounts of heat and pressure, melting the rock beneath the Earth's surface, which is then expelled via an eruption. The fault lines of the Pacific rim have created some of the world's most famous - and infamous - volcanoes, included those found on the west coast of South America and in Krakatoa in Indonesia.
Pleased note, the information in the map below is provided as a general guide only. Please refer to volcanodiscovery.com for up-to-date information.
Absolutely not! Volcanoes are like bumper-size picnic hampers full of just about everything Mother Nature can throw at you. Obviously it is the big, firework display pyrotechnics of volcanic eruptions that grab the headlines, but they account for only a fraction of the dangers posed by volcanoes. Ever heard of tephra? These nasty little things are pieces of volcanic rock and solidified clumps of ash that get blasted out of a volcano when it erupts. Add acid rain and pyroclastic flows (slow-moving lava flows that decimate everything in their path) to the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for extreme danger.
But it is the clouds of noxious gases and ash released by a volcano that are likely to cause you the most hassle. Recent eruptions in Bali and Iceland sent disruptive clouds drifting for hundred miles, grounding flights and delaying thousands of frustrated travellers.
There may be some exclusions that apply to your cover. The following could invalidate a claim...
Like every type of insurance there are conditions you need to pay attention to. In the majority of cases Australian travel insurance policies do cover you for unforeseen natural disasters that affect your holiday. However there are a few insurers where you need to pay attention to their conditions of cover as explained in the below.
Insure4Less: Cover for hurricane, storm or other natural disaster only when it threatens your safety such that official evacuation orders are issued or that your pre-booked accommodation is rendered uninhabitable.
InsureandGo: Medical cover due to any natural disaster is automatically covered however for cancellation you must purchase this option as an additional extra.
No Worries: Only covers for natural disasters in Australia.
Tick Travel Insurance: To include unexpected Natural Disaster as a claimable event, you must have purchased this option and the option must be shown on your Policy Schedule.
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.