Whether for leisure or business, finding Travel Insurance or medical cover for “high risk countries” can be a nightmare.

Residents of English speaking countries other than the US: if you visit a country or area contrary to the travel advice of your Government then you will probably find you are uninsured. Travel insurance policy small print usually excludes such destinations.

Advisories and warnings aren’t just issued for dangerous countries, war zones, and areas of civil unrest. When I travelled to Moldova, like other tourists, I visited the breakaway area of Transnistria. At the time, the UK FCO was advising against all but essential travel to this area because of the absence of UK diplomatic representation. Although I had “world backpacker insurance”, its exclusions meant I wasn’t insured whilst in Transnistria.

If you are resident in the US: travel or foreign medical insurance is not usually affected by Government travel advisories (check to make sure); but there may be other relevant exclusions, and an absence of cover for certain risks (see next section).

High risk destinations: Normal Travel Insurance limitations (plus links for your Government’s travel advice):

US residents & US Insurers: expand +
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Travel.State.Gov for advice by country, travel warnings, and travel advisories.

Although US issued insurance may not specifically exclude cover for countries and areas contrary to travel advice, there may be other catchall exclusions that leave you uninsured. Examples:

  • any problem or event that could have reasonably been foreseen or expected when you purchased your plan“; and
  • War or act of war, whether declared or not, civil disturbance or insurrection“.
  • If your destination is a high risk area (in addition to Death & dismemberment, medical repatriation etc) you should consider a specialist policy that covers risks such as: War Zone and Terrorism; and, in some circumstances, kidnap and extortion. (see next section for sites offering insurance for dangerous destinations)

British residents: expand +
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Foreign Office Travel Advice.
Look out for statements like “The FCO advise against all travel” and “The FCO advise against all but essential travel“.

Travel insurance contrary to FCO advice: ALL the normal travel insurance policies issued by British insurers that you find online, or in the High Street, have a clause excluding cover for Countries (or the parts of) that the FCO has advised against all, or all but essential travel.

This Association of British Insurers: what you need to know page provides used to provide useful information on other typical travel insurance exclusions.

See next section for Travel Insurance that covers you for travel to countries against FCO advice.

Irish residents: expand +
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Department of Foreign Affairs Travel Advice.

National Consumer Association: “Generally speaking, you will not be covered under an existing policy if you travel to an area of political unrest, or if you travel to an area against the advice of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

In my un-scientific sample some policies also excluded travel to areas where the World Health Organization has advised the public not to travel. If you know where to find this advice on WHO’s site, you are a better man than me! (I suspect advice is only issued during scares like the bird flu “epidemic”).

See next section for travel insurance with no exclusion of country.

Australian Residents: expand +
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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Travel Advice.

Look out for statements like “advise you not to travel to“, “do Not Travel” and “Reconsider your need to travel“.

The Insurance Council of Australia states thatMany insurance policies will not cover claims made in countries where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends against travel for issues relating to terrorism or civil unrest”.

Some insurers also won’t pay up if the World Health Organization advised against travel.

An exclusion in one insurer’s Product Disclosure documents that I checked went even further (my underlining): “Your claim Arises because you did not follow advice in the mass media or any government or other official bodies warning : against travel … strike, riot, bad weather, civil protest, contagious disease …“. Wow!

If you can find a “normal” policy that doesn’t have these types of exclusions it may not provide the cover your needs, or may have other catchall exclusions.

See next section for Travel Insurance that does not have exclusions for countries with travel warnings.

Canadian Residents: expand +
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Government of Canada travel advice.

Look out for phrases like “Avoid all travel” and “Avoid non-essential travel“.

The GC site states “If the region or the country you will be visiting becomes subject to a Travel Advisory, it may affect your travel health insurance or your trip cancellation insurance.Travel Insurance File goes further and states “It’s a clause that all travel insurance companies insert into their policies” and points out that many countries are now flagged as “Avoid all Non Essential” travel.

From my own check, the wording of the exclusion varies by insurer, and you may find you are uninsured even if there was no travel warning before you arrived in the country as per this RSA exclusion “ .. If the Canadian Government issues an official travel warning after your departure date from Canada, your coverage for sickness, injury or medical condition is limited to a period of 10 days from the date the travel warning was issued, or to a period that is reasonably necessary to safely evacuate the country, region or area.. “.

See next section for Travel Policies that provide cover for countries with travel warnings.

New Zealand residents: expand +
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NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advice. Look out for terms like “Extreme Risk” and “High Risk” (often highlighted).

Policy small print usually includes an exclusion based on identified risk. E.G. TSB Bank “Cover excludes countries or destinations with a travel advisory risk rating of ‘Extreme’ published on the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website“.

The companies listed in the next section may be able to provide suitable insurance for dangerous destinations

Residents of Singapore: expand +
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel notices.

The General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) FAQ identifies that “Travel to specific countries like Afghanistan” are commonly excluded under insurance policies.

The GIA has 38 members. I took a quick sample (2 July 13); only 2 of 4 checked offered travel insurance, and both had exclusions for high risk destinations:

  • RSA Group Singapore: “The Company will not pay any claim arising from loss resulting from …. the Insured Person’s proceeding with the Trip against the travel warning issued by the Government of Singapore or relevant authorities
  • DirectAsia.Com “We do not cover you for the following countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Somalia.“.

The next section includes companies that offer travel insurance without country exclusions.

Where to find insurance for high risk destinations:

The following companies indicate that they can provide travel insurance for high risk countries e.g. those with “do not travel warnings”.

Inclusion does not mean recommendation; and neither indicates that policies are sufficient for your needs, nor that the provider is financially sound. What this list is and isn’t +

It is a list of organisations who state they offer travel insurance cover for dangerous and high risk countries. It also includes some information about the websites/companies (I’m human and make mistakes – do your own checks as well).

It is NOT a recommendation. Inclusion does NOT imply the provider is financially sound, nor that policies are sufficient for your needs. Under some national laws only those licensed by a regulatory authority can offer advice. I am not licensed; and cannot offer advice (nor would I wish to).– close

Available to residents of most Countries:

Travel Insurance Center

high risk travel insurance

High Risk Insurance for both individuals and organizations: 10 policies for different risks from various insurers (including IHI below). Note: it is a US site and some of these products (clearly identified) are only available to US residents.

A comparison tool allows you to select policies and compare their risk coverage side by side; and you can view the insurance certificate (policy details) for each plan.

Online chat with an advisor is also available.

Declaration: we have affiliated with Travel Insurance Center (this does not imply recommendation).

About Travel Insurance Center: expand +

US based. Operated by Senior Market Sales, Better Business Bureau accredited since 1994. A+ rated. (checked 15 Jul 2013: check yourself).

Member of US Travel Insurance Association. The site states it has a staff of licensed insurance professionals. close –

IHI Danmark

I have seen travel forum posts suggesting its insurance for countries with travel warnings.

Edit 17 July 2013: it is one of the policies listed by Travel Insurance Center (above), and you can compare it side by side with other insurance on that site.

IHI’s online Quotation includes a war zone disclaimer advising you to contact them if visiting certain countries (as at 12 July 2013 Afghanistan and Iraq), and that cover is subject to approval and additional premium. Note this also applies to pre-existing medical conditions.

Their brochure give the impression that the policy is for leisure travel – however in response to an email, IHI confirmed it could be used for business purposes subject to policy conditions.

Their annual policy has a maximum trip length of one month.

Detailed policy information can be downloaded; read it, including Art 23.1 Exceptions to cover. If you think the policy might be suitable you can contact the company for further advice.

About IHI: expand +

The company is based in Denmark and its Insurance complies with Danish Insurance Contracts Act. Note: the company has been part of BUPA since 2005. BUPA is a well known British company formed in 1947; it and its subsidiaries operate worldwide. close –

Only for US residents: expand +

These websites state they offer policies with cover for high risk countries e.g. terorism/conflict zone etc. I have only had time for a quick browse,
so conduct your own checks.

Travel Insurance Center Insurance for both individuals and organizations (including Defense Base Act).

It provides the largest choice of high risk travel insurance products I have seen. You can select plans and compare their risk coverage side by side; and chat online to an advisor.

Travel Insurance Center is owned by Senior Market Sales, BBB accredited since 1994. A+ rated with 1 complaint (resolved) in the last 3 years (checked 15 Jul
2013: check yourself).

Declaration: we have affiliated with Travel Insurance Center (this does not imply recommendation).

eGlobalHealth for contractors/companies only? Defence Base Act

Site states that eGlobalHealth Insurers Agency, LLC is family owned and run; and operates worldwide. BBB accredited since 2005. A+ rated with 0 complaints in last 3 years (checked 12 Jul 2013: check yourself).

For info on US companies, I often refer to the Better Business Bureau (it is a quick and simple check to do). I couldn’t find accreditation for the following sites. However, many good companies do not seek accreditation and may not be listed by the BBB.

Safe Passage International for NGO’s only? Defence Base Act Insurance. I have seen this site mentioned on travel forums.

New York International Group for work/business purposes only?

Good Neighbor Insurance for individuals

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Only for UK residents: expand +

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I couldn’t find a British insurer offering a ready-made policy. You have to find a broker that can work with an underwriter for you – you will have to provide full details of your trip and possibly identify any additional security arrangements that you or your employer has made.

To use a suit analogy you have to buy tailor made rather than off the peg. Unfortunately, this will have a significant impact on cost.

As the insurance is arranged on an individual basis, it is difficult to identify exactly what cover a broker will be able to provide.

Campbell Irvine: (telephone 020 7937 6981) Contact them, do NOT use their website as this provides quotes for “normal” insurance with the FCO advice exclusion. I remembered hearing that they might be able to arrange suitable insurance, and emailed them. They quickly confirmed this: “Quotations are provided on an individual basis only subject to underwriters being provided with full details of the proposed trip, and depending on the area, any additional security arrangements that may be put in place.”

Versatile Insurance its site says to contact them on 01372 824284, for this type of insurance (it mentions medical and baggage cover, but not other cover like medical repatriation).

The UK companies above are licensed by the FCA (a legal requirement). The FCA is a regulatory authority, and companies have to provide detailed information before they are licensed, which should give you some confidence in (but not a guarantee of) their financial soundness.

Other brokers: you can check whether a “broker” is licensed. Scam websites that use the name and details of genuine companies do exist. If your FCA search identifies that the company is registered then click “basic details” and ensure the listed website link is the same as the one for the site you are checking. The British Insurance Brokers Association ( can also identify brokers that can build a custom policy to meet your needs.

The companies below are ones I have recently heard about/discovered.
Caveat: I have yet to check them out. I have not verified that they are FCA licensed etc (do your own checks); and the information I received could be incorrect. DO NOT use the sites online forms, they may be for “ordinary” travel insurance. Contact the companies by phone or email to confirm that they can provide suitable insurance.


Ellis Clowes

Crisis Insurance

Bellwood Prestbury


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Only for Canadian residents: expand +

World Escapade (Journalists only) may provide cover in high risk areas. such as conflict zones. The insurance is only available to members of “Reporters without borders“.

World Escapade is part of the French April Group (founded in 1988, 2012 turnover €773,52M from 60M policy holders)

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Additional Notes:

Always check the policy details carefully before you buy; ensure it meets your needs.

Ensure other exclusions are not relevant to you e.g. pre-existing medical conditions.

Ideally buy from a company in your own country, and subject to your own country’s regulatory laws. However high risk travel insurance is difficult to find, and that may not be possible.

If your travel involves multiple countries; then you may end up having to buy separate insurance to cover you for a high risk country. This may be no bad thing as you are only paying a premium for the country and dates you need.

If you find a suitable “Annual Policy” check the small print there are usually limitations on the maximum length of any one trip (e.g. one month); and also the number of trips covered in one year.

I am not aware of any high risk travel insurance that will cover you for an extended period across multiple countries e.g. “backpacker policies”.

Related article: travel insurance comparison sites

List of countries with current travel warnings

Some Governments e.g. US have a page or feed listing all countries for which they have current warnings.

I couldn’t find an equivalent list from the UK FCO; so I’ve added one here.

The FCO advise against all, or all but essential travel, to all or parts of these countries:

Note; this list is generated daily by an automatic scan which looks for key phrases in FCO advice for each country. I don’t guarantee it is up to date, or that it will always identify every country with travel warnings.

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