The foreign and commonwealth office draws up an extensive list of countries that should not be travelled to quite regularly, and is from that, that our, and other global travel insurance providers’, underwriters decide which countries travel insurance should be provided for. We look at the government travel advice and decide from that whether or not we can provide insurance to travelers.
Although global travel insurance does, by its nature, cover the majority of the world, the current climate ensures that there are some places where the likelihood of incident means that UK travel insurance providers are unable to offer protection. Thankfully, the list is clear of the majority of popular holiday destinations, and you’re unlikely to have your big holiday plans affected. The most likely group to have their travel plans altered by the foreign office’s travel advice are business travelers.
The foreign office’s travel advice is not to travel to the following countries, even if it means losing business – the risk from the warzones listed below is just too great to make the reward worth the danger:
Here’s our top 10 countries to avoid traveling to, and the reasons for the high risk factor! The risk is far from conclusive (the foreign office’s travel advice lists many more countries), but to me, these are the ones that all travelers should avoid like the plague:
Economic hardship in Liberia is currently making outbreaks of violence common, and foreigners (especially westerners) are at risk targets due to their affluence. This extra likelihood of incident ensures that no UK travel insurance provider would risk offering you cover if you choose to visit Liberia
Occasional acts of terrorism and political violence in urban areas make Nepal off-limits for those who want to get travel insurance. In September this year, three nearly simultaneous bombs went off in the capital of Kathmandu, killing 3 and injuring many innocent bystanders.
Haiti is considered off limits to many travelers on account of the high risk of kidnappings and civil unrest that is prominent. At the time of writing, there have been 12 kidnappings of American travelers in 2007 – mostly criminal in nature. In the past, these kidnappings have ended in physical and sexual assaults and shootings. The potential for spontaneous protests and demonstrations has also been known to result in unexpected violence, day or night. It’s no surprise that the government’s travel advice is not to travel here!
Due to the high levels of terrorist activity in Yemen, westerners are advised to steer clear of Yemen. If this is not possible, then all travelers are encouraged to stay vigilant and to keep a low profile to avoid attacks or kidnapping. The situation is so grave that the US Embassy often restricts American citizens from certain hotels, restaurants and shopping areas.
The Gaza Strip and West Bank has seen immense violence in recent months between Israeli and Palestinian factions, and shootings, kidnappings and violence demonstrations have occurred in each. The region’s continued instability makes travel to Israel widely recommended against – the risk of abduction or worse makes travel insurance impossible to obtain.
5) Democratic Republic of Congo
The democratic republic of Congo remains one of the most dangerous places to travel in Africa, where violence, neglect and corruption has left the country distinctly damaged. Fighting erupted in the streets of Kinshasa in March this year, and the situation remains volatile despite the immediate threat of violence calming down. Travel outside of Kinshasa is difficult and dangerous with security, especially in the north and easy, being unstable. Any traveler brave enough to travel to the Congo should be extremely cautious, avoid the North Kivu district which is the backdrop to armed conflict between government troops and army rebels, avoid crowds and keep a close eye on local media.
4) Burma (Myanmar)
While the human rights situation makes Myanmar an ethically uneasy place to visit, currently there is a lot of personal risk involved as well. Throughout September, the anti-government protests sparked a violent crackdown from the authorities and made international headlines. Although the dusk-til-dawn curfew imposed in some of the towns has been lifted, it still remains an uncertain time to visit the country and you’re unlikely to find any global travel insurance company who will insure you.
Colombia remains one of the most dangerous places to travel in the world thanks to the crime the country suffers from. The illicit drug trade in urban areas such as Cali and Buenaventura means that there is often a high risk of violence, while the more rural areas expose visitors to the country at risk from narcoterrorist groups who will often kidnap civilians to use for ransom or to gain media attention. Naturally UK travel insurance companies are loathe to insure travelers who choose to ignore these warning and travel to Colombia anyway.
With the war on terror in Afghanistan still fresh in the mind, it’s no surprise that the country remains a big no-go area. Western tourists are obvious kidnap and assassination targets, as many of the disbanded Taliban and Al-Qa’ida forces remain at large and hostile to the new regieme. Additionally, the country remains unsafe due to tribal groups, explosive devices, landmines, military operations and acts of terrorism. Unsurprisingly, the government’s travel advice is to avoid travelling here at all costs!
Given the high profile nature of western kidnappings by various insurgent groups, and the regular acts of terrorism and hostility to Western troops, it is no surprise that no travel insurance companies will insure travelers to the troubled country. The instability is caused by various groups – Ba’ath regime remnants, transnational terrorists and criminal elements have been known to attack convoys en-route to venues, hotels, restaurants, checkpoints and police stations.
While holidaymakers are unlikely to be affected by these less touristy locations, their riskiness means that business travellers will have to forgo their travel insurance if they are unable to cancel their trips.