Gocompare.com is warning holidaymakers planning to travel to Thailand or the Ukraine in the next few weeks to double check their travel insurance to guarantee they don't lose out if they have to cancel their holidays.
Civil unrest and political demonstrations in Thailand has led the country's government to declare a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas from today (Jan 22nd).
More than 800,000 British people visit Thailand every year, but if they decide to cancel their holiday because of the civil unrest, they might not be covered by their travel insurance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is recommending that travellers take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before heading to Thailand.
The FCO is also advising against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. It is also advising holidaymakers not to travel at all to the Preah Vihear temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple areas, which are near the Thai/Cambodian border. There are troops in this area as there is a high threat of terrorism and outbreaks of fighting.
The reason for the warning comes as political demonstrations are increasing against Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Activists want Shinawatra to step down in place of a "people's council". For the past two months the activists have been protesting, but in the past week they have escalated their campaign, by blocking government offices and taking over major roads.
Protests in the Ukraine have also escalated in recent days. Activists have been camped out in central Kiev since November, in opposition to the government's partnership with Russia and its rejection of a pact with the EU. Last week the Ukrainian government established laws with jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings, banned the wearing of masks and helmets at demonstrations and made slandering government officials a crime. The protests have intensified since these laws were brought in.
The FCO has not issued a travel warning for the Ukraine, but is advising travellers take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
Gocompare.com is advising travellers to these countries to monitor on the FCO website to get the latest travel advice. If the advice changes, it could affect your travel insurance.
If you've booked a package deal and the area is still deemed safe by the FCO, the travel operator is under no obligation to refund you or offer you an alternative destination. However, if the FCO changes that advice and the travel operator could not guarantee you a safe and enjoyable holiday, then it would be obliged to stop sending people to Thailand or the Ukraine, and offer an alternative.
There are some insurers who will include cover for impacts from civil unrest, but these are typically higher premium policies. This is sometimes referred to as 'travel disruption' cover.
Gocompare.com's travel insurance expert, Caroline Lloyd, said: "Most of the big insurance underwriters include civil unrest, commotion or rebellion as part of their exclusions. Therefore, they wouldn't pay out if your holiday was ruined by the protests.
"It is well worth checking the small print of your travel insurance documents before you go to make sure that you are covered."
She added: "It might also be worth checking the small print if you are flying into the major airports in Thailand and the Ukraine, such as Bangkok and Kiev. If your flight is delayed due to civil unrest, again, you might not be covered. Make sure you know what you are insured for before you go and ensure that the cover is adequate for the cost of the holiday.
"Situations like these just go to show the benefits of booking travel insurance at the same time as you book your holiday. Unforeseen events like this can happen at any time, and being covered early means you might be able to get some recompense if you've got the right kind of policy; whereas, if you have already booked your holiday but haven't got insurance yet, you might struggle to get covered."