Civil unrest

Civil Unrest: What you need to know

Civil unrest can happen anytime, anywhere.

There’s no doubt that civil unrest can impact your travel plans and it’s important to understand the risks and how your travel insurance might be able to help.

So what is civil unrest?

Quite simply, it is any activity which involves a mass act of civil disobedience.  Examples include demonstrations, riots and strikes.  In all cases, it involves participants who act in a hostile manner towards authority and the authorities have difficulty maintaining public safety and control over the participants.

Civil unrest takes many forms ranging from peaceful demonstrations which cause no particular disturbance to violent riots where authorities use force to control participants.

Some regions and countries are known for long term civil unrest.  Conversely, in other countries it can occur at a moment’s notice.

So what do you need to know if you’re travelling to an area where there is civil unrest?

First and foremost, safety is the number 1 priority.  To find out if the destination is safe, research is key.

Mainstream media will always be a good source of information about local conditions but more importantly, the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will always provide information and advice to travellers about the safety of international destinations.  DFAT’s smartraveller website has a wealth of information about international destinations including safety considerations.  It is updated in response to new and emerging risks facing Australians who are travelling to or through other countries.  It’s a good idea to sign up to the email alert service run by DFAT to keep you up to date with the latest information for your chosen destination/s.  You can do this by clicking here.

Travel insurance which offers cover for cancellation or curtailment of the trip in the event of civil unrest is a must.  Take the time to read the policy you are planning to purchase to make sure you understand if it is covered and if so, how the policy responds.

Some policies will provide cover if you need to cancel the trip if civil unrest stops you from travelling as planned.  Other policies will only respond if the Australian government’s travel advisory is at the “Do Not Travel” level.

In all cases where the policy requires the Australian Government travel advisory to recommend against travel to the country, the unrest (and/or advice against travel) must occur after you purchased the policy.  You cannot purchase a policy to cover you for civil unrest if it has already commenced and the travel advisory against travel is in place.  In this case, it is a known risk – that is, the risk that your trip will be affected by it is known/likely.

Whilst most policies will cover you if you have to cancel the trip due to civil unrest, not all of them will cover you if you are already at the destination and you want to leave because it has arisen.

Also, be aware that travel insurance doesn’t cover disinclination to travel.  The civil unrest needs to affect your planned travel.  If the Australian government considers it safe for Australian travellers to be in the location where civil unrest is occurring, it is unlikely your travel insurance will offer any form of compensation simply because you just don’t want to go.

Remember too that civil unrest does not always involve violence and often it is quite safe for people to be in a location where civil unrest is happening.  Just be mindful that situations involving civil unrest can be volatile and it’s always best to stay away from areas where protestors are congregating.  It goes without saying – don’t participate in any form of civil unrest as it is likely this will invalidate your travel insurance if you are injured in a demonstration.  Always remain vigilant, keep abreast of Australian government travel advice and media reports.  Stay away from locations where protests are taking place and always obey instructions provided to you by local authorities.

Got questions about civil unrest and travel insurance?  Why not call us on 1300 819 888 or send an email to