Sometimes travel isn’t an option, and sometimes neither is travel insurance. If you are planning a trip, it is just as important to know what travel insurance won’t cover as it is to know what it will.

While every travel insurance provider and policy is different, there are a few general exclusions to look out for. Travel insurance probably won’t cover you if…

Your destination is at war

Most companies specifically exempt paying for claims that arise as a result of war, invasion, hostilities (declared or not), rebellion, revolution, etc. If political tensions are coming to a head between nations, it is usually a good idea to remove yourself from the situation. Not only will your travel insurance policy not cover any damages, but you could be caught in a life-threatening situation. Simply put, do not holiday in war-torn nations.

Your destination is a hotbed for radioactive energy

Nuclear energy and contamination can exempt you from a claims settlement. Many insurance providers find radiation a difficult culprit to pinpoint. If you believe nuclear radiation (either direct or indirect) has harmed your belongings, you may be out of luck. Often times it is larger, more industrial countries–such as the USA, Russia, Brazil, China and India–that have operating nuclear reactors (Australia, on the other hand, does not have any operating nuclear reactors).

Your customs office seizes your luggage

Bringing something back home that you shouldn’t be? Don’t be surprised if your travel insurance company has little sympathy. Most (if not all) travel insurance providers will refuse to pay for items seized by customs. According to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, prohibited and restricted items for entry to Australia include:

  • Illegal drugs (penalties for drug offenses usually carry a jail term)
  • Steroids (performance and image enhancing drugs require a permit to import into Australia)
  • Firearms, weapons and ammunition (these may be subject to import requirements such as permission to import, unique serial numbers and safety tests)
  • Illegal pornography (‘highly offensive’ pornography is strictly controlled at customs)
  • Food, plants and animals (often biological goods are not allowed into Australia as they can introduce pests and diseases into the Aussie ecosystem)
  • Protected wildlife (this is strictly regulated and includes orchids, caviar and ivory products).

You fail to take reasonable care

Perhaps the most-often overlooked travel cover clause is the reasonable care exclusion. The system of travel insurance works on the presumption that customers have common sense. Common sense tells us that leaving a bag unprotected in an airport terminal is a bad idea. Common sense tells us that eating seafood gumbo with a shellfish allergy is a bad idea. Common sense tells us that getting drunk and swimming in the ocean is a bad idea. Travel insurance companies often cannot account for lapses in judgement, rather they provide coverage for when the truly unexpected happens. If you violate the common sense contract, don’t be surprised to see a travel insurance representative cite reasonable care when denying your claim.

No matter which travel insurance policy you purchase or what company you go with, make sure to read the product disclosure statement for each individual product—and, be sure to specifically zero-in on the ‘Exclusions’ portion. Be informed with your purchase and only buy the cover you need.

Image courtesy of Flickr user MsSaraKelly; cropped from original