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If you’re planning your annual trip (or trips), taking out a travel insurance policy is probably a good idea. Even if you’re just looking to escape to a warmer climate an hour away, you’d do well to remember that if anything untoward happens, expenses are usually higher in foreign countries. That said, travel insurance shouldn’t be considered a license to do silly things.

Even if you’ve bought the best policy on the market (although let’s face it, most of us skim and pick the cheapest option anyway) keep in mind that you can be still held liable. If the insurer decides an accident was your fault, or you did something against the terms and conditions, there may be no payout. Here are some of the things that can void your claim:

If you get into a fight

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Insurers will draw a distinction between you being attacked and actively involving yourself in a fight. If you decide to take a swing at someone and you get hurt, you can’t make a claim for any resulting injuries. For instance, if you’re caught in the middle of rioting sports fans and defend yourself, investigations may hold that you willingly joined in the fight.

A common point of dispute also arises when nightclub bouncers are involved. If a club’s bouncers claim you instigated the fight (and they most certainly will), you may not get to claim for any injuries they cause you. So it really is your best bet to stay out of trouble. Speaking of club bouncers, it brings us to the next thing that can void your insurance.

If you consume alcohol before an accident

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Here’s the situation: you decided to have a few glasses of wine before heading off to a rave. You dance the night away with your girl friends but you trip and fall in the middle of the dance floor and sprain your ankle, maybe even break your nose. When you make a claim with your travel insurer, they might decide that your actions are attributed to intoxication and refuse the payout. Insurers can and do use professional investigators who may go to the point of checking your blood alcohol levels as reported by any clinic you went to.

Even if you felt in control because it was ‘just wine’ and you didn’t drink on the scene, it’s up to you to prove that the alcohol had nothing to do with your accident. Not only is this difficult to do, it’s time consuming and will entail tedious back-and-forths between you and the insurer. Finally, let’s say you do end up winning, it might be a good few months of ongoing disputes before you get your payout.

If you travel for medical reasons

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Should you be travelling for medical purposes (ranging from minor to major surgery, dental or otherwise) you don’t want to rely solely on basic travel insurance. Most travel insurance policies don’t cover situations arising from a botched surgery, or post-operation hospitalisation time arising from complications during an elective surgery. To make sure you have adequate protection, speak to a financial adviser for policies that grant coverage for medical tourism.

If a travel advisory has been issued

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In many countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ job is to provide support to a country’s citizens who are abroad. Naturally, this role extends to looking out for the wellbeing of citizens prior to their travels. To do so, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posts a constantly-updated list of travel advisories that are aimed at warning potential tourists of situations such as natural disasters, armed conflict, disease outbreaks, or other dangerous events in foreign countries.

Should a travel advisory warn you against going to any particular location, consider cancelling your trip. If you still insist on going, however, know that you won’t be able to make any claims even if you do have travel insurance, as you’re going there of your own free will.

If a war breaks out

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Most travel policies won’t cover terrorism, war, riots, and civil unrest. Should there have not been a travel advisory issued, and you get caught in the middle of any of the abovementioned, you’ll likely be on your own.

The best thing to do is take the first flight home when trouble starts to brew. Don’t hang around because the pictures will look cool on Instagram, or you think you’ll have a cool story to tell if you join in on a riot or a protest. You won’t be covered via your travel insurance, and to be honest, money is the least of your concerns if you end up getting caught in the middle of a tense situation. All things considered, travel smart and travel safe!

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