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Will travel insurance cover you in Hong Kong?

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong, escalating protests may affect your travel plans. Will travel insurance cover you to change those plans?

sea of protesters on hong kong street
Last updated: 27 August 2019

Need to know

  • The date you took out insurance could determine whether or not you’re covered
  • Many travel insurers cut cover for the Hong Kong protests from 6 August or later
  • The protests are currently classed as ‘civil unrest’ but if the Chinese military intervenes and their definition changes, you may be excluded from cover

When did you buy your policy?

Protests started in Hong Kong in June but escalated in mid-August causing delays and cancellations to flights. Since 6 August some travel insurers have drawn a line in the sand – if you bought your policy before that date, you're covered to make changes to your trip, subject to the policy exclusions. But if you bought your policy after that date you're not covered.

Travel insurance for a known event

If you see a news bulletin about protests in Hong Kong, then it's too late to buy travel insurance to cover you for that event. The definition of when an event becomes 'known' is sometimes murky. Generally speaking, if the event was publicised in the media or official government websites when you bought the policy, it's a known event, and you're not covered. And for major events like that in Hong Kong, your insurer will usually announce a 'cut off' date.

Our policies do not cover claims for losses caused by an event that you were aware of at the time of purchasing your policy.

Insurer 1Cover told CHOICE: "Our policies do not cover claims for losses caused by an event that you were aware of at the time of purchasing your policy. If you entered a policy after [6 August], we would expect you would have done so with an awareness of the unrest in Hong Kong. 

"For these policies, we will not, to the extent permitted by law, pay any claim caused by or arising from or in any way connected with protests and resulting events at Hong Kong airport."

When did the demonstrations in Hong Kong become a known event, according to your travel insurer? Check the table below or ask your travel insurer.

Will my travel insurer cover me for the Hong Kong protests?

You need to have purchased your policy before the 2019 cut off date to be covered for claims relating to the Hong Kong protests.
Insurer Cut off
Cover-more 12am 7 August
Allianz 12am 7 August
Insure and Go 12am 12 August
1Cover 9am 6 August
World2Cover 7am 7 August
RACV 7am 7 August
CGU 12am 12 August
Travel Insurance Direct 12am 7 August
World Nomads 12am 7 August

When can you claim?

If you bought your policy before your insurer's cut off date for the protests, they'll generally cover you if:

  • the airline cancels or delays your flights as a result of the protests
  • the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade raises its travel warning for Hong Kong to 'Do not travel'

You insurer won't cover you if you want to re-arrange your travel plans just in case your airline might cancel or if you're worried the situation might worsen. Unfortunately, you've got to wait until one of those circumstances occurs first.

What can you claim?

If you bought your policy before the cut off:

  • If you've already departed on your trip you could claim additional transport and accommodation expenses.
  • If you haven't left yet, you could claim cancellation or amendment costs.
  • You'll need to cancel or rearrange what you can first, and keep all receipts and relevant documentation.
  • If you book new accommodation, you can't upgrade from a backpackers dorm to a five star resort at the insurer's expense. It has to be in line with the standard of accommodation you already booked.

It's really important travellers keep an eye on the news around their destination

If you bought your policy after the cut off:

You're out of luck. It's unlikely you'll be covered to cancel or amend the trip. It's generally best to buy your policy at the same time you forked out your cash for flights and accommodation. That way you're covered right from the start. And of course, check the relevant travel alerts on smartraveller.gov.au before you book.

1Cover advises, "It's really important travellers keep an eye on the news around their destination before they buy their tickets and purchase their travel insurance. This prevents disappointment and heartache further down the track."

You'll still be covered for other things

At least cover is still available for things that aren't affected by the Hong Kong protests. 

Phil Sylvester, spokesperson for Travel Insurance Direct and World Nomads travel insurance told us: "Cover would still be available for things such as theft or loss of belongings, injury or medical emergency – as long as those things are not linked to the excluded events. So, trip on a broken paving stone and twist your ankle and your claim for medical costs would be unaffected by the exclusions, but get hit in the foot by a rubber bullet and your claim is very unlikely to succeed. 

"However, don't try to second-guess our determinations, if something has happened to you and you assume it won't be covered because of the civil unrest, lodge the claim anyway and let us determine that. The worst that can happen is we say no."

Civil unrest or military intervention?

Even if you bought cover before the Hong Kong protests became a known event, you're subject to the policy exclusions, aka the small print.

Insurers currently refer to the event in Hong Kong as 'civil unrest' which most policies cover. If the Chinese military intervenes, the event could become an 'act of war', which most travel insurers won't cover regardless of whether you bought the policy before or after the cut off date.

This exclusion usually applies to medical, cancellation and amendment expenses. 

While many insurers have the exclusion in the small print, how they interpret it will vary. The provider of World2Cover and RACV travel insurance, Tokio Marine, told us that for policies purchased before the cut off date, "We have taken the view that were the Chinese military to come in to regain order at the direction of the Chinese government that this would not be excluded under our policy. It is not an act of war and the military are not taking power, there is no revolution or insurrection. They are maintaining the peace within the boundaries of China. We would not exclude these claims. Each would be looked at their own merit."

So if you have a trip booked to Hong Kong, keep an eye on how things pan out – stay in touch with your travel insurer and ask them if they will continue to cover you for this event.

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