Lately, it’s been difficult to not hear about Hong Kong or Turkey. The ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over China’s involvement in the region have caused mass unrest throughout the area, and Turkey is experiencing international backlash as a result of their decision to move against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria.
Hong Kong and Turkey are both popular holiday destinations due to their abundance of shopping, culture and generally good weather, so for those who have pre-booked holidays to these locations, questions will be arising regarding their safety when on holiday. We have put together all the information you’ll need, from making sure you have the right travel insurance policy to keeping yourself safe abroad.
What is happening in Hong Kong?
Last year, 572,732 British nationals visited Hong Kong making it a top pick for those looking to experience the Far East. However, in the past few months, Hong Kong has been rocked by an ongoing number of protests against new extradition laws, which protesters say threatens the region’s autonomy.
While many of the protests have been peaceful, several have become violent resulting in a heavy police response, including the use of rubber bullets and tear gas.
In the past, authorities have closed the metro and bus services without warning as a result of protests to stop those involved from fleeing the area. This has also occurred in popular tourist locations, so ensure you familiarise yourself with several routes back to your hotel in case of a closure.
We advise anyone who is due to travel to Hong Kong to check the status of their flight before heading to the airport. Whilst flights have not been affected by the protests, it is not unheard of in Hong Kong. It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the airport’s website too as they will provide regular updates regarding the protests and areas surrounding the airport.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recommends that if there are signs of civil unrest, you should move quickly to a safer location that is free of protesters.
What is happening in Turkey?
Turkey is an incredibly popular location with holidaymakers, with over 2.3 million trips being made in 2018 by Brits. However, questions are being asked about the safety of travelling to this holiday hotspot following Turkey’s movements against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria. The movement is being referred to as ‘Operation Peace Spring’.
Demonstrations are not just happening in Turkey. Protests have been taking place outside Turkish embassies over ‘Operation Peace Spring’ in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Athens and Tehran.
Despite the protests, Turkey itself has been largely unaffected by Operation Peace Spring and in nearly all parts of the country it’s business as usual.
The FCO has updated their travel advice this month as a result of the rising tensions. While almost all parts of Turkey are still in their green ‘safe to visit’ category, the FCO advises against all travel to the Sirnak, Kilis and Hatay provinces unless absolutely essential. Due to Turkey’s forces amassing on the Syria-Turkey border, the FCO also advises against all travel to any location within 10km of the Syrian border.
It is advised that those visiting cities including Ankara or Istanbul should remain vigilant during their visit due to the possibility of civil action in these areas.
There is also a heightened risk of subsequent terror attacks targeting the Turkish state or its citizens. Should an emergency arise, holidaymakers should make contact with the British Embassy.
Overall, Turkey is safe for holidaymakers to visit, provided you are vigilant in cities and popular tourist areas.
What will travel insurance do if my holiday is affected by civil unrest?
If you are abroad:
If flights are cancelled or delayed due to the protests and you are stranded abroad you should speak to your airline as your first point of call. It is the airlines responsibility to rearrange your flight home and provide accommodation if you are required to wait overnight. You may be advised to fly home from a different airport, in which case the airline will need to provide your transport or reimburse the costs. Make sure you keep hold of all receipts to submit to the airline alongside your claim form.
Most travel insurance policies will not cover you to return home because you no longer wish to stay in the region. However, if your travel insurance policy covers civil unrest (this may be called a major incident or force majeure in your policy wording) and there are protests in the area you are staying, you may be covered to move to a safer area or return home. Some policies will also cover the cost of baby essentials or medication if you are delayed returning home and do not have enough to last you. Again, you will need to keep hold of all receipts to submit with your claim.
If you holiday was booked as part of a package holiday, you will need to speak to your travel agent or tour operator first as it is their responsibility to relocate you.
If your holiday is coming up:
Similar to coming home early, most travel insurance policies will not cover you if you decide to cancel your holiday because of civil unrest, also known as disinclination to travel.
If your travel insurance policy covers cancellation for any cause, and the area you are travelling to has been affected, you may be covered to cancel your policy. This is providing the policy was purchased before the civil unrest was announced.
If you are due to travel to a region that’s status has now been changed to essential travel only or do not travel, you may be able to cancel your trip via your travel insurance. You should speak to your travel insurance provider directly to discuss your options. It is important to note, if you do travel against the advice of the FCO it will void your travel insurance.
If you have booked your holiday with a travel agent or tour operator, they may be able to book for you to travel to an alternative destination but this will depend on the company’s terms and conditions.