Tourists urged to avoid travelling to west Maui


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Tourists are being asked to avoid travelling to Maui in the wake of devastating fires that killed at least 110 people.

Survivors' safety is the number one priority and fewer visitors on the island means that hotels and accommodation can be provided to locals in need.

Tourists are instead being encouraged to visit Hawaii's other islands. So, if you had booked a trip to Maui, are you covered by travel insurance?

maui wildfires travel insurance
The death toll from the Maui disaster, already the deadliest US wildfire in over a century, is expected to grow significantly. Photo: Yuki Iwamura, AFP via Getty Images.

What if you had booked a trip to Maui?

Travellers booked to go to Maui should pay attention to government travel warnings.

While it hasn't upgraded its advice level to Maui, the Australian government has advised Australians to avoid non-essential travel to Maui and to monitor developments and instructions issued by the local authorities, including evacuation orders.

Travellers should keep up-to-date with media coverage and wildfire warnings and ensure they understand which areas are most affected wherever they are travelling.

Following on from the emergency event, most travel service providers may be more flexible regarding refunds or date changes. However, those who are unable to claim back their costs should contact their travel insurer.

A comprehensive travel insurance policy, purchased prior to news of the fires becoming widespread, would give you provision to claim for out-of-pocket costs if you were unable to reach your planned destination.

You would also be covered for emergency evacuations if you were forced to leave your destination suddenly, or if you were unable to resume your travel plans because of the fires.

Am I covered for medical emergencies due to extreme heat or wildfires?

Yes, if you are injured or become ill due to a wildfire you would be covered by travel insurance, provided you were not travelling against government advice.

Can I choose not to travel?

Travellers planning to visit west Maui are being advised to consider rescheduling their trip to a later time. However, those wanting to cancel their trips to unaffected parts of Hawaii should note that fear or disinclination to travel is not generally covered by travel insurance.

Your travels would have to have been directly affected in order to claim. Wishing to cancel a trip due to loss of enjoyment or a change of mind would not be covered by travel insurance.

Contact your travel agent or travel provider first to see the best option for altering your trip. Some travel providers may provide penalty-free options to amend travel arrangements.

Those with health conditions that may be exacerbated by the wildfires could have provision to claim.

If specific circumstances preclude you from travel you may be covered. However, travellers in doubt over their holiday plans should speak with their insurer before cancelling their trips and expecting compensation.

In the event that Smartraveller upgrades its travel warning to Maui or other areas and it is no longer safe to travel, you may be covered by travel insurance.

What if my flight or accommodation is cancelled?

If you've contacted your flight or travel provider and are unable to get a refund or receive credit you should then contact your travel insurer.

If your travel provider is unwilling to refund or change your dates of travel, insurers would then assess your need to claim. Just know that basic, medical-only policies would not provide this type of cover.

What policy should I buy? 

Even if you are not directly affected, wildfires can cause massive disruption to travel. Ensure your policy provides cover for natural disasters in order to be covered for the following:

Cancellation: If the area where you are travelling is affected and your accommodation is closed, the area is unsafe to travel to, or the government has advised against travel.

Alternative accommodation: If you arrive at your destination and are unable to use your original accommodation. This includes any additional accommodation required due to flight delays or cancellations.

Lost or damaged belongings: Any losses or damages to your belongings as a result of a wildfire.

Medical costs for personal injury: Costs associated with treatments, stays in hospital, medication or other expenses.

Any extra costs linked to wildfires: Hire car charges, missed bookings or any other costs that you incur as a direct result of a wildfire.

Natural disasters can erupt at unpredictable times, which is precisely the reason travellers should invest in a comprehensive policy.

Be sure to understand the terms of your policy and any exclusions that may apply. Buying cover, sooner rather than later, is always the way to go.

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Natalie Ball is a travel and money writer, and director of travel insurance comparison site With 20 years of experience in the financial services and digital tech spaces, she is a financial literacy campaigner passionate about making insurance clear and customer-friendly.