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sphinx pyramids egyptThe ongoing political unrest in Egypt has governments scrambling to evacuate their citizens, cruise lines rerouting itineraries and travelers wondering what will become of their vacation to see the Pyramids.

Whenever trouble strikes in the travel world, you’ll hear experts touting the many virtues of trip insurance — but civil disturbances and riots are excluded from coverage on most policies. So in a case like the protests in Egypt, will travel insurance actually help you? I caught up with Steve Dasseos, President of TripInsuranceStore.com, to find out.

Dasseos explains that when these sorts of events happen, your tour operator, airline or cruise line is responsible for offering an alternate itinerary. “Let’s say you have a tour company that’s going [to Egypt] at the end of this month,” he says. “The tour company or cruise line has to take care of its passengers somehow. They’ll usually offer an alternate itinerary, bonuses, that sort of thing. You can change your travel dates or itinerary with your insurer and go on a completely different trip. That’s no problem.”

If your trip is canceled altogether, your cruise line or tour operator should give you a refund according to the terms and conditions under which you booked your trip. Contact your travel provider as soon as possible to find out what arrangements are being made.

So what happens if you’ve planned your own trip independently? Are you out of luck? “Not completely,” says Dasseos. “Check with your airline first. It’s likely that the airline has changed or canceled its flights. Most airlines don’t charge people penalties for changing their itinerary [when this sort of incident happens]. You can then change the dates on your insurance to apply to your other trip.” He cautions travelers to be sure to let your insurance company know of itinerary changes as soon as possible — before you actually travel.

As for hotels, Dasseos points out that most properties won’t charge you a penalty unless you cancel your reservation within 48 hours of arrival. And in extraordinary circumstances like the Egyptian riots, “I doubt that hotels are going to hold travelers accountable to those cancellation penalties,” he says. “They don’t want to spoil future business.”

If you’ve got a trip to Egypt booked for a few months from now, you’ll need to sit tight. Odds are that your tour operator will wait to see how the situation in Egypt plays out, so your trip may not be canceled or altered just yet. You may want to call off the trip yourself if you’re nervous about traveling to Egypt or if you’d rather go somewhere else instead. But these reasons are not covered by your travel insurance policy unless you purchase “cancel for any reason” coverage. This type of insurance will cover “being afraid to travel or changing your mind,” says Dasseos, “which aren’t normally covered by other policies.”

For nervous travelers, “cancel for any reason” insurance is a good bet for any trip, no matter where you’re headed. You may also want to check out Travel Warnings and Advisories, which offers useful tips on traveling to potentially unstable countries.

– written by Sarah Schlichter