Like many other ex-pats, Semra travels regularly to visit family in her birth country. She’s a Canadian who also holds Turkish citizenship.
Turkey is now subject to a travel advisory. Because of its strategic location — bordered by Syria, Iran and Iraq — and recent geopolitical events, the Government of Canada now warns travellers to “Exercise a high degree of caution (with regional advisories).”
Travellers who ignore these advisories do so at their own peril. They risk being caught in dangerous situations that could put their lives in jeopardy. They risk having their health and travel insurance declared invalid. And they risk having to be evacuated at considerable personal expense. Most insurance policies contain exclusion clauses that allow companies to invalidate claims for travel to a country with an advisory.
Experts recommend that before travelling, you check the government’s travel advisories, take out insurance, register with the government and ensure that your passport is valid for six months beyond your travel dates.
Check travel advisories — at least twice
The Government of Canada’s Country travel advice and advisories site categorizes risk eight ways:
- Avoid all travel
- Avoid all travel (with regional advisories)
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Avoid non-essential travel (with regional advisories)
- Exercise a high degree of caution
- Exercise a high degree of caution (with regional advisories)
- Exercise normal security precautions (with regional advisories)
- Exercise normal security precautions
Take out insurance
Canadians who travel abroad must take out additional health insurance. Your provincial or territorial health care plans will not cover you in case of an emergency when you are outside Canada (and even sometimes, outside your home province or territory). Nor will the Government of Canada cover your health care bills.
Make sure to read the fine print, declare any existing conditions, and check for travel advisories. Failure to do so means that the insurance company can refuse to pay for your care, leaving you to pick up the tab. See Travel insurance for more information. The National Association of Federal Retirees offers cost-effect travel insurance as a benefit of membership.
Register before travelling
It’s important to register your travel with the government’s free service, Registration of Canadians Abroad, before leaving on vacation or to live abroad. That way, if there is a natural disaster, civil unrest or an emergency at home, the closest Canadian government office knows how to reach you.
Ensure passports are current
As a final word of caution, make sure that your passport is valid for up to six months from the time you will have entered a country. Demands vary, so check the Entry/exit requirement tab on each country’s Country travel advice and advisories site. Failure to do so could end your trip before it begins.
Semra’s family lives in a relatively safe area of Turkey that is not affected by the travel advisory, so she still visits regularly. However, she heeds the advice given by avoiding demonstrations and tourist areas and by being vigilant at all times. She also regularly checks travel advisories before deciding whether to leave Canada.