Smart Consumer: Our top tips for safe travel to the Middle East
Planning any holidays to Saharan Africa or the Middle East? You may be thinking twice as political unrest and instability sweeps across that part of the world.
If you are planning to travel your best bet is to check the travel advice section on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Currently, they are advising against non-essential travel to Tunisia, which has been given the security status of "exercise extreme caution".
Another Irish favourite is neighbouring Morocco, which currently has an "exercise caution" status, because the DFA says that regional developments have the potential to trigger popular unrest there.
If you are travelling you are advised to register your travel details with the DFA, via a form you can fill out on their website. This is voluntary, but is surely worth the few minutes it takes, as in the case of an emergency the nearest Irish embassy or consulate will know where to locate you.
And what of your consumer rights? If you've paid for a holiday can you cancel, and if you don't want to travel what are your entitlements?
Here is what you need to know.
1 If your travel operator is willing to bring you and you are willing to go, despite the situation in the destination.
If you're both happy to continue as planned, then go ahead.
The travel operator should keep you informed of the up-to-date situation at your holiday destination as much as possible, because there may be unexpected changes to your holiday, which your travel operator is not responsible for.
For example, political unrest could mean that tourist attractions may be closed and there may be violence on the streets and an increased military presence. Curfews may be in effect which will apply to tourists as well and many shops and restaurants may be closed.
2 If your travel operator is unable to bring you, but you still want to go.
If the operator is unable to uphold their end of the bargain, they are normally required to refund you the money already paid or offer you an alternative holiday if one can be provided.
3 If your travel operator is willing and able to take you to your destination, but you are not willing to travel due to the situation.
This is the opposite scenario to the one above. Normally if you want to pull out of a holiday, you are not entitled to a refund.
However, if the DFA has advised against travel to the particular destination, then you could rely on this advice to seek a refund from the tour operator.
4 What about cover under travel insurance?
It is always a good idea to have travel insurance, and always check the small print of your policy for what is covered and what isn't.
But be warned; your travel insurance may not be valid for a particular destination if the DFA has advised against travel to that area. If in doubt, ask your insurer when and if you'll be covered.
Useful websites: www.dfa.ie www.consumerconnect.ie