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Will Travel Insurance Cover Zika Cancellation?

The short answer? No, unless you’re willing to pay extra.

Some travel insurance providers offer plans that will cover cancelled travel for any reason, so Zika-related cancellations would inherently be included. But Dean Sivley, president of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, has said that’s not the norm: Such policies are added onto travel insurance “less than 10 percent of the time.”

A good rule of thumb with travel insurance is that an actual Zika-related incident needs to happen to you for the policy to cover cancelled travel.

"The fear of something happening isn't covered in the policy," Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations at Travel Insured International, has said in reports. "The fear of catching Zika isn't a reason for cancellation."

The virus is unlikely to severely impact most travelers. The Centers for Disease Control has only raised the virus alert to a Level 2, which encourages travelers to practice enhanced precaution, but does not discourage them from travel. While easy to contract, only about one in five people infected with the virus will develop symptoms, which tend to be mild. The main concern is for pregnant women, whose children could develop a birth defect called microephaly, which can cause seizures, intellectual disability, and developmental delays.

For that reason, some travel insurance plans let customers cancel their trip of a member of the party becomes pregnant. Allianz offers such plans, and insurer April Travel Protection offers an upgrade to the “Choice” policy package, which covers “Enhanced Unforeseen Events,” including cancellation of travel to a Zika-affected area due to pregnancy. Additionally, if policyholders contract the virus while on their trips, April would cover emergency medical assistance and evacuation, a typical stipulation for many policies.

April Travel Protection reports a dramatic increase in policyholders calling for information about coverage and benefits as they relate to the virus. Allianz Global Assistance has said it has received hundreds of phone calls from concerned customers.

Customers aren’t just asking for information about travel insurance—they’re buying more of it. Travel insurance provider RoamRight told Reuters that monthly revenue from its “Cancel For Any Reason” policy in Zika-affected areas shot up 81% compared to last January.

Every policy differs, so know what's covered before you purchase. Check out our top picks for travel insurance providers, and be sure to ask your insurance provider about how your specific plan accounts for the Zika outbreak. —Anna Waters