What you need to know now about traveling to Egypt

With Egypt descending further into chaos by the hour, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from readers about what to do.

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Don’t go, and if you’re there, get out.

Here’s what some visitors saw (video, above).

The State Department has issued a stern travel warning to US citizens. So has the Canadian government and the British government. The advice is all pretty much the same: avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt.

I’m not going to rehash the whole situation for you here. You have a TV. But several important questions for travelers remain unanswered. Here are the most common ones:

What if I have an upcoming flight to Egypt? Can I cancel without a penalty?

If your airline has stopped flying to Egypt, as several already have, then your upcoming flight will probably be canceled. If that happens, you’re entitled to a full refund under the airline’s international conditions of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline.

My upcoming cruise has a port of call in Egypt. How will this affect me?

If the civil unrest continues, your cruise line will probably cancel your port of call in Alexandria. Under your cruise contract (the agreement between you and the cruise line) it is allowed to do this, but the company owes you a refund of your applicable port fees. Normally, you’ll get an onboard cruise credit and an apology from the cruise line. Sometimes, a cruise line will substitute another port of call, in which case you’re entitled to nothing.

Help! I’m stuck in Egypt. What now?

Please walk calmly to the nearest exit. The US embassy in Cairo is reportedly arranging for evacuation flights tomorrow. Assuming you have an Internet connection — and that’s a big “if” — you can register here online to let them know you need a lift.

The State Department has advised people interested in leaving on one of Monday’s charter flights to send an email to [email protected] or to call (202) 501-4444

Can I get a refund for the balance of my vacation?

Maybe. If you have travel insurance, check your policy. Civil unrest can be a named peril in an insurance policy, but many carriers will waive or modify their rules when an entire country collapses. Call your insurance carrier before making a claim, and be sure you keep any receipts. Remember, even if you can’t get all of your money back, you may still qualify for trip interruption benefits.

Should I cancel my upcoming trip to Egypt?

That depends. If you’re planning to visit later this year, the political situation could stabilize. Egypt is a must-see destination, but it isn’t worth putting yourself in harm’s way. If you have imminent plans to visit Egypt, don’t go. There will almost certainly be a regime change, followed by months of uncertainty.

Can I insure a future trip to Egypt?

Probably not. The underwriters won’t allow that kind of coverage to be offered by a travel insurance company, now that Egypt has descended into anarchy.

Update (1/31 11 a.m.): It’s like Saigon in ’75, according to this report from Cairo’s airport. If you’re in Egypt, leave now.

Update (1/31 3 p.m.): I asked Access America, the largest travel insurance carrier, for the latest.

Our records show that we have 195 customers who are scheduled to be in Egypt at this time. Our travel assistance department is attempting to contact each customer to see if they are safe or if they need assistance.

So far: 41 have indicated they are safe, another 23 have said they do not need assistance, we have left messages for 62, and another 11 have said they may need our assistance once they reach a safe haven. We have not been able to reach the remainder.

Access America customers who are traveling, to, from or inside Egypt may have coverage for Travel Delay if their travel is delayed for six or more hours due to the unrest in Egypt, if that benefit is included in their policy. Customers may receive reimbursements for reasonable costs for meals, accommodations and additional transportation expenses incurred during their delay, up to the coverage limit of their policy.

Access America is also offering all of our impacted customers immediate access to our emergency travel arrangement concierge service. They should call the phone number on their letter of confirmation and ask for travel assistance.

Most airlines and US Tour Operator Association members are allowing travelers to reschedule trips to future dates without penalty, issuing credits for future
travel, allowing travelers to switch to alternative destinations and issuing refunds when necessary, so we don’t anticipate that customers would be reporting losses for cancellations at this time.

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