Should you avoid visiting a country if elections are taking place?
The short answer, in general, is no.
You should take some precautions though, and do some research on the country you plan on visiting before you book:
- Has there been terrorism or political violence around elections in that country previously?
- Have there been recent reports of political tension in local or international media?
- What are the experts saying?
- Has the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued any advice against travel or cautioned travellers about potential risks?
We often see FCO updates that advise being alert or avoiding large gatherings when visiting countries in the lead-up to national elections, and in particular while those elections are taking place.
There can be warnings following the announcement of results too, when clashes between political parties or their supporters are an issue.
It’s important to pay attention to these warnings, and to check local news for further information to help you avoid being caught up in political activity.
- Plan your visit to steer clear of scheduled demonstrations and political rallies
- Check if any attractions will be closed due to voting or preparations – some may not operate to enable staff to go and vote
- Check if any public transport or roads will be closed off due to the elections
If the FCO issues advice against travel (or against all but essential travel) due to political instability, this means you definitely should not go, and that your travel insurance would be invalid if you decided to go despite this advice, unless you have a specialist travel insurance policy which specifically will cover this – they are few and far between.
Demonstrations and Protests
Election time typically sees an increase in protests and demonstrations, no matter where you are in the world. In many cases these are entirely peaceful, but even so can create road closures and cause travel delays.
If a demonstration is planned, plan to avoid the area surrounding it as there will probably be a lot of traffic, along with increased security risks.
If you encounter an unplanned protest or demonstration, it’s important to leave the area quickly. An unplanned demonstration can be unpredictable and may turn violent, so it’s really not worth staying to watch or take photos.
The risk of terrorism can increase around elections – and that’s terrorism related to the election itself, as well as opportunistic external terror organisations targeting the large crowds.
Governments are known to implement extensive anti-terrorism measures at these times, but additional caution is still a good idea.
Our Top 5 Election Travel Tips:
- Plan ahead
Spontaneity is great, but if there are any additional risks in place, planning is a much better option. Plan your route, your stops along the way, and know where to go for help in case of an emergency. It’s easy to have a safe journey with a little preparation!
Think carefully before you book, as disinclination to travel generally is not covered – if you book a trip and then realise there will be elections taking place, you can’t cancel unless the FCO issues advice against travel.
Safe Journey will cover disinclination to travel if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your booked accommodation or travel route, up to 6 weeks prior to your departure.
- Don’t fly on an election day if you can help it.
The increased risk of incidents means an increased risk of travel delays, as well as longer queues at security checks, passport control, etc.
- Do your research
Find out what’s anticipated in the city and area you’re planning to visit, as well as the routes you’ll be using, and what security measures are in place.
- Don’t get involved
Don’t join a demonstration or lurk around polling stations to see if anything happens! Taking sides, e.g. condemning or supporting a specific political party, may mean a lot more than you realise as an outsider, and can put you at risk.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers terrorism and other potential risks
Do you have comprehensive terrorism travel insurance? Remember that even if a policy covers travel delays or cancellations, it may exclude those items if they’re caused by an act of terrorism.*
Countries for which the FCO has recently advised care or risk related to elections include:
- East Timor – elections taking place today (20 March 2017)
- Ecuador – 2nd round of presidential elections on 2 April
- Nepal – local elections in May
- Cambodia – commune elections in June
- Albania – national elections on 18 June
- The Gambia – advice against all but essential travel was issued following elections in December 2016
Elections will also be taking place in France during April and May 2017. Germany has already held its presidential elections this year, but a Federal election will take place on 24 September.
There will be many others, so be sure to check your planned destination before you book, and before you travel.
*Read our policy wording for full details of Safe Journey cover, exclusions, terms and conditions
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