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Maldives' State of Emergency: What Singaporean Travellers Should Do
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently issued travel warnings for Singaporeans. Following the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives, here are a few things you should do whether you are currently in the Maldives or have an upcoming trip.
The current situation in the Maldives
Following an ongoing standoff between the Maldives' current president, Abdulla Yameen, and its Supreme Court, several countries including the United States, Canada, China, India and Singapore have declared travel warnings to the nation. The political crisis started in early February when the Supreme Court ruled that several of Yameen's opponents were unfairly convicted. Refusing to release the prisoners, President Yameen declared a State of Emergency amid growing local and international protests in Malé. However, it seems that outerlying and tourist-laden islands or Malé's International airport have not been affected so far, so travel to and from major resorts is generally unaffected.
What to do if you are currently in the Maldives
If you are currently in the Maldives, there are some steps you can take to keep you and your family safe as well as minimize your financial burdens.
Stay away from crowded areas and stay vigilant
If you are currently in the Malé or its surrounding islands, it is advised to stay away from protests and large public gatherings. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity if you are going to heavily touristed areas, as there have been warnings regarding terrorist activity around high traffic areas such as shopping malls, plazas, government buildings and travel hubs. Malé is currently the most high risk area, but it can pay off to remain cautious on other islands as well.
Keep in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, your Insurer and your Family
The Ministry of Foreign affairs has advised that you register with them so you can be contactable in the event of an emergency. Because Singapore does not have an embassy in the Maldives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be your first contact point if you run into trouble. Additionally, you should call your insurer's 24/7 emergency hotline to confirm the status of your coverage, and see if there are any options you have regarding altering your trip. Lastly, you should also strive to maintain contact with your family and friends back in Singapore for peace of mind and so they know where you are at all times.
Minimise your costs by taking advantage of your travel insurance
For those who are currently in Malé and want to cut their trip short, you may be able to do so without suffering large financial losses. If you purchased comprehensive travel insurance before the travel advisory was administered, you may be covered for curtailing your trip. Not only will this save you plane expenses, but you may also be refunded for your hotel and unused entertainment expenses. Before hastily buying your flight out, however, you should call your insurer and confirm your policy details to make sure you will be able to file a claim for your flight home.
If you did not purchase travel insurance, you will unfortunately have to bear the costs of cutting your trip short (and for your next trip, we highly recommend buying your insurance policy well in advance of your trip). Additionally, if you bought your travel insurance policy after the travel advisory was issued, you may not be adequately covered as insurers will not cover known events or trips to countries against the advice of the government.
If you have an upcoming trip to the Maldives
Even if you had already booked a trip to Maldives before this series of events conspired, there are still ways you can prepare to keep your trip as risk-free as possible.
Make sure you have a solid travel insurance policy.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is strongly advising you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy. However, purchasing a travel insurance policy now after you have already booked your trip won't protect you at this stage, since insurers generally don't cover events that were already known at the time of policy purchase. In this case, you should either forgo your trip entirely at a cost, or at least adhere to the other advice we discuss in this article. For example, you should most likely be fine if you stay within your resort. Chances are you'll be okay if you are well-prepared and exercise caution.
If you have bought a travel insurance policy before the news broke out, your best bet is to utilise your insurance coverage to postpone or cancel your trip until the travel advisory is over. To see if you are eligible for reimbursement for these, you can check your policy wording under "trip postponement" or "cancellation" sections for keywords like "riots," "civil unrest" and "trip advisory warnings".
Keep track of the situation to see if it's getting worse or better.
Understanding how the situation is changing and what parts of the Maldives are being affected is key to knowing how you should navigate the area once you land. You should read about where most of the protests are taking place, potential areas for terrorist attacks and which areas are generally safe. If you can, you can consider changing your itinerary to focus on places that have not been affected by the political situation. In these cases, arming yourself with as much knowledge about the situation can help you reduce risks associated with your trip.
Make sure you are prepared for all risks before leaving
If your destination in the Maldives is a high-risk area, it may be beneficial to pack emergency supplies such as extra medicine, cash, a small first aid kit and anything else that you think may be necessary in the event of an emergency. Though you may not need to utilise these things, it can at least bring some peace of mind. Additionally, travel light—if you can substitute your laptop with your tablet, opt for that instead. Packing lightly can ease maneuverability in the event of an evacuation. Memorise some of the most important phone numbers in the event you don't have internet access or can't use your mobile phone.