Tunisians gather around a soldiers standing guard in a military...

Tunisians gather around a soldiers standing guard in a military tank. (Feb. 5, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of Americans travel safely every year to far-flung parts of the world - including countries such as Nepal, Mexico, Kenya and Israel for which the U.S. government now has travel warnings in place.

But hot spots are just that, and traveling always carries some risk. When things go wrong, as they did in Egypt recently, it pays to know what tour companies, cruise lines and travel insurers will and won't do for you.

TOURS Most tour companies have canceled and offered refunds for trips to Egypt in February and March, but it's less clear what will happen to those who booked trips and paid deposits for trips later in the year. If things improve and the U.S. State Department lifts its warning against travel to Egypt, tour operators are likely to go ahead with their trips. For now, most are sticking to their normal cancellation policies for trips after March.

CRUISES If you've paid for a cruise scheduled to stop at ports in Egypt and Tunisia (also rocked by protests) in the near future, chances are you'll be stopping elsewhere. Until things settle down, major lines will be bypassing those ports and calling instead at ports in Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Israel. Unless a line cancels an entire cruise, such as a Nile River trip, don't expect any compensation. The "Terms & Conditions" written into cruise contracts allow lines to skip ports or change their itineraries for any reason.

TRAVEL INSURANCE Most insurance policies don't include civil unrest in trip cancellation/interruption coverage. One exception is the American Express Global Travel Shield classic plan, which offers broader coverage than most. A few other types of polices cover the costs of trip delays caused by civil disorder, just as they do for weather or strikes. They include reimbursement for additional hotel nights, meals and local transportation. The catch is the expense - standard travel insurance adds 4 to 8 percent to the cost of a trip. "Cancel for Any Reason" policy coverage can cost 50 percent more than standard travel insurance and reimburses only 50 to 75 percent of prepaid trip costs.

CREDIT CARDS If you pay for tours and cruises with a Visa or MasterCard and the operator cancels without offering a refund, you can dispute the charges under a "delayed delivery" clause that provides reimbursement for services that were paid for but not delivered.

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