June 19, 2024

European heatwave: is it safe to travel?

Temperature records are expected to be broken across much of Europe this week as an extreme heat wave grips the region. A number of Italian cities, such as Rome and Florence, have been put on red alert due to rising daily temperatures and wildfires are forcing evacuations in resorts in Greece, mountain villages in Switzerland, and the Spanish island of La Palma.

In an unprecedented move, Greek authorities have taken the extraordinary step of closing the Acropolis during the hottest part of the day, aiming to protect people from the blazing sun as blistering temperatures in Athens soar. to 48°C (118°F).

Here’s what you need to know about the current heatwaves, when they might end, how to protect yourself when you travel and what compensation you’re entitled to if Your plans are disrupted.

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14 July 2023, Greece, Athens: Tourists stop by a water fountain during their visit to the Parthenon Temple © Angelos Tzortzinis / Picture Alliance / Getty Images

When will the current heat wave end?

Parts of southern and eastern Europe are currently suffering from a heat wave called “Charon” caused by a high pressure area moving in from northern Africa. Italian weather experts are describing it as “the most intense heat wave of the summer and also one of the most intense heat waves ever” as against Local Italy.

Above average temperatures are expected to last through the end of July, possibly extending into early August. However, the peak of the Charon heatwave is expected to occur on Wednesday, July 19, with record high and potentially deadly temperatures expected. Parts of the Mediterranean including Spain, Sardinia, Sicily, Croatia, Turkey and Greece are expected to be the hardest hit on Wednesday, ie according to the European Space Agency.

Oppressive heat is not a new phenomenon in this region, which has languished for most of July under a high-pressure dome that has trapped stagnant heat and moisture inside. According to the Red Cross, Europe is among the fastest growing “heat wave hotspots”.” is experiencing temperature increases at a faster rate than the global average. Charon is the second heat wave to strike this month, following last week’s heat storm Cherbus.

A restaurant employee sprays passers-by with water from a hose during the hot weather caused by the Charon heat wave, in Rome, Italy
A restaurant employee sprays passersby with a water hose during hot weather caused by the Charon heat wave, in Rome, Italy, Monday, July 17, 2023 © Bloomberg / Getty Images

Is it safe to travel?

If you are in a region with high temperatures, it is best to stay up-to-date on local news alerts to stay safe as the intense heat causes disturbances and dangerous conditions. In Italy, most cities and provinces will be on the highest alert on Wednesday, according to The Local. The warnings ask people to avoid direct sunlight between 11am and 6pm. The same, El País reports that many Spanish provincesincluding parts of Catalonia, Valencia, Andalusia and the popular holiday island of Mallorca, on alert due to excessive temperatures sweeping the country.

The tourist attractions are not escaping the effects of the heat and your plans may be affected. In Greece, for example, the Acropolis is closed between noon and 5pm, the hottest part of the day. The number of visitors is also being limited to protect people from queuing in the heat. Public access to nature reserves and forests in Greece is currently prohibited during the heatwave due to the constant risk of wildfires.

Firefighters try to extinguish the wildifre in La Palma
Firefighters work to extinguish the forest fire in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain © Andres Gutierrez / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Certain parts of Europe are bearing the brunt of the heatwaves more than others so it is clear that there are greater risks involved in traveling there. The situation in La Palma, one of Spain’s eight main Canary Islands, remains dangerous as firefighters struggle to contain wildfires in the north-west of the island. The evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists since Saturday. Wildfires are belting coastal towns in southern Greece and Swiss villages in the canton of Valais – a popular summer mountain hiking destination.

But of course, Europe is not the only one suffering from these extreme conditions at the moment. In South Korea, heavy rain triggered lightning floods and landslides which killed at least 40 people. India is also suffering from the brutal impact of monsoon rains. Evacuation of thousands of people from the capital Delhi as an area the wettest July day in 40 years was recorded Last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, concerns arise as parts of China face the emerging threat of drought, after record temperatures of 52.2C (126F) were recorded in the northwestern township of Sanbao on Sunday. Likewise there is a blistering temperature engulfing the southwestern US with no sign of relief coming anytime soon.

The increased frequency of heat waves this year is linked to climate change, as highlighted by a study by the UK Met Office which warns that such weather events could occur as frequently as every other year by the 2050s.

A woman takes a selfie with an ice cream in front of the Trevi Fountain on a hot summer day
People cool off near the Trevi Fountain in Rome on July 17 during the second heat wave to hit the country in July

If I cancel my trip because of the heat wave, will I get a refund?

Not likely. Compensation is usually only offered if a state of emergency lasting more than a few days is declared in specific destinations, but that has not been the case with the current heatwave. “Since a heat wave is a weather-related event and is not generally considered a covered reason for trip cancellation, travelers may not be eligible for a refund of their trip expenses if they choose to cancel due to extreme conditions and that alone, which is understandable since those concerns may be. ,” Jonathan Frankham, UK and Europe General Manager of World Nomads, tells Lonely Planet.

“However, it is important to note that travel insurance policies can vary widely, and some policies may offer add-ons or optional upgrades that may include more extensive coverage for events on weather related,” he explains. “Travellers should carefully review their policy documents and contact their travel insurance provider or agent to understand the coverage available to them and any optional enhancements they may consider.”

While you won’t get a refund for canceling a trip, there are other ways you can get compensation if the heat wave disrupts your travel plans. For example, most policies usually cover heat-related emergencies and illnesses such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Trip interruption travel insurance is also helpful in times like this as it usually reimburses (depending on your policy) the cost of unused travel arrangements if you are unable to continue with your planned itinerary if the heat wave has a bad effect on your health. .

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