Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

When can I go on holiday abroad?

Currently, you must stay home and must not travel abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays at this moment.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently said that people in England can start thinking about booking foreign holidays again this summer.

The Global Travel Taskforce has outlined the introduction of a three-tier traffic light system that will rate the risk for each country. An initial list is expected to be published by early May, as well as confirmation on whether international travel can restart on 17th May 2021.

It is advised that you check how your destination is rated before booking your holiday.

COVID-19 Medical Cover

We’ll only show you quotes from providers who cover emergency medical expenses (including repatriation to the UK) if you catch the virus whilst travelling abroad.

Enhanced COVID Cover

Extra cover that'll give you & your holiday even more protection against COVID-19. Compare quotes from leading providers with this additional cover today.

How will the traffic light system work?

Key factors in the assessment of destinations will include the percentage of the population that have been vaccinated, rate of infection, COVID-19 variants, and testing capacity.

In England each foreign destination will be rated as one of the following:

  • Green: you will need to take a pre-departure test before returning to the UK. Upon return to the UK, a PCR test must be taken on or before day 2 of your arrival, but you will not need to quarantine (unless you receive a positive result).
  • Amber: in addition to taking a pre-departure test, you will need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, taking a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 of your quarantine. You will have the option to pay for a test (Test to Release) on day 5 to end self-isolation early.
  • Red: you will need to self-isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel at your own cost. This is in addition to the pre-departure testing, and PCR tests on day 2 and day 8 of your quarantine.

There are already about 40 countries on the current "red list" to which the government advises against travel. A "green watchlist" is also being introduced to notify of countries at risk of moving from green to amber.

How will PCR tests impact me?

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is performed to detect the presence of a virus if you are infected at the time of the test. The test could also detect fragments of the virus even after you are no longer infected.

The PCR test is the "gold standard" test for diagnosing COVID-19 due to it's accuracy and reliability. A swab is normally taken from your nose to collect respiratory material which is then sent to a lab for analysis.

It is estimated that just one of these tests could cost about £120 per person. With the introduction of the new testing requirements, there is great concern that this could quickly make holidays unaffordable for many people.

The government have acknowledged that these tests are too expensive and are looking at ways to bring the cost down. There have also been calls to look at other testing methods, such as the lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

What are the latest travel updates?

  • Under current restrictions, you must stay home and must not travel (including abroad), unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays at this moment.
  • All arrivals into the UK, including UK residents, must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test which has been taken with 72 hours of the start of your journey to the UK.
  • You must self-isolate (or quarantine) when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.
  • If you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), there are new requirements for quarantine and taking additional COVID-19 tests. If you are travelling from a country on the banned travel list you must quarantine in a hotel.

How will the lockdown restrictions impact my travel insurance?

If you are unable to go on your trip due to regional or national lockdown restrictions, you should, in the first instance, contact your travel provider (such as your airline or hotel) - as they should be able to rearrange your trip for you or offer you a refund.

It's unlikely any travel insurance provider will be able to cover you if you cancel your trip due to the government's lockdown rules, or if you decide to travel against the governments restrictions.

Please see your local guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and check with your travel insurance provider if you are unsure about your cover.

How will needing a COVID-19 test before I return impact my insurance?

All arrivals into England must have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test. This must have been taken within 72 hours of starting your journey to England and must be from a private test provider. Details of the types of tests that will be accepted can be found on the government website.

If you do not have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test, you may be prevented from entering England and could face a fine.

If you have travel insurance cover in place and test positive for COVID-19 whilst you are on your trip, you should contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible to see how they can assist you.

Depending on your policy, some travel insurance providers may be able to help cover the cost of reasonable additional accommodation or travel expenses if you test positive for COVID-19 whilst you are abroad.

What do the FCDO advisories mean for my travel insurance?

If you decide to travel against FCDO advice, any travel insurance cover you have in place will no longer be valid. This advice is constantly under review and can change - either advising against travel, or removing restrictions - at short notice.

It's also important to remember that even if the FCDO are no longer advising against travel to your destination, some countries will still have their own entry requirements, including, in some cases, quarantine rules should you decide to visit.

Keep an eye on the latest government travel advice, using the link below, for any further updates and information.

FCDO Travel Advice

Can I get travel insurance cover at the moment?

Yes - you can! We know many of you will be eager to get away, and you may already have a trip booked for later in the year.

There are a few key things to consider;

  1. The first will be what the FCDO are advising for your destination at the time of your trip. If the FCDO are not advising against all but essential travel to your destination, your policy will cover you as per your terms and conditions. However, if, at the time of your trip, the FCDO is advising against all, or all but essential travel to your destination, your cover will not be valid.
  2. The second will be whether there are any Government lockdown restrictions against travel at the time of your trip. If you're travelling against Government restrictions, your cover will not be valid.

If you need to re-arrange your trip, most travel insurance providers should be able to amend your cover dates as well. Be aware there may be a charge if you are changing your destination or how long you are going away for.

You can take comfort in knowing that we've made sure we're only offering you policies that can cover COVID-19 medical expenses whilst you are away as a minimum.
COVID-19 Insurance

What COVID-19 cover is available?

As a minimum, we've ensured that every travel insurance provider available through our site now includes emergency medical cover, including repatriation, for COVID-19. If you fall ill with COVID-19 whilst on holiday, and require treatment, you’ll be able to get help with the medical costs or even be brought home for medical treatment if required.

Some of our travel insurance providers are also able to offer enhanced COVID-19 Cover, including some cancellation protection. We’ll make it clear which policies they are and, depending on your policy, some of the areas that may be covered are;

Before your holiday

  • You contract COVID-19 before you travel
  • You are required to self-isolate at the time of your trip departure
  • A family member you were due to stay with has to self isolate and you have nowhere else to stay
  • You are denied boarding by your airline due to COVID-19 symptoms

During your holiday

  • You are asked to return home early from your trip by the local authorities due to COVID-19
  • Additional accommodation costs if you need to isolate and extend your trip
  • A close relative becomes ill with COVID-19 and you need to return home early

The specifics of the cover will vary from provider to provider, so it’s really important that you check your policy wording thoroughly. If you’re still unsure, then speak with your chosen travel insurance provider directly who can give you guidance on what they can and cannot cover you for.

In some circumstances, you may be asked for medical certification, or confirmed test results, if your claim is in relation to COVID-19.

It’s also important to remember that whilst cover may be restricted in respect of COVID-19, cover for other areas should still apply, such as if you fall ill and are unable to travel, or need medical assistance for other conditions that are unrelated to COVID-19.

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What COVID-19 cover isn't available?

This will vary, policy by policy, and unless otherwise stated, providers won’t be able to cover you for anything related to COVID-19, other than emergency medical expenses cover whilst you are away. 

It is unlikely that any travel insurance provider will be able to cover you if you can’t travel due to government restrictions, such as advice from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, or a country closing their borders, if this is due to COVID-19.

Most providers will also restrict cover if you decide not to go on holiday. This includes if you are worried about catching the virus whilst you are on your trip, the facilities at your hotel being restricted, or if you are expected to quarantine either when you get to your destination, or when you come back to the UK.

Medical Travel Compared Map Pins

What if I bought a policy before the FCDO advised against travel?

This all depends on when you took your policy out and the level of cover your policy provides.

If you took out cover before COVID-19 became a pandemic and the FCDO advised against travel to all international destinations, then you may be covered, depending on the terms and conditions of your policy. Some policies may have already excluded anything in relation to epidemics or pandemics.

However, if you take out cover now for a country which the FCDO has no travel ban against, and, at the time of your trip, the FCDO change their advice to against all or all but essential travel to your destination due to COVID-19, it's unlikely that you will be covered.

This is because COVID-19 is now a known event, and, is excluded from most areas of cover, including if you need to cancel due to FCDO advice.

As always, if you are uncertain about your cover, you can contact your travel insurance provider who will be able to provide guidance.

What happens if my travel provider has cancelled my trip?

If your holiday gets cancelled not only will you probably be disheartened, but you’ll also want to know what happens to the money you invested in it.

In the first instance, your travel operator should be able to rearrange your trip for a later date, when it’s more likely that your trip can go ahead.

Your travel operator may also offer you a refund but this does depend on the T&C’s of your booking, so make sure you give them a good read. Alternatively, they may instead offer you a travel voucher so that you can re-book your trip at a later date. But make sure you check when the expiry date of the voucher is.

Remember, if you’ve booked a flight or package holiday you should have ATOL protection as an added buffer should things go wrong. UK and European law require all package holidays to be ATOL protected, so make sure to keep an eye out for the ATOL logo when booking. ATOL protection won’t apply if you booked your plane ticket directly with the airline, or travel company. For more information about ATOL, check out our guide

If you booked your holiday through a travel agent or paid using a credit card, you may also be able to get help from either your travel agent or credit card provider.

ATOL Protection

What if I’m returning to the UK as a matter of essential travel?

Usually, you would not be covered for cutting short your trip for “fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection, or allergic reaction” so we recommend that if you booked your trip with a tour operator to speak to them if you believe your destination is affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

If you have booked your trip independently it’s best to check that your flights are still running, as there have been cancellations.

Some travel insurance providers will cover you if you are forced to cut your trip short when adhering to FCDO advice – however, it’s best to contact your travel insurance provider for guidance on what is and is not covered.

What if my travel provider goes into administration?

You'll want to check your policy to make sure you have either Scheduled Airline Failure or End Supplier Failure included in your policy. If you have scheduled airline failure cover, your flights should be protected if your airline falls into administration, whilst if you have end supplier failure cover, both your flights and your accommodation should be protected.

If a travel provider falls into administration due to the impacts of COVID-19, this may be excluded from your cover, and will depend on the terms and conditions of your policy. If you are unsure, it's best to speak with your travel insurance company.

My travel is essential – can I still get cover?

The FCDO give some guidance on this and say essential travel “is a personal decision and circumstances differ from person to person. It is for individuals themselves to make an informed decision based on the risks and FCDO advice.”

However, it is unlikely that our travel insurance providers will be able to cover you for essential travel, you would need to speak to a travel insurance provider directly to see if they would be willing to cover your trip.

What if I go away without valid travel insurance cover?

Travelling against FCDO advice, will, in nearly all cases, invalidate your travel insurance cover. Whilst you may find that some airlines and travel providers will cancel, or reschedule your trip, some may still operate, leaving you with a difficult decision to make. Do you lose out on your trip, or press ahead, and travel somewhere without any insurance protection?

It's important to remember that travelling without a valid insurance policy, means that you won't be covered should you need medical assistance whilst abroad – whether that is COVID-19 or other healthcare issues, e.g. breaking your leg or getting a stomach bug.

You might have to pay medical bills, which could run into the thousands if you are travelling to somewhere with high healthcare costs. Plus if you lose baggage or have something stolen, you would not be covered – there are lots of aspects to travel insurance.

Even if you have an EHIC card, this will only provide limited protection and may not cover all of your medical costs and will not cover you if you need to be repatriated back home.

Medical Travel Compared UK Roads

Can I get travel insurance for a holiday in the UK?

Even within the UK you still need to be aware of border closures. Scotland, Ireland and Wales are operating under different rules when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak and may still be in lockdown at the time of your travel.

So even though the rules may have been relaxed when it comes to travel within England, this isn’t always the case across the whole of the UK. Be sure to check their governments' website before travelling to that country.

There are many other reasons to check out UK travel insurance, for example, if you're taken ill from a pre-existing medical condition and are unable to travel. And some policies can even offer enhanced COVID-19 cover, should you fall ill will COVID-19, or have to self isolate at the time of your trip. For more info on this, have a read of our guide.

UK Travel Insurance

Can I extend my insurance if I’m stuck abroad?

If you're stuck in another country and cannot come home on your arranged return date due to COVID-19, then depending on your policy, your provider may be able to extend your cover.

This could be done if you’re hospitalised and need medical treatment, if your transport is delayed or cancelled and finally, if you can’t return home for a reason outside of your control.

You may find that there are cover restrictions in place as the virus has now been classed as a pandemic, which many travel insurance providers will be unable to cover. It’s best to contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible to find out if they can extend your cover.

What if I become unwell whilst I’m abroad?

If you develop any of the coronavirus symptoms whilst abroad, such as; a high temperature, a persistent cough, a loss or change in your taste or smell - then you should immediately stay indoors and avoid contact with people.

It’s recommended that you then call your insurance provider to discuss with them what’s the best course of action to take, as it will vary depending on the company. You should make sure you follow the local public health guidance if it’s available.

If you become unwell whilst at the airport, train or bus station then seek medical advice and do not start your journey. Once you are fully recovered it’s always best to check with your GP or health provider if you are fit to travel again.

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, then we advise you call the 111 NHS line for further help.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE

Top tips for staying safe from COVID-19

Sarah is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and is the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

  1. Wash your hands – it’s tip number one for a reason! Coronavirus is likely to be transmitted mostly by droplets. That means if someone sneezes or coughs straight into your face, you can breathe in the germs. But it’s likely that more people are catching it by picking up viruses on their hands and touching their mouth or nose. Really regular handwashing may help reduce the spread of the virus by over 50% - but you need to wash every bit of your hands with soap and water, taking about 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice).

  2. Don’t forget the door. You may have washed your hands when you visit the loo, but sadly not everyone else has. When you finish washing your hands, use your elbow or a paper towel to turn the tap off and keep the paper towel to open the door, then dispose of it in a bin.

  3. Use the right hand sanitiser. In the absence of a sink, the right hand sanitiser is a good second choice. Antibacterial gels and liquids are excellent at killing bacteria, but not always as good at killing viruses. Pick a variety that contains a high proportion of alcohol – ideally at least 60%.

  4. Face masks are compulsory when it comes to public transport. The masks help control the spread of the virus and are especially useful when in an enclosed environment where social distancing may not always be possible. Remember, face masks don't replace social distancing.

  5. Shake off shaking hands. There’s no question that shaking hands is the perfect way to pass on the virus. You may not be tempted by the ‘elbow bump’ or the ‘Wuhan shake’ (touching opposite feet against each other) but I’ve completely stopped shaking hands in favour of a friendly mini-wave.

  6. Keep inhalers to hand. If you have long term lung conditions such as asthma or COPD, you’re likely to be taking prescribed inhalers – usually a blue ‘reliever’ inhaler and one or more ‘preventer’ inhalers, to stop you getting wheeze or shortness of breath. It’s always important to make sure you have enough of your medication to last for the whole holiday, with some to spare in case of delays or lost medication. But it’s particularly important if you catch coronavirus, which can worsen breathing problems.

  7. Check before you fly. The FCDO advises only essential travel. So before you travel, check on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to make sure your country isn’t on the list where no travel is permitted.

  8. Get the right insurance. If you have a medical condition you don’t declare, it could invalidate your insurance. That means that if you’re taken ill with coronavirus while you’re away, you could be left with an eye-watering bill and serious problems getting home.

  9. Know the symptoms. For most people, the symptoms of coronavirus are no worse than a nasty cold. However, runny nose and sneezing don’t seem to be prominent features. Typically, the infection starts with a fever, followed by a cough and sometimes shortness of breath a few days later. So while a blocked or runny nose isn’t a guarantee that you don’t have coronavirus, it does make it less likely.

Where can I get more help?

There’s a lot of things to consider, and Dr Sarah Jarvis has created some useful guides to give you all the information you need to travel safely.

If you need anymore help then feel free to speak to our online team, or send us an email at contact@medicaltravelcompared.co.uk .

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Cancellation amounts will be per person. So, if you were going on a trip for 2 people which cost £1,000 in total you would ideally need cancellation cover for at least £500.
You will need to add each country that you are visiting. If you are on a flight stopover this will include any countries where you leave the airport. If you are on a cruise it includes any countries where your ship will be docking at.
A pre-existing condition is a diagnosed medical condition that existed before taking out a policy. We'll ask a series of questions about the medical history for you and any travellers on your quote. If you answer yes to any of these, you will need to tell us about the traveller's conditions. This could be a condition that a traveller has now, or has had in the past. If you are not sure what conditions you need to declare, we have online support available to help you 24/7!
If you're taken ill or have an accident abroad your travel insurance policy will repatriate you once you are well enough to travel. It is included within your medical cover. The insurance provider's Emergency Assistance team will help organise this along with the medical team who are treating you. If you are travelling in the UK, check repatriation with your insurance provider to see what is included.
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