COVID-19 has impacted us all, one way or another, for the past few months. But with the high street starting to re-open and lockdown rules being loosened it begs the question – what about travel? We've spent lockdown closely following the situation and asked what important questions you have about coronavirus and travel insurance. We’ve pulled together this guide to help give some clarity to those concerns.
The situation is live and constantly changing - so we'll endeavour to keep this guide as up to date as possible as changes unfold.
What are the latest travel updates?
- As of 13th August the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has advised against all but essential travel to The Netherlands, Aruba, Malta, Turks and Caicos Islands, France and Monaco
- As of 6th August the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to Andorra, Belgium and the Bahamas
- As of 30th July the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to Luxembourg
- As of the 27th July the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to The Canary Islands (including Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa) and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera).
- As of the 26th July the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to mainland Spain due to an increase in cases of COVID-19 in several mainland regions that include Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia.
What does the latest government advice mean for my holiday to Spain?
The FCO advise has changed for Spain, and as of the 26th July they are advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain. The UK Government have also announced, that, from this date, anyone returning from Spain (including the islands) must self-isolate for 14 days. So what does this mean for your holiday?
If your travel provider has cancelled your holiday then they will either reschedule your trip or offer a refund and should be your first point of call. Your travel insurance provider should also be able to move the dates of your cover for you.
If you are due to travel to Spain, including the Canary or Balearic Islands, then your policy is likely to have extremely limited cover. If you purchased your policy after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic (March 17th 2020), it’s unlikely that you would be covered for cancellation and you would have no cover at all if you decide to travel against FCO advice. When the FCO remove their warning, cover will apply as long as you have not already started your trip.
If you want to cancel your trip as you will have to quarantine when you return to the UK, it’s unlikely your travel insurance policy will cover you for this.
If you contract COVID-19 and need to self-isolate before you travel you may be covered if you took out Enhanced COVID-19 Cover, check your policy or contact your insurer if you are unsure.
If you are already in Spain then your policy will still cover you, though you may not be able to extend your cover if you need to stay longer in the country.
If you are unsure about what cover you have then it’s best to speak to your travel insurance provider directly who can give you the most up to date guidance for your trip. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the FCO’s guidance for Spain, which you can find here.
What do the FCO travel advisories mean for my holiday?
Once COVID-19 began to spread globally, the FCO started advising against all but essential travel to those countries worst hit and unsafe for UK travellers to visit. On the 17th March 2020, this advice was extended to all international countries.
On the 4th July the FCO will be exempting certain countries from this travel ban, whilst those countries which still pose a risk for UK citizens to travel to, the ban will remain in place. This advice is constantly under review and can change. If you decide to travel against FCO advice, any travel insurance cover you have in place will no longer be valid.
It's also important to remember that even if the FCO are no longer advising against travel 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.
Can I get travel insurance cover at the moment?
Yes - you can! We know many of you will be eager to get away - you may already have a trip booked for later in the year or are snapping up a holiday bargain now that the UK government will be relaxing the rules around where we can travel to.
The key thing to consider here is what the FCO are advising for your destination at the time of your trip. If the FCO 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 FCO is advising against all, or all but essential travel to your destination, your cover will not be valid.
You can find a full list of all FCO advice for countries below.
If you need to re-arrange your trip, most travel insurance providers should be able to move 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.
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.
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 and Commonwealth 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.
Am I covered if I took out cover before the FCO advised against travel to my destination?
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 FCO 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 FCO has no travel ban against, and, at the time of your trip, the FCO 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 FCO 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.
And 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 FCO 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 FCO 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 FCO 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 won't be covered should you need medical assistance whilst abroad – from cover if you fall ill with COVID-19 to other healthcare issues, such as if you were to break your leg or get 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 lost baggage or had 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.
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 FCO advice – however, it’s best to contact your travel insurance provider for guidance on what is and is not covered.
Can I get cover 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 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 to UK travel insurance.
Can I extend my cover if I’m abroad and am stuck due to the coronavirus?
If you're stuck in another country and cannot come home on your arranged return date due to the coronavirus, 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 the Coronavirus, then we advise you call the 111 NHS line for further help.
Where can I get more help?
We've created a few additional helpful guides to help give you all the information you need to ensure you are able to travel safely and with the cover you need.
- Read our guide to getting COVID-19 travel insurance cover here
- Dr Sarah Jarvis answers all of your COVID-19 health questions here
- Starting to plan your next? Dr Sarah Jarvis gives you her advice on what you need to consider. Read her guide here
- Dr Sarah Jarvis gives you her top tips on how to travel safely during the pandemic here
If you need anymore help then feel free to speak to our online time now, or send us an email to [email protected]