Dare we say it, the world is starting to open again and as a result there has been a surge in holiday bookings with people desperate to the leave the UK for a taste of normality. But, with ever-changing rules, additional tests and contradicting advice how can you make sure your holiday is protected against COVID chaos?

We have been following the updates very closely and put together a COVID guide. All information is correct at the time of publishing and will be frequently reviewed and updated, but if you feel there is anything we have missed or we haven’t quite answered your question please email us at hello@travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk

What are PCR tests and how do I get one?

A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is used to detect a specific organism, such as a virus. In this case, with COVID-19, the test can detect the virus that causes COVID following a nasal and oral swab. A positive result means you are likely to have COVID and a negative means you are not likely to have the virus at the time of the test.

The need for a PCR test, and the days it is required to be taken on, is dependent on the country you are travelling to. The government website provides a link to the Foreign Travel Advice which will outline the requirements for each country.

It is important to note, tests must be taken or booked (again, depending on the country) prior to travel and NHS PCR tests are not accepted, you will need to book a private test. The government has a list of reputable companies on their website. It is important to allow enough time for your test results to be returned to you; missing your holiday departure because you do not have the require documents to board the plane or enter the country you are travelling to will not be covered by your travel insurance policy.

Do I need to be double vaccinated to travel?

Some, but not all, countries will require that you have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to travelling. If you have not been vaccinated, but are still allowed to enter a country, a period of isolation or additional tests may be required. You will need to check the entry requirements for the specific country you are travelling to.

What documents do I need to enter a country abroad?

In most cases you will be required to show evidence of a negative COVID test taken no longer than 72 hours before your travel date and/or your NHS COVID Pass. It is likely the airline will also ask to see this before allowing you to board your flight. The name on your NHS COVID Pass should match the name on your passport, so speak to your GP if it doesn’t match and allow at least 14 days for any updates to be made.

To show proof of vaccinations, most countries will accept you showing them the NHS app.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to check the entry requirements and documentation needed, usually a negative COVID test, prior to departing for your holiday. Again, NHS COVID tests will not be accepted, so all PCR tests will need to be booked privately.

Although not COVID related, it is important not to forget to check whether a VISA is required and that your passport has the suitable validity for the country you are travelling to (some countries will require your passport to be in date for six months from the date you land back in the UK). You will need to check the individual entry requirements for the country you are travelling to.

What if the country I am travelling to goes onto the red list?

Recently, all but 7 countries, where taken off the red list. Although the government has said you can still travel to red lists countries if you follow the strict isolation requirements on arrival back to the UK, the FCDO has advised against all but essential travel. It is safe to assume if the country you are travelling to is put back on the Red List, it will also fall under all but essential travel rule. You can find out what this will mean for your travel insurance cover below.

Why am I able to buy a travel insurance policy for a red list country, but am told it won’t cover me?

It is essential you check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to, although a country may be on the Governments rest of the world list it doesn’t mean they are allowing visitors from the UK to enter. If you book to travel to a country and are denied entry, this will not be covered by your travel insurance, but your holiday provider (if you have booked a package deal) may be able to help as they were not able to provide you with the holiday you booked. You will need to speak with the company directly at the time of booking to understand their stance on this.

A travel insurance policy will only void cover if you are travelling to a country that has been deemed ‘no travel’ or ‘all but essential travel’ by the FCDO at the time of you booking your holiday. There are some travel insurance policies that will provide limited cover if you are travelling for essential reasons, it is worth noting, a holiday is not considered an essential reason, so this may be something to look into if your reason for travel is essential

If you have booked a holiday and then the country you are travelling to is placed on the red list, it may be possible for you to change your destination or cancel your holiday. Please be aware that the majority of travel insurers are excluding this reason for cancellation from their cover so it may be best to book through a package holiday provider or carefully check policy wordings before buying your travel insurance policy.

What are the isolation periods once I am back in the UK?

Now all but 7 countries have been removed from the red list, travellers will no longer be required to participate in mandatory hotel quarantine.

According to the GOV website, the need to isolate or take a test will depend on two factors: where you have travelled from and if you have been vaccinated. This will then determine whether you need to take a test before returning to England, once you get back or if you need to isolate.

If you are fully vaccinated you will need to book and pay for a COVID test, prior to travelling, to be taken on Day 2 of your arrival back to the UK, you will also be required to complete a passenger locator form within 48 hours of your arrival.

If you are not fully vaccinated you need to take a COVID test three days before you are due to arrive in the UK, book and pay for a COVID test for when you arrive back in the UK to be taken on day 2 and day 8 and you will be required to quarantine for 10 days. You can pay for an additional test on day 5 to end your isolation period (UK only). You will also need to complete a passenger locator form.

Children of all ages who are resident in the UK, or in a country with an approved proof of vaccination, do not have to isolate on arrival in England, however 5-17 year olds must complete a COVID test on Day 2.

What if I contract COVID or need to isolate prior to travel?

If you contract COVID before you are due to travel and are not able to provide a negative result within the time frame outlined by the country you are visiting to, you have several options. If you have booked a package holiday you may be able to postpone your trip, however most are now offering cancellation cover as standard if you contract COVID or are told to isolate due to someone you have been in contact with testing positive. If you have booked independently, you will need to check your travel insurance policy. Similar to package holiday companies, most travel insurers will offer to cover cancellation costs, that can’t be reimbursed elsewhere i.e. from the company you have booked with, if you or someone in your household tests positive. There are a few policies that offer cover if you are notified to isolate by the NHS app, so be sure to check this before buying your travel insurance policy.

What if I contract COVID or need to isolate during travel delaying my return to the UK?

Medical attention and the required treatment following the contraction of COVID abroad is generally covered under most travel insurance policies, provided you are using the public hospital (private hospital treatment will only be covered if agreed by your travel insurer prior to treatment) – you can read more about this here. Having said that, only a few travel insurance companies will cover the cost of additional accommodation and expenses if you are required to remain in the country until you are able to provide a negative test to fly home, so if this cover is important to you, check the policy you are buying does offer it. It is also worth noting, if you require an air ambulance either to be brought back to the UK or transferred to another facility, the cost of this will be considerably more if you have been diagnosed with COVID (on average an additional £10,000-£20,000 on top of the original air ambulance cost). Therefore it is essential to make sure your travel insurance policy will cover for this.

COVID cases or restrictions have changed in the country I am travelling to, can I cancel?

Most package holiday companies will cover cancellation if the rules change for the country you are travelling to and you are no longer able to travel there, however if you chose to book independently it is important to note that not all travel insurance policies are offering this cover. I It is also unlikely you will be covered if you change your mind or no longer want to go because of a rise in cases. This is often termed as ‘disinclination to travel’. If you are able to travel but they won’t let you in to the country as the borders close you may be entitled to a refund by your airline or travel agent, as they are not able to fulfil the service you have paid them for

Will ATOL protection include COVID cover?

Usually if you package holiday is cancelled by the tour operator, you are entitled to a full refund of flights within 7 days and package holidays within 14, by law. However, due to COVID causing widespread disruption, it is likely you will be offered either a full refund or a credit note. Those who opt for a full refund are being warned of long delays whilst companies catch up with a backlog of COVID cancellations. If you have opted for a credit note and the company you are booked with goes bust, if they are ATOL protected you will be reimbursed any refund due under the credit note.

FCDO advice versus the travel list, which one do I follow?

Despite frequent reviews and changes to the Red List by the UK Government, the latest being almost all countries are now off the red list, with only 7 remaining, travellers are advised to check their destination is deemed safe by the FCDO. If the FCDO places a country under ‘all but essential travel’ or ‘no travel’ you will not be covered, should anything go wrong, by your travel insurance company – regardless of whether it is on the Governments red list.

  • All information is correct at time of publishing