Updated: 29/10/2020

 

The coronavirus pandemic has caused much devastation across the globe and has affected so many people around the world. With no one immune from the destruction caused by the virus, the travel industry, among other sectors, has drastically felt the impact of Covid-19.

With the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) constantly changing its advice on the countries included on the travel corridor list, Brits have often been left confused over whether they’re covered by their travel insurance to enjoy a holiday abroad.

We understand that a lot has happened over these last few months. So, we’ve drawn-up some of the most popular questions we’ve received during the pandemic and answered all travel concerns below!

 

My holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, what should I do? 

Holidaymakers’ options depend entirely on the type of holiday they have purchased.

If you’ve booked a package holiday

A package holiday is where you have booked at least two different types of services through a tour operator. For example, flights and accommodation. For information on what a package holiday includes click here.

If your holiday has been cancelled and you have booked a package holiday then you should contact your tour operator for a refund, as they are responsible for providing you with a full cash refund under the Package Travel Regulations Act. Tour operators are supposed to refund you within 14 days of cancellation, however, given the current global situation, this is taking longer than usual as companies simply do not have the money to provide cash refunds.

Many tour operators are currently offering alternative options to a refund, such as the opportunity to rebook your holiday for a later date or the option to receive a refund credit note.

Whether customers accept an alternative option to a refund is completely down to the individual and their circumstances. Although, it’s worth considering these options as they may be preferential.

Additionally, as of July 18th, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed that any refund credit notes would retain the financial protection that came with the original booking, so that should anything happen to the tour operator, customers would not be left out of pocket.

If you’ve booked your holiday independently (your flights and accommodation separately)

If you booked your holiday independently then you will need to speak to your airline and accommodation provider about getting your money back.

Some airlines are allowing customers to change their flight to a later date, while others are offering vouchers as an alternative to a cash refund. However, it is worth knowing that under EU Law, airlines have a responsibility to provide full refunds provide an alternative flight if they cancelled the flight.

Those who have accommodation bookings that they are no longer able to use due to the cancellations will need to speak to their provider directly. Most hotel and accommodation providers have strict cancellation policies but may offer to reimburse costs or move your travel dates as a gesture of goodwill due to the circumstances. It is worth noting, that this is not guaranteed and will vary between accommodation providers.

If you cannot get a refund from the tour operator, airline or accommodation provider

If you are unable to get your money back from the tour operator, airline or accommodation provider, and you booked your holiday on a credit card, then you may be able to claim back costs against your credit card provider under ‘Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act’. However, the holiday must have cost more than £100 to do so.

Those who booked with a debit card may also be able to claim costs back through their bank under a voluntary scheme called ‘Chargeback’. However, customers will need to speak directly to their card provider to discuss their options in both circumstances. More information can be found here.

Once all of the other providers have been contacted and confirmed that they are unable to provide a refund or alternative option in writing, then customers should contact their travel insurer and submit a claim for consideration.

After you have exhausted all other options, you should look to submit a claim through your travel insurance provider

To be able to successfully submit a claim for cancellation you must be able to provide your travel insurance provider with written confirmation that you are unable to recover any costs from any other provider.

The reason a travel insurer may ask for confirmation that these costs are not recoverable is because travel insurance policies are designed to put customers back in the same financial position as they were before a loss. Therefore, if a customer is able to get a refund, move their holiday, or receive a credit note to book their trip at a later date, there is simply nothing to claim back.

Of course, customers who are unable to recover lost costs would be able to submit a claim for consideration, providing they have relevant cover included in their policy.

Holidaymakers may have cancellation cover for any cause, which may be worded as “If you are unable to go on your trip”. Alternatively, they may have a change in FCDO advice covered in their policy, which their claim may equally be applicable under. You should also check that you have the appropriate cover for claims related to the coronavirus, as some policies may have specific exclusions, depending on when you bought your policy.

Other facts may also play a part in the eligibility of a claim, so it’s always worth reading the finer details to find out exactly what cover is included and what exclusions your policy has, as most travel insurance policies list the cancellation reasons that are covered.

You should contact your insurance company if you are unsure or have any further questions.

 

What’s the point of having travel insurance if I have to get a refund from everywhere else?

Travel insurance is there to protect you should anything go wrong while you’re away. While travel insurance policies have many different and varying aspects of cover, depending on the type of policy purchased, all policies will cover for medical costs should you fall ill abroad and need medical attention. Of course, this is providing that any and all existing medical conditions have been declared to the insurer beforehand.

This is the main reason travel insurance is so important. Most good insurers will also cover any medical claims submitted as a result of falling ill with coronavirus while on holiday, which is useful to know.

Secondly, travel insurance offers protection should you have to cancel your trip. In normal circumstances, when a customer is not able to travel as a result of illness or another insurable reason that is no fault of the tour operators, the insurer would be responsible for covering these costs provided there was cover in the policy. However, in this circumstance, the insurer would sit behind all other providers as there is legislation in place to protect customers.

Of course, the reasons which will allow you to submit a cancellation claim will vary on the type of policy bought. For example, a cheaper policy typically bought on a comparison site may only provide you with very basic cover and be more restrictive in the reasons for which you can claim. These policies also tend to have a higher excess, meaning you may receive less back overall.

On the contrary, policies that are bought directly from the insurer (and are often more expensive) may have more cover for events beyond your control. For example, these types of policies may cover you against a change in Foreign and Commonwealth advice and have lower excess – as more was paid for the insurance in the first place.

 

I’ve cancelled my travel insurance policy as I am no longer going on my trip – why won’t my travel insurer give me the full premium back?

Many travel insurers are offering pro-rata refunds to customers who no longer wish to keep their policy in place. However, there are several reasons why some customers may not be entitled to a full refund.

You’ve exceeded the ‘cooling-off’ period

Most travel insurance policies have a 14-day cooling-off period which begins from the date customer purchased the policy. This period allows 14-days for customers to cancel their policy and receive a full refund if they change their mind and no longer want it. After the cooling-off period is up, customers are no longer entitled to a full refund as they will have had enough time to read through the policy wording, and documentation, and decide whether it is the right policy for their trip.

However, some insurers have extended this period up to 28 days due to the coronavirus outbreak. So, it’s always worth checking to see how long you have to change your mind, or else you may not be entitled to a refund should you cancel.

Protection has been in place for some time

Another reason many people haven’t been able to get a full refund is because their policy may have been in place and providing cover for some time.

For example, if you booked your trip in December 2019 and bought a single trip policy on the same day, your cover for holiday cancellation would have started that day. If your holiday then got cancelled by your tour operator in March 2020, your cover had already been in place and protecting you for any pre-travel issues for those three months, whether you needed to claim or not.

Travel insurance is there to protect you both before and during your trip. It’s very similar to car insurance in the respect that you may never need to claim on your insurance, but you will have been protected all the time cover was in place.

You’ve already claimed through your insurance policy

You may also be unable to receive a refund for your travel insurance policy if you have already claimed through your travel insurance.

For example, if you bought an annual multi-trip policy and made a claim before cancelling your insurance, you wouldn’t be entitled to a refund as you had already used your policy.

Insurance providers take a premium so that they can pay your claim. Unfortunately, they can’t settle your claim and then refund your money.

 

I bought my travel insurance policy last year to cover my upcoming holiday – am I covered for any claims related to the coronavirus?

If you bought a travel insurance policy before the coronavirus outbreak became a known event then it is worth knowing that changes cannot be made to your existing policy.

So, providing that you have appropriate cover, you should be able to claims related to the coronavirus. Exclusions for claims related to the coronavirus will only be included in policies bought around March 13th 2020 onwards.

 
I have been able to move my upcoming holiday to a later date – can I change my travel insurance policy dates as well?

If you have been able to move your upcoming trip to a later date, then you should contact your travel insurance provider as they may be able to amend any single trip policies to suit new travel dates.

Depending on how far in advance your new holiday is and whether there has been a change in destination or duration, there may be a small additional premium to pay.

 

I have a cruise holiday that I am no longer able to go on – can I claim costs back through my travel insurance provider?

On July 9 the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued a statement advising British holidaymakers to avoid travelling on cruise ships and encouraged those with existing bookings to contact their tour operators.

Fortunately, most Brits with cruise holidays should be entitled to a cash refund under the Package Regulations Act. However, it’s worth checking your rights with the provider you booked through and remembering that refunds are taking a little longer to process during the current crisis.

Those with cancelled cruise holidays will be able to claim through their travel insurance policy, provided they have exhausted all other avenues in the first instance and are not entitled to any vouchers or refund credit notes (as detailed above). They must also have the relevant cruise cover or extension in their policy.

 

I am looking to buy a travel insurance policy for a trip next year – are there any policies that provide cover related to the coronavirus? 

Yes. Many travel insurance providers have started covering medical expenses related to the coronavirus.

Quite frankly, this is one of the most important aspects of any travel insurance policy as very few countries have the luxury of a free National Health Service like we do in the UK.

So, to avoid large bills and difficulty getting home, should anything unexpected happen to your during your trip, it is essential you take out appropriate travel insurance.

 

Are any travel insurance providers offering cover for cancellation claims related to the coronavirus?

At the time in writing this, there are some travel insurance providers who are offering cover should you need to cancel your holiday due to the coronavirus – they mainly cover situations where you are told to self-isolate after contracting the virus.

However, it is likely that more providers will be including more comprehensive cover as we battle through this crisis.

 

If I catch the coronavirus abroad, will my travel insurance cover medical expenses? 

Yes – depending on your policy.

Most travel insurance providers are now providing policies which include medial expenses related to the coronavirus. So, if you fell ill while abroad with the coronavirus, and needed emergency treatment, you’d be covered.

In the event that you needed to be repatriated (flown home early due to the severity of the illness) you’d also be covered.

 

If there is a second wave and I am quarantined abroad, am I covered? 

Those who are confined to their accommodation due to the coronavirus may be entitled to claim a small contribution from their travel insurance company for food and the cost of returning home.

However, this will differ between policies and depend entirely on when the policy was purchased. So, travellers will need to check their policy wording carefully or contact their travel insurance provider for more details on this.

 

Will my travel insurance cover me if I travel to a country that is not detailed on the Foreign Office’s list?

No. We completely understand that the travel restrictions may be frustrating, but if you do decide to travel to a country against the FCDO’s advice, then you most likely won’t be covered by your travel insurance provider should anything go wrong.

 

The FCDO has removed the country I am travelling to from corridor list. What does this mean?

If the FCDO removes a country from the travel corridor list, this means that British tourists are no longer permitted to travel to that particular destination.

It also means that anyone who arrives back from the country that has been removed from the safe list will have to quarantine (self-isolate) for 14-days upon their return.

Those who do decide to travel against the FCDO guidance, risk invalidating their travel insurance policy and therefore not be covered if something goes wrong.

For more information on what to do if your trip is cancelled as a result of a change in FCDO advice see question “my holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, what should I do?”

 

I’m currently in a country that the FCDO has removed from the travel corridor list. What should I do?

If you have already arrived at your destination and then the FCDO changes its advice, with most providers, your travel insurance will still remain valid until you return home.

However, if you are on an extended holiday, longer than 28 days, and the FCDO changes its advice to the country you have travelled to, you would be expected to make every effort to return home. If you don’t, you could void your policy.

We would advise anyone on a longer holiday to contact their travel insurance provider and discuss their options.

 

Will my travel insurer contact me to let me know if I’m no longer covered due to a change in FCDO advice?

 Most likely not. When you purchase a travel insurance policy, most providers do not ask for the specific country you are travelling to. Instead, most ask for the geographical region the country is located in. Therefore, it is unlikely that insurers will be in a position to contact you in this situation.

It is also the holidaymaker’s responsibility to be aware of what cover they have and keep up to date with any changes to the FCDO advice.  And we would advise, if you are at all unsure of the cover available under your policy you speak directly to your travel insurance provider.

Anyone unsure of what cover their policy provides should contact their travel insurance provider to clarify the cover available, and any limitations on their policy.

 

Am I covered if I travel through a country that has been removed from the corridor list to get home?

If you have no alternative but to drive through a country which has been removed from the FCDO safe list, in order to return home to the UK, and your journey started before the change of advice was issued, then you would be covered for any emergency medical expenses should you be involved in an accident during that journey.

 

Can I get a refund of my travel insurance policy if I am no longer able to go on holiday due to a change in FCDO advice?

Yes. However, it’s important to be absolutely sure that you no longer need the cover before you cancel your policy – especially if you are still waiting for money back from a travel agent or tour operator for a cancelled holiday.

If you cancel an annual travel insurance policy, you will generally receive a pro-rata refund for the months remaining on the policy. If you cancel your single trip policy it will depend on when you took the policy out as to the amount of refund you will receive. For example, if you cancelled within the 14 day cooling off period you would receive a full refund of premium, but if you bought your policy a couple of months before the cancellation date, then you would only receive a portion of the premium back as you have had a couple of months cover.

It goes without saying that if you do make a claim on your policy, then you are not able to cancel the policy and expect a refund.

 

Do I need travel insurance for a holiday in the UK? If so, why?

Yes! A UK travel insurance policy or ‘staycation’ policy is similar to the normal insurance policy you’d buy if you were travelling abroad, except it includes specialist cover to protect you against unexpected events that could happen during a break in the UK.

For example, some UK policies will provide you with cover for events such as property damage, should you accidentally break something in your holiday home, and not get your deposit back. While others offer cover for things like vehicle breakdown, which can be a real perk if you only have ‘near home’ cover on your roadside policy and need assistance while on your way to your holiday destination.

Similar to the normal travel insurance policy you buy when you’re off abroad, staycation policies also provide you with the standard elements of any travel insurance policy, including cancellation, curtailment, and personal possessions protection. Just because you’re staying in the UK, doesn’t mean that things won’t happen which requires you to cancel or cut short your holiday and losing out on that money.

While you may not need the benefit of having emergency medical cover in a staycation policy (as we’re fortunate enough to have access to the NHS in the UK), you’ll need to be sure that your trip and belongings are 100% protected through other insurances (such as home insurance) if you do decide to risk travelling without insurance. Alternatively, you’ll need to check that you have cancellation protection with your holiday provider, should you decide to risk it.

 

Are travel insurance policies likely to increase in price?

While no travel insurance provider has said that travel insurance premiums will increase, it is possible that policies could go up in price due to the financial challenges that the industry has suffered this year.

Therefore, if premiums do increase, it is likely to be a result of two main factors: the dreaded coronavirus pandemic and Brexit (as the transition period ends on December 31st, 2020).

So, we would recommend buying a policy for any upcoming trip sooner, rather than later.

 

I’ve heard that people are now buying a ‘high-risk’ or ‘war-cover’ travel insurance policy, what is this?

High-risk or war cover policies are designed to protect people who travel to countries that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advise against.

This type of cover is generally used to cover professionals who travel to dangerous destinations for their job. For example, frontline workers, journalists, filmmakers, medical staff, aid workers, etc.

However, as the government continues to add and remove countries from the safe corridor list, holidaymakers have turned to this type of cover to cover them, should the FCDO advise against their destination.

 

Can I buy a ‘high-risk’ or ‘war-cover’ policy to protect my trip from changes to FCDO advice?

While high-risk travel insurance policies offer cover for medical costs, should holidaymakers fall ill while abroad, they do not provide cover if you need to cancel your trip as a result of catching Covid-19.

It will also not cover claims for denial of boarding, should you have a high temperature at the airport and be refused boarding due to a suspected case of Covid-19, and it won’t cover any claims related to quarantine or isolation restriction while on holiday.

These policies also come with several other limitations which could void a policy altogether, if not read carefully. These exclusions include:

  • No cover at all for people over 75 years old.
  • Claims as a result of getting Covid-19 only apply for people up to 59 years old
  • No pre-existing medical coverage is available
  • There is no cover for any claims as a result of mental health issues

We would strongly recommend that anyone buying this type of policy reads terms and conditions very carefully and makes sure that they understand any potential risks associated with travelling against the FCDO’s advice.

 

What happens if I travel against the FCDO’s advice?

One of the reasons the FCDO advises against travelling to a certain country is because, at that point, the UK government does not feel it has enough resources to support a large number of UK nationals should something go wrong in the particular country.

The FCDO has also made it clear that those who decide to travel to a country against their advice will not receive any support in getting home or staying in alternative accommodation, should there be another outbreak.

So, those who decide to travel against the FCDO’s advice could end up stranded in a country without any means of getting home. On top of this, you most likely won’t be covered for these additional expenses through your standard travel insurance, as most policies do not provide cover if you travel against the FCDO’s advice.

There’s also a concern that if you fall ill in a country that the FCDO has advised against travelling to you may not be seen as a priority, if the local hospitals are overwhelmed with sick locals.

 

Once airport testing starts, if I test positive at the airport and can’t go on holiday – can I get a refund?

Whether you are entitled to a refund or not will depend on if you have cover.

There are various policies that cover Covid-19 to a greater, or lesser, degree. Some policies will cover you if you are diagnosed with Covid-19 before you travel. However, the period that allows you to cancel if you or a travelling party contracts Covid can vary from 28 days to 14 days before travel.

Some policies may also include cover for denied boarding should you be refused boarding by an airline as a result of having a suspected Covid-19 case. For example, if you had a high temperature.

If a policy does include cancellation or disruption cover related to Covid-19 then it could be phrased as ‘cover for a pandemic’, ‘cover for a change in government restrictions’, or even ‘cover for a change in ‘Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office advice (FCDO)’. Please note that the way the cover is worded will vary between insurers and we would recommend checking that the phrases included are not exclusions of the cover.

Lastly, it’s worth being that aware that if Covid-19 cover is included in a policy as standard, then it is likely to be on a more premium product. Although some travel insurers may only provide Covid-19 cover through an optional add-on. So, we would recommend you double-check the policy wording to make sure you’re happy with the cover included in your policy.

 

Can I go on a UK holiday if my region is in a Tier 3 lockdown?

While it is not illegal to go on holiday if your region is in a Tier 3 lockdown it is strongly advised against. There have also been reports of some holiday providers turning tourists from areas with harsher restrictions away when they arrive.

If you do turn up at your holiday accommodation (whether this is a hotel or rented holiday home) and are turned away due to travelling from a Tier 3 lockdown, then most travel insurance providers will not cover you for any lost costs as you will have travelled against government guidance.

We would recommend that anyone who has an upcoming holiday, and lives in an area affected by local lockdown restrictions, tries to move their trip to a later date rather than risk turning up. Some holiday providers may let you change holiday dates completely free of charge, so it’s worth checking your booking terms and conditions to see if this option is available.

For those planning a future trip, we would urge that you book with a holiday provider that is flexible with travel dates. For example, some holiday accommodation providers allow customers to cancel up to 24 hours before arrival.

We cannot highlight enough that no travel insurance provider will cover you for changes in government advice related to Covid-19. So please don’t risk any unnecessary trips if you can avoid it!