Travel insurance and Coronavirus

Find out how travel insurance can help with travel plans during the Coronavirus outbreak and what cover you’ll need for any future trips you have planned.

Amy Smith
Updated 13 March 2020 | 4 min read

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This guide gives you the latest information we have about travel insurance and Coronavirus to help you make your own choice, but it’s not advice.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the Coronavirus outbreak is now considered a pandemic (11 March 2020 onwards).

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also has a list of countries they believe it’s not safe to travel to. They call these ‘restricted destinations’ and regularly update the list. Since 17 March 2020, they have advised that British citizens should avoid all non-essential travel worldwide.

Please check the latest FCO travel advice regularly if you have any trips planned.

Travel insurance can help if you need to cancel a trip to one of these destinations, get ill abroad or get ill before you travel.

Key points component

  • Coronavirus has been classed as a pandemic. Each insurer treats pandemics differently, and some treat them as known events. Which means they might not cover you.
  • If you choose to cancel a trip to a destination that’s not on the restricted list, you won’t be covered by your travel insurance. Unless you can’t travel for medical reasons
  • Trips to restricted destinations might be covered either by your tour operator/travel agent or travel insurance - assuming you had travel insurance before the FCO updated their advice
  • If you travel against FCO advice, you won’t be covered by your travel insurance
  • Get travel insurance as soon as you book a holiday. If you’ve already booked and haven’t got insurance, get it sorted as soon as possible
  • Make sure you know what you'll be covered for before you buy a policy. If you’re unsure if you’re getting the right cover, call the insurer first.

The kind of cover you need depends on whether you’ve booked a package holiday or have booked your flights and accommodation separately for yourself. That’s because, if you book a package holiday, you should have ATOL or ABTA protection and your travel agent should refund you.

For all holidays, look out for cover for cancellation, travel disruption, medical treatment and scheduled airline failure. Each insurer treats pandemics differently. And some consider them a circumstance or event you could have known about before you bought insurance. That means, they might not cover you if anything happens because of Coronavirus.

Make sure you know what you'll be covered for before you buy a policy. If you’re unsure if you’re getting the right cover, call the insurer first.

Is it safe to travel?

As of 17 March 2020, the FCO has advised against ‘all’ travel to:

  • Hubei Province
  • The cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan in South Korea

They have also advised against ‘all non-essential’ travel worldwide for the next 30 days. You can check destination-specific advice on the FCO website, but expect countries to restrict travel, close boarders and for travel insurance to refuse to cover you.

If you’ve got a trip planned, check the latest FCO website regularly to make sure travel to your destination isn’t added to the restricted list. The FCO doesn’t define ‘essential’ travel, it’s up to you to decide what is or isn’t.

If you’re planning a trip to a destination that’s not currently restricted by the FCO make sure you get travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your trip.

Look out for cover for cancellation and travel disruption, in case FCO advice changes. Also, look for cover for things like scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI), medical treatment and hospitalisation, or quarantine.

Not all insurers cover cancellation or disruption because of government restrictions as standard. Others might cover cancellation to destinations that have a restriction for ‘all’ travel, but not for ‘all but essential’. Look out for exclusions around known events and pandemics too. You’ll find this information in the policy documents.

If you are unsure if you have enough cover, call your insurer to double check. If you haven’t bought a policy yet, and you’re not sure, get in touch with the insurer before you buy.

Will I be covered if I cancel my trip due to Coronavirus?

It depends on if you planned to travel to a restricted area. If you have cancellation cover, and you booked your trip before the FCO issued its travel advice, then yes, you should be covered.

However, travel insurance won’t cover you for cancellation if you decide not to travel to a destination that’s currently considered safe by the FCO, or because you’re worried about the risk of travelling during a pandemic.

If you can’t travel for medical reasons, that’s different. Your insurer should be able to help.

Package holidays

Get in touch with your tour operator or travel agent first. Your holiday should be either ATOL or ABTA protected, and they should be your first port of call for recovering money for things like cancelled accommodation, flights or excursions. Any costs that aren’t covered by them, might be covered by your travel insurance.

Independent travel

If you booked the different parts of your holiday for yourself, you won’t have any protection from associations like ATOL. If you need to cancel, or your flight or accommodation provider cancels, you’ll have to try and recover your costs from each of them separately.

That’s why travel disruption and cancellation cover with travel insurance is important. If you can’t get your money back from the providers, you might be able to claim on your travel insurance instead.

Changing plans

Your insurer might be able to transfer your policy to cover a new destination if you’ve had to make alternative plans. Get in touch with them before you travel to make sure you’re covered.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has more guidance on how Coronavirus could affect your travel insurance.

Flight cancellations and Coronavirus

Some airlines are cancelling flights to the worst affected areas, while others are having to cancel flights due to travel restrictions.

Speak to your airline. You should be able to get a refund or your flight transferred.

For advice about connecting flights with stopovers in restricted areas, contact the airline you booked with.

“It’s really important to get in touch with your insurer to check cover and restrictions before you travel. They'll be able to give you specific advice relating to your policy.”

Sally Jaques, GoCompare Travel Insurance

What happens if I travel to an area with Coronavirus?

Insurers don’t consider holidays ‘essential travel’ even if the FCO leaves that definition to you. That means your travel insurance won’t cover any trips to destinations the FCO advises against.

If you’re already in a restricted area, and are trying to leave, you should be covered by your insurance – assuming you didn’t travel against FCO advice, and you have travel disruption cover.

What if I get Coronavirus or I’m put into quarantine while abroad?

You’ll need to get medical treatment before coming back to the UK, and you’ll probably have to delay travelling home until you recover.

Your travel insurance should cover your medical costs and help you get home when you’re well again - assuming you didn’t travel against FCO advice and you had the right cover.

Before you go on holiday, the most important thing to do is speak to your insurer. They’ll be able to tell you whether you have a decent amount of cover for any eventuality that might happen.

If you haven’t got travel insurance yet, check policy documents carefully and look out for any exclusions to cover before you buy. If you’re not sure whether you’ll have enough cover, just call the insurer to check before you buy.

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