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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
Amy Smith
Updated 7 July 2020  | 4 min read

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.

Latest travel advice

On 4 July 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its advice about travelling. Some countries are now exempt from the advisory notice on non-essential international travel. You can find the list of exempt countries here.

If you do choose to go abroad, it’s going to be a bit different. And buying travel insurance will be a little different too. That's not to say that you can't find insurance right now, but you won't have as many insurers to choose from – and each insurer will have its own exclusions around Coronavirus.

We don’t know if the current FCO advice will change. If it does for a destination you plan to travel to, you won’t be covered by any travel insurance.

Check the latest FCO advice regularly before you travel.

Key points

  • You can buy travel insurance, but each insurer will have different levels of cover and exclusions around Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus is classed as a pandemic. Each insurer treats pandemics differently, and some class them as known events. That means they might exclude parts of the cover they offer
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) still advises against all but essential worldwide travel. It’s just added a list of countries that are exempt from this advice
  • If you travel against FCO advice, you won’t be covered by your travel insurance
  • 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

Buying travel insurance now

We’re now offering travel insurance comparison again. But you won’t be covered if you travel against FCO advice. Very few insurance policies will cover cancellation costs because of Coronavirus either.

It’s really important to know what you’re covered for. Read policy documents and look at the extra information that’s provided for you. Each insurer will have different levels of cover and features. You’ll need to compare them to find one that’s right for you.

Look out for cover for:

  • Cancellation because of Coronavirus - whether that’s because you need to self-isolate or you’ve had to cancel your trip
  • Getting Coronavirus abroad - look out for cover for your medical expenses and repatriation home in case you need it
  • Extending your stay - if you, or anyone else on the policy needs to extend their stay abroad because of Coronavirus. These costs are usually separate from medical expenses
  • End-supplier failure and scheduled airline failure - in case anything goes wrong with your airline or tour operator

It won’t be easy to find insurance that’ll cover all of these aspects, but it’s not impossible.

Even then, Coronavirus – now classed as a pandemic – could still be considered a ‘known event’ by your insurer. 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 need to check you’re getting the right cover, call the insurer first.

If you've already got travel insurance, and you bought it in advance of any FCO advice and the WHO declaring Coronavirus a pandemic, you can find more information below.

Will I be covered by my travel insurance if I travel against FCO advice?

No. If you travel against FCO advice you won’t be covered by any travel insurance.

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

If your airline or holiday company cancels your trip, 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 booked your trip after the FCO advised against travelling, or if you cancel it yourself because you decide you don’t want to go.

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.

They’ll probably be receiving more requests than normal though, and so will be dealing with the most urgent first, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer than usual.

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 can claim on your travel insurance instead.

Changing plans

Your travel agent may offer to re-book your trip for a later date, instead of giving you a cash refund. If your re-arranged trip has to be cancelled too, you should still have some financial protection.

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.

Alternatively, you could be offered holiday vouchers instead of money but beware – a holiday voucher has no financial protection so you could lose your money if the travel company later fails. What you’d ideally want is a Refund Credit Note;

Refund Credit Note (RCN)

You can use an RCN to pay in full or for part of a future holiday. If your original booking was ABTA or ATOL protected then your RCN will be too, so you’d be reimbursed if the travel company failed.

Some companies are offering additional incentives if you take an RCN, but this incentive won’t be financially protected.

According to ABTA, an RCN should include:

  • An expiry date
  • Its value
  • The original booking details and reference

It shouldn’t have any other amounts or incentives – this should be documented separately.

Keep all of your original booking confirmations, ATOL certificate and proof of payment, just in case.

Flight cancellations and Coronavirus

Most airlines 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.

Even with the changes to FCO advice, it's really important to get in touch with your insurer to check cover and restrictions before you consider travelling. They'll be able to give you specific advice relating to your policy.
Sally Jaques, GoCompare Travel Insurance

I booked a trip with a tour operator which has since gone bust – it wasn’t an ABTA member and I’m not covered by ATOL. What can I do?

Your travel insurance might be able to help if it includes end-supplier failure cover.

If you paid for part or all of your trip with a credit card, you may have some financial protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

I booked a holiday independently, but the airline has declared bankruptcy. What can I do?

If you have Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI) as part of your travel cover you should be able to claim back the costs up to your cover limit. As above, you may also have protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 if you booked using a credit card.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974

To be protected under Section 75, the total cost of your purchase must be between £100 and £30,000 and paid for by credit card.

Even if you only paid a £50 deposit for a £5,000 holiday on your credit card and paid the rest by cheque or transfer from your current account, you can still claim a refund for the total cost from your card issuer.

You can also claim refunds from the holiday company/airline and your credit card issuer at the same time, but you can’t receive pay outs from both. It does mean that you can start your claim with your credit card issuer if you feel you’re getting nowhere with the holiday company. If your holiday company does pay-up you can stop the claim with your credit card issuer.

My holiday/flights have been cancelled but the company refuses to refund me/has gone bust or gone quiet and I don’t have travel insurance to protect me. What can I do?

First of all, check the situation with ABTA - if the holiday company was a member of ABTA. A package holiday should be covered by the ATOL protection scheme which is Government backed.

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.

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

What about future holidays?

It’s impossible to predict what will happen next. But if you’re considering booking a holiday for the future, and want insurance, the kind of cover you need depends on whether you’ve booked a package holiday or have booked your flights and accommodation separately. 

That’s because, if you book a package holiday, you should have ATOL or ABTA protection and your travel agent should refund you. If you are considering booking a holiday now, speak to your travel agent and make sure you’re comfortable that they’ll let you cancel, or reschedule, if needs be.

I’ve paid a deposit for a future holiday – should I pay the remaining balance, or cancel and lose the deposit?

If your trip hasn’t already been cancelled, talk to the holiday company or airline. If you miss a payment or cancel the trip yourself, you may forfeit your deposit and any other payments you’ve made, and you’d probably not be entitled to a refund.

If your package holiday included flights from a scheduled airline, you might be expected to settle the cost of those flights with the airline directly, on top of any payments you’ve made to the holiday company.

I have a holiday booked but I don’t have travel insurance. Can I get cover now?

So long as you plan to travel to a country that’s exempt from the ongoing advice, you should be able to buy travel insurance. You’ll have some cover for things like accidents, illnesses and for your baggage and belongings.

But expect cover levels to vary between insurers for claims to do with Coronavirus. Look out for cover and exclusions around cancellation, medical expenses, repatriation and extending your stay

Medical treatment for Coronavirus may be covered, but you’d need to check with the insurer and there’s likely to be exclusions.

What if I can go on holiday but I or another member of my family or travel party is confirmed as having Coronavirus (or another serious illness which may prevent travel)?

Talk to your travel company to see if you can change your plans. If you can’t, check the company’s cancellation policy and/or talk to your travel insurer to see if your covered.

I’ve decided I don’t want to go on the holiday I’ve booked. Can I cancel it and claim on my travel insurance?

No, you won’t be covered if you don’t want to travel and your country is now on the exempt list. Talk to your holiday provider to see if you can delay your trip or if you can choose a different holiday. They’re not obligated to though, but they may be sympathetic to your request.

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