Travel insurance and coronavirus

Find out how travel insurance can help with travel plans during the Covid-19 outbreak and what cover you’ll need for any future trips you have planned.

amy smith
Amy Smith
Updated 2 December 2021  | 6 min read

Find out the latest on travel during coronavirus – and on buying the right travel insurance policy to cover you.

Latest travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) regularly updates its advice about travelling. It is taking a country by country approach but continues to advise against non-essential international travel to some countries. You can find a list of travel and entry requirements for all 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 Covid-19. Your travel insurance won't cover you if you travel against FCDO advice.

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

Check the latest FCDO 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
  • Covid-19 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
  • It’s now possible to travel again, but different countries have different rules. Check the rules for the area of the UK you're travelling from as well as your destination country and follow advice for both
  • If you travel against FCDO 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

You can now compare travel insurance with us again. but if you travel against FCDO advice, you won’t be insured.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re covered for and read all the policy information. Every insurer has different levels of protection so you need to find the one that's right for you.

Look out for cover that:

  • Allows you to cancel due to Covid-19 (including illness and self-isolation)
  • Covers your medical expenses and flight home if you are ill with coronavirus
  • Extends your stay if necessary due to coronavirus
  • Covers you for airline or tour operator failure

Finding insurance to cover these will be difficult as there are still so many restrictions in place, but it’s not impossible. Read policy documents and call insurers if you need to so that you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.

Remember, if you travel against FCDO advice you won’t be covered by any travel insurance.

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.

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

No. If you travel against FCDO 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 FCDO issued its travel advice, then yes, you should be covered. But you should look to your airline or travel provider to reimburse you first.

However, travel insurance won’t cover you for cancellation if you booked your trip after the FCDO 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, although not all policies cover it for Covid-19. 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

Sometimes an airline might have to cancel a flight due to Covid-19, but this is becoming rarer as more countries have opened up.

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

Even with the changes to FCDO 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.
Hannah Isitt, GoCompare Travel Insurance Expert

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 Covid-19?

Coronavirus has spread worldwide, so most places you travel to will have Covid cases and local rules in place to manage the spread.

If the advice does change, your airline, travel provider or insurer should be able to help you, as long as you haven’t travelled against FCDO advice.

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 FCDO 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 allows travel, 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 Covid-19 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 you're 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 destination country is accepting travel. 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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