Q&A: Tunisia travel troubles

If you’re in Tunisia or you’ve booked a holiday there any time soon, you’ll want to cancel following the government’s advice not to travel there. But what are your holiday booking rights?

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There’s trouble in North Africa as a state of emergency has been declared in Tunisia amid government instability and widespread looting and violence.

Last week the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) changed its travel advice to Tunisia, recommending holidaymakers return home and all non-essential journeys there are cancelled.

Many tourists have seen their breaks cut short as tour operators start bringing their customers home and stop new customers from flying out.

You can get up-to-date advice on this changing situation from the FCO but in the meantime, what do you need to know if you have a holiday or trip to Tunisia booked?

I am on holiday in Tunisia now, what can I do?

All British tourists booked with the big tour operators have now been flown home but some independent travellers and those from some smaller tour operators are still in the country.

Travellers should contact their airline or tour operator as soon as possible to see if it’s possible to transfer to an earlier flight if they want to leave. However, airlines do not have to offer immediate travel and there could be transfer fees or penalties to pay.

If you’re struggling to get home then register with the Foreign Office's LOCATE system for assistance either through its website or by calling +216 71 108 713.

I have a package holiday in Tunisia booked and I am due to travel within a few days. Can I change or cancel my booking?

Speak to your tour operator as soon as possible because you may find it has already made plans for people in your position.

Thomson, First Choice and Thomas Cook have all cancelled immediate departures.

Customers who had planned to travel before or on Wednesday are being offered full refunds, the chance to postpone their Tunisia trip or a holiday of a similar value at another destination.

That’s required under the ATOL and ABTA protections you get when booking a package holiday.

Each tour operator is monitoring the situation and so, if you’re travelling after Wednesday then the situation could change. But while the FCO advice not to travel to Tunisia remains in place, there will be no departures and you should be offered an alternative.

I have a package trip booked for later this year but now I don’t want to go. What can I do?

It is likely that you’ll be charged normal cancellation and amendment fees for changing your booking, unless it is known that the specific dates you are travelling on will be affected.

However, speak to your tour operator as soon as possible to find out if there’s any flexibility.

I’m booked to travel but not on a package trip. Do I have any rights?

Non-package holidaymakers, namely anyone who booked their flights, hotels and entertainments separately, will rely on the individual provider’s refund policy.

For example, British Airways is currently just offering a change in date of up to a few days, a transfer to another destination, or a refund for anyone booked to fly between January 17 and 20.

Tunisair isn’t offering any alternatives. Other airlines may vary.

If you cancel your trip and the companies you’ve booked through do not offer a free cancellation then try to negotiate a credit note or a transfer to a later date when the troubles have settled down.

This can stop you losing your money completely.

Can’t I claim any losses from an insurer?

Most people will find that they cannot claim for any losses or additional costs through their travel insurance provider. This is because many policies include a clause that prevents claims due to civil unrest, revolutions or similar.

However, policies do differ, so get in touch with your insurer to discuss the possibility of a claim.

What if I travel despite the FCO advice?

If you do decide to travel independently despite the FCO advice not to, you’re likely to invalidate your travel insurance. Check whether or not this is the case before you fly.

Non-essential travel is strongly advised against but if you are determined to visit the country, register first with the FCO Locate scheme.

That ensures that the British Consulate knows you are in the country and will contact you if it decides to evacuate British nationals.

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