Coronavirus and travel insurance

Travel insurance and coronavirus – what you need to know

By Laura Howard on Friday 25

Find out the latest on travel during coronavirus – as well as getting the right insurance policy to cover you.


First published Monday 11 May 2020

  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) blanket warning against all but essential travel was lifted for some countries on 4 July
  • You can find the full list of countries on the safe ‘travel corridor’ list (deemed to no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for travellers) at the FCO website
  • However, the FCO has since removed some countries from the safe travel corridor list. Travellers returning to England from these countries must quarantine for 14 days
  • LATEST: If you are arriving in Britain from Denmark, Iceland, Slovakia and the Caribbean island of Curacao from 4am Saturday 25 September, you will need to quarantine for 14 days
  • The Caribbean island of Montserrat has been added to the safe travel corridor list
  • Transport secretary, Grant Shapps warns you should only travel if you are content to ‘quarantine unexpectedly’ on your return
  • Travel insurance is available – all providers on MoneySuperMarket’s panel offer emergency medical treatment and repatriation as a result of coronavirus as a minimum

Heading back to the UK from Greece? Here's where you'll need to quarantine

Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions around how global travel restrictions for the foreseeable future will affect both new and existing travel insurance policies.


What's the latest on travel?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) warning against all but essential travel has been lifted for some countries, including many popular European holiday destinations.

The FCO has reinstated all-but-essential travel warnings (i.e., removed from the exempt list) to the following countries:  Denmark, Iceland, Slovakia, the Caribbean island of Curacao, Slovenia and Guadeloupe (effective Saturday 19 September, 4am), Portugal, Greece, Spain, France, Malta, Belgium, Luxembourg, Andorra, Monaco, the Netherlands, Aruba and Turks and the Caicos Islandsthe Bahamas, Austria, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago.

FCO travel warnings have also been reinstated to Jamaica, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the Greek islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.

This means that travellers returning from these destinations must quarantine for 14 days on arrival back to England.

Travellers arriving in Scotland from the whole of Greece will need to quarantine for 14 days – as well as those arriving from mainland Portugal (or Madeira and the Azores).

If you are returning to Wales from mainland Portugal and the Greek islands of Zante, Mykonos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete, you will need to quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine rules also apply to travellers returning from Gibraltar.

If you are returning to England, Scotland or Wales from Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion you will also need to quarantine.

Mainland Greece is still on the safe corridor list for England and Northern Ireland.

Quarantine means not going to work, school, or public areas, or having visitors except for essential support.  You will need to provide an address of where you will stay, while fines of breaching quarantine are up to £1,000.

Montserrat, Thailand, Singapore, Cuba and Sweden have been added to the safe travel corridor list for England. 

Keep up to date with travel guidance by signing up to FCO alerts for the country you are planning to travel to.

Can I buy travel insurance – and will it cover coronavirus?

Travel cover is still available from MoneySuperMarket – and every provider on our panel offers emergency medical treatment and repatriation for coronavirus claims as a minimum.

This means you can rest assured you are covered for both for medical treatment and getting back to the UK if you contract coronavirus while you are on holiday.

However, for your policy to be valid, you must not be travelling against FCO advice. This means you will not be covered in countries that do not feature on the FCO exempt list.

Will travel insurance still cover cancellations due to coronavirus?

If you are buying a new travel insurance policy, as things stand, most travel insurance providers will still NOT cover cancellations to your holiday as a result of coronavirus.

However, this is starting to change.

The Post Office, Southdowns, Coverwise, Cedar Tree and – all listed on MoneySuperMarket – are now among the insurers that WILL cover for cancellation if you cannot travel due to coronavirus (so long as your destination is not listed under the FCO travel ban) – and more insurers are expected to follow suit as travel rules change.

If you have an existing travel insurance policy and your holiday has been cancelled whether you are covered will depend on your circumstances:

  • If you booked your holiday before the destination was listed by the FCO you may be able to claim for cancellation, curtailment (coming home early) or rearrangement. However, this may not be for the entire cost, depending on the amount of cover you’ve taken out
  • If you booked your trip after the destination was listed by the FCO, travel insurers won’t cover you for cancellation

It’s also worth noting that your European Health Insurance card (EHIC) will cover you for the cost of any state-provided healthcare in the EU until 31 December 2020. However, while you should always make sure you take it with you, the card is not a substitute for travel insurance.

What about countries not on the travel exemption list?

If you are having to quarantine on your return from abroad, your travel insurer is unlikely to cover you – for example, for expenses incurred because you had to cancel an event that you can’t attend as you will be isolating.

If you were due to travel to a country no longer on the exemption list and can no longer go because of having to quarantine on your return to the UK, your travel insurance is also unlikely to cover you. Check with the policy provider.

If you choose to cancel your trip based on FCO advice, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance. This is so long as you took it out before the original FCO blanket travel restrictions were in place.

If you are due to travel and your package holiday has been cancelled, you should be entitled to a full refund from the travel operator.

What can I expect from my existing travel insurance policy?

If your holiday – which you bought before the pandemic – has been cancelled due to coronavirus and you had existing cover, you should be covered. Check to see if it is a member of the Association of British Insurers. Collectively, these insurers have pledged to protect customers – get full details at the ABI website.

Do I get my money back if the airline collapses?

You almost certainly won’t get a refund from the collapsed airline itself. But if your flight was part of an ATOL-protected package holiday, the travel firm you booked with should organise alternative outbound and inbound travel or provide a full refund.

If you made independent arrangements and paid by credit card or debit card, you may be able to recoup the price of your ticket via the chargeback scheme – VISA, Mastercard and American Express all belong to it.

Under the scheme, your card provider will seek a return of your money from Flybe’s payments operator. Your provider will advise you on the process – but they’ll do the legwork on your behalf.

If you paid by credit card (and spent more than £100 on your ticket), you have recourse to a piece of consumer protection regulation known as Section 75. More details here.

If you have spent money on accommodation or car hire or other services and are out of pocket because you have not been able to travel, you should first of all try to get a refund from the business concerned.

If this doesn’t work, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance but only if the policy includes ‘scheduled airline failure’ cover – many do not.

What exactly does essential travel mean?

The lifting of the FCO’s guidance against all but essential travel applies to all of the countries on this list – but many countries still fall under the travel ban.

What constitutes ‘essential’ travel is limited – for example if you are involved in any kind of freight transport, including by air, ship, road and rail.

Visiting friends and family abroad does not qualify as essential travel.

What happens if I travel anyway?

If you travel against FCO advice, you’ll render your travel insurance invalid and you won’t be able to make a claim.

In practical terms, you may not be able to return to the UK. If you are able to get back, it’s likely you will have to quarantine in self-isolation for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine.

What if I contract coronavirus while overseas?

If you’re diagnosed with coronavirus before you are able to get home to the UK, you will need to seek medical treatment first. If you fall ill, tell your insurer immediately and they will advise you of your options.

Your travel insurance should meet any medical expenses you incur, provided you did not ignore government travel advice.

You may also be able to claim for additional expenses incurred because of your prolonged stay overseas, such as bed and board for other members of your party.

If you are placed into quarantine abroad, you may also be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses. And many insurers are paying out for claims for emergency medical and repatriation related to coronavirus. As ever, check with your insurer.

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