Coronavirus and travel insurance

Travel insurance and coronavirus – what you need to know

By Laura Howard on 

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

Airport

First published Monday 11 May 2020


  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) warning against all but essential travel has been lifted for some countries, including many popular European holiday destinations, effective 4 July. You can find the full list of countries deemed to “no longer pose an unacceptably high risk” for British travellers is at the FCO website

  • The FCO has reinstated its warning against all but essential travel to Spain. This includes the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands

  • Travellers returning from Spain – including the Canary Islands (e.g. Lanzarote and Gran Canaria) and the Balearic Islands (e.g. Ibiza and Mallorca) – must quarantine for 14 days on their arrival back to the UK

  • Travellers arriving in England from more than 50 countries including France, Italy and Germany will NOT need to quarantine. You can find the full list here

  • FCO advice against all but essential travel remains in place for countries not on the exemption list – now including Spain and its islands

  • Travel insurance is available – all providers on MoneySuperMarket’s panel offer emergency medical treatment and repatriation as a result of coronavirus as a minimum

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.

FAQs

What is 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, effective 4 July.

The FCO has reinstated all but essential travel warnings to both mainland Spain – and the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands. This means the FCO is now warning against all but essential travel to the whole of Spain.

The government announced that travellers returning from mainland Spain and its islands must quarantine for 14 days on arrival back to the UK. 

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.

Keep up to date with travel guidance on Spain by signing up to FCO email alerts.

People arriving in England from other listed ‘travel corridors’ such as France, Italy and Germany continue to no longer need to quarantine, as per rules effective from 10 July. See the full list exempt from quarantine rules here.

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 for by existing or new travel policies to anywhere in Spain – as well as other countries that do not feature in the FCO exempt list.

Will a travel insurance policy 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.

Southdowns and Coverwise 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 Spain?

If you are having to quarantine on your return from Spain, 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 Spain 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 to Spain based on the 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 to Spain and your package holiday has been cancelled (Tui has now cancelled all holidays to mainland Spain until Monday 10 August and to the Balearic and Canary Islands until Tuesday 4 August), 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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