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.


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. The full list of countries deemed to “no longer pose an unacceptably high risk” for British travellers is on the FCO website
  • From 10 July, travellers arriving in England from more than 50 countries including Spain, 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
  • Travel insurance is available – all providers on MoneySuperMarket’s panel offer emergency medical treatment and repatriation as a result of coronavirus as a minimum

In light of the new guidance, 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 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. FCO advice against all but essential travel (see separate question below on what this means) remains in place for countries not on the exemption list.

It’s worth noting that not all of the exempt countries have ended restrictions for arrivals from the UK. Greece, for example, has extended its ban on flights arriving from the UK until 15 July.

The latest advice in England is that people arriving from certain countries including Spain, France, Italy and Germany will no longer need to quarantine, effective from 10 July. You can see the full list of “travel corridor” countries that are exempt from quarantine rules here. Quarantine rules had been in place since 8 June.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have not yet decided on relaxing restrictions, and quarantine regulations remain in place for Northern Ireland.

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

In light of the impending announcements, travel insurance offerings are changing fast.

However, cover is currently 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.

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 can I expect from my existing travel insurance policy?

If your holiday was cancelled to coronavirus and you had existing cover, 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?

This guidance applies to passengers with Flybe, which went into administration on 5 March – but is likely to apply in the same way if other airlines or travel providers do the same.

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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