Travel restrictions to several popular holiday destinations are expected to be lifted from 6 July, but while many people are rushing to book overseas breaks, others are understandably worried about going abroad.
The government is set to announce that UK holidaymakers will be able to travel to certain countries with low coronavirus infection rates, without having to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is expected to remove its warning against all but essential travel to these destinations.
Here, we look at what the rule changes are likely to mean for those hoping to go away this summer, and for people who have breaks booked but don’t want to go.
- If I haven’t yet booked a holiday but am nervous about going abroad, can I book a holiday in the UK?
- Which countries will I be able to travel to?
- What about Greece?
- What if I live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – can I still go abroad?
- If my holiday is able to go ahead, can I travel in the same way I did before the coronavirus outbreak?
- What if I have a holiday booked this summer but I’m too nervous to travel?
- What if my holiday is to a country where travel is not advised?
- If I book a holiday abroad once travel restrictions are eased, will I be able to buy travel insurance?
- Can I reschedule my holiday if I’m told not to travel by the NHS ‘test and track’ service?
- Will my insurance cover me if I have to cancel my trip because I need to self-isolate?
- Do I need travel insurance if I’m booking a holiday in the UK?
If I haven’t yet booked a holiday but am nervous about going abroad, can I book a holiday in the UK?
Yes, the English hospitality industry including hotels and campsites, re-opens for business on 4 July. You will have to follow various safety measures, including sticking to the ‘one metre plus’ rule, and pools and spas will remain closed for the time being.
Hotels and B&Bs will open slightly later in Scotland on July 15 and in Wales, visits will be allowed from 6 July, with bookings for self-contained accommodation such as holiday cottages and some hotels opening from 13 July.
You can visit holiday and caravan parks and self-catering properties in Northern Ireland now, with hotels and other holiday accommodation there scheduled to re-open on 20 July.
Which countries will I be able to travel to?
Although it has yet to be officially announced, the government is expected to introduce a traffic light system to classify countries depending on the prevalence of coronavirus.
If a country is classified as ‘green’ this will mean they are safer than the UK, ‘amber’ will be less safe, and ‘red’ will mean you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days on return from that country.
Countries likely to fall into the ‘green’ category, where you can travel to without having to self-isolate on your return, are expected to include Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Germany and Norway. The FCO is expected to continue to advise against travel to Sweden and Portugal as there has been an increase in new cases around the Portuguese capital Lisbon and the infection rate in Sweden is higher than in the UK.
What about Greece?
Greece announced on 29 June that it has extended its ban on all direct flights from the UK until July 15. Originally the ban was due to end on 1 July, so it’s likely that all UK flights due to arrive there before this date will have to be cancelled.
If you have a holiday booked to Greece before July 15 and are still keen to go there this summer, you’ll need to get in touch with your flight or holiday provider as soon as possible and find out whether you might be able to postpone your break to a later date. Alternatively, you should be able to ask for a refund once your holiday or flight has been cancelled if you were due to travel before the ban ends.
What if I live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – can I go abroad this summer?
Health is a devolved matter, which means it’s an area of government where decision-making has been delegated by the UK parliament to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Neither country has yet announced that they will remove restrictions on travel, but it is likely that a decision will be announced soon.
If my holiday is able to go ahead, can I travel in the same way I did before the coronavirus outbreak?
Whilst you may soon be able to travel to certain destinations without having to quarantine on your return, there are still rules you’ll have to adhere to.
You must, for example, wear a face mask on airline services in England and Scotland and in England you should wear one at the airport if you can. It is compulsory to wear one in Scottish airports, whereas in Wales it is recommended that people wear face masks, but is not compulsory. Find out more about how to travel safely in airports and aircraft during the coronavirus outbreak here.
You’ll have to provide an address and a telephone number when you travel, so that you can be tracked and instructed to self-isolate if there’s an outbreak of coronavirus from your flight or at your holiday destination.
What if I have a holiday booked this summer but I’m too nervous to travel?
You’re certainly not alone. Even though it may soon be possible to go abroad on holiday, according to research by money.co.uk, almost a third of people (31%) are worried about their existing holiday bookings for 2020. A quarter (23%) are going to see if they can postpone their breaks, and more than one in 10 (13%) are planning to cancel their breaks entirely.
If you’ve got plans to travel soon and FCO restrictions are lifted, but you don’t want to go on your holiday, you’ll need to contact the company you’ve booked with and see if they’ll allow you to postpone, or if you can get a voucher to use at a later date. If no warning is in place, they don’t have to allow you to postpone, but it’s still worth asking.
What if my holiday is to a country where travel is not advised?
If your holiday is to a country where the FCO is still advising against all but essential travel, you should wait for your holiday provider to cancel your break rather than cancelling it yourself.
You’ll only be entitled to a refund once they have cancelled it. Many holiday companies and airlines are offering vouchers rather than refunds when trips are cancelled, but you can refuse this if you want your money back. Bear in mind that getting a refund can be difficult – many people have reported that they are struggling to get their money back and are having to wait weeks to hear back from airlines and holiday companies.
If the travel company you booked with won’t offer you a refund – then if you paid for your holiday by credit card, you could try asking your card provider to reimburse you. Provided the holiday cost £100 or more, then under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your card provider is also jointly liable and may agree to refund the cost of your ticket, so it’s worth contacting them to see if you can make a claim.
If you paid with a debit card, or your flight or break cost less than £100, you may be able to claim your money back using ‘chargeback’ which enables your card issuer to provide you with a refund. This process is not as clear cut as the use of Section 75 in the Consumer Credit Act, so there are no guarantees that your issuer will be able to recover the money through chargeback – but it could still be worth a try. Find out more about how Section 75 and chargeback work in relation to travel refunds here.
If I book a holiday abroad once travel restrictions are eased, will I be able to buy travel insurance?
Yes, you will be able to, and you should ideally buy cover at the same time you book your holiday so that you’re protected straight away – just incase something crops up that requires you to cancel the trip. Always shop around for cover as policies offered by travel companies and airlines often tend to be much more expensive than standalone policies.
Bear in mind that most travel insurance policies now exclude cancellation claims relating to coronavirus, so you’ll only be able to claim if you have to cancel your break for a different reason, such as a family bereavement.
However, there are a few providers who are starting to offer protection if you have to cancel your break due to coronavirus. For example, Coverwise, CoverForYou and AXA all provide cancellation cover with their Silver policies if you can’t go on holiday because you or a family member is receiving treatment for coronavirus.
Travel insurance cover limits can vary widely depending on which provider you buy from, so check your policy small print carefully before buying.
Can I reschedule my holiday if I’m told not to travel by the NHS ‘test and track’ service?
That’ll depend on the company you’ve booked your holiday with. The test and track service has been set up so that anyone who has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for 14 days. If this happens, you’ll be unable to travel.
Whilst some holiday companies are allowing those who are told they must self-isolate to reschedule, others won’t guarantee that holidaymakers will be able to move their breaks to a later date.
According to research by consumer association Which? 10 airlines and holiday providers said they would allow customers who were told to self-isolate to rebook. These are: Air France / KLM, British Airways, Emirates, Explore, Jet2 and Jet2 Holidays, Riviera, Tui, Ryanair, Saga and Virgin Atlantic.
However, Which? found that many operators are unable to guarantee customers the option to reschedule, including Travel Republic and Loveholidays, and suggest that customers check their travel insurance to see if they can claim if they have to cancel.
Will my insurance cover me if I have to cancel my trip because I need to self-isolate?
If you bought your travel insurance before 13 March, which is when coronavirus officially became a ‘known event’ then you might be able to claim.
However, almost all travel insurance policies sold since this date include exclusions relating to coronavirus claims, which means if you have to self-isolate and cancel your holiday, you’re unlikely to get your money back.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: “For trust in the travel industry to be restored, firms must be willing to show their customers more flexibility. It is not good enough to state that usual terms apply and deny people the chance to rebook if they are told to self-isolate.
“It is important that anyone told to stay home by the NHS follows these instructions, and those with travel plans will need to speak to their travel operator and work out what their options are. People looking to book soon will also need to pay attention to terms and conditions or choose an operator that will let them reschedule their holiday if they need to, without leaving them out of pocket.”
Do I need travel insurance if I’m booking a holiday in the UK?
You should definitely consider travel insurance for UK breaks – travellers without the right cover could be at risk of losing money in the event of delayed or cancelled transport or accommodation, baggage loss, or any damage to personal possessions taken out of the home.
According to comparison site MoneySuperMarket.com, more than half of holidaymakers (56%) said they would not take out travel insurance for a British holiday, with just one in 10 (12%) of those polled claiming they would always take out a policy for a trip in the UK.
Helen Chambers, head of travel insurance at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Many will choose UK staycations closer to home over international holidays. When planning a getaway in the UK, it’s easy to overlook the need for travel insurance – over half of those we’ve spoken to don’t get insurance. Not having appropriate cover can leave you exposed to the risk of losing money in the event of lost baggage, delays or cancellations to your trip, or damage to any valuables such as camping equipment.”
Have you got a summer holiday booked and have decided to go ahead, or have you cancelled and managed to get your money back? If so, we’d be interested in hearing from you. You can get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or post a comment in the box below.