Britain has begun to ease lockdown meaning we could finally be able to head abroad again, to certain destinations, for the first time in months.
While some will be excited to potentially get away, a vast number will be cautious about stepping foot in a foreign country, especially with the mass confusion about what is and isn’t allowed.
There are now a number of countries British citizens can travel to without having to quarantine on arrival or upon return – but holidaymakers should still check a number of things before they commit to purchasing a trip.
To help travellers understand how risky it actually it is to book a holiday, This is Money – with help from Emma Coulthurst, from holiday price comparison site, TravelSupermarket – reveal the answer to your most common questions.
There are a number of things people need to consider before booking a holiday abroad
Are insurers currently selling travel insurance?
In March, a large number of providers removed themselves from the market, to review their stance and redevelop their policies.
While those who had already bought insurance could still keep hold of their policies, it was closed to new customers.
However, now travel insurers are selling policies again.
Currently, there are around 12 providers on TravelSupermarket’s platform and there are more policies going live every day.
Check other comparison websites to see which is offering the best deal.
It is vital to get insurance for trips, including to Europe, and not solely rely on a European Health Insurance Card – and do it as soon as you book.
Will insurance cover me if I contract Covid while on holiday and need medical treatment?
This is likely to be one of the things on holidaymakers’ minds as to whether to book a holiday or not.
Many providers cover ’emergency medical and repatriation’ for Covid-19 if you were to contract the virus on holiday.
This means that you will be covered for medical treatment and be brought home, if needed, to have further medical treatment back in the UK.
If your policy was bought before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 11 March or if you’ve renewed your annual policy since 11 March, then annual travel insurance should cover you for events relating to coronavirus as long as you would have been covered beforehand.
For any EU holidays this year, make sure your EHIC card is up to date and take it with you to access reciprocal free health care, but these cards will only be valid until the end of 2020.
Many holidaymakers will be hoping to head abroad soon but they will still need insurance
Will I be able get my money back via my insurance policy if I contract the virus before going?
If you need to purchase insurance, there are some insurers who will cover you if you contract Covid and cannot travel.
There are currently four providers who have confirmed that they will provide cover for this; Coverwise, Southdowns, Cedertree and Cover for You.
For a policy bought before 11 March, you should be able to claim for cancellation, even if it is an annual policy which you have renewed since then.
If your travel insurance policy covers a pre-existing medical condition that makes you more vulnerable to Covid-19, you also may be able to claim.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many airlines and holiday providers are offering flexible booking policies which allow you to move holidays and flights to different dates without a change fee.
There is often a timeframe within which you need to do this without incurring a fee. Each airline will have its own policy so be sure to understand the company’s terms and conditions before you go ahead and book a flight or holiday.
Can I get cover to protect me in case my airline goes bust?
End supplier failure covers you if an airline folds.
It isn’t normally included within a policy but needs to be requested as an add-on.
Many providers exclude a pandemic from this cover and therefore airlines going bust at this time might not be covered.
If your airline was to go into administration, another option is to try and claim for a refund through your debit and credit card company via the voluntary chargeback scheme.
If your flight cost you more than £100 and you paid for at least £1 of it on a credit card, you can claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act as the card provider is jointly liable with the airline for any goods or services not received.
If you need insurance, there are some insurers who will cover you if you contract Covid
What should you do if your trip is cancelled by the holiday provider or airline?
Your first port of call should be with the company you booked with whether that is your airline, tour operator or accommodation provider.
If you are not getting confirmation from your travel provider of when it will pay your refund, check with your travel insurer to see if they will pay out.
However, most are likely to refer you back to the travel provider or airline. Under EU law 261, you are entitled to a refund on any cancelled flight within seven days and this is set to continue once the UK has officially left the EU as this right is enshrined in UK law.
Under the Package Travel Regulations, you are also entitled to a refund within 14 days of the package holiday being cancelled.
If your travel dates move and you rebook, your travel insurance provider should look to change your single trip policy to match the new dates without charging you an admin fee.
The date of the rebooked trip needs to be within 12 months and the holiday needs to be like for like. If your trip is different or if there has been a change to your health, you may have to pay more.
Can I get a refund for a travel insurance policy, which I can no longer use as my holiday has been cancelled?
Zurich has recently announced it will be giving its customers full refunds if they have been unable to travel due to lockdown.
Many other major travel insurers are offering pro-rata refunds to customers, whose holidays have been cancelled as long as you haven’t made any claim on the policy.
However, you’ll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you’re certain you no longer need the cover.
If you think you might want to book a trip in the near future, consider carefully if it’s worth keeping your policy anyway as getting new travel insurance can be tricky at the moment.
If you booked your insurance within the last 14 days, then you’ve the right to cancel the policy under ‘cooling off’ rules – though firms can charge an administration fee.
What should I bear in mind before booking?
Many tour operators have said they will not take travellers on a package holiday to a country where they will have to quarantine either on their arrival or their return, saying they will cancel holidays in this situation and you would then be legally entitled to a refund.
However, if you booked a flight separately and it wasn’t cancelled, you won’t be able to get your money back unless you have ‘cancel for any reason’ as part of your travel insurance.
You will need to move your flight to a future date, in the hope that the FCO advice will not be in place for your rebooked date.
Luckily, many of the airlines are waiving change fees at the moment due to the uncertainty.
But be aware that, to qualify for a free change, you often need to do it a certain number of days beforehand. For example, in the case of easyJet, it is 14 days before. Many airlines are also offering vouchers if you can’t fly.
Many tour operators won’t fly to places where customers have to quarantine at either end
I’m worried about being quarantined while I’m away or getting stuck if there is an outbreak. Will I be covered?
Talk to your travel company and airline and check your travel insurance documents carefully to see what you are entitled to.
Every insurance policy is different, so check your individual policy’s travel delay section.
Some providers will cover claims made for missed excursions, for example, when you have to quarantine or self-isolate on a standard policy.
Sometimes you will need to take out a trip disruption cover extension, to get this covered.
What should you look for when buying your travel insurance?
To save money but also ensure the right cover for your needs, compare and choose the policy which covers all of your requirements.
A decent policy only costs a small amount more than the cheapest deals so buying the lowest price deal can be a false economy.
Higher levels of cover give greater peace of mind and usually have lower excess levels, if needing to make a claim.
When comparing travel insurance products, it is recommended you get the following minimum levels of cover:
• £2million for medical expenses
• £1million personal liability
• £1500 cancellation – or enough to cover the total cost of your holiday
• £750 baggage – or enough to cover the cost of your baggage
• £250 for cash
• Policy excesses under £100
• Delay cover (e.g. £20/hour for first 12 hours)
It is also recommended that your excess is no more than £100. It is worth enquiring how much it costs to waive the excess so that you don’t pay any excess at all to make a claim as sometimes it is just a few pounds extra.
If you follow these recommended cover levels and compare online, you’ll get the right cover for you at the best price, with the peace of mind that if anything goes wrong, you’ve got good quality cover.
Once you’ve found a policy that works for you, however boring it may seem, it is worth spending 15 minutes reading through the policy to help you understand how it works should anything go wrong while you are away.
What about Brexit?
The UK Government on Monday morning launched a campaign encouraging holidaymakers planning trips to Europe for 2021 to prepare for things to change in January, after the UK leaves the Brexit transition period.
This covers holidays to the 27 EU member states, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
EHIC cards will no longer be valid after 31 December, meaning travellers need to make doubly sure their insurance covers their medical needs, including pre-existing conditions. The EHIC card currently covers these, but not all insurance policies do.
This means those with pre-existing conditions could either struggle to find comprehensive cover or have to pay a lot more for it, while everyone will almost certainly end up paying more for travel insurance from 2021.
Pet owners taking their animals on holiday should also contact vets four months before they travel, the Government said, while travellers should also watch out for the return of mobile phone roaming charges.
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