Coronavirus and travel insurance

What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean to holidaymakers and how will the outbreak affect insurance policies? Read on to find out more.

What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean to holidaymakers and how will the outbreak affect insurance policies? Read on to find out more.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 1 FEBRUARY 2021

Does travel insurance cover pandemics?

Some providers have restricted cancellation and travel disruption cover in policies bought after coronavirus was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020. 

At Compare the Market, the policies we show you are likely to cover claims related to COVID-19 for emergency medical and repatriation costs in line with your chosen policy. However, other types of claims related to COVID-19, such as cancellation, vary by provider, so we encourage you to check your policy before purchasing.


Non-essential travel is not currently permitted within the UK before 12 April 2021 at the earliest (check individual regions before travel as they may be different) and international travel is not currently permitted before 17 May 2021 at the earliest (dates subject to further confirmation from the government).

You’re still able to purchase annual multi-trip policies, however, if you choose to travel against The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice and current restrictions, you won’t be covered for your trip, including for essential travel.

Find out more here

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

Our panel includes insurance providers who quote cover for all medical conditions declared on our website, with no exclusions.

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers on its Money Advice Service website that may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

Which countries are exempt by the FCDO?

After the second national lockdown was introduced in November 2020, the FCDO is again advising against all but essential foreign travel for people living in England.

For those living in the UK but outside of the England, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is regularly updating the list of destinations that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential travel, which can be found here. However, you must abide by the restrictions imposed by your local authority otherwise your policy will be invalid.

Will my travel insurance cover me if I go to an affected region?

If you buy your insurance policy to cover a trip to a destination where the FCDO is currently advising against travel to for your planned dates, then it’s likely that you won’t be covered. If you’ve already bought insurance and the FCDO subsequently changes its advice for your destination, then you might have some cover, but you’ll need to check with your insurance provider.

For now, the FCDO advice for those in England is to avoid all but essential travel overseas until at least 2 December 2020. This will mean any policies bought from now will be invalid until that time, unless the FCDO has changed their advice for your destination before you depart.

For those living in the UK but outside of England, then you must follow the FCDO advice for your destination, as well as any restrictions imposed by your local authority.

Get country-specific travel advice from the FCDO.

If I cancel my trip, will a travel insurance claim cover my costs?

If you bought travel insurance with enhanced cover for COVID-19 before the FCDO issued its advice against travel to your chosen destination, then you may have some coverage for some costs if your trip has been affected due to the outbreak. For example if you subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 and could no longer travel.

But it would be a different matter if the FCDO later changes it stance, and no longer advises against travel to your destination on the date of your departure. In that situation, if you decided not to go, your decision would likely be classed as “disinclination to travel”. Then, it is likely that you wouldn’t be covered by your travel insurance provider.

Similarly, if you decided not to travel because of the risk of self-isolation rules coming into effect, this may also be regarded as “disinclination to travel”. If you have any concerns, then you should contact your insurer to understand your cover.

Can I add disruption cover to my existing policy?

This will depend on the individual travel insurance provider. You’ll need to contact them to ask.

Will the airline refund me if my flight is cancelled?

Yes, they should offer you a full refund or the chance to arrange an alternative flight to the same destination, but you may not be entitled to any other compensation.

Of course, you may have paid out for other things, like hotels, which you might be able to claim for on your travel insurance.

What if my airline cancels a flight to an area which doesn’t have ‘no travel’ advice?

In this case, you should still be entitled to a refund or an alternative flight to the same destination.

I have travel booked later this year. Can I still go?

You’ll need to keep checking the FCDO advice for that destination to see if restrictions have been lifted. You can sign up for FCDO updates on specific destinations. Also keep checking with your travel provider.

Entry restrictions for travellers 

Many countries have introduced entry restrictions, barring entry for travellers from countries with high transmission rates. Foreign visitors may have to go into quarantine, with periods of self-isolation varying between destinations. Some countries have introduced screening and temperature checks at airports.

As different countries take different approaches, and with the situation changing rapidly, if you intend to travel, check the restrictions and quarantine rules of your destination country, as well as any that would apply once you’ve returned to the UK.

What if I want to go on holiday within the UK?

During England’s second national lockdown, between 5 November and 2 December, the Government have advised against all but essential travel anywhere. This has forced hotels and other hospitality services to close during this time.

We strongly advise you to check the restrictions for where you wish to travel before you leave. Any insurance policy purchased to cover a trip while the local authority has instructed citizens not to travel will not be valid.

You can find the latest guidance here from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland respectively.

I’m not going to an affected region, but I still want to travel. Can I go?

The FCDO is currently advising British nationals against all but essential international travel and says any country may restrict travel without notice.

What should I do if I’m already on holiday in an affected region?

The FCDO says all UK nationals who are currently on holiday can continue and return as planned.

Will I be covered if I’m put in quarantine while abroad?

This varies by insurance provider. Some policies will automatically extend if your travel home is delayed for reasons out of your control, while others might not cover additional costs.

Check with your insurance provider about your policy’s disruption cover for a clearer picture.

What can I do to protect myself when booking future holidays?

Comprehensive travel insurance is a must when planning a future holiday. Look for a policy with disruption cover to reimburse costs associated with delays and protect you in the unfortunate event that you end up in quarantine.

Can I buy travel insurance if I’m already on holiday?

Although you should arrange cover before you set off, you may be able to buy specialist travel insurance after you’ve departed. Your circumstances and whether you intend to make a claim will be taken into account and there may be a waiting period to prevent you from making an immediate claim.

Looking for a quote?

Get a new travel insurance quote in minutes and you could start saving

Get a quote
Compare travel insurance Get a quote