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Coronavirus and travel insurance

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.

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
5
minute read
posted 6 JULY 2020

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. 

Claims related to coronavirus are now likely to be excluded from any travel insurance policy, as it is considered a “known event” that travellers are aware of.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

On 4 July 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced a list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.

For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.

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

If you buy your insurance policy while the FCO is advising against travel to your destination, then it’s likely that you won’t be covered for claims relating to COVID-19. If you’ve already bought insurance and the FCO changes its advice, then you might be covered but you’ll need to check with your insurance provider.

As countries begin to ease lockdowns and other restrictions, some have announced dates for opening their borders to international travellers. For now, the FCO advice remains to avoid all but essential travel overseas ‘indefinitely’, which will mean any policies bought now will be invalid, unless the FCO has changed their advice for your destination before you depart. However, talks of “air bridges” between nations have begun, with announcements expected in the coming weeks.

Get country-specific travel advice from the FCO.

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

Provided you bought travel insurance before the FCO issued its original advice on 4 April 2020 against all non-essential travel overseas, and before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, then you’re likely to be covered for some costs if you had to cancel your trip, cut it short or rearrange it due to the outbreak (in line with your policy wording).

But it would be a different matter if the FCO 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.

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 FCO advice for that destination to see if restrictions have been lifted. You can sign up for FCO 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.

From 8 June, the UK Government has confirmed it will ask people entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days. This measure also applies to UK citizens returning home from holidays. However, it won’t apply to people entering the country from other parts of the UK’s Common Travel Area, which includes the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

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

UK nations now have different public health rules for people travelling between each region.

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 FCO 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 FCO says all UK nationals are ‘strongly advised to return now’.  
 
Although support from consulates will be limited, British citizens are encouraged to contact relevant embassies for advice. It’s also worth checking the regularly updated country-specific advice from the FCO.

People returning from affected areas should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. The World Health Organization advises self-monitoring for symptoms for 14 days. You can get more advice from the 111 online coronavirus service.

What happens if my destination has a sudden increase in coronavirus?

If you’re away from the UK and your destination is affected by a sudden outbreak of coronavirus, it’s best to consult the FCO’s regularly updated country-specific advice.

Consular support should be available in your region, although you can expect this to become less readily available if the situation worsens.

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

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.

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