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
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Posted 11 AUGUST 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 may 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. At Compare the Market you can compare enhanced COVID-19 policies, so if that’s what you’re looking for, be sure to tick the box on the results page.

Can I get a travel insurance policy which covers COVID-19?

Yes, you can now get insurance that offers enhanced COVID-19 cover. Such policies could include cover for:

  • cancellation if you or anyone covered by the policy gets a positive coronavirus test in the two weeks before you travel
  • medical costs if you get coronavirus while you are away
  • additional transport and/or accommodation expenses if you fall ill with coronavirus while you are away

Not all policies offer this kind of cover – not necessarily even from the same provider. So, if you are looking for enhanced COVID-19 cover, you should:

  • tick the box on the quote results page so that you see only policies that offer this kind of cover
  • read the policy document carefully before you buy so you can see exactly what is and isn’t covered.

Once you have your comparison results, you can check the policy documents to see what enhanced COVID-19 cover is offered. Just select the “More details” button and then scroll down for “Full Policy Details” and select “Full Policy Wording”. Take a close look at the policy to make sure it offers you the cover you want, not just for coronavirus but for the usual things like baggage cover, flight delays or other issues.

The policy will also set out what evidence you will need to support any COVID-19 claim as terms and conditions will apply here too, like with any insurance policy, to make sure your claim will be dealt with as quickly as possible.


The travel traffic light system currently states that trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant government.

If your destination of choice is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you are aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and ensure travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed with short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red list countries. Most insurance policies purchased to cover a trip to a destination where the FCDO has instructed citizens not to travel to won’t be valid, however, some insurance providers may offer reduced cover if you’re travelling for essential purposes. Should you have any queries, please check the policy wording, or contact your chosen provider before purchasing, to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

Find out more here

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

Which countries are exempt by the Government?

In the UK, the Global Travel Taskforce set up a traffic light system to resume international travel. Here’s a breakdown of the rules for each level: 

  • Green – you’re legally allowed to travel to green countries, with no quarantine requirement when you return. However, you’ll need to be tested before departure and when you return home. 
  • Amber – as long as you’ve been fully vaccinated, with an NHS vaccine, you’re legally able to travel to amber countries, without having to quarantine when you return home. However, you’ll need to take a test three days before returning. Also, you have to book and pay for a PCR test in advance of your return, to be taken two days after you arrive back. 
  • Red – legally you're not allowed to travel to red-listed countries unless you have a Government exemption. If you’re preparing to return from a red-listed country, you must pay for testing before and after travel, including two PCR tests when you return. You must also pay for a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel when you arrive back in the UK. 

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 advising against travel 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 and possibly make a claim if you have to cancel.

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

It’s also unlikely that even COVID-19-enhanced policies will cover you for the costs of a 10-day stay in a Government-mandated hotel if you have to quarantine on your return to the UK. Check with your insurance provider.

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, and there are no Government or other regulatory authority restrictions on travel in place to your chosen destination, 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.

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’s 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, it may also be regarded as “disinclination to travel”. If you have any concerns, then you should contact your insurance provider 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, or travellers who haven’t been fully vaccinated. Foreign visitors may have to prove their vaccination status, or 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/vaccination 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?

Travel within the UK is now allowed, which means you can go on holiday in the UK. However, each of the UK home nations makes their own rules about travel during the pandemic.  

  • England – nearly all restrictions in England were lifted on 19 July 2021, which means you’re able to travel freely, including staying in holiday accommodation, with no limits on guests.
  • Scotland – currently, up to eight people, from four households, can share self-catering holiday accommodation, which is now open. Children aged 12 and under do not count towards the total.
  • Wales – currently, up to six people can stay together in holiday accommodation, which is now open.
  • Northern Ireland – all holiday accommodation is now open and up to six people, from two households, can stay together. Children aged 12 and under do not count towards the total. 

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.

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

If no travel restrictions existed at the time of travel, you may be required to return to the UK or you may be allowed to continue your holiday and return as planned. Some providers will cover you as standard for both of these occurrences, so it’s important to read the enhanced COVID-19 documents before you buy a policy.

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 should be a key consideration when planning a future holiday. Look for a policy with enhanced COVID-19 cover to reimburse costs associated with cancellations and protect you in the unfortunate event that you become unwell and need medical treatment for coronavirus while you are away.

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. Compare the Market does not offer comparison for this type of insurance cover.

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