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Coronavirus and travel insurance

Coronavirus and travel insurance

Coronavirus or COVID-19 has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization . What does this mean to holidaymakers and how will the outbreak affect insurance policies? Read on for some answers...

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
minute read
posted 08 APRIL 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. 

It’s likely that, going forward, different insurance providers will take different approaches – for example, medical cover may be still valid in some policies, but there may be restrictions regarding cancellation cover. Shop around to make sure your policy covers your needs.


On 4 April 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all non-essential travel overseas for an indefinite period. In this unprecedented time, we are temporarily not providing travel insurance comparisons for trips outside the UK, until we have complete confidence we can get you a policy to meet your needs.
As of 23rd March 2020, the UK Government announced a series of restrictions to travel, public spaces and gatherings. For a minimum of three weeks, people are being instructed to stay at home whenever possible. For this reason, travel insurance policies purchased from this date, for trips within the UK with a start date before 13th April 2020, will not be valid.
The UK Government also instructed all British tourists and travellers, that are currently abroad, to return to the UK as soon as possible.
Coronavirus was declared a pandemic on 11th March 2020, so this may also affect your policy, particularly those taken out on or after that date. Please check any existing policies carefully, to find out what you’re covered for.

For more information please see our travel insurance and coronavirus pages.

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

If you buy your insurance policy after the FCO has advised against travel, then it’s likely that you won’t be covered. 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.

Get country-specific travel advice from the FCO.

If I already have insurance, will I still be covered?

Provided you bought the policy before the FCO advised against travel to your destination, you should be covered.

If I cancel my trip, will my travel insurance refund me?

Provided you bought travel insurance before the FCO issued advice against travelling to your destination, then you’re likely to be covered for some costs if you have to cancel your trip, cut it short or rearrange it (in line with your policy wording).

But if the FCO hasn’t advised against travel to a region and you decide not to go, your decision will be classed as “disinclination to travel” – this won’t be covered by travel insurance providers.

If you’re concerned about travel to a country that the FCO hasn’t provided advice for, talk to your airline or travel agent about rescheduling your trip to a later date, particularly if you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition. However, if you change your dates and/or where you’re travelling to, then you must update your insurance policy accordingly.

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.

What if my connecting flight goes through an affected region?

If you’re catching a connecting flight in an affected region, it’s best to check the country-specific advice on this destination. FCO advice should be applied to all destinations you’re planning to visit or transit through.

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 to a listed destination 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

Across Asia, many countries have introduced entry restrictions at border crossings and transport hubs. Those planning on entering or transiting affected countries may have to go into quarantine. Some countries have introduced screening and temperature checks at airports.

The USA has banned entry by travellers (except US citizens) who have been in countries that are part of the Schengen area within the previous 14 days.

What happens if I go against travel advice?

Towns have been isolated and British Embassy staff have been withdrawn from many of the affected areas. While airlines and transport services may be willing to take passengers, the health risks and limited assistance available will seriously compromise your visit.

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

If you’re planning on travelling to or through an unaffected area, your airline or travel agent should be happy to take you to your destination. Don’t forget your travel insurance though.

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

Although support from consulates will be limited, British citizens are encouraged to contact relevant embassies for advice.

The FCO has asked travellers to consider if their presence in affected areas is essential and if they can leave the region. 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.

If I’m on holiday in China, what should I do?

If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so. People who stay can expect continued exposure to infection and the introduction of new infection control and quarantine measures.

Although some British Embassy and Consulate staff have been withdrawn from China, consular support is still available through a telephone service: call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on +44 (0) 207 008 1500.

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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