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UK travellers warned against Sri Lanka travel – your cancellation rights

UK travellers warned against Sri Lanka travel – your cancellation rights

Sri Lanka is currently facing a state of emergency and a nationwide curfew following Sunday's terror attacks, and the UK Government is now advising against all but essential travel there. If you're in the country now or due to travel there shortly, here's what you need to know.

Sri Lanka was hit by a series of devastating terror attacks last Sunday, including bomb blasts at three churches and three hotels. More than 250 people are now thought to have died, including a number of tourists.

As of Thursday (25 April), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now advising against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka – see its latest Sri Lanka travel advice.

We've specific help for travellers to Sri Lanka below, but also see our Holiday Rights guide for more info.

I'm currently in Sri Lanka – what's the latest?

The FCO is advising UK visitors in Sri Lanka to follow the advice of local authorities and hotel security staff. It's said visitors should stay vigilant and keep a low profile, avoiding crowded areas.

If you're due to leave Sri Lanka, or now want to leave in light of the latest security advice, you should contact your airline, tour operator or travel insurer to find out about arrangements being made for customers.

Some tour operators have already confirmed that plans are in place: 

  • Kuoni says its local staff will be contacting customers in Sri Lanka to discuss options for returning to the UK. 

  • Virgin Holidays says it's sourcing alternative flight arrangements to help holidaymakers return home as quickly as possible, and has a 24/7 hotline on +44 203 6688 749 which is providing advice and reassurance.

  • TUI says it's started to contact customers in Sri Lanka to discuss changing their travel arrangements.

Sri Lanka's main airport, Bandaranaike International Airport – also known as Colombo Airport – is still operating. However, there are increased security checks and there will likely be long queues for taxi pick-ups.

Some airlines are advising that travellers flying out of the airport should arrive there four hours before departure due to additional security screenings, so make sure you're aware of your airline's check-in advice before you travel. Don't travel to the airport until you have confirmed, prearranged onward travel plans in place.

The Sri Lankan authorities have declared a nationwide curfew – but if you're due to travel to the airport during curfew hours, the FCO says the authorities have confirmed you CAN do so as long as you have your passport and a valid ticket for that day.

If you choose to stay in Sri Lanka, you should check with your travel insurance provider to make sure you have sufficient cover now that the FCO has advised against travel there.

I've a holiday booked – can I now cancel it?

As of 25 April, the FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka. That means if you've booked an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, it's likely you CAN cancel and get a refund.

Some tour operators are also proactively suspending trips to Sri Lanka – for example, Kuoni says it's put a hold on travel to the country for the next four weeks, while Virgin Holidays has suspended trips until 15 May (and says it'll review this date in line with FCO advice).

It's best to first contact your tour operator (or airline and hotel if you booked direct) as they may offer you a full refund. If not, or if you're still out of pocket as a result of not being able to travel, you can also contact your travel insurer – see more below.

Some airlines said earlier this week that they would offer changes and refunds to those due to travel in the coming days – although again, this may change now the FCO's warned against non-essential travel, and we'll update this story when we hear more.

Here's what airlines said earlier this week:

  • Emirates Airlines said customers who booked tickets on or before 21 April can change their bookings by up to seven days or request a refund.

  • Qatar Airways said passengers with tickets issued before 21 April for travel to or from Colombo between 22 and 30 April will be able to make changes free of charge. It didn't specify what changes are included though or whether you could also cancel.

  • Sri Lankan Airlines said its staff were working with passengers and "accommodating their requests and preferences", but didn't specify whether customers would be offered refunds or changes. It said passengers could get more info by calling its global contact centre on +94197331979.

You SHOULD now be able to claim from your insurer

Until the FCO warned against non-essential travel to Sri Lanka, it was unlikely you would be able to claim on your travel insurance. But now it has put a warning in place, you're much more likely to be able to get your costs covered – and that includes any extra costs you may run up if you return home early, though check with your insurer first.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers said: "Travel insurance is designed to cover unforeseen events like this. Cancellation cover under your travel insurance should cover additional costs that cannot be refunded by your travel provider.

"If you are currently in Sri Lanka and want to curtail your visit and return early, your travel insurance should cover any extra costs associated with rearranging return flights. Check if you have the necessary cover in place or speak to your travel insurer."