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Coronavirus Travel Rights

Holiday refunds, travel insurance cover and more

Coronavirus Travel Rights

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has resulted in over 1.5 million confirmed cases and tragically almost 90,000 deaths. It's also devastated travel around the globe, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now warning Brits against all non-essential foreign trips indefinitely and advising all those overseas to return to the UK immediately. To help, we've been working flat out to answer your questions on travel insurance, cancelling and booking holidays, and much more.

Important: This is a fast-changing situation. The info below is the best we have currently, but we'll be updating this guide daily. If you've a question that isn't covered below, please let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com (though unfortunately we can't respond to every email). You can also respond to the MSE Coronavirus Survey – we'll pass the findings to the Government to help inform its response to the outbreak.

In this guide

5 coronavirus travel need-to-knows

This is a complicated, fast-developing situation, so to start, here are five travel need-to-knows:

How has travel been disrupted? Latest updates

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues advice to UK nationals on where it's safe to travel abroad. As well as being a useful safety guide, this can determine whether or not you're able to get a refund or insurance payout if you're due to travel to specific locations.

Until recently, the FCO had been gradually expanding the list of countries it was warning against travel to, as the coronavirus outbreak spread.

However, as of Tuesday 17 March, the FCO is now advising against all but essential travel to ALL overseas destinations. For full info, see FCO coronavirus travel advice. And on Monday 23 March, it also advised all British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad to return home.

  • Before Friday 13 March, the NHS said that those who had been to Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife, Thailand or Vietnam should stay at home on their return to the UK and avoid close contact with others.

    Now it's altered its stance and is no longer giving country-specific advice. Instead, it simply says you should self-isolate for seven days if you have a high temperature or a new, continuous cough. You can use the online 111 coronavirus service to find out what to do next.

There is now widespread disruption to travel and holidays around the world, in addition to the blanket FCO warnings. The situation is constantly changing, but here are a few key points:

  • Many countries have now closed their borders, or are restricting travel. For example, the United States has now barred UK travellers from entering, while the European Union is now refusing entry to most travellers (though not UK citizens).

  • A large number of flights and holidays have been cancelled. Airlines around the world, hit by a massive drop in demand, have been cancelling flights en masse, as have package holiday providers.

    For example, Tui has now cancelled and is offering refunds for package holidays due to commence up until 14 May 2020. However, if you're due to travel after this you won't currently be able to get a refund – those due to start a trip between 14 May and 30 June 2020 can amend their holiday up to seven days before departure, while Tui says trips from 30 June 2020 onwards are currently still set to go ahead as planned.
  • Europe's largest regional airline, Flybe, has collapsed into administration. This was blamed in part on a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak, although the airline had also been suffering prior to this. See full info in our Flybe collapses MSE News story.

  • A number of major events have been cancelled or postponed. These include the Venice Carnival, the Coachella and Glastonbury music festivals and big sporting setpieces such as Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

  • Travel to mainland China has been seriously disrupted since January. Many major airlines have suspended flights, and package holiday firms are rearranging trips. This has also affected some flights which stop over in China – so, for example, some flying from the UK to Australia or New Zealand have been affected.
  • Disney properties have been closed. The entertainment giant closed Disneyland Resort California from Saturday 14 March, with Disneyland Paris following from the end of the day on Sunday 15 March and Walt Disney World Florida closing on Monday 16 March.
  • Cruise holidays have been hugely disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

    The Cruise Lines International Association – which includes all the major players, such as P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean – announced on 13 March 2020 that it was temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from US ports of call for 30 days.

    Many firms are going further than this though. Royal Caribbean has suspended all cruises globally until 11 May 2020. It's providing customers with credit worth 125% of their original booking to be used by the end of 2021, or a full refund.

    Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line has also cancelled bookings up until 11 May 2020 and will offer customers credit (to be used by the end of 2022) of between 125% and 150%, depending on when their booking was due to take place, and a full refund.

    Cruises that are already operating are struggling, with many countries not allowing them to dock. Some ships are docking or anchoring at private islands owned by their parent companies.

It's now too late to get travel insurance to cover coronavirus cancellation

We always say get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you Book). Normally it's because if you leave getting insurance until just before you travel, you're not covered for anything that happens before the point you get it which stops you going – thus you've waved off half the value of the cover.

Over the last couple of weeks we've been warning that if you had a holiday booked but no insurance, it was vital to get it sorted ASAP. Unfortunately, if you haven't yet sorted it it's now probably too late. 

Earlier this month we saw a series of travel insurers stop selling policies, or polices which covered coronavirus cancellation, and now the FCO has warned against all non-essential travel overseas, the situation's very difficult.

Important – we've SUSPENDED our travel insurance best buys 

Sadly, we don't know of any policies still offering cover for coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims, and even if you have an annual policy, most are now excluding coronavirus cover for newly-booked trips. As a result, we've removed our travel insurance best buys.

I've already booked insurance – am I covered?

Most insurers will cover you for cancellation if there is a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advisory in place – as there now is for all non-essential travel overseas, to any destination. But for a rough check, see what individual insurers have told us – though this will vary by policy and can change over time.

To be sure of what's covered, check your insurer's website – many now list their coronavirus cover. If not, and the policy terms are too tricky, call up or use online chat.

The two key questions we'd ask are:

  1. Am I covered if the FCO later warns against 'essential travel'?

  2. Am I covered if there's no FCO advisory, but either my flight or hotel is cancelled and I can't travel as a result? If so, what's covered (flights, hotels, car hire etc)? (While right now there's a blanket FCO advisory in place, this may change in future.)

Cover for coronavirus cancellation – what each insurer says

We've asked a number of big insurers what their policies are on coronavirus due to cancellation. 

Important – insurers are changing their policies all the time

The full results of what insurers told us on Tuesday 10 March are in the table below – though use it only as a rough guide, as it will vary by policy and change over time. Where we've been told a policy has changed since then, we've updated the table, but the info below may not be fully up-to-date. We've left it in to give you a general idea of what insurers have told us, but ALWAYS check your cover directly with your insurer.

Which insurers will cover you if your travel is affected by coronavirus?

Scenario Is my policy valid if I travel when the FCO advises against all but essential travel? If the FCO advises against travel after I've bought the policy, can I get travel/accommodation costs back? If there's no FCO warning and my flight's cancelled, can I claim back hotel and other costs (eg, car hire)? If there's no FCO warning and my hotel's cancelled, can I claim back flight and other costs (eg, car hire)?
AA (1) Only if your travel's essential Yes Only if you have travel disruption cover Only if you have a policy with the level of cover to cancel or cut short a trip in the event of a catastrophe
Admiral (2) No Yes Yes No
Allianz Assistance (3) No No No No
Aviva (4) Yes Only with travel disruption add-on Yes No
Axa (5) Only if your travel's essential Yes Only if you have travel disruption cover Depends on circumstances
Churchill (6) Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes
Coverwise (5) No Yes No No
Co-op (7) Only if your travel's essential Yes Yes No
Direct Line (8) Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes
Halifax Only if your travel's essential

Yes 

Yes

Depends on circumstances

Leisure Guard (9) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No
LV (10) Only if your travel's essential Only with the Premier policy Only with the Premier policy No
Nationwide Yes Yes Depends on circumstances Yes
Planet Earth (11) Only if your travel's essential Yes No No
Post Office (12) No Maybe Maybe No
Virgin Money (13)

Yes

Yes

Depends on policy

Case-by-case basis

(1) The AA is no longer quoting for single-trip policies covering France, Italy or Spain. Customers who previously got quotes and are within their 30-day 'quote guarantee period' can still purchase their policy, while policies already purchased will be honoured. Annual multi-trip policies for Europe will cover France, Italy and Spain as normal. The AA also says any new policy purchased after 3pm on 13 March 2020, or any new trip booked after 3pm on 13 March 2020 under an existing annual multi-trip policy, will not cover any cancellation claim in relation to coronavirus.

(2) Admiral has paused offering policies to new customers.

(3) Allianz Assistance warns customers: "Be aware that financial losses as a result of epidemics or pandemics are not covered under most policies."

(4) Aviva has paused offering policies to new customers.

(5) Axa and Coverwise say that any new policy purchased, or any new trip booked, that is covered by an existing annual multi-trip policy after 9am on 13 March 2020 will not cover any cancellation claim in relation to coronavirus.

(6) Churchill has paused offering policies to new customers.

(7) Co-op has paused offering policies to new customers.

(8) Direct Line has paused offering policies to new customers.

(9) This info doesn't apply to older Leisure Guard policies purchased before 12 September 2019 – for info on these policies, contact Leisure Guard. Leisure Guard also says that for any policy issued from 11.59pm on 13 March 2020 there will be no cover provided for any claim directly or indirectly caused by, arising or resulting from, or in connection with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) or any mutation of the disease.

(10) LV has temporarily paused offering policies to new customers.

(11) Planet Earth has paused offering policies to new customers.

(12) Post Office has paused offering policies to new customers.

(13) Virgin Money has paused offering policies to new customers.

What if I have an annual policy that's about to expire?

While it's generally difficult to get new travel insurance policies at the moment – and virtually impossible to get one that'll cover cancellation costs related to coronavirus – if you have an existing annual travel insurance policy, you may well have more joy.

Several travel insurers, including AxaCoverwise and Planet Earth, have told us that if you have an annual policy and choose to renew, you'll still get the same level of cover on your renewed policy as you did on the old one. (Don't assume this applies to all policies or travel insurers though – if renewing, check directly.)

That means if you have a holiday booked and your annual policy expires in the meantime, it may be worth renewing with your current insurer rather than looking for a new policy. Make sure you arrange cover from the day after your current policy expires – that way, you'll have continuous cover.

It's worth noting even with policies that will give you cancellation cover for existing bookings on renewal, you won't be covered for any new trips you're planning. That's because travel insurance is supposed to cover for the unexpected. Equally, you won't be covered for trips booked after the FCO warned against travel to a country, or after coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

  • Insurance is about unexpected eventualities. Within that there are the usual likely known eventualities, such as illness or lost luggage. Then there are the unknown eventualities, like Icelandic volcanoes or coronavirus (possible) pandemics. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict whether insurers will pay out in different circumstances.

    Yet it's important to understand insurers are covered by the financial 'treating customers fairly' rules, which mean if you don't think it has been fair, you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn't, you can then go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate.

    Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing then tell the ombudsman.

I've booked a trip – can I cancel and get a refund?

If you've booked a future trip, then your right to cancel and get a refund depends very much on the latest UK Government travel advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which is what insurers and airlines generally take their cue from.

Important. Travel firms' call centres are swamped right now, so weigh up when's best to call. As you'd expect, airlines, package holiday firms, travel insurers and more are dealing with a massive volume of queries at the moment.

If your trip's not for a few months, you may want to wait to get in touch, though of course there's always a risk things could change in the meantime as this is such as fast-moving situation. If your trip's imminent, you're abroad right now or you need urgent assistance, unfortunately you may not be prepared to wait.

New. The FCO now advises against travel 'indefinitely', so you should get a refund – for imminent trips at least

On 17 March 2020, the Foreign Office warned UK nationals against all non-essential travel worldwide for 30 days, and on Saturday 4 April this was extended – it's now advising against all non-essential global travel "indefinitely".

As well as being a useful safety guide, Foreign Office warnings are key because they often determine whether or not your travel insurance will pay out if you have to cancel a holiday booked before the warning came into place (or whether travel firms themselves – such as airlines or package holiday companies – will cancel and refund your trip).

In some ways, the Foreign Office now warning against non-essential travel "indefinitely" makes things trickier. When the end date of the advisory was Thursday 16 April, many firms were paying out for all travel booked before this date. But as the warning is now effectively 'no travel until we say so' and we don't know when they'll say so, it's likely you'll need to wait until close to your travel date before airlines, hotels and travel insurers agree to refund you.

  • A Foreign Office warning is often the trigger for your travel insurance covering cancellation, but whether or not you'll be able to get your money back depends on your individual situation.

    • If you've a holiday booked in the next couple of weeks, there's a good chance it's already been cancelled. As a first step, speak to your travel firm to see what your options are – package holidays, for instance, should be fully refunded and you should also be able to get a full refund on most flights (though we've seen some airlines try to persuade customers to take vouchers instead). See more on this in What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?

    • If your holiday's imminent but not been cancelled, then you can go to your travel insurance. Most (though not all) travel insurance policies will allow you to claim for cancellation if you booked the holiday and insurance before the Foreign Office issued a no-travel warning and before coronavirus became a 'known event', though you'll need to check (use our table for guidance).

    • Where it gets more complicated is with holidays booked further in the future, for instance, if you've a trip planned in the summer. While the Foreign Office warning now applies 'indefinitely', it's possible that it could be lifted before you're due to travel – so you may have to wait until much nearer the time to find out if you can get a refund for your holiday or claim on your insurance.

      Technically, you may have to wait to see if the Foreign Office's advisory is still in place on the day you travel to be able to claim on your insurance, though many insurers will pay out if a warning's in place seven days before your trip, and some even earlier.

      Check what your insurer's policy is, and also keep a close eye on what your holiday firm's doing. It's possible the extended Foreign Office warning may persuade holiday companies to start offering refunds further ahead, though there are no guarantees.

      For example, Tui has now cancelled and is offering refunds for package holidays due to commence up until 14 May 2020. However, if you're due to travel after this you won't currently be able to get a refund – those due to start a trip between 14 May and 30 June 2020 can amend their holiday up to seven days before departure, while Tui says trips from 30 June 2020 onwards are currently still set to go ahead as planned.
  • The Foreign Office is advising Brits against all non-essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. It says that all countries may restrict travel without notice, so you should avoid travelling if you can.

    This doesn't mean you need to cancel trips booked in the future though, as it's not clear when the advisory will be lifted, and you may well be able to go.

    If you absolutely have to travel while the advisory is in place, you may still be able to but will need to carefully consider all the risks and also check the entry restrictions of the country you're travelling to – in some cases, British visitors have been barred altogether.

    See the Government's guidance on international travel for more help, and also bear in mind your travel insurance may be voided if you travel while an advisory's in place, so check with your insurer.

  • You'll need to weigh up the risk based on what you've paid so far and what you've yet to pay, but this is likely to be a bad idea.

    The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) warns if you're paying in instalments for a holiday and stop paying because you fear your holiday will be cancelled or you don't want to go, you are effectively cancelling the booking.

    This means that if the booking is subsequently cancelled by the operator you won't get your money back, whereas if you continue to pay and it's then cancelled, you would get a refund.

No FCO warning in place when you travel? Don't expect to get a refund if you cancel, but check – some firms are now being flexible

Cases of coronavirus have now been diagnosed globally, and the FCO has warned against all non-essential travel. This is due to last indefinitely, and so holidays booked in the relatively near future are likely to be refunded.

If you cancel a trip that's well in the future, unfortunately there's no guarantee you'll get a refund, though some firms are now being more flexible and in particular letting customers rebook.

With insurance, the situation is likely to depend on whether an FCO warning's in place at the point you're due to travel. If not, you almost certainly won't be able to get the money back on your insurance, as the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says travel insurance "is not designed to cover disinclination to travel where the FCO advice has not changed to advise against travel". None of the insurers we've checked with will cover you if you cancel in this scenario.

Some airlines, hotels and other travel firms WILL now let you cancel or rebook

It's worth checking directly with your airline or hotel even if your original booking was on a non-refundable basis, as some have started to introduce special cancellation or rebooking policies to help those affected by coronavirus. And even where firms haven't introduced special policies, it's worth asking anyway if there's any flexibility, as in some cases they'll be willing to let you cancel or rebook.

Here's what firms have told us they're doing (although this changes regularly, so you'll need to check with companies directly for the most up-to-date information).

Airline cancellation and rebooking rights

Airline Cancellation and rebooking policy Full info
British Airways Flights from Gatwick and London City airports are cancelled until further notice. If you're due to travel before 31 May 2020, you can cancel your booking and get a voucher for travel to any destination within 12 months of your original departure date. No fees will be charged for changing bookings made between 3 March and 31 May 2020 with departure dates up to 31 December 2020. BA website
Easyjet All flights are cancelled until further notice and affected customers are being contacted. Has temporarily waived flight change fees – so anyone with an existing or future booking can move their booking to another date. Easyjet website
Jet2 All flights before 17 June 2020 are being cancelled. If you booked a trip that was due to take place before then, it'll contact you with a list of options.
Jet2 website
Norwegian You can waive the flight change fee if you have a booking for an international flight made up to and including 31 May 2020 for travel up to and including 30 November 2020. The entire journey (including return flight) must be completed by 30 November 2020. Alternatively, you can cancel bookings where the outbound flight departs before 1 June 2020 and get credit valid for 12 months. Norwegian website
Ryanair Waiving flight change fees for all customers who wish to change their travel plans due to the current coronavirus pandemic from Friday 13 March until the end of April 2020. N/A
Virgin Atlantic Won't charge change fees for bookings since 4 March 2020. Virgin Atlantic website

Hotel and package holiday cancellation and rebooking rights

Company Cancellation and rebooking policy Full info
Accor Hotels Says customers who booked a non-flexible rate with Accor for travel prior to 31 May 2020 may modify their reservation to another date before 31 May 2021 without any modification fees by contacting the hotel directly. There are also various regional offers – see the link on the right for full details. Accor Hotels website
Airbnb Says reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date between 14 March 2020 and 14 April 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. Airbnb website
Best Western Told us its hotels are independently owned and operated, and it's encouraging them to show "empathy and flexibility" – but no specific details. N/A
First Choice Proactively contacting all customers due to travel up to and on 14 May 2020 to offer a range of options, including moving their holiday to a later date. If you have an existing booking for a package holiday booked before 17 March 2020 and taking place on or before 30 June 2020, you can amend for free to any holiday that's currently on sale. First Choice website
Jet2 Holidays All holidays before 17 June 2020 are being cancelled. If you booked a trip that was due to take place before then, it'll contact you with a list of options.
Jet2 Holidays website
Marriott International Says that for existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with prepaid rates that are typically more restrictive, it will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by 30 June 2020. Marriott website
Tui Proactively contacting all customers due to travel up to and on 14 May 2020 to offer a range of options, including moving their holiday to a later date. If you have an existing booking for a package holiday booked before 17 March 2020 and taking place on or before 30 June 2020, you can amend for free to any holiday that's currently on sale.
Tui website
  • While we've seen quite a few changes to rebooking and cancellation policies from airlines, hotels and package holiday firms, we've seen fewer from car hire firms – partly because some are already quite flexible. We checked the websites of several major car hire firms and saw the following:

    • Avis and Budget say that any reservations for rentals in Europe due to start before 1 May 2020 can be changed or cancelled without fees. Bookings starting after this time can be changed without fees up to 72 hours before the start of the rental. Additionally, cancellation fees for pay later and prepay rental customers will be waived if they're affected by coronavirus-related travel bans.

    • Goldcar says cancellations are free for reservations until 31 May 2020, except for bookings with non-refundable rates.

    Below are some other questions readers have asked us:

  • Eurostar continues to operate some services, but has reduced its timetable.

    If you are booked to travel from 13 March 2020 until 1 June 2020 and you wish to postpone your trip to a later date, you can request an e-voucher which will give you the flexibility to travel at another time.

    The e-voucher will be issued for the full value of your current train or Eurostar holiday package, and will be valid for a new booking to any Eurostar destination. You'll need to make the new booking by 30 September 2020, for travel at any time up to March 2021.

More refund questions

Below are some answers to more key questions:

  • Some people will have medical risk factors that make coronavirus a more serious threat – for example, the NHS says older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) are more likely to become seriously ill with the virus.

    If you're due to travel to an area which has a high volume of coronavirus cases but there's no FCO warning at the time you travel, and you're worried about the heightened risk of the virus due to your age or underlying health conditions, speak to your insurer to discuss your options.

    The Association of British Insurers says that whether you'll be covered by your insurance depends on your specific policy and your situation. You may be asked to provide evidence of your pre-existing condition – a doctor's note, for example. Many insurers will make a decision on a case-by-case basis.

    We've asked several insurers about this and have been given a range of answers. For example, Leisure Guard told us that you would not be covered if the FCO doesn't have an advisory against travel in place, while Admiral, Aviva and Planet Earth said they would look at each circumstance on its own merits.

    Churchill and Direct Line told us: "Where a customer's pre-existing health condition has been declared to us and cover confirmed, and they have evidence from their doctor advising against travel to their intended destination, claims for cancellation will be considered."

  • A number of major events around the world have now been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak – these include Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

    If you bought flights, accommodation and tickets for the event separately, unfortunately you're unlikely to have much protection if the event is cancelled but there's no FCO warning about travel to the area. Try speaking to the airline, hotel and event provider to see what they can offer you.

    But if you bought your trip as a package, there's a chance you may be able to get a refund. Under the Package Travel Regulations, if a tour operator makes a 'significant change' to the original arrangements, you aren't obliged to accept the alternative and are entitled to a full refund of the package price.

    What constitutes a 'significant change' is slightly ambiguous, of course – but if you've bought a package pegged on a particular event and that event is cancelled, meaning you no longer want to travel, it's worth requesting a refund.

    Can I claim on my insurance?

    If you've booked to go to a specific event in an area where there is no FCO advice not to travel and the event is cancelled, it's very unlikely you'll be able to claim for your consequential losses, such as travel and accommodation, if you no longer wish to travel.

    We've put this scenario to several insurers, and almost all have told us you won't be covered – see our insurer-by-insurer information above for full details.

  • Before the FCO issued a blanket warning against travel, a number of MoneySavers told us they had a trip planned to a destination which was largely closed for business – yet they were unable to cancel as no FCO warning was in place at the time. For example, Hollie tweeted:

    In general terms, as set out above, don't expect a refund if you cancel in these circumstances. Unfortunately, if no FCO warning is in place at the time that you're travelling, then airlines, tour operators and insurers won't usually offer a refund if you decide not to travel.

    Yet if you've booked a package holiday and were sold on the basis that you'd be able to visit a specific attraction and this was the main reason you booked the trip, you could argue that the attraction being closed counts as a "significant change" to your holiday under the Package Travel Regulations, and therefore ask for a refund.

    Check the documents and T&Cs from your travel provider to see whether you may be able to argue this. However, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says it's unlikely that many packages would have been sold on this basis.

  • Many cruise lines have cancelled trips or altered their itineraries to avoid stopping at ports in affected areas.

    For example, several cruise firms have suspended all new cruises until 11 May 2020, having previously modified some sailings.

    If you were due to travel on a cruise that has been cancelled, you'll generally receive a full refund – though check your cruise line's policy directly.

    If you have consequential losses, you can follow the steps above to try and recover them. It's also worth noting that some cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, have previously said they will consider reimbursing "reasonable out-of-pocket expenses" incurred as a result of cruises being cancelled on a case-by-case basis – so check.

    If your cruise itinerary has been altered and you no longer want to travel as a result, your cruise line may let you cancel and get a refund or credit to spend on another cruise – again, you'll need to check directly to find out your options.

    If you can't get a refund this way and you had booked your cruise as part of a package holiday, you may have some protection under the Package Travel Regulations if you had a major alteration to your itinerary – though it's unlikely that changes to a couple of stops on a long cruise would count as "significant".

    The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says if changes "are significant in the relation to the overall trip", customers may be entitled to a refund.

    It said: "With cruises, there is the cruising element with the facilities and entertainment on board as well as ports of call, and all aspects of the trip must be considered in any decision about the significance of any changes to the itinerary."

  • Of course, right now with the FCO warning against all travel, your insurer is likely to cover cancellation anyway. But even if no FCO warning is in place, if you're due to go on holiday but are unable to go because you've received medical advice to self-isolate over the time you were meant to be away, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says you should be able to make a claim on your travel insurance.

    You're likely to be asked for evidence of your need to self-isolate, which the ABI says could include a doctor's note, or a note from your employer or college. It's worth noting that insurers which are members of the ABI have pledged to "be understanding of the difficulties customers may have in getting medical certification" – so if you're unable to get an official doctor's note, it's worth asking if you can provide alternative evidence.

    This also cuts the other way though – so if you've been told to self-isolate but decide to ignore the advice and travel anyway, you'll likely invalidate your travel insurance.

What about holidays in the UK?

The info above relates to overseas travel, but many are also worried about holidays and other travel they've booked within the UK.

The UK Government has issued guidance saying people should avoid travelling in the UK unless it is essential. This means you should avoid visiting holiday or second homes, as well as campsites and caravan parks.

If you've booked a trip with a holiday company in the UK and it's forced to close due to coronavirus, it's likely you'll get a full refund for your trip direct from the company – and won't need to claim on insurance. For example, Center Parcs says it's closing all UK villages until 30 April 2020. It's giving guests the option to rebook at a date until the end of 2021 and get a £100 discount on their new booking, or a full refund.

If you've booked a UK trip and the accommodation provider isn't forced to close, it's less likely you'll be able to get a refund, but it's still possible.

Many firms are offering flexible cancellation policies, or the option to move your stay to another date. As an example, Airbnb has said reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date between 14 March and 14 April 2020, may be cancelled before check-in.

Airbnb has now also blocked UK listings from accepting new bookings until at least Saturday 18 April (though its Covid-19 Relief initiative, which offers free stays to NHS staff and paid or subsidised stays for other key workers exempt from the Government's travel restrictions, is not affected). Existing bookings will continue to be honoured.

As a last resort, you could try your travel insurer. Some insurers may cover you, for example Direct Line and Churchill told us that: "UK trips booked before 17 March for two or more nights in commercially-operated accommodation are covered for cancellation where the accommodation or surrounding area is closed due to the coronavirus."

  • Coach travel company National Express fully suspended its coach services from 11.59pm on Sunday 5 April.

    Passengers who had travel booked can choose to hold the ticket and amend for future travel within the next 12 months, free of charge, regardless of the terms and conditions. Customers do not need to make contact until they wish to rebook.

    For passengers who do not want this option, a full refund will be issued. Complete the form here to do this.

What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?

Many airlines and holiday companies are now choosing to proactively cancel trips. For example, Easyjet has now grounded all flights, while British Airways has suspended all flights to and from London Gatwick. Meanwhile, Tui has cancelled all holidays until at least 14 May 2020.

If this happens, then in principle you should generally get a full refund – but in some cases that's proving hard in practice.

Many airlines are now only offering vouchers via their website – but you DON'T have to accept 'em

Under EU flight delay rules (which still apply this year despite Brexit, and which cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline), you're entitled to choose between:

  • EITHER a refund for the flight that was cancelled.
  • OR an alternative flight (airlines call this re-routing) to your destination.

However, a number of airlines now appear to be pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead. Easyjet, for instance, will only allow you to get a voucher online – there is no option to claim a refund via the website. Other airlines such, as BA, say that you can get a refund, but anecdotally we've heard from customers who have been pushed to take a refund online and told they'll have to call to get a refund.

You're absolutely entitled to a refund in this situation, but enforcing your rights at the moment is the problem. Here's what to try if your airline's not offering a refund online:

1) Consider whether you 100% need a refund, or if you'd be happy with a voucher. At the moment, many airlines are really struggling. This means of course that it's safer to demand a refund rather than settle for a voucher in case the airline collapses before you can use it. But it's also worth considering whether you're in a position to show forbearance.

As MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said earlier this month: "Many organisations are struggling to cope. For those that can afford it, even if you've a right to a full refund for a ticket, if the firm is struggling in a struggling sector and it asks you to take vouchers instead, that's worth considering. That may just be what stops that firm from collapsing and its staff from losing their jobs." 

2) Try calling the airline – though there may be long waits. While many airlines are pushing customers to take vouchers online, the big ones we've spoken to (including BA and Easyjet) say they are refunding customers – you just need to call for this to happen. Phone lines are very busy at the moment, which makes it hard to get through and this is understandably putting some off – but the simplest way of getting a refund is to hit the phones and keep at it. If you're not in urgent need of the cash, you could maybe try waiting a little until the phone lines are calmer.

3) If you really can't get through, try chargeback on your card. Chargeback is a type of protection that means if you don't receive the goods you bought, you may be able to get your money back via your debit or credit card provider. It's not a legal protection, so is at your card provider's discretion – but it does cover goods provided, so may well protect you in this scenario. See full Chargeback help

4) As a last resort, complain to the airline – then an ADR scheme if there is one. If you've not had any luck with the above, then you can try filing a formal complaint. (Different airlines have different processes for this, so check what your airline says). In your complaint, make sure you explain what went wrong and clearly state what you want in terms of a refund.

If you don't get a response, or do but it's not what you're after, you can try going to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service if your airline works with one (see which airlines are covered by which ADRs). If your airline's not covered by an ADR, you'll need to escalate your complaint to a regulator instead (for any flights leaving the UK or coming into the UK with a UK or EU airline, that's the Civil Aviation Authority).

Bear in mind that the regulator's decisions aren't necessarily binding, and if you take your case to an ADR and lose, you may have to cover costs – so weigh up if it's really worth it. See more info on how this works in the Flight Delays guide.

If you struggling to get a refund, please let us know at news@moneysavingexpert.com (sadly we can't reply to every email).

Note the info on your rights above applies to flights covered by EU law. With other flights, your rights will depend upon the rules of the country which has jurisdiction over the flight – this will vary from country to country.

Package holiday cancelled? Again, you're due cash, not vouchers – but that could be about to change

Currently, package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are entitled to all their money back within two weeks under the Package Travel Regulations.

Yet there are unconfirmed reports from travel expert Simon Calder that the Government might soon agree to changes to the Package Travel Regulations, which could mean companies will be able to issue credit notes instead of giving cash refunds. These credit notes, or vouchers, would enable the holidaymaker to book a new trip within two years. Any customer who does not redeem the voucher can then claim the sum in cash.

We asked the Government about this, and while it didn't confirm any details, it did suggest that an announcement may be made shortly. We'll update this guide as soon as we know more.

What if only one part of my holiday is cancelled?

If one element of your holiday is cancelled but another element remains (eg, your flight is cancelled but your accommodation isn't), it's worth first contacting the non-cancelled element to see if they'll refund you as a goodwill gesture – assuming you no longer wish to travel.

If this doesn't work, check your travel insurance policy, which may have provisions to cover 'consequential losses' such as these. See our insurer-by-insurer table for more info on what individual providers are doing.

I'm currently abroad – what can I do?

On Monday 23 March, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning to all British tourists and short-stay travellers to return to the UK as soon as possible.

The FCO said the warning reflected "the pace at which international travel is becoming difficult with the closure of borders, airlines suspending flights, airports closing, exit bans and further restrictions being introduced daily".

The Government's now organising rescue flights for those abroad

On Monday 30 March, the FCO announced it is working with airlines to repatriate tens of thousands of Brits who are currently stranded abroad. It says there are two elements to its plan:

  • Airlines will recognise their responsibility for transporting their passengers with pre-booked tickets home. This will include offering alternatives where the airline's own flights are cancelled. Passengers will be allowed to change tickets where possible, including to other airlines, and will be offered the latest info and advice.

  • Where commercial routes do not exist, the Government will provide up to £75 million in financial support to enable special charter flights. These will fly to priority countries to bring back UK residents.

    The Government says that special charter flights for countries with no commercial routes will be prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision. In some places, access for flights to land and the ability to move around within the country to assemble for return flights will also be decisive factors.

    Charter flights are already up and running to Ghana and Tunisia, with India and South Africa likely to be added this week.

    You have to pay for a seat on one of these charter flights, though the price will vary from route to route. For example, seats on the flight it's running from Ghana will cost £500 per person.

If you're stuck abroad, your first call should be to your airline or holiday company to find out what flights it's running and what it can offer you. If you've already spoken to it and have gotten nowhere, it may now be worth speaking to it again as many airlines have now pledged to fully honour their responsibilities to passengers with tickets booked.

If your airline or holiday company's unable to help, the FCO says you should check if commercial flights out of the country are still operating. You can do this by checking airlines' websites, FCO travel advice pages for the country you are in and local British embassies' social media accounts.

If there are no commercial options, you should sign up to alerts on the FCO travel advice page for the country you're in and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised there and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email. Again, you're likely to have to pay for this flight, so check the cost.

If you're in real need, the Government says consular teams will work with you to consider your options. As a last resort, the FCO may be able to issue you an emergency loan, though this will depend on your circumstances.

  • If you are quarantined during a trip abroad, you may incur extra costs, such as paying for more accommodation or booking new flights home.

    The first thing to do in this situation is to speak to your tour operator or the agent you booked your trip through to see if you can recover any extra costs.

    For any unrecoverable costs, you may be able to make a claim through your travel insurer if you have the right kind of policy. This situation will generally fall under 'disruption to travel', so check for this clause in your travel insurance documents – though in any case, it's worth speaking to your insurer directly to see if you're covered.

  • Several airlines are cancelling flights back to the UK in wake of the crisis. If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a refund or an alternative flight.

    Remember though, if you opt for the refund the airline no longer has a duty of care for you. This means you can't claim back any further expenses you incur and you will have to seek out another flight yourself. If you are already abroad, try and get the airline to put you onto an alternative flight where possible.

    If you get really stuck, as a last resort, you can contact the FCO on +44 (0)207 008 1500.

I was about to book a holiday. Should I still do it?

This is a judgement call. In the immediate future, taking a holiday outside the UK is off due to Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel and, more broadly, the Government's lockdown rules. We don't know how long the Foreign Office advisory will last, but regardless, right now you can't get travel insurance that covers you for most coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims.

In fact, even if you have an existing annual policy, it likely won't cover any new trips booked. Sadly, and disastrously for the travel industry and their employees, that means most people would be sensible to avoid booking any holiday for now.

Even for trips later in the year it is a tough call. For booking at that time, the key is to look at the cancellation rights. If it's possible to book now, and then get a refund by cancelling if you can't go due to coronavirus, then you may want to go for it (just ensure you pay via debit or credit card to improve protection in case travel firms go into administration). But nothing in this environment is without risk.