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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 750,000 confirmed cases and tragically over 35,000 deaths. It's also devastated travel around the globe, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now warning Brits against all non-essential foreign trips until at least mid-April 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.

As of Monday 23 March, it was also advising Brits abroad to come home, as they may struggle to get flights back to the UK within days.

  • 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.

  • 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. These include the Chinese Grand Prix and the Venice Carnival. Music festivals Coachella and Glastonbury have been postponed, as has the London MarathonUEFA 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 are being closed until at least the end of the month. The entertainment giant says Disneyland Resort California closed 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. Disney's cruise line also suspended its departures from Saturday 14 March until the end of the month.
  • 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 over the weekend 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, effective at 11.59pm on Wednesday 18 March. It will complete current sailing as planned and plans to resume operations on 11 April 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 April 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 Axa, Coverwise and Planet Earth have told us that if you have an annual policy and choose to renew, then 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.

FCO warning in place? You should be able to get a refund or claim on insurance – for imminent travel at least

If you're due to go to an area which the FCO advises against travel to at a time when the warning is in place, your airline or tour operator should be your first port of call. Many have already cancelled flights and holidays, in which case you'll likely be offered a refund or alternative dates if you want to keep your booking.

If your travel company isn't offering refunds, or you're facing other consequential losses, your travel insurer will usually cover any non-refundable costs due to the Government warning (though check first – see below). If you have additional bookings such as accommodation or event tickets, you could also check with the supplier directly first to see if it will offer a refund as a goodwill gesture.

Note that the right to get a refund or claim on your insurance doesn't necessarily apply to ALL future bookings. So if, for example, you've booked to travel to Italy much later this year, you may have to wait for the travel company to decide whether to cancel the trip before you can get a refund. We're clarifying with insurers how far ahead they are in accepting claims and will update this guide when we know more.

  • If an FCO warning's in place, you'll likely be able to claim on your travel insurance if needed. However there are some exceptions, so check our insurer-by-insurer table above to be sure.

  • Be extremely wary of doing so. The change in UK Government advice cuts both ways – it also means if you choose to ignore it and travel anyway, you may well not be covered by your travel insurer.

    The Association of British Insurers says: "Anyone travelling to a country or region against Government advice risks invalidating their travel insurance."

  • 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. However, it's important to understand that this warning currently only applies for 30 days from Tuesday 17 March.

If you cancel a trip further ahead, 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. Here's what firms had said they were doing in mid-March (although this is just to give a flavour, you'll need to check directly with firms themselves for the latest info.)

Airline cancellation and rebooking rights

Airline Cancellation and rebooking policy Full info
British Airways If you're travelling between Saturday 14 March and 31 May 2020 you can cancel your booking and get a voucher for travel to any destination in the next 12 months. BA website
Easyjet Has temporarily waived flight change fees – so anyone with an existing or future booking can move their booking to another date until further notice. Easyjet website
Jet2 Sticking to its T&Cs (which state that if you cancel it does not provide any refund, and for date changes you have to pay a fee). The exception is if you've been to a "restricted country", in which case you can amend your flight to a later date without paying standard admin fees. You'll need to supply proof of travel to a restricted area and must pay any extra if your new flight costs more. Jet2 website
Norwegian You can waive the flight change fee if you have a booking for an international flight made up to and including 22 March 2020 for travel up to and including 30 November 2020. The entire journey (including return flight) must be completed by 30 November 2020. 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 If you're travelling to or from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea or Taiwan up until Tuesday 31 March, you can change or cancel a booking free of charge. 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 16 April 2020 to offer a range of options, including moving their holiday to a later date. First Choice website
Jet2 Holidays Sticking to its T&Cs (which state that if you cancel it does not provide any refund, and for date changes you have to pay a fee). The exception is if you've been to a "restricted country", in which case you can amend your holiday to a later date without paying standard admin fees. You'll need to supply proof of travel to a restricted area and must pay any extra if your new holiday costs more.
Jet2 Holidays website
Marriott International Customers with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with prepaid rates that are typically more restrictive, can make changes or cancel without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by 30 April 2020. Customers making new reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with prepaid rates, between today and 30 April 2020, can change or cancel without charge up to 24 hours before their scheduled arrival date.
Marriott website
Tui Proactively contacting all customers due to travel up to and on 16 April 2020 to offer a range of options, including moving their holiday to a later date.
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 on Friday 13 March:

    • Avis says that any reservations for rentals in Europe due to start before 1 May 2020 can be changed or cancelled without fees. European 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.

    • Budget has an existing policy which means reservations can be changed without fees. "Pay at Counter" customers can cancel or change reservations at any time without fees.

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

    We've contacted Alamo, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National and Sixt to see what their cancellation policies are.

  • 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.

What if my flight or hotel is cancelled?

If your flight or accommodation is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, even if there's an FCO warning in place for the country you're going to at the time that you go, the airline or hotel is likely to fully refund you for the booking you've made.

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.

We've seen that many airlines appear to be offering customers credit vouchers instead of refunds. You don't have to accept this, and if the airline were to go bust, you may not get your money back.

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 your flight isn't covered by EU law, your rights will depend upon the rules of the country which has jurisdiction over the flight – this will vary from country to country.

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...

  • 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 the Chinese Grand Prix, Coachella, the Venice Carnival and parts of musician Stormzy's Asian tour.

    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, CunardNorwegian Cruise Lines and P&O Cruises have suspended all new cruises until 11 April 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.

Package holiday cancelled? 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 will 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 would be made in the coming days. We'll update our site as soon as we know more.

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 from 20 March to 16 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.

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."

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 be done by offering alternatives where the airline's own flights are cancelled. Passengers will be allowed to change tickets where possible, including to other airlines, and 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 operated by the airlines above and likely more. 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're likely to have to pay for a seat on one of these charter flights, though we're confirming details with the FCO. 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 got nowhere, it may now be worth speaking to it again as many airlines have today pledged to fully honor 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 the 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, so here's Martin to talk you through it...

'Most should avoid booking for at least a couple of months' 

"Taking a holiday outside the UK is off until at least 17 April, due to Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel. Yet in reality, that will probably be extended – and right now you can't get travel insurance that covers you for most coronavirus-caused cancellations and claims. This even applies to those who have annual travel insurance, as many of those policies won't cover coronavirus issues for new bookings.

"Sadly, and disastrously for the travel industry and their employees, that means most people would be sensible to avoid booking any holiday to travel during at least the next couple of months. Especially as – if the advice changes sooner, so we can travel – there will likely still be plenty of capacity to book and go at short notice.

"Even for trips later in the year it is a tough call, though we hope the nation will be up and running then. 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."