Coronavirus Travel Rights
Holiday refunds, what lockdown restrictions mean and travel insurance help
Holidays are currently banned for those living in much of the UK due to tough lockdown rules. And while it's hoped that travel will resume later this year, the Government's said overseas holidays won't restart until 17 May at the earliest. Amid the turmoil, we answer your questions on travel insurance, cancellations, refunds and more.
Important: This is a fast-changing situation. The info below is the best we have currently, but we'll be updating this guide. If you've a question that isn't covered below, please let us know at email@example.com (though unfortunately we can't respond to every email).
Looking for other help? This guide focuses on travel, but also see:
- Coronavirus employees' help for the latest on the furlough scheme.
- Coronavirus self-employed help for the latest on support schemes.
- Coronavirus universal credit & benefits for info on help available.
- Coronavirus finance & bills for help with mortgages, rent, debts and bills.
- Coronavirus life in lockdown for help with shopping, weddings, MOTs etc.
In this guide
- New. The latest on UK & overseas travel restrictions
- My trip abroad's been cancelled – can I get a refund?
- Your rights if your trip is still running
Holidays are now banned outright for many in the UK, thanks to tough lockdown restrictions - to find out what rules apply in a given area, see the following Government websites for: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, some countries have also put a blanket ban on Brits visiting.
The key in both situations is often whether your travel provider has cancelled your booking. If it has, full refunds will largely be due. If it hasn't, but you can't travel (due to lockdown restrictions, for example) or no longer want to travel, it's less clear-cut.
You can jump to your refund rights if your trip is cancelled or your refund rights if you can't, or no longer want to, go away – or read on.
Separately, all UK residents arriving in or returning to the UK from overseas now need to quarantine for 10 days on arrival and negative coronavirus test results also need to be submitted. Some arriving from countries deemed a high coronavirus risk must also undergo an expensive 10-day compulsory hotel quarantine.
But even when the Government does say it's okay to go abroad, there's no guarantee your destination will let you in and there's still a huge amount of uncertainty. So before booking anything it's crucial to fully understand the financial risk. Last year, when overseas travel restarted and was then curtailed again, we sadly saw many lose out because they had non-refundable bookings. So if you are determined to book, make sure you're fully aware of and comfortable with the risk and book flexibly wherever possible.
England: Self-contained holiday lets now open and overseas travel could be allowed from 17 May
When it comes to domestic holidays in England, self-contained accommodation for single households reopened on 12 April. This includes campsites, caravans, boats, and second homes. Hotels, as well as holiday lets for multiple households, are scheduled to reopen on 17 May as long as certain coronavirus criteria are met.
You no longer need a reasonable excuse to leave England to travel to other parts of the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland - but this does rely on the rules in these regions allowing people from England to enter.
Travel overseas is mostly banned except where you have a valid reason to do so (see below for more on the requirements in place if you are allowed to travel at present). The Government has said international holidays for those in England could resume from 17 May, although a final decision will be made on this by 10 May. When overseas holidays are allowed, countries will be placed in one of three categories:
- Green countries - you'll be tested but there's no quarantine: When travelling back to England you'll need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of your arrival back into the UK. But you won't need to quarantine on return (unless you receive a positive result) or take any additional tests.
- Amber countries - you'll face an additional test and must self-isolate: When travelling back to England you'll need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two and day eight after arriving. You'll also need to self-isolate for 10 days after arrival - this can be at home, and you may be able to end self-isolation early on day five if you take an additional test on day five.
- Red countries - you'll be tested and must pay to quarantine in a hotel: When travelling back to England you'll be tested pre-departure and must have a PCR test on day two and eight. But you'll also have to undergo 10 days of managed quarantine in a hotel, which may be pricey. (Currently, in England arriving single adult travellers are charged £1,750 for their stay.)
Arrivals travelling from red list countries will have to book a quarantine package before departure, while arrivals from amber and green countries will be required to book test packages before travelling from one of the Government’s approved list of providers.
The Government says it will set out by 10 May which countries will fall into which category. This will be based on factors including the percentage of the country's population which has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data. A green watchlist will also be introduced to help identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber.
The Government adds that its restrictions will be formally reviewed on 28 June and then again no later than 31 July and 1 October, although the Government has also said it "will not hesitate to act immediately" should the data show that countries risk ratings have changed.
Scotland: Holiday lets to reopen from 26 April, but no news on overseas travel
In Scotland, a ‘stay at home’ requirement was lifted on 2 April and replaced with a ‘stay local’ message. This has now also been lifted as of 16 April – so you can travel anywhere within Scotland for outdoor socialising, recreation, or informal exercise. Travel around the mainland for holidays will be allowed from 26 April, while holiday lets and hotels are planned to reopen from the same date in line with rules on indoor gatherings.
It is currently illegal to leave (or enter) Scotland unless you have a reasonable excuse but this will be lifted from 26 April for travel to England and Wales. Travel to Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands is still under review. It's also unclear at this stage when overseas travel may be allowed, although the Scottish Government says it hopes to agree rules on a four nations basis.
Wales: Holiday lets now open, but no set date for overseas travel
In Wales, as of 12 April, residents are allowed to travel around the country and to the 'Common Travel Area (CTA)' of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland - provided those regions allow entry.
Meanwhile, self-contained holiday accommodation in Wales, including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service (or that aren't serving food), were able to reopen to people from the same household or support bubble from 27 March. The Welsh Government is yet to confirm when further overseas travel will be allowed.
Northern Ireland: No news on when domestic or overseas holidays can resume
As of 12 April, a ‘stay at home’ provision has been removed from legislation in Northern Ireland and replaced with a ‘stay local’ and ‘work from home’ message. But overnight stays away from home for most are not allowed and there's no update yet on when holiday lets and hotels can reopen for non-essential visitors. You can only travel within the CTA or outside of it if you qualify for an exemption.
The Northern Irish government has yet to confirm whether it plans to follow the English Government's plans for overseas travel.
At the moment all travellers arriving in the UK must take a Covid test and self-isolate - and some face hotel quarantine
If you've an exception that means you're allowed to travel internationally, and if you've been outside the Common Travel Area of the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or Ireland in the previous 10 days, then you must undertake the following precautions:
- Take a pre-departure Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before you begin your journey to the UK. You'll need to show proof of your negative test to your airline, boat or train firm along with your passenger locator form. If your trip is cancelled then contact the provider who you ordered the test from to see if it'll refund you. Some may do so if you haven't taken the test yet.
- Self-isolate for 10 days when you arrive in the UK (with a few exceptions).
- Take two coronavirus tests during self-isolation. People isolating at home or in hotels (see below for more on this) must get a test at two and eight days into their 10-day quarantine period (even if they also take a private test five days after arrival to end isolation on day five - note that this 'Test to Release' scheme is only available in England though). You can book these tests on the Government website. You can be fined and have your self-isolation extended if you fail to comply.
- Some travellers may need to quarantine in hotels. In addition to the requirements above, UK or Irish citizens arriving in England, Northern Ireland or Wales from certain countries with known coronavirus variants must now quarantine in Government-provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days. Travellers from these countries who are not UK or Irish citizens will be refused entry. ALL travellers arriving in Scotland must also quarantine in hotels.
In England, arriving single adult travellers are charged £1,750 for their stay, which includes the cost of hotels, transfers and testing. Additional adults sharing the room are charged an extra £650, while additional children are charged £325. You have to book your stay before arrival - this can be done on the Government website.
For those facing significant financial hardship as a result of this charge, there will be an opportunity to apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking. This is only available if you already receive income-related benefits, and you will be required to pay back your debt to the Government in 12 monthly instalments.
If you don't quarantine in a hotel in England when you should, you'll be fined a fixed penalty of £5,000 - potentially rising to £10,000 - while if you lie on your passenger locator form and claim you've not been to one of the countries where arrivals are required to quarantine from, you could face up to ten years in prison.
A full list of red-rated countries is as follows: Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
See below for your holiday rights if you're worried about quarantining on return to the UK.
You need to complete a form to leave England and Wales
- If you're allowed to travel, you must carry a declaration form with you. People travelling internationally from England and Wales need to complete and carry a declaration to travel document downloaded from the Government’s website. You face being fined £200 if you turn up at an airport or other point of departure without the form or if the form is incorrect. The form can be printed or stored on a mobile phone.
Travellers from Scotland and Northern Ireland don't currently have to fill in the form.
- You can be fined £5,000 if you travel abroad without a valid reason. As of 29 March 2021, people in England can be fined £5,000 if they travel outside of the country for non-essential purposes or if they're found at an embarkment point with the intention of travelling internationally without a legal reason to do so. This doesn't apply elsewhere across the UK.
Many countries have also banned Brits
Countries across the globe have imposed bans on Britons arriving from the UK after news of a new, more infectious coronavirus strain. You may also find Brits are banned from returning to the UK from certain countries, such as passengers arriving in England from South Africa, amid new coronavirus strain fears.
Separately, other countries, such as Australia, have had a ban on travellers from the UK since the start of pandemic.
In other cases, the UK's Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to many countries – that doesn't stop you going, but it can invalidate travel insurance. Check the Foreign Office website, as well as directly with the country itself for the latest before travelling – you can usually do this via its UK embassy website.
Coronavirus has resulted in millions of cancelled holidays – and airlines and travel firms are still cancelling many overseas trips.
For example, where countries aren't accepting Brits, if you have a flight, ferry or train booked to that destination, there's a good chance it will be cancelled.
If you trip does get cancelled, we round up your refund rights below. Or if you've booked a trip to another part of the UK, see our targeted UK holiday bookings section for your rights.
As a general rule, if you've paid for a trip and then the travel firm cancels, you should be due a refund. Yet that hasn't always proved easy with cancellations due to the pandemic. While coronavirus has been devastating across the travel industry, firms have been treating customers in very different ways – as shown by several major MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) surveys we're run this year.
A poll we ran between 19 November and 4 December 2020 – our third this year looking at refunds for those unable to travel due to coronavirus – asked travel firms' customers about their refund experience. We asked them to rate it as 'great', 'OK' or 'poor' (and to say if they actually got a refund) – we had 42,653 individual responses.
Big names with dire overall feedback included Lastminute.com, with just 8% of customers telling us they'd had a full refund, while Teletext Holidays (12%), Loveholidays (32%) and Ryanair (33%) also performed poorly.
On the other side of the coin, Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 had the highest proportion of full refunds, with 89% of customers of both brands whose bookings were cancelled saying they'd had their money back. Hays Travel also did well, with 73% reporting full refunds.
For full details, see our major new MSE Covid travel refunds survey.
Even if some firms are being slow to refund customers though, your right to a refund is clear:
- With most cancelled flights, you're due a full refund within seven days. Most cancelled flights will fall under flight delay rules (which have been written into UK law, and cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline). These state 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 some airlines pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead, but you are absolutely entitled to a refund in this situation. In theory and according to the law this should also be paid in seven days, though aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has acknowledged current circumstances are making it "very challenging" for airlines to sort it that quickly – and in practice, it's likely to take longer right now.
- With cancelled package holidays, you're due a full refund with 14 days. Package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are also entitled to all their money back under the Package Travel Regulations.
Technically you're due this refund within two weeks, but in practice at the moment it's likely to take longer – and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute has told us insisting on a 14-day turnaround may be tricky at the moment, given the volume of refunds travel firms are grappling with at the moment. So it may be advisable to show forbearance and not push the law as far as it can technically go on the timescale. But the important thing is that you are due a refund.
With other travel bookings (hotels, car hire etc), the rules are less clear-cut but you SHOULD still get a refund. Generally speaking, if the service you have booked isn't provided, you should be refunded – and that's a principle the UK competition watchdog has clearly supported. Enforcing it may be tricky though, especially if the firm is abroad where local laws may be different to those in the UK – so there are no guarantees.
Some countries may require you to show a negative test result on arrival. If you've taken the test but the trip is then cancelled, you need to contact the provider you ordered the test from to see if it'll refund you - but there are no guarantees. If you've paid for the test but not yet taken it as your trip was cancelled, you may find providers are more willing to give refunds.
The standard flight cancellation rules (which have now been written into UK law) state that if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to choose between a full refund or an alternative flight. If you've booked a specific return deal with the same airline and one leg is cancelled, you would expect a refund for both parts.
However some say they're struggling to get refunds, and it may be because some budget airlines don't consider it a return flight but two individual flights.
There's no easy answer here, and we need to be straight – we're still in the early stages of our research and are building case studies on this (please do feedback your experiences). So this is our provisional list of what to try – we hope to add more info:
- Get in touch with the airline. The start point is always to contact the airline and ask. Before things get militant, you may just find you're pushing at an open door – we have certainly heard of a few (but not many so far) refunds in these circumstances.
- Under flight rules, you can push for a refund. So if softly softly fails, let's start to consider the rules. EU regulation 261/2004, which has now been written into UK law, gives specific cancellation rights for EU-regulated flights, which is defined as:
– Any flight departing from the UK/EU
– Any flight arriving in the UK/EU provided it's operated by a UK/EU airline
Within these rules, it states that what counts in terms of getting a refund for the return flight if the outbound flight is cancelled is if the flights are part of the same 'booking'. If they are, you should be offered a full refund on both flights.
Sadly, the Civil Aviation Authority has admitted the precise definition of the same booking can be a grey area – for example, it says if you booked through a ticket agent and the two legs are with different airlines, it wouldn't count as the same booking. One key help though is if the outbound and return flights have the same reservation numbers. If so, then:
1) Contact the airline and ask for a refund in writing.
2) If this doesn't work or you don't hear back, you can make an official complaint and demand a refund. You may also be able to escalate your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution service – most are free to use, though double-check first as some may charge fees. See our Flight Cancellations guide for more info.
3) If you've no luck speaking to the airline and you paid by debit or credit card, you could try and get a refund from your bank or card provider under the chargeback scheme, or Section 75 legal protection if you paid £100+ on a credit card. (Though while it's rare, after that the airline can dispute this and push for the money back – so don't think once it's in your account it's done and dusted.)
- If you booked the flights before the pandemic and had travel insurance in place then too, speak to your insurer. You may be able to claim (assuming your policy covered pandemic cancellations), as clearly an unusable return flight is a knock-on cost.
However, most insurers are pushing for people to go the whole way with their airline first before they will provide cover. That doesn't necessarily mean they are right to insist on you exhausting every possible avenue with the airline first, just that it isn't easy. So if your insurer isn't paying out when you feel it should, again you can take it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
We hope to add more detail to this section, so do check back. Plus please do feedback your experiences.
- Get in touch with the airline. The start point is always to contact the airline and ask. Before things get militant, you may just find you're pushing at an open door – we have certainly heard of a few (but not many so far) refunds in these circumstances.
We've heard from MoneySavers who have had 'cancellation charges' of up to £75 per person taken off their refunds by their travel agent after an airline or package holiday firm has cancelled their trip.
Travel agents' association ABTA says agents ARE allowed to do this, as long as this is included in their T&Cs – though if in doubt, check what you agreed to when you booked.
Yet even if a travel agent does cover this in their terms, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute told us there's a chance it may not be a "fair term", so might not be allowed. It told us it couldn't comment on whether such terms are fair at this stage, or whether holidaymakers can successfully challenge these fees – but if you think a cancellation charge is unfair, contact your travel agent and ask it to justify the fairness of its fees.
Also note that tour operators and airlines can't charge you a cancellation fee if you booked direct, so if this happens, make sure you demand a refund in full.
The Government is protecting credit note refunds issued for ATOL-protected bookings that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning those who accept them will get their money back if the travel firm goes bust.
The Government initially said it would protect refund credit notes issued between 10 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 for ATOL-protected bookings. It later extended this to 31 December 2020 and then a second time, so that now all credit notes issued 10 March 2020 and 30 April 2021 are protected.
If you opt for a refund credit note, you can choose at any point up to 30 September 2021 to cash it in for a refund instead. See our Government to protect refund credit notes MSE News story for full info, including how to check if your refund credit note is protected.
Those who receive holiday refunds get it returned to the payment method used. This can often mean being £1,000s in credit on credit cards. And many have contacted us worried that they'll pay the usual 3%-ish fee to pay this into their bank account – yet those are money transfer fees, for shifting debt.
If you're significantly in credit, you should be able to ask your provider to transfer the credit back into your bank account free of charge. You can do this by getting in touch with your provider directly – online or via its app if you can, as phone lines are likely to have long waits – and requesting a "refund of credit balance".
All the providers we spoke to, including major names such as Barclaycard, HSBC and Lloyds, told us they offer this service to customers.
But if your provider refuses to transfer your credit back to you for free for some reason, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman – and do so on the grounds that it's not following standard industry practice. There's full info on how to do this in our Financial Ombudsman guide.
Struggling to get a refund? You can also try your card firm or insurer – though there are no guarantees
If you're having real difficulties getting the refund you're owed for a cancelled trip, there are other avenues you can try – though none are guaranteed to work:
- You may be able to claim from your card firm. If you paid by debit or credit card, you can also try getting money back via your card firm. Try claiming from your card provider under chargeback (or Section 75).
Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from – you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. Alternatively, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim. See full Section 75 and Chargeback info.
MSE founder Martin Lewis suggests you try chargeback first though: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing."
You can try speaking to your insurer... but it's tricky. Most travel insurers have told us if you're entitled to a refund from a firm you've booked with, you'll need to chase that firm for a refund rather than claim on your insurance. This also applies if you're offered a voucher when you're legally entitled to a cash refund.
Just because insurers say they won't accept your claims though, that doesn't mean there's no point trying. Insurers want to avoid paying out when they can and while you should seek a refund from the provider first when you're legally owed one, if you're really struggling ask your insurer if it can help – even if it's by goodwill. Plus if you are unhappy with your insurer's decision you can also take it to the independent arbitrator, the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
If all else fails, there's the legal route. Even though some insurers say you must do this before going to them, in practice this is probably the last resort – we've put it last because it could cost money, may be time-consuming and you'll need to weigh up seriously whether the sum you're chasing is worth it. How you do it will depend on what you're claiming for. A good first step may be to threaten court action in a letter – then you could end up having to file a county court claim online. See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.
How to get a refund for a cancelled booking – firm-by-firm help for those that have been poor at paying out
While the steps above give general guidance, if you're struggling to get your money back there are different tactics you can use.
To help, we've some guidance below on some of the big firms where people have struggled to get refunds:
Package holiday giant Tui promised on 16 September 2020, after involvement from the competition watchdog, to pay any outstanding refund requests for holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic by 30 September 2020.
Anyone who's requested or requests a refund after this date should be paid within 14 days of cancellation, in line with the usual regulations.
The commitment applies to all of Tui UK's package holiday businesses, including First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes & Mountains and Skytours.
Until the CMA action, some Tui customers said they'd not been able to put their voucher details into the online refund form, and have had trouble calling up for help. Here's how MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) founder Martin Lewis explained it on his TV show earlier this year:
Embedded YouTube Video
Ryanair promised in July that 90% of customers who booked directly and requested refunds for cancelled flights between March and June were set to be paid by the end of July.
Some customers say they're still unhappy and waiting for refunds – and Ryanair languished near the bottom of our latest travel survey, with only 33% of Ryanair customers who responded saying they'd received a full refund after a cancellation.
We've full info and tips on what you can try if you haven't been paid, including how to try to get hold of customer service – see what to do if you're still waiting for a Ryanair refund.
We've been swamped with complaints about Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. Many customers have understandably told us they're furious at having to wait almost four months to get their cash back. Others tell us they've struggled to get in touch with the firms or have been told conflicting info – some were originally given timeframes of between 14 and 90 days, then told that it would take longer.
Virgin had promised to pay outstanding refunds by the end of October. We've asked if it met this deadline and will update this when we know more. Those who make a new claim by the end of September should be refunded within 60 days. See Virgin refunds latest for full details.
The name Loveholidays has become a scourge of many travellers during the pandemic. In our latest travel refunds survey, just 32% of Loveholidays customers said they'd received a full refund. It even left trade body ABTA – see our Loveholidays and On the Beach quit trade body ABTA so they can avoid paying refunds in full MSE News story.
But following CMA action in December 2020, Loveholidays has agree to provide:
- Refunds for hotels and transfers cancelled before 1 November 2020 by 31 December 2020.
- Refunds for hotels and transfers cancelled between 1 November 2020 and 31 December 2020 by 31 January 2021.
- Refunds for hotels and transfers cancelled from 1 January 2021 onwards within 14 days of cancellation.
Refunds for flight bookings may take longer:
- Refunds for flights cancelled before 24 August 2020 will be paid by 28 February 2021.
- Refunds for flights cancelled between 24 August 2020 and 31 October 2020 will be paid by 31 March 2021.
- Refunds for flights cancelled between 1 November 2020 and 31 March 2021 will be paid by 30 April 2021.
- Refunds for flights cancelled from 1 April 2021 onwards must be paid by 31 May 2021.
NB: Here we're only talking about trips which HAVEN'T been cancelled by the firm you booked with. If your trip has been cancelled, see above for full help on how to get a refund.
The table below goes through different airline, tour operator etc refund policies. If you can't go and you can get a refund, then simply claim that money back and you're done.
But if you're not certain to get a refund, and your trip has NOT been cancelled by the firm you booked with, don't make a rash decision and automatically cancel the trip yourself. That's because if it later cancels it (given how fluid the situation is, that may yet happen) you're due a refund so it's a bit of cat and mouse.
However, don't leave it too late and miss out on a voucher or the ability to change the ticket as there are often deadlines to invoke these policies. Even if there's a fee, that's better than losing all your money.
Remember, though – if you booked a cancellable hotel, or your airline lets you cancel for no charge, then you can cancel at will.
Unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions or is a border you want to cross closed? You may get a refund
We've an overview of the different scenarios, and what your travel firm or airline should do for you in each:
- Your trip's still going ahead but your tier/lockdown status doesn't allow you to travel. General guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) states that you should get a full refund if it would be illegal for you to use a booking - which would be the case if you'd booked a holiday but live in England, Scotland or Wales under current restrictions. In theory in this situation you should get your money back if you've booked travel that originates in or is entirely within the UK.
Yet this isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and the CMA recently launched an investigation into airlines only offering vouchers not refunds in this scenario, so getting a refund may not always be plain sailing. Plus if you've flights that start in other countries, or hotels booked there, you're at the mercy of your travel provider and the country it's governed by.
- You can go on the trip but the country you're travelling to won't let you in. If your trip is still going ahead AND you can leave your region BUT the country you're going to won't let you in, then you're also at the mercy of your travel provider, although some are offering refunds (see the table below for more information).
Plus package travel regulations state if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur which "significantly affect the performance of the package," you're due a full refund even if YOU cancel. So this may offer some protection if you can't get to your destination.
- You can leave the UK, and the overseas destination will let you in, but you simply don't want to travel. You're unlikely to get your money back as the provider is still offering the service you booked, unless you have a flexible flight and/or flexible or cancellable hotel booking.
If your flight or holiday is still running and you have travel insurance, it might cover you for trips where it's illegal for you to travel – but only if your policy covers coronavirus cancellation – this will usually only be the case if you took out the insurance and booked the trip before mid-March, but check. If the trip or hotel was booked later, travel insurance is very unlikely to help you.
The same goes for those who simply change their mind – travel insurance is highly unlikely to cover this scenario regardless of when you took out the policy or booked the trip. See more in I've bought travel insurance – am I covered? below.
The table below covers the cancellation policies of major travel firms split into your rights when the firm cancels, your rights when you cancel due to travel restrictions, or your rights when you cancel despite being able to travel – this applies for usually inflexible tickets.
Be aware though that the situation is changing fast, so it's best to double-check with your travel provider directly before making any decisions:
|Airbnb||Full refund||Full refund if you cancel 24hrs+ before check-in if host has 'flexible' policy or 5 days+ before check-in if 'moderate flexibility'|
|British Airways||Full refund, voucher or rebooking||Some flights cancelled until late summer (check yours here). Until check-in closes you can claim voucher valid until Apr 23 if you booked from 3 Mar 20 for flights before Apr 22|
|Easyjet||Full refund, voucher or rebooking||All flights and hols cancelled until mid-May with customers offered a full refund||Flight change fees waived for rebookings at least 14 days before departure|
|Eurostar||Full refund||You can rearrange your trip without paying an exchange fee up to 7 full days before departure|
|Hoseasons||Refund or voucher where accommodation must close||Refund or voucher where accommodation must close||Will contact custs with bookings for later in the year to discuss options|
|Jet2||Full refund||All flights and hols up to 16 May 21 cancelled with full refund||Cancellation fees apply|
|Logan Air||Full refund or rebooking||We've asked and will update when we know more||We've asked and will update when we know more|
|Loveholidays||Full refund, credit note or trip amendment||If country is closed, full refund, credit note or trip amendment due. If you cancel due to quarantining on return cancellation fees may apply||Changes and cancellations subject to usual T&Cs.|
|Ryanair||Full refund or rebooking||We've asked and will update when we know more||We've asked and will update when we know more|
|Tui||Full refund, refund credit note or rebooking||Not operating holidays departing from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland up to and including 16 May. Full refund, credit note or rebooking||Change fee-free up until 28 days before original departure date if the booking is due to take place before 30 June 2021 OR between 1 July 2021 and 31 October 2021, and you book it on or after 10 February 2021|
|Virgin Atlantic||Full refund, voucher or rebooking||Custs who booked up to and including 5 Feb 21 have the option to two free date changes and one free name change. For new bookings, or if you are affected by a cancelled flight up until 31 Aug 21, you can make as many date changes as necessary with no service fee, all the way until 30 Apr 23.|
When it comes to car hire, we checked the websites of several major car hire firms and saw that Avis and Budget say that bookings can be cancelled for free. If you've already paid, you can get a full refund if you cancel up to 24 hours before the day your rental was due to begin (though fees will be deducted from your refund if you cancel within 24 hours or don't show up). If you were due to pay on collection, you can cancel right up to the time your rental was set to start.
What if the Foreign Office has advised against travel?
Between March and July 2020, the Foreign Office had warned against all non-essential travel overseas. That blanket warning has now been lifted for some countries, but it remains in place for most others – though this won't make a difference for most at the moment, as lockdown restrictions across most of the UK ban travel for holidays.
As well as being a useful safety guide, Foreign Office warnings are important in the following scenarios:
- Package holiday firms should refund you if there's a Foreign Office warning. If a Foreign Office warning is put in place under the Package Travel Regulations, you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days – even if the trip's not been cancelled – but always check first with the firm before you cancel.
- If you travel when there is a Foreign Office warning, most travel insurance becomes totally invalid. This applies even for non-Covid issues as the whole policy is usually invalid. As there are some exceptions, do check.
Almost all non-essential travel from the UK has been banned. For those who do need to travel for work or family reasons, it may be the case that the country you're going to insists you must quarantine for a certain amount of time on arrival.
If you do need to quarantine when you get to your destination, it's unlikely airlines or hotels will offer a refund if they're open and running services. You also won't be able to use credit or debit card protection, because the service is still available.
Some countries may also require you to show a negative test result on arrival. If you've taken the test and the trip is still going ahead but you now can't go, you need to contact the provider you ordered the test from to see if it'll refund you - but there are no guarantees.
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.
Yes. From 4am on Monday 18 January, all arrivals to the UK need to quarantine for 10 days. But those returning to England - from a country where no travel ban is in place - can cut the isolation period if they pay for and take a coronavirus test at least five days after coming into the country. See our MSE News story for more on this, plus our price comparison of private test providers.
In addition, you'll also need to show proof of a negative 'pre-departure' coronavirus test before you are able to travel to the UK. This could be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a test from a lateral flow device, for example, but you need to make sure the test you get meets the Government's performance standards.
You'll also need to fill in a "contact locator form", including details of where you'll be isolating and how you can be contacted and may need to show the receipt (either printed or on your phone) to UK border guards. There will be spot checks at the border and Border Force can impose fines on those who don't comply.
You'll then need to go to your home/ accommodation and stay there for 10 days. If you don't have a suitable place to stay, you'll be asked to self-isolate in hotel accommodation arranged by the Government. The Government has warned that those in quarantine could face random checks from public health authorities to ensure they're self-isolating, and again, fines could be imposed on those breaking the rules.
In addition, as of 11 February 2021, all travellers arriving in the UK who isolate at home or in hotels must get a test at two and eight days into their 10-day quarantine period. You'll be able to book these tests on the Government website. You'll be fined £1,000 if you don't take the first test, and an additional £2,000 if you don't take the second test - as well as having your quarantine extended to 14 days.
We've been asked by several users if they'll legally be able to get a refund on travel abroad (for example, a flight or package holiday) if they are unable or unwilling to quarantine on their return, and therefore are unable to take the trip. The short answer is no, as the company would not have to refund you for your disinclination to travel – though some firms may agree to help out.
In addition to these requirements, travellers arriving in England or Wales from 33 countries with known coronavirus variants - as well as ALL travellers arriving in Scotland - must now quarantine in Government-provider accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days. (There are currently no international flights into Northern Ireland). See above for more on this.
All holidays are off at the moment because of various lockdowns across the UK, but when travel does resume it's unlikely you'd be able to claim back costs, such as hotel stays and meals, from your travel provider if you are forced to quarantine in a hotel on arrival back to the UK.
You also shouldn't cancel future trips yet - unless you have free cancellation - as there's a risk you won't get any money back see above for more on this. ABTA - the package travel association - says it is, however, worth talking to your provider as many travel companies have introduced flexible booking conditions that might allow you to amend your trip to travel at a later date.
Insurance trade body, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), says your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you if you have to quarantine in a hotel on return to the UK but says you should ask your insurer directly to be certain.
It adds that travel insurance is not designed to cover situations where you choose not to travel because you do not want to quarantine on your return to the UK, but that some insurers may consider exemptions if you will be disproportionately affected, for example if having to quarantine on your return will affect your employment. Again, it's best to contact your insurer directly for a definitive answer.
This is a big decision for many who've paid deposits for trips and are currently being asked to pay the remainder or another instalment. Sadly, there is no right answer here – all we can do is help you weigh it up.
Here are the pros and cons of both options:
If you pay up... Hopefully, things will have improved by the time you're due to travel and you'll go ahead and have a wonderful holiday. But there's a reasonable chance that may not happen.
If a package holiday firm cancels, you're due a full refund (and it's the same if it's a flight covered by UK or EU laws, as most are). Alternatively, if your trip isn't cancelled, but the Foreign Office is still warning against travel to your destination, then provided you got travel insurance before they stopped covering coronavirus, you can likely claim.
There are risks here though:
- If the Foreign Office lifts its travel warning for a destination you're travelling to and you choose not to travel, you likely won't be covered by insurance.
- Even if the package holiday firm or airline does cancel your trip, some travel firms are making it difficult to get refunds for cancellations and are only giving vouchers.
- Sadly, the travel industry is under terrible threat, and frankly some firms may go bust. If it's a package holiday, check if you've ATOL or ABTA protection so you would get a full refund if the operator collapsed. If not, you're likely reliant on claiming via your card provider under chargeback or Section 75 protection – which should help, but is far from certain (and be aware that even if you're paid chargeback, there is a chance the firm can dispute it via a clawback system, so you shouldn't spend it immediately).
If you don't pay up... Then you're the one effectively cancelling the holiday, not the firm, so you're likely to lose your deposit.
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, as outlined above you would get a refund.
Even then, if the deposit is small and the balance is large, and you think you're very unlikely to travel, taking this hit may be an easy option.
Ultimately it's a decision for you to make, and there's no clear answer.
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 Foreign Office 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.
In general terms, don't expect a refund if you cancel in these circumstances. Unfortunately, if no 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.
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.
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 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."
What if I'm stuck abroad?
With countries around the world banning Brits and operators cancelling travel services, it may mean some UK households have been stranded abroad. We round up your rights in this scenario.
How do I get home?
If your flight home is cancelled and it's leaving from the UK or an EU country or it's to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline, then the operator must get you home by any means at the earliest opportunity. If your flight doesn't fall within this scope, you're at the mercy of the rules of your flight operator.
For those on a package holiday, there is also an obligation on providers to arrange for you to get home, but this won't necessarily be as soon as possible.
For travel by any other means, contact your provider. If you're struggling to get help, you can also try contacting the UK embassy in the country for assistance.
Will free accommodation be provided?
If you're stranded due to a cancelled flight which is leaving a UK or EU country or it's to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline then your airline must pay to put you up in the meantime, although you may need to pay and later claim this back. Keep hold of receipts and only expect reasonable costs to be reimbursed. If your flight doesn't fall within this scope, check with the airline if it's responsible.
For package holidays, trade body ABTA says providers are only obliged to put you up for three nights if your return trip is cancelled.
For travel by any other means, contact your provider. If you're struggling to get help, you can also try contacting the UK embassy in the country for assistance.
Can I claim these costs on my insurance?
If you're abroad for longer than planned due to your return journey being disrupted by travel bans, insurers we spoke to said your cover would be extended.
But while this means you'll continue to be covered under the usual terms of your insurance – so for example, you should be able to claim for emergency medical expenses – insurers we spoke to said you won't be covered for extra costs incurred by having to stay longer, such as extra accommodation or travel.
It's still worth checking with your insurer – but most policies won't cover you for coronavirus-related cancellation if you took out the insurance and booked your trip after mid-March 2020. As insurance only covers unknown events, that's the period most classed the pandemic as a known event.
With overseas travel significantly disrupted, many will have chosen to book a holiday within the UK.
But with some restrictions still in place across the UK many are wondering if they can still travel and, if not, what their rights to a refund are.
Important. The situation in different areas is changing rapidly and at short notice, so it's good practice to check the latest rules for yourself before taking any action.
Holiday firm cancelled your trip? You're likely due a full refund
As with overseas holidays, a key factor in whether you're owed a refund for a UK trip is whether your holiday firm has cancelled your booking. If yours does, then in simple terms you're likely due a full refund – and if you don't get one, you should fight for it.
When the pandemic first hit, this wasn't always the case – we had 100s of complaints from holidaymakers who said they were only offered a new booking or voucher instead. However some of the big firms which initially refused to pay out, such as UK holiday providers Hoseasons and Sykes Cottages, have now backtracked and changed their coronavirus booking policies.
If you've booked a package holiday then under the Package Travel Regulations you are entitled to get all your money back within two weeks of any cancellation. But even if it's not a package, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says as a general rule firms MUST offer cash refunds for cancellations due to coronavirus. So if your holiday or accommodation booking is cancelled, you're likely due a full refund and should ask for one if it's not offered.
We've asked the Government if firms are obliged to proactively cancel bookings in areas where holidays are against the law, such as tier four in England – it hasn't yet given us a clear answer, but says it's in the process of updating guidance. In the meantime, check with your firm directly. Hoseasons, for example, says it'll give a full refund if you're unable to travel due to Government restrictions, while Airbnb says you can get a full refund so long as you cancel at least 24 hours ahead if your host has a flexible policy, or at least five days ahead if they have a moderate cancellation policy.
Do check the small print of your contract for any specific exclusions though, and you may also want to consider showing forbearance if you can – if you're offered a rebooking instead of a refund and are happy to take it, it helps at a time when the travel industry is struggling as never before.
1) Insist on a refund in writing. Firms will naturally want to push you to accept a voucher or rebook your holiday, as it avoids them having to cough up. So make it clear, in writing, that you expect a refund. Sadly, pushy customers tend to be more successful than those who just leave it, though be firm and polite rather than rude and aggressive. It's also worth quoting what the CMA has said in cases about refunds in this situation.
2) Try going to your card firm and asking it for a refund (ask for chargeback first, then try Section 75 if that doesn't work). Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it.
Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from, and you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. See our Section 75 and Chargeback guides for full info.
As MSE founder Martin Lewis explains though, try chargeback first. Here, Martin explains why: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing.
"If you claim under Section 75 though, then you are asking the credit card company itself to cover you, and while it may be legally obliged to do this, it is likely to be much more reticent to do it. So it's worth trying Section 75 only if chargeback fails. And with both, if you are rejected you have the right to go on to the free Financial Ombudsman, which can adjudicate."
There's no guarantee this will work, but some who've struggled to get other travel refunds, eg, for Ryanair flights, have had joy this way. Do be aware that even once you're paid the money with chargeback, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.
3) If you are prepared to play hardball, threaten court action. This is the route a very senior, and often litigious, lawyer told us he would take if it happened to him. This is about writing a formal note that you plan to file a county court claim if it doesn't pay a refund. Keep it short and sweet, with just the basic information about what's happened, and state a time (say, three weeks later) when you expect a response or you'll go ahead.
Think carefully about whether you want to do this and how hard to push. Consumer lawyer Dean Dunham previously drafted two template letters for Sykes Cottages customers, and we saw some report that they'd successfully used them to get a refund. Of course, these should no longer be necessary for Sykes Cottages customers as it's now committed to provide full refunds, but they could give you a sense of what this type of letter could look like if you want to write to another firm. (Some details will be specific to Sykes, so should be treated as inspiration rather than as direct templates.)
4) File a county court claim online. This is following up on your promise to go to court – and again, it's what our senior lawyer says they'd do, but of course everyone is different. Essentially, it will hopefully go through the small claims route – a low-hassle online process for simple cases where you can represent yourself – though it will take some time, and it does depend on how good you are at this type of thing. This can be objected to by the other side though, and be pushed up to a district court, where you may need legal representation.
There is a cost for doing this – it's £25 to £300, and it's refunded if you win. If you lose, there are no costs against you in the small claims court, but there may be if it goes up to a higher court (you'll know beforehand though and could drop the case then). See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.
Let us know how you get on at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the scrapped easing of travel restrictions over Christmas that was announced on 19 December 2020, many people will no longer be able to travel during Christmas. You can get refunds for train tickets valid in England, Scotland and Wales. For full info, see our Cheap Train Tickets guide. In Northern Ireland, it's not quite clear but we'll update the train tickets guide when we have more info.
Similar rules apply to pre-booked coach travel, but it's best to check with the provider for its exact policy. For full info, see coach refund help.
Holiday not cancelled? Your refund rights depend on what lockdown rules are in place at the time of your trip
Things are more complex if your holiday is running and your accommodation is open but you're unable to go due to lockdown restrictions either at your holiday destination or in your local area. The key to your rights here is the legal status of the restrictions which are stopping you travelling:
If travel's illegal under coronavirus rules, you're likely due a full refund
The good news is in this situation the CMA says you should expect a full refund. Its guidance states that consumers should get their money back if they're not provided with a service due to lockdown laws, or can't access what they paid for "because, for example, lockdown laws in the UK or abroad have made it illegal to receive or use the goods or service". This would apply both to not being able to leave their area or to get to an area where the accommodation is based - and it will apply in the majority of cases due to current lockdown restrictions across different areas of the UK.
It's important to note however that CMA guidance isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and this is a new scenario which hasn't been tested – so while you can direct your holiday accommodation provider to the guidance, complain to the CMA or even pursue legal action, there are no guarantees.
If travel's advised against but not illegal, your refund rights are less clear
If your trip is to or from a part of the UK where travel is advised against but not illegal, things could be more complicated.
Unfortunately, in this situation you may find it more difficult to get your money back if you decide not to travel. The CMA's guidance says if the restrictions which prevent a service being used aren't legal restrictions, it's not clear whether a consumer would be entitled to a full refund.
This doesn't mean you're definitely not entitled to a refund. The CMA says if a consumer would be at serious risk if they went ahead with a contract (such as a holiday booking) against Government guidance, the contract could be deemed to have been "frustrated" – in which case you could be owed a full refund. But it's much murkier – and again, you need to remember these are untested situations and ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies in different scenarios.
The best bet is to speak to your holiday or accommodation provider and ask what it'll offer. You may be able to cancel under your usual terms and conditions, or ask for more flexibility such as a date change. If you can't come to an agreement you're both happy with, you'll need to weigh up how hard to push for a refund. You can try the steps we outline above, but there are no guarantees and you may be less likely to have success if your trip isn't technically forbidden by law.
If you're still allowed to travel but decide not to go, you've no automatic right to a refund
If you are still permitted to go on your holiday under official restrictions and guidance, it's important to understand you don't have any automatic right to a refund if you choose not to go.
If your holiday's still on or the hotel's still open, your refund rights will simply depend on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you booked. Of course, these may still let you cancel for free or move your trip, and some firms are also offering extra flexibility to all their customers at the moment due to coronavirus, so it's still worth checking what your options are.
Travellers who've booked trips where multiple households are due to stay together have faced increasing restrictions in recent months. For example, in England the Government initially said a maximum of two households could go on holiday together, then introduced the "rule of six", which means if guests are from multiple households, only six can stay together in total. And of course now holidays are largely banned across much of the UK regardless of how many households were set to travel. See the following government websites for the full details: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Though this is a less pressing issue for many at the moment, given other travel restrictions, some may still be concerned about their rights for past planned holidays. If your holiday was to and from a permitted area, but would break the rules because the travellers are from multiple households, CMA guidance suggests you'd be owed a refund (though it's not completely clear-cut and there are no guarantees).
When we checked back in September, all the major UK firms we've spoken to said they would pay out – see more details in our Social gatherings of more than six banned – your refund rights MSE News story.
The long and the short of it is that if you've booked a holiday, or taken out travel insurance since March 2020, then you're almost certainly not covered if your holiday's cancelled due to coronavirus. This is because coronavirus became a "known event" and insurance is usually only there to protect from unexpected events.
So whether you need to cancel because you can't legally travel due to a local tier restriction or lockdown, or whether the Foreign Office has banned travel to your intended destination, the result is the same – you're very unlikely to be able to claim on your travel insurance.
However, there are still a couple of scenarios where your travel insurer may still offer some level of cover:
- You or a family member get coronavirus before you're due to go. Some policies still cover coronavirus medically, and will pay out if you (or a family member or travelling companion) catch coronavirus and therefore can't go on holiday.
- You booked both the holiday and the insurance before March 2020. If this is the case, your travel insurance should still cover you, as both were booked before the pandemic was deemed a known event. However, you will be expected to seek refunds from your airline or travel firm first.
If you do have insurance, it's really only the coronavirus cover that has changed. Normal reasons to cancel a holiday, such as bereavement, illness, accident or redundancy, for example, should still be covered as normal (provided you're legally allowed to travel to your chosen destination).
If you're not sure what you're covered for, read your policy and ask your insurer. It should be able to advise you if you have a claim or not. If you're convinced you do, but it's turned down your claim or not treated you fairly, we've help in the questions below about what you can do.
Need travel insurance for an upcoming trip?
In the short term, travelling anywhere from the UK will be very difficult. But if you're booking trips for the future, see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
All our current top picks cover you if you catch coronavirus on holiday and need medical help, and many cover cancellation if you can't go because you catch it in the days before your trip. We also have a few picks which let you add cover to travel against Foreign Office advice.
Quick travel insurance questions
Under the NHS's Test and Trace system and the Covid-19 app, you may be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 10 days.
If you are told to do this, you'll be asked not to leave your home for any reason, and so, if you had travel booked during this period, you wouldn't be able to go.
In that case, if you have a travel insurance policy that doesn't exclude coronavirus as a medical condition (this will be the case with most policies taken out before mid-March, but double-check), then the Association of British Insurers says it expects insurers to pay out to cover the trip.
But it adds that you may risk invalidating your policy cover if you travel despite being advised to self-isolate, because your policy may insist that you abide by Government advice.
However, if you bought the policy more recently, then it's unlikely to pay out as self-isolation would be deemed to be related to coronavirus, and – as we say above – very few policies cover it.
You may be, but only if your trip(s) were booked before March. If they were, it may be worth renewing your existing policy for the continuation of cover – though check first if your travel insurer will cover this scenario.
However, city watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed to us that if you had an annual policy before mid-March and renew with the same insurer after that, you SHOULD still be covered for coronavirus issues (as long as you were covered before you renew). All the insurers we've spoken to – including all those listed in the table below – have confirmed this. So if you're rejected, go to the Financial Ombudsman and argue the firm isn't following "standard industry practice".
If you've now no future trips left that were planned before March 2020, then there's no gain from renewing your travel insurance.
Major travel insurers, including Axa, Churchill and Direct Line, are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who've ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you'll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you're certain you no longer need the cover.
Importantly, you can only do this if you haven't already made a claim on your policy. Only consider doing this if you don't have any travel still booked and if you've sorted a refund for any trips that have been cancelled, as once you've cancelled your travel insurance, it obviously won't give you any further protection.
And if you think you might want to book a trip in the near future, consider carefully if it's worth keeping your policy anyway – getting new travel insurance can be tricky at the moment, with some providers no longer taking on new customers.
If you booked your insurance within the last 14 days, then as usual you've the right to cancel the policy under 'cooling off' rules – though firms can charge an administration fee. For other policies, your chances of getting a refund depend on the insurer and whether your cover is annual or single trip.
To give you an idea of what insurers are doing, here's what some of the big firms told us back in April – though their policies may have changed since then, so it's worth checking directly (unless otherwise stated, the info for each insurer in the table below applies to all its policies):
Insurer Annual policies – can I get a refund?
Single-trip policies – can I get a refund or change the dates? Admiral Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, pro-rata refund for cover not used (calculated by days left on the cover) or can amend travel dates up to 365 days from date policy first bought Allianz Assistance No Yes, full refund or can amend travel dates Aviva No Yes, pro-rata refund for cover not used (based on length of policy still to run) Axa Direct Yes if bought before 13 March 2020 – pro-rata refund for total number of days left on the policy if it hasn't been used. No if bought on or after 13 March 2020 Yes if bought before 13 March 2020 – can get up to 65% refunded or amend travel dates if the policy hasn't been used. No if bought on or after 13 March 2020 Churchill Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, can amend travel dates – can cover a trip up to 550 days from date policy first bought Co-op Yes, pro-rata refund based on date policy taken out and also other factors, eg, whether the policy has been travelled on Possibly – you "may" be entitled to a partial refund Direct Line Yes, pro-rata refund for total number of days left on policy Yes, can amend travel dates – can cover a trip up to 550 days from date policy first bought LV Waiting to hear back Possibly – you can get a refund "in most cases" (we've asked for this to be clarified)
More Than No Yes, can get a full refund or amend travel dates to any date up to a year in the future Saga Possibly, on a "case-by-case basis" Possibly, on a "case-by-case basis" Table last updated 27 April 2020.
If you are one of the many who had to postpone your 2020 holiday and rearrange it for 2021, you might find that you can still use your current travel insurance policy. To move the insurance dates, or extend your annual travel insurance policy, you will need get in touch with your insurer. But in short:
- If you have a single trip policy, you may still be covered if you take the holiday within a year of the original travel date. For single-trip policies, the rearranged holiday would need to be within 365 days of the original departure date to do this.
- Got an annual policy? You might be able to extend it by up to three months. There is some flexibility for annual travel insurance policies, with many insurers giving the option to suspend the policy for three months, or get an extra three months of cover. For example, if you moved your holiday to February next year, and your travel insurance policy ends December 2020, you might be able to extend it to March next year.
- It won't cost you anything as long as your holiday is like-for-like, just at a different date. If your rearranged holiday is to a new destination seen as 'riskier', or for a longer trip, it is likely you will be asked to pay extra, eg, if you decide to swap your week in Spain for 10 days in South Africa.
- Your cover stays the same except for the coronavirus cover. While your original travel insurance policy might have included cancellation cover if the Foreign Office advice was not to travel due to coronavirus, it is likely you will lose this cover for any extension period of an annual policy or a rearranged single-trip policy. But you should still be covered if you need to cancel because you or a family member is diagnosed with coronavirus before you go (many give this, but not all). Plus when you are on holiday, you will still have medical cover, including repatriation, if you need medical help abroad due to coronavirus.
Everything else will stay the same – so, for instance, if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel, your usual cover will remain in place.
- You can ONLY move your policy if it's due to Foreign Office advice or travel disruptions (eg, local lockdown). If your holiday has been rearranged because you no longer want to go this year, it may not be possible to change the insurance dates (as it will be viewed as disinclination to travel), but it is always worth asking.
- If you can't extend it, you might be able to get a refund instead. Many travel insurers are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who've ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you'll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you're certain you no longer need the cover. Importantly, you can only do this if you haven't already made a claim on your policy. For more, see our Can I get a refund? section.
Here is a table showing what some insurers will let you do if you need to move your holiday because your original holiday has been cancelled. If your insurer is not listed, and you have feedback to share, let us know.
Which insurers will let you change your policy to your new travel dates?
Single-trip policy Annual-trip policy AllClear Yes Yes (1) Axa Yes No Churchill Yes No Cover4You Yes Yes (2) Coverwise Yes No Direct Line Yes No Insurefor.com Yes Yes Leisure Guard (3) Yes Yes LV Yes No Saga
Yes Yes Trailfinders Yes Yes
(1) If purchased from 1 Jan - 14 Jul 2020, a three-month extension is added. The extension will also apply for renewing customers up until 10 Aug 2020.
(2) Three-month extension request ends 31 Jul 2020.
(3) Applicable to Leisure Guard policies purchased before 18 Jun 2020.
- If you have a single trip policy, you may still be covered if you take the holiday within a year of the original travel date. For single-trip policies, the rearranged holiday would need to be within 365 days of the original departure date to do this.
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 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, tell the ombudsman.
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