Foreign Office extends warning against all non-essential travel 'indefinitely' – what it means for you
The Foreign Office has extended its advisory against non-essential travel anywhere outside the UK indefinitely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday 17 March, the Government department warned UK nationals against all non-essential travel worldwide for 30 days. This warning was due to expire at the end of next week – but on Saturday, the Government issued a statement saying that "the Foreign Office indefinitely advises against all non-essential global travel".
As well as being a useful safety guide, Foreign Office warnings are key because they often determine whether or not your travel insurance will pay out if you have to cancel a holiday booked before the warning came into place.
The Foreign Office has already issued a blanket warning to all British tourists and short-stay travellers around the globe, urging them to return to the UK as soon as possible.
For full help with travel insurance, holiday refunds and more, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.
I've a holiday booked – can I get my money back?
A Foreign Office warning is often the trigger for your travel insurance covering cancellation, but whether or not you'll be able to get your money back depends on your individual situation.
If you've got a holiday booked in the next couple of weeks, there's a good chance it's already been cancelled. Your first move should be to speak to your travel firm to see what your options are – package holidays, for instance, should be fully refunded, and you should also be able to get a full refund on most flights (though we've seen some airlines try and persuade customers to take vouchers instead). See more on this in What if my flight or holiday is cancelled?
If your holiday's not been cancelled, then you can go to your travel insurance. Most (though not all) travel insurance policies will allow you to claim for cancellation if you booked the holiday and insurance before the Foreign Office issued a no-travel warning and before coronavirus became a 'known event', though you'll need to check (use our table for guidance).
Where it gets more complicated is with holidays booked further in the future – for instance, if you've a trip planned in the summer. While the Foreign Office warning now applies 'indefinitely', it's possible that it could be lifted before you're due to travel – so you may have to wait until much nearer the time to find out if you can get a refund for your holiday or claim on your insurance.
Technically, you may have to wait to see if the Foreign Office's advisory is still in place on the day you travel to be able to claim on your insurance, though many insurers will pay out if a warning's in place seven days before your trip, and some even earlier.
Check what your insurer's policy is, and also keep a close eye on what your holiday firm's doing. It's possible the extended Foreign Office warning may persuade holiday companies to start offering refunds further ahead, though there are no guarantees. For example, on Monday morning package holiday provider Tui was still only offering refunds for package holidays to those due to travel up until Thursday 16 April (because these holidays have been cancelled) – those due to travel between Friday 17 April and 29 June 2020 could amend their holiday, while it said trips from 30 June 2020 onwards are currently still set to go ahead as planned.
I have travel booked – can I still go?
The Foreign Office is advising Brits against all non-essential travel worldwide due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. It says that all countries may restrict travel without notice, so you should avoid travelling if you can.
This doesn't mean you need to cancel trips booked in the future though, as it's not clear when the advisory will be lifted, and you may well be able to go.
If you absolutely have to travel while the advisory is in place, you may still be able to but will need to carefully consider all the risks and also check the entry restrictions of the country you're travelling to – in some cases, British visitors have been barred altogether.
See the Government's guidance on international travel for more help, and also bear in mind your travel insurance may be voided if you travel while an advisory's in place, so check with your insurer.