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France back on the UK's travel exclusion list – your rights on refunds, insurance, quarantine pay and more

France back on the UK's travel exclusion list – your rights on refunds, insurance, quarantine pay and more

Holidaymakers who return from France are now forced to quarantine for 14 days and the Foreign Office is now advising against all non-essential travel there due to coronavirus, in a move which will throw 100,000s of Brits' holiday plans into confusion. The same restrictions are also being put in place for the Netherlands, Malta, Monaco, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba.

The Government announced late on the evening of Thursday 13 August that the new quarantine requirements will apply to those arriving in the UK from 4am on Saturday 15 August. It comes after a steep rise in new coronavirus cases in France during the past week and, with Spain already on the quarantine list, means holidaymakers returning to the UK from the two most popular overseas destinations will soon be subject to self-isolation. An estimated 160,000 British travellers are currently in France, and many more have trips booked.

Here's what's happening:

  • As of Saturday 15 August, travellers arriving from France (including Corsica), the Netherlands, Malta, Monaco, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba must quarantine for two weeks. This includes returning British holidaymakers. Those arriving from other overseas French territories, such as Guadeloupe, aren't affected.

    You'll need to quarantine if you've either visited one of the affected countries, or made a "transit stop" there (where you can get on or off a coach, plane or ferry). We've more on how quarantine works below.

  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now warning against all non-essential travel to all six destinations. An FCO warning is often a key trigger for travel insurance – for example, it means if you decide to travel anyway, your insurance is unlikely to cover you.

  • Brits AREN'T being told to come home early. The FCO is NOT advising UK travellers already in France or any of the other destinations to cut short their trip and return early at this stage.

A joint statement from the Department for Transport and Foreign and Commonwealth Office said cases of coronavirus had increased sharply in all the affected countries, and added: "The Government has made consistently clear it will take decisive action if necessary to contain the virus, including removing countries from the travel corridors list rapidly if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high."

For full help if you're in or have travel planned to any of the affected countries, see your rights when travel restrictions are reimposed. We've specific help for travellers to France below.

I'm in France at the moment – what do I need to do?

If you're already travelling in France, then the Foreign Office says it isn't necessary to come home immediately. But when you arrive back in the UK, you will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

Don't worry about your travel insurance – when similar restrictions were brought in for Spain, the Association of British Insurers told us that in this sort of situation travel insurance is likely to continue to cover you until you return home, even if FCO advice has changed while you're away.

Given the Government is not advising people to cut short their visit, it is unlikely that your travel insurance will cover you if you choose to arrange new travel to come home early – though if you really want to do this, try speaking to your insurer, explaining your circumstances and why you need to go home early, and see if it'll help you on a case-by-case basis.

I booked a trip but it's been cancelled – what are my rights?

The good news is if you booked a flight or package holiday to France and it's been cancelled by a travel firm, it has to refund you in full by law:

  • Under the Package Travel Regulations if a package holiday's cancelled, you're due a full refund within 14 days. Though right now, it's often taking longer and getting a full refund during the pandemic has not always proved easy (for more help, see cancelled package holiday refunds).

  • If you have a flight and it's cancelled, then under EU flight delay rules you're due a full refund within seven days. Though again, right now there are delays to refunds and some have struggled to get them (for more help, see cancelled flight refunds).

Hotel stays booked directly are unlikely to be cancelled. If they are, there's no specific regulation governing these like there is with package travel and flights. You'd likely be owed a refund, but it would depend on local law.

I booked a trip and it's NOT been cancelled – what are my rights?

Here the answer depends on what kind of trip you have booked:

  • With package holidays, under the Package Travel Regulations you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days even if the trip's not been cancelled.

    The rules state if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur which "significantly affect the performance of the package", you're due a full refund if YOU cancel. And while they don't specifically state that an FCO warning would count as one of these circumstances – though they do give as an example "the outbreak of a serious disease at the travel destination" – in practice travel trade body ABTA says firms MUST refund you if the FCO warns against travel and you can't be given a holiday without "significant change".

    So you should be able to get a full refund, but always check first with the firm before you cancel, as we're hearing that some firms are refusing to refund customers. For example, when travel restrictions were reintroduced for Spain, the firm On the Beach told customers that if the flight part of a package wasn't cancelled by the airline, it wouldn't refund that portion of the booking. If this happens to you and the firm is an ABTA member, you can report it here.

  • With other bookings (eg, flights), unfortunately these rules don't apply. If your flight hasn't been cancelled and is still running, then unfortunately you won't be owed a refund, even though the Foreign Office is warning against non-essential travel.

    In this situation you MAY be able to claim on travel insurance, but it'll depend on your policy, when you bought it and when you booked. 

    Failing that, it's worth checking what your firm will offer you, as you may be able to rebook or get a credit note. See more on what some firms are offering below.

Which travel firms are cancelling trips – and what flexibility are they offering if not? 

Here's a brief rundown of what some major firms have told us they're doing:

  • Most flights, ferries and trains ARE still running. The airlines, ferry companies and train firms we've checked with appear not to be cancelling trips – but if you can no longer travel, some are offering flexibility on bookings:

What flexibility are airlines, ferries and train companies offering?

Firm What's it doing?
British Airways Still operating flights. If you don't want to fly, you can get a voucher for the value of your booking (this applies to flights departing until 30 Sep 2020 if you booked before 3 Mar 2020, or until 31 Aug 2021 if booked since)
Brittany Ferries Sailings still going ahead. If you don't want to travel, Brittany Ferries says it's not obliged to let you amend the booking date but it may do so if you ask – no guarantees. If you cancel, your ticket's cancellation terms WILL apply
DFDS Sailings still going ahead. If you don't want to travel you can rebook for free up to seven days before you're due to travel (this applies to existing bookings up to 31 Dec 2020 – can amend dates to any time up till 31 Dec 2021), but only if you booked direct via website/call centre. Trips booked through third parties are subject to their own terms
Easyjet Still operating flights. If you don't want to fly, you can transfer any booked flights with no change fee up to 14 days before you travel, or get a voucher for the value of the booking
Eurostar Still running trains. If booked to travel up to 7 Sep 2020, you can cancel and get a voucher for value of your booking
Eurotunnel Still running trains. If you have a ticket which allows cancellations, such a Standard Refundable, Frequent Traveller or Flexiplus ticket, you can cancel and get a refund. With non-refundable tickets, you can amend your ticket online without fees. We're checking how far ahead this applies and will update when we hear back
Jet2 Waiting to hear back
Ryanair Still operating flights. If you don't want to fly, there's no flight change fee for bookings made after 10 Jun 2020 for Jul/Aug flights, and after 16 Jul 2020 for Sep flights, so long as seven days' notice is given
  • Many package holidays are being cancelled – and full refunds offered. France is less of a package-holiday destination than, say, Spain, but here is what some of the big firms have told us:

What flexibility are package holiday firms offering?

Firm What's it doing?
Brittany Ferries Sailing still going ahead and it's told us 'sail-and-stay' customers AREN'T entitled to an automatic refund – we're asking for details and what flexibility it's offering, and will update when we hear back
Easyjet All package holidays up until the end of Aug cancelled
Hays Travel Many package holidays cancelled – it told us how far ahead depends on partner operators/airlines, but we've asked for more detail
On the Beach Not cancelling all hols – if you don't want to travel, you can cancel and get a refund on bookings due to start in the next 7-10 days, though this policy is reviewed daily. However, if your package's flight is still operating, you'll only get a PARTIAL refund for the non-flight part of your holiday – see more help on this above
Saga Yet to resume any holidays
Teletext Holidays Cancelling holidays up to a week in advance and contacting those customers to offer free amendment, or a credit note which can be swapped for a full refund at a later date (time frame varies).

It's also worth noting:

  • Direct hotel bookings are unlikely to be cancelled. If you have a hotel stay booked that's not part of a package, it's unlikely to be cancelled. So the hotel won't be obliged to refund you, but it may still be worth contacting it to see if it'll let you move your booking.

  • Many car hire firms allow free cancellation. Many car hire firms allow you to cancel your booking free of charge. With Goldcar for example, there are no cancellation costs 24 hours before the collection of the vehicle, while with Europcar, customers can cancel reservations free of charge up to 48 hours before the check-out start date and time. However, with others it's different. For example, Hertz charges fees for changes or cancellations made more than two days after booking.

I've a trip to France booked but it's a way off – what should I do?

If you've a trip to France booked but it's not leaving in the next few weeks, then you may be best off waiting to see what happens.

Don't cancel your trip yourself. That means you have no rights to a refund in most cases. It is far better for the airline or travel firm to cancel the trip – then you have more rights. As this is a fast-moving situation, it's possible that the FCO guidance and quarantine rules could change again, in which case your trip could be back on.

However, it's worth checking now exactly what your rights would be if the worst were to happen. In particular, if you're asked to make further payments towards a future holiday, weigh up carefully what the risks are and whether it's worth doing so. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more help.

We're checking what the big travel firms are doing with trips booked further ahead and will update this story when we hear back. 

I want to travel to France despite the restrictions – can I?

Theoretically, yes. But be extremely wary of doing so. Not only is there the heightened risk of catching coronavirus, but most travel insurance policies won't cover you if you go on a trip to a destination the FCO is advising against non-essential travel to, meaning you won't be covered if you do go, even if it's unrelated to coronavirus.

And a French minister has said that France expects to impose its own reciprocal quarantine on UK travellers arriving in France, meaning you'd need to self-isolate during your holiday as well as when you get back – though an official announcement hasn't yet been made.

For more info, including what precautions you should take if you're determined to travel anyway, and how to find specialist travel insurance which may cover you, see can I still travel despite restrictions?

What are the rules on quarantining on return from France?

If you arrive in England from France, you will not be allowed to leave the place where you're staying for the first 14 days, and if you do not self-isolate, you can be fined £1,000 (the rules are similar but with slightly different specifics in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

You should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential care, and you cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas. You should not go shopping and you must only exercise within your home or garden.

Those you share a home with will not have to self-isolate unless they travelled with you, but the Government says you should avoid contact with them as much as possible.

Do I have to quarantine if I'm only driving through France?

Several MoneySavers have asked whether you'd need to self-isolate if you drive through France when returning from another country, such as Italy or Germany, but don't stay there.

The Government says you don't need to self-isolate if you don't stop in France, or if you stop but no new people get into the vehicle and no one in the vehicle gets out, mixes with others, then gets in the vehicle again.

However, if you do make any other kind of stop – for example, if you refuel and go into a service station – you will be subject to quarantine requirements. See more details on the Gov.uk website.

What are my rights with work if I have to quarantine after coming back from France – will I still get paid if I can't go in?

For many, being required to self-isolate for two weeks on return to the UK will be a huge issue – and unfortunately, when it comes to getting paid if you're unable to go to work, your rights in this situation are not clear-cut.

The official line from the Government is that you aren't entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you have to quarantine after returning to the UK. So you may have to rely on the goodwill of your employer if you cannot work while quarantining.

Speak to your employer as soon as you can to work out what's possible. If you can work from home, that may be one solution – alternatively, you may be able to take extra holiday, or some employers may agree to pay you sick pay. For more help, see quarantine pay rights.

Sadly, you're unlikely to be covered for any loss of earnings through your travel insurance – the Association of British Insurers says this isn't something travel insurance is designed to cover.