After months of closures and cancellations, holidays abroad are within reach.
This week, holiday firms were bombarded with bookings from sunseeking Britons after the Government revealed it would open ‘air bridges’ to countries where the virus was contained.
But those who go abroad this summer may find they cannot get travel insurance for cancellations linked to coronavirus, or must pay more than three times the price for it.
Holiday firms are being bombarded with bookings from sunseeking Britons after the Government revealed it would open ‘air bridges’ to countries where the virus was contained
Here, Money Mail tells you all you need to know to protect yourself and your money abroad, and save your summer holiday…
Green means go
A new traffic-light system, expected to be unveiled this week, will list countries as green, amber or red, depending on their coronavirus risk level.
Holidaymakers can visit green or amber countries — likely to include Spain, Italy and France — without needing to quarantine for 14 days when they return.
There has been a rush to book last-minute trips as travel firms slash costs by up to 60 per cent.
Travel companies lost billions of pounds to the pandemic and are offering record low prices for this time of year to recoup bookings.
Trips to popular destinations such as Spain have been offered for as little as £200 per person, when typically they cost at least £100 more.
Beware of high insurance costs
Be warned, though. Travel rules could still change at any time — leaving your holiday plans in ruins.
The travel insurance industry came under fire during lockdown for pulling cover and refusing to pay claims for anything related to coronavirus after it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Travel companies lost billions of pounds to the pandemic and are offering record low prices
And there is still a risk you could miss out if you book a holiday now.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against non-essential overseas travel on March 17 and has still not changed this guidance.
As it stands, no insurer will pay out for a cancelled holiday if you book now and the advice doesn’t change.
You are also unlikely to be covered if you book a trip now, then cannot travel because you catch coronavirus or have to self-isolate. Only a handful of insurers have changed their policy wording to cover such scenarios.
But you can expect to pay more for the full cover. A policy from Trailfinders, which includes cover for coronavirus, would cost a couple in their 70s £138 for a week in Spain, whereas the cheapest standard policy found via GoCompare is £40.71 from Explorer Travel Insurance.
However, it will not pay out if you have to cancel your trip because you catch Covid 19.
Brian Brown, of finance data firm Defaqto, says: ‘At present you should only book travel and accommodation that is cancellable with a full refund before your date of travel.
‘If you are determined to go abroad this summer, I suggest you identify exactly when and where you want to go and be ready to book it once the Government changes its advice against non-essential travel.
‘You should also be prepared to buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, and make sure the insurer will cover you for both cancellation and medical treatment arising from Covid-19.’
A few insurers have recently changed their policy wording to cover cancellations if you catch coronavirus or are told to self-isolate, including Trailfinders, Cedar Tree, Cover For You and Outbacker.
Trailfinders says it will now provide Covid-19 cover for cancellation prior to travel (including quarantine if exposed to the virus), for curtailment of a trip, overseas medical expenses and extra accommodation costs if a doctor orders you to quarantine while you’re on holiday.
The Post Office, Saga and Staysure will cover medical claims if you become ill with coronavirus abroad but not cancellations.
Holidaymakers can visit green or amber countries — likely to include Spain, Italy and France — without needing to quarantine for 14 days when they return
What can you do after arriving?
Tight coronavirus rules could also severely restrict what you can get up to on holiday.
Travel expert Frank Brehany says: ‘Cheap holidays really shouldn’t be the motivator to book — you need to examine what limitations will be present when you arrive at your destination.
‘Will you be able to go freely to the beach, mix with people, use the swimming pool without limits? Will there be limitations on movement in the resort or hotel?’
And he warns: ‘Holidaymakers should be alert to the fact that if a fresh outbreak of Covid occurs, they will be subject to local lockdown conditions, and this will not only affect their holiday but could trap them in their resort until that lockdown is eased.’
Currently, those travelling to Spain are not required to self-isolate when they get there but will be subjected to health checks.
Face masks are obligatory on public transport and in public spaces where it is not possible to keep 1.5 metres away from others.
UK arrivals to France are asked to self-isolate voluntarily for 14 days but those entering Italy will not have to quarantine unless they have been outside the UK in the 14 days before they arrive.
The Greek government has decided to extend a ban on direct flights arriving from Britain, pushing it back to July 15. More countries could follow suit. You can search the Government’s website to find out the rules of the destination you plan to travel to: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Trips could be scrapped
Tips to boost your cover…
- If you are going to Europe, check your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is up to date, to get medical care at the same cost as locals. Apply free at ehic.org.uk/Internet/ startApplication.do
- If you renewed an annual travel insurance policy before March, you should still be covered for Covid-related claims.
- Always declare any medical conditions you have, or a claim could be dismissed.
- Some premium bank accounts come with travel insurance, so you may already be covered against coronavirus. Nationwide offers cover with its FlexPlus and FlexAccount. If you hold these accounts and booked a trip before March 18, you may be covered for coronavirus-related claims.
Even as air bridges open up, hopeful holidaymakers could still be in for a disappointment.
Travel giant TUI has already cancelled 96 per cent of its planned flights between July 11 and 24. In August, fewer than half of short-haul and mid-haul journeys are due to go ahead.
EasyJet plans to fly just half of its 1,022 routes in July and three quarters of flights in August.
Mr Brehany says: ‘Talk of air bridges is offering a false sense of security to people booking holidays because conditions may change and that could introduce holidaymakers to a new round of cancellations.’
Booking a package holiday – which could include flights and accommodation bought at the same time – can give you added protection.
You will be entitled to a refund or to be brought home if necessary should the travel company organising your package go out of business.
Your holiday should also be refunded within 14 days under the Package Holiday Regulations.
But thousands of people are still waiting for their money back for holidays already lost to the pandemic amid a backlog that is causing months of delays.
Airlines have also been accused of fobbing people off with vouchers or rebookings when it is within those passengers’ rights to request a full refund. Those who accept the voucher may not be able to claim a refund later if the airline collapses.
If you choose the rebooking option and later decide you do not want to travel, you may not be able to ask for your money back.
Travellers are also being kept in the dark as to whether they will receive refunds for hotel bookings this summer.
Is it better to stay in the UK?
English hotels, hostels, B&Bs, holiday cottages, campsites and caravan parks have been given the go-ahead to reopen from Saturday.
Outdoor attractions such as national parks and beaches are also open to visitors, with museums and galleries opening soon.
In Scotland, tourist hotspots including pubs, hotels and restaurants could open from Monday, July 15 provided safety measures are in place.
However, English visitors may have to quarantine for 14 days if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
You may be able to holiday in Wales from Saturday, July 13, when hotels and other accommodation could open, but a decision is not expected until a review of the rules next week.
Northern Ireland has permitted holiday accommodation such as apartments, cottages, caravan parks and campsites to open since June 26.
Hotels can reopen from Friday and hotel spas from Monday.
Visitor attractions can also admit the public from Friday provided social distancing measures are in place.
Airlines have also been accused of fobbing people off with vouchers or rebookings when it is within those passengers’ rights to request a full refund
Travel insurance may cover some parts of your UK holiday, but again there are gaps.
One policy in 12 does not include cancellation as standard and only 6 per cent offer it as an optional add-on, according to Defaqto. You might also be covered under your home insurance policy.
Defaqto says UK holidays are typically covered only if you pre-book your accommodation for two nights or more.
You may also have to be a certain distance from home: LV= will pay out only if you are 25 miles from home or have gone over a sea.
Watch out for bogus bargains
Holidaymakers desperate to get away should beware of scams, including fake websites offering cheap holidays.
Criminals are setting up fake sites offering low-cost travel deals that are designed to steal your money and personal information.
As of May 28 last year, banks must refund customers who are tricked into transferring money to fraudsters if they meet the requirements of a new code.
However, they can refuse if they believe victims have not done enough to protect themselves.
So where possible, pay on a credit card when goods cost £100 or more. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act protects buyers in the case of non-delivery or if goods are faulty.
Be wary of emails, calls and social media posts that come out of the blue offering refunds for cancelled flights, even if they look legitimate. Do not click on links in attachments if you are not sure the sender is genuine.
If in doubt, check that the email address of the sender corresponds with what you have on file if you are waiting for a refund. Contact the company directly using information on its website.
Those planning a summer holiday in Britain should also be aware of bogus caravan and motorhome listings on eBay and other auction websites.
Fraudsters have been citing lockdown as the reason they cannot allow buyers to check over caravans and motorhomes in person before paying.
They will also try to get you to communicate away from the website to avoid detection, and request that you pay by bank transfer.
Ebay’s Money Back Guarantee, which promises a refund for items that do not arrive, does not cover vehicles.
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