Coronavirus: Holidays and travel guide

The UK Government has tightened its rules against travelling abroad in light of increased COVID-19 infection rates. Here’s what you need to know.

Share this guide
Man and woman looking around an empty beach wearing a facemask

As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

Government rules introduced to head off a further increase in coronavirus infection rates have outlawed travelling abroad for holidays. On top of this, many countries are currently preventing UK residents from visiting.

In addition, the government suspended its ‘travel corridors’ regime designed to allow travel between countries with lower infection risks on 18 January.

The current holiday situation for travellers

Where can you travel?

While leisure trips and other non-essential travel abroad is currently banned, there are certain circumstances where travel is allowed. These include where this is needed for certain jobs

Even if you are legally allowed to travel abroad, the government has published advice on what to expect at your destination on the GOV.UK site.

Even if you do travel you’ll need to remember that given the fast-changing nature of the global pandemic, no travel is completely risk-free, and disruption to trips is still possible.

What help is there if you’re abroad right now?

The UK has said that its travel advice is under “constant review” and may change at short notice. 

If you are abroad when travel advice changes to prevent travel between the UK and the country you’re visiting, the government advises you not to return straight away.

Instead, you should follow local advice on any measures the country’s authorities are taking locally to control the virus before you return to the UK.

The Foreign Office says that if you decide to shorten your stay abroad because of a change in travel advice you should do the following: 

  1. Contact your airline or travel company to discuss your options

  2. Check if you need to self-isolate on your return

  3. Provide your journey and contact details before you travel via the government’s online passenger locator form

If you needed a visa to travel to the country you’re in, you should check it. The government has advice on what you may need to do about your visa, depending on the country you’re visiting. You can read the government’s full official coronavirus advice if you’re stuck abroad.

You may also want to think about getting in touch with your travel insurance provider to check your health cover. Most providers should be able to extend a single trip cover policy for up to 60 days. 

Find out more about how travel insurance works

If your flight or hotel booking has been cancelled

If your trip was supposed to take place soon, it’s very possible that it’s already been cancelled. Your first step should be to contact your transport and accommodation providers directly.

Some airlines are trying to get their customers to take vouchers for future flights instead of refunding cancelled flights, but you do not have to accept this. 

Travel firms should refund you if they have cancelled your trip. 

EU flight delay rules (which still apply in the UK) cover flights between the UK and an EU country booked with a UK or EU-based airline. They allow you to choose between a refund for any cancelled flights or rebooking on to a different flight.

There have been reports of people struggling to get refunds, with some companies using sneaky tactics to get passengers to accept vouchers instead.  

Can you get help from your travel insurance?

If you bought a travel insurance policy, you may be able to get a refund for your trip costs. But this will depend on a few things. 

When did you buy your policy? 

If you bought your policy before the Foreign Office officially advised against travel to your planned destination, and the advice is still in place when you’re due to travel, you may be covered for cancellations. 

Most travel insurance policies should let you claim if you want to cancel a trip if you bought the holiday and the insurance policy before the government travel warnings were issued.

But this is not a hard and fast rule. You’ll need to check your policy document and speak to your insurer if it’s not clear what your policy says about this.

Since the government issued advice on foreign travel, insurers have mostly stopped offering new policies that cover you against coronavirus-related disruption.

If your planned trip is much later in the year and has not yet been cancelled by your travel and accommodation providers, it’s a little bit trickier to get your money back now.

Even though the government’s no-travel advice is ‘indefinite’ (i.e. it doesn’t yet have an end date), it’s possible that the advice could be lifted before you’re set to travel.

In practice this means that it is easier for holiday firms and insurers to refuse any refund requests. Again, check with your insurer and the firms you used to book your trip.

If you feel your travel insurer has unfairly turned down a claim

During large-scale global events like COVID-19, there is no guarantee that insurance companies will pay out against related claims. 

In fact, some insurers may even mention in their policy agreements that these types of events, sometimes referred to as ‘Force Majeure’ situations, are not covered. 

But if you feel that your policy does cover you, and your insurer has refused to pay out, there are some things you can do.

Insurers have to obey financial rules to treat customers ‘fairly’. So if you think you’ve been refused a claim unfairly you can make a formal complaint.

Contact your insurer directly and to discuss with them why you feel their decision is unfair. If you hear nothing back from your insurer or they do get back to you but still refuse your claim, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman.

The Financial Ombudsman is free, independent and can force businesses into action and to compensate anyone who has lost out.

You need to give the company you’re complaining about 8 weeks to resolve your issue before the Ombudsman will investigate it. 

Find out more about how to make a complaint about your insurance company.