Travel insurance: the Covid cover checklist

5 min read
May 26, 2021

With all the uncertainty surrounding travel at the moment, heightened by the recent ‘traffic light system’ for overseas destinations, you need to know what you are and are not covered for.

Travel insurance is basically an essential. If something goes wrong the costs can run into the thousands if you don’t have the cover, when in reality, the cost of getting travel insurance if you are planning to go away is not far off a night out. 

However, policies these days vary significantly over what’s covered in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and while some offer that familiar term ‘Covid cover’, the finer detail can differ from policy to policy.

Here’s Resolver’s checklist of things to look for in your existing or potential new travel insurance policy so you can be sure you’re covered for what you need. Unfortunately, one or two conditions are almost certainly not covered across any policy so bear this in mind.

If you catch Covid-19 overseas

This is covered in a number of travel insurance policies, including if you need emergency medical treatment or you are unable to travel back to the UK as planned. Some may also cover you if you test positive on arrival and therefore have to quarantine.

If you or one of your party catches the virus before you travel 

It’s possible that you will be covered for being unable to travel if you, or someone you are travelling with, catches Covid-19 before you go. Check with your insurer before you take out the policy. Some will impose a time limit – for example, if you test positive within 14 days before you travel (but not if you take out a policy having tested positive). 

You may also be covered if you don’t test positive for Covid-19 yourself but have been told by NHS Test and Trace that you have to self isolate because you may have come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

If you have to return home early due to the death of a close relative from Covid-19

More insurance policies are now offering cover if a close family member dies of Covid-19 complications while you are abroad and you wish to cut your trip short as a result.

If you simply don’t want to travel

If you decide not to travel because you are concerned about health and safety (but don’t have underlying health conditions or have already declared them), it’s unlikely your insurer will cover you. In this instance you need to contact your airline or travel operator to ask to either get a refund or move the holiday date. This is currently causing many problems with the latest advice over those countries particularly on the amber list. 

If your holiday is cancelled

If your airline or travel operator cancels your holiday but is not refunding you, then your travel insurer will not be likely to cover you unless you can demonstrate you have tried all other possible routes to get your money back (even then, cancelled trips may be excluded). 

If you’re getting no joy from your travel company, then contact your debit or credit card provider (only if you paid using either of these) to try and claim using ‘chargeback’ or by applying Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. 

Section 75 means you can claim for the cost of the trip through your card provider as it is jointly liable – but this only applies if your trip cost more than £100.

If your destination country changes from ‘green’ to ‘amber’ or ‘red’ before you are due to travel

You may be covered if your destination country moves on the traffic light system before you are due to travel. It may be that there will be a time limit – for example, the change happens within 14 days of your departure date. 

If you’re travelling against government advice

If you travel to countries that the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) is advising against, then you will almost certainly not be covered by the benefits of your travel insurance should you need it. The traffic light system – particularly for those countries designated ‘amber’ – has made this all the more confusing, with it technically not being illegal to travel to these destinations despite basically being told you shouldn’t be going. 

If you can prove you’re travelling for ‘essential reasons’ (so  not a holiday) then you may be granted cover but it’s not that likely. Contact your insurer directly for advice. This will differ from insurer to insurer so check carefully and make sure you have (in writing) confirmation that your destination is covered despite being an amber list country. 

You will also need to consider timings – if you took out travel insurance before the traffic light system was in place, your protection may differ compared if you are only considering buying insurance now. A small number of insurers are not enforcing this exclusion if your insurance was bought before the latest announcements took place. 

If you’re blocked from entering your destination 

The government’s entry requirements to the UK apply to the UK only and even then they may differ between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 

Each country will have its own requirements and some countries even on our ‘green list’ are not allowing entry to UK – or any international – citizens. So it’s important you check what your destination country is asking for before you travel. You will not be covered by travel insurance if you are refused entry as it is your responsibility to check any restrictions.

If restrictions are added while you’re abroad

If you travel to a country currently labelled ‘green’ but this changes to ‘amber’ or ‘red’, your insurer may cover you for emergency repatriation back to the UK. However, this is likely to only apply if the government is advising you to return early, (which during the summer changes last year was rarely happening. 

You will also not be covered for the cost of Covid-19 tests and booking quarantine hotels should you need to do this when you come back to the UK, and you are unlikely to be covered for any costs incurred if you have to quarantine while abroad, such as extended hotel stays or cancelled excursions.

And finally… Get a GHIC

The European Health Card (or EHIC) is being replaced by a new variation post-Brexit called the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). It’s free to apply for but you don’t need to until your existing EHIC card expires. 

It’s come to our attention that fake firms are advertising on Google pretending to be the official GHIC site and charging £35 to process the application. Don’t be fooled – only go through the NHS/Government website. 

Remember that the card is not a substitute for travel insurance – just a supplement. Lots can go wrong healthwise abroad that isn’t Covid-related.

Are you struggling with a travel insurance claim, or trying to cancel a holiday now it is on the amber list? Resolver can help raise your issue for free.

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