With ‘Freedom Day’ on the horizon on July 19, thousands of people have rushed online to book holidays.
That’s because from Monday, passengers who are fully vaccinated will not have to self-isolate after returning from an amber list country.
Of course, other rules still apply, so you’ll have to take a PCR test (and test negative).
For many, that’s all the news they needed to hear, and holiday websites and airlines reported huge rushes for the best deals.
However, all is not straightforward. Because of the various Covid variants and their rise in different countries, countries are zipping off and on the green list and on to the amber list extraordinarily quickly.
There are even rumours that one very popular tourist destination just over the channel is potentially going on to the red list shortly. And, of course, if you’re not fully vaccinated, the old rules still apply for home quarantine.
So the most important rule for travellers remains this: Don’t assume anything, check the rules with airlines and the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website, download your digital vaccination ‘passport’ and order the written one anyway, just in case (it takes five days).
Rules still vary depending on which of the four countries of the UK you live in so make sure you check those too.
Oh, and I’m getting reports that some airlines are not accepting self-administered PCR tests too, so speak to them before you buy.
Phew! Has that put you off? Didn’t think so.
One of the most important things to add to your checklist is travel insurance. Don’t leave home without it – even if you have the free EHIC/GHIC health card .
Here’s what to bear in mind.
Travel insurance and Covid cover
Travel insurance is an absolute must if you’re going abroad, even if Covid cancellation cover is scarce.
There’s a ton of things that can go wrong with a holiday, from lost luggage to broken limbs and handbag snatchers. Here’s a quick guide to the main things to remember.
What if you can’t travel due to ‘official’ advice?
For most people, the big question is whether you’ll be covered if you can’t travel due to changing Government guidance. This is complicated, but for most insurers:
Local and national lockdowns in the UK wont usually mean you get a payout – and the same goes for lockdown restrictions (and changing entry requirements) in the country that you go to.
If your country goes on to the red list, then you’re unlikely to be covered too – though you may stand a better chance of a refund through your holiday firm or airline.
You won’t be covered if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website advises against travel. This is not all bad though as this is usually the criteria for an automatic refund.
The problem for most travellers is that they can’t tell the difference between a government minister saying don’t travel and the FCDO website saying the same thing. Both instructions are from the top – but result in decidedly different results when it comes to getting your cash back.
What if you catch Covid and can’t travel?
It’s better news on this front. Many policies will cover you if you develop Covid and can’t go on holiday. But this usually involves an actual diagnosis, not just showing symptoms. You may need to provide test results.
I’m afraid that being told to quarantine, either by app or track and trace staff isn’t covered by many policies (though others do).
However, despite all those caveats, you may find your policy covers your immediate family for this too – so make sure you check before you buy.
MoneySavingExpert have a great comparison tool if you don’t know where to start.
What if you catch Covid while you are away?
Most policies cover this but don’t assume. You’ll want to check what happens with your family and if there’s cover for them to stay with you or if they have to go home and leave you in hospital.
Many travel insurance policies cover ‘repatriation’ though this is more for other illnesses or hospital stays and is unlikely to cover Covid.
What about amber list countries?
Because many people follow expert advice (thank you!) and buy their policies when they book, they may find that the terms haven’t kept up with changes in society.
Before recent changes in Government advice, for example, going to an amber or red list country invalidated many insurance policies. However, there are now a number of policies that have adapted to the new guidance.
If you’ve already bought travel insurance, call your insurer and ask about amber list travel. Ask for the new T&Cs too. If not, look for policies that specifically cover amber list travel.
The golden rule
Of all the insurance policies you might buy over time, travel insurance varies the most. In short, buy cheap, get cheap.
Go for the most comprehensive policy you can afford and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The T&C’s are often daunting (160 pages anyone?!) so get the firm to spell out what is and isn’t covered.
If you’re in a dispute with anything travel related, Resolver can help for free.