What The Coronavirus ‘Avoid Non-Essential Travel’ Advice Means For Your Holiday

Hoping your travel insurance or airline will cover cancellation costs? Here's what you need to know.

The British government is advising all UK citizens against “non-essential travel globally” amid the coronavirus outbreak – so what does that mean if you’ve already got a holiday booked?

To date, there has been uncertainty around coronavirus and travel, with many expressing confusion about refund policies from insurers or airlines.

But the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says the announcement made by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday is a good thing, as it provides some clarity for insurers and customers alike. If you’ve got suitable insurance, you should be able to access a refund.

“This unprecedented step actually provides welcome clarity for our customers and the industry,” an ABI spokesperson told HuffPost UK. “Generally insurance cancellation or travel disruption will relate to FCO [The Foreign and Commonwealth Office] advice.

“This decision will therefore allow policyholders with cancellation or travel disruption cover in place to claim for cancelled trips that were already booked and cannot now go ahead.”

The FCO advice against “all non-essential travel worldwide” is detailed on the Government’s website. This advice takes effect immediately and applies “initially for a period of 30 days”.

The definition of “essential travel” is a little wishy-washy, but ultimately, it’s your own decision. It probably doesn’t include a relaxing week on the beach, though.

“You may have urgent family or business commitments to attend to,” the FCO says. “Circumstances differ from person to person. Only you can make an informed decision based on the risks.”

If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, the FCO advises following these steps:

1. Contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation provider.

2. Get in touch with your insurance provider.

3. Continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance.

If you’re currently abroad, the FCO says you must follow the advice of local authorities in that area. That may mean going into quarantine where you are if you’re instructed to do so.

“If you wish to leave the country you are in, contact your airline or travel company and your insurance provider as soon as you are able, and keep up to date with the latest developments,” the FCO says.

“International travel may become more difficult. We only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.”