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Coronavirus travel insurance: who will cover me?

We explain whether you’ll be covered to travel as coronavirus cases rise nationwide

Coronavirus travel insurance: who will cover me?

With millions across the country in lockdown and travel corridors to several nations now closed, we look at the impact this will have on your travel insurance.

Dozens of travel insurers now offer some form of coronavirus cancellation cover as travel corridor changes and rising case numbers make it more valuable than ever.

But there’s a huge amount of difference between insurers in terms of what’s actually covered.

Here, Which? breaks down those differences to help you understand which insurer will cover you for what, and answer questions about claims, vouchers and travel corridors.

  • You can keep up to date with our latest news and advice on the coronavirus pandemic with Which?.


Find the answers to your questions by clicking the links below:

What does local lockdown mean for travel insurance?

Millions of people in the UK are now facing local lockdown restrictions. And while the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) isn’t currently advising against all international trips as it did in March, there are cases where lockdown might stop you travelling.

Wales is under ‘essential travel only’ advice for the duration of its firebreak lockdown, while people under Tier 3 ‘ultra high alert’ restrictions in England are advised not to leave their local area other than for work, education or caring responsibilities.

Most travel insurance policies will not cover you for cancelling your holiday if you’re in one of these areas. This is because many of them don’t offer COVID-19 cancellation cover that extends to covering lockdowns; instead some only cover you if you catch the virus yourself before you leave.

You can read more about which insurers cover you for what in the next section.

Will travel insurance cover me for COVID-19?

Dozens of insurers stopped selling travel insurance after the start of the pandemic, but since then, large numbers have returned to the market – many with some form of ‘COVID-19 cover’.

In terms of coronavirus, we can split them into three general groups:

  • Those that don’t cover COVID-19 Some insurance policies come with a ‘general exclusion’ against claims stemming from coronavirus. With these, if your claim is related to the pandemic, they won’t pay out.
  • Those that cover COVID-19 medical expenses, but nothing else These will pay out if you catch the virus abroad. They won’t cover you for anything else related to coronavirus.
  • Those that cover COVID-19 medical expenses and cancellation Broadly, this means that in certain circumstances you’ll be able to claim if coronavirus stops you from travelling.

To our knowledge, at least 25 insurers now fall into that third category, which is great news for anyone who wants more comprehensive post-lockdown travel cover. We list them all below.

The problem is, there’s a wide range of what’s actually covered within that group.

With all of them, you’ll be covered if you need to cancel because you’ve caught coronavirus. But if someone else in your household gets COVID-19, or if you’re self-isolating without being infected, you might not be.

The table below shows which insurers will cover you in six potential scenarios. It’s worth noting that these scenarios are not the only reasons you might need to make a coronavirus-related cancellation claim and that some of these insurers will cover other situations. Additionally, it may be that some of these insurers only offer COVID-19 cancellation cover with certain policies.

Cover If your destination restricts its borders before you travel for reasons relating to the pandemic If the FCDO changes its advice before you travel If your hotel closes while you are there If you’ve been told to self-isolate by the NHS, but haven’t been tested If a family/household member is diagnosed with COVID-19, meaning you have to self-isolate If you are diagnosed with COVID-19
Insurers Nationwide* Nationwide* Axa, Big Blue Cover, Insurefor, Jet2, Leisure Guard, MRL Insurance, Nationwide* AllClear, Allianz Assistance, Asda, Axa, Co-op, JustTravelCover, LV,  Nationwide*, Trailfinders AllClear, Allianz Assistance, Abta, Asda, Axa, Co-op, JustTravelCover, LV, Nationwide*, Staysure, Trailfinders Abta, AllClear, Allianz Assistance, Alpha Travel Insurance,  Asda, Axa, Big Blue Cover, Co-op, Dogtag, Flexicover, Get Going, Holidaysafe, Insurancewith, Insurefor, Jet2, JustTravelCover,  Leisure Guard, LV, MRL Insurance, Nationwide, Postcard, Saga, Spectrum, Staysure, TopDog, Trailfinders

*Nationwide is changing its coronavirus cover from 1 January 2020. See below for more detail.
Table correct as of 27 October 2020.

As you can see, only one insurer (Nationwide) covers you if the FCDO changes its advice after you book, because of a development related to the pandemic. And Nationwide is also the only insurer that will pay out if your destination country restricts its borders.

Of all the policies we’ve found, Nationwide’s has the widest coronavirus cover. The downside is that it won’t work for a single-trip policy; you can only get Nationwide travel insurance if you open a bank account with the building society.

Another downside is that Nationwide has now said it’s changing its cover from 1 January 2020. For trips booked on or after that date, you’ll only be covered to cancel if you, a relative, colleague or travelling companion catch COVID-19. The Nationwide website has more detail.

For a full list of insurers and what they cover, see the table below. It shows whether insurers are currently selling policies, and whether they cover coronavirus for medical expenses, medical expenses and some cancellation, or not at all. Each insurer’s website will have more details – most have a dedicated coronavirus FAQ page.

Can I get insured to go to Poland?

Now that the FCDO is advising against all non-essential travel to Poland, Turkey and a number of other popular UK holiday destinations, the answer is most likely no for all of them. But that is beginning to change.

Many insurance policies have an exclusion for customers travelling against government advice. For as long as the FCDO’s advice remains in place in these countries, many policies won’t cover you for anything if you choose to travel – from lost luggage to life-threatening injuries.

When we checked in June, more than half of the 17 insurers we looked at wouldn’t cover you to travel somewhere where only ‘essential’ travel was advised, no matter how essential you considered your trip.

However, there are some insurers who will cover trips to destinations with FCDO warnings – including many that have recently added this element as a response to the pandemic.

Avanti and Staysure have both launched cover for countries on the FCDO’s ‘all but essential travel’ list, but only for claims not relating to coronavirus. This means if you have a policy with Staysure, you’d still be able to claim for lost luggage in France, say.

Insurefor launched its own FCDO warning cover, which goes a step further by including coronavirus-related claims. This is only available for destinations in Europe.

Insurance startup Battleface – set up initially to insure people whose work takes them to dangerous places, such as journalists covering war zones – has seen a surge in custom from holidaymakers. Its policies provide medical expenses cover if you catch coronavirus while you’re abroad.

Battleface has also teamed up with Holiday Extras to sell cover for countries with FCDO warnings in place.

However, keep in mind that FCDO advice is put in place for a reason and these insurers aren’t actively encouraging travel to these destinations, even if they do cover it.

Am I covered to cancel my holiday to Poland?

If you were planning a trip to Poland, or anywhere that’s now on the FCDO warning list, you’ll likely have to rely on refunds from your tour operator if you want to cancel, as most insurance policies will not pay out for COVID-19-related changes to FCDO travel advice.

But, as many learned over the summer, flights will likely go ahead despite this news, in which case you won’t get a refund. 

To our knowledge, only Nationwide will cover you if the FCDO changes its advice before you travel because of the pandemic. This means that Nationwide FlexPlus account holders would be able to claim back the costs if they no longer wanted to visit the Netherlands, for example, but their flight still went ahead.

Another insurer, AllClear, temporarily offered cover for FCDO changes, too. But it removed this element of its policy on 6 August over concerns that it would lead to an unsustainable rush of customers and claims. This coupled with the fact that so many flights for holidaymakers were not being cancelled.

If you’re already in one of the destinations taken off the travel corridor list, no insurer that we know of will cover additional costs or losses if you end your trip early due to the rule change. You can read the full list of countries that are still on the corridor list here. 

Can I get insured for every risk?

Now that many insurers are offering coronavirus cancellation cover, it is theoretically possible for you to be insured against many of the things that might go wrong with post-lockdown travel – but not necessarily for everything.

Most travel insurers will not cover you if the FCDO changes its advice before you fly – as it has in the case of Poland and others – or if the government orders another lockdown.

It’s also still very rare to find cover for if the country you’re travelling to changes its border policy and doesn’t let you in.

You won’t find an insurer that will cover you simply if you change your mind about travelling – for example, if cases in your destination country are rising but the FCDO has not warned against going there.

And although medical expenses cover is more widely available, COVID-19 is still a threat and it’s still deadly, so you need to take every precaution to make sure you’re safe if you do go abroad.

What should I look for when I’m buying travel insurance?

Travelling abroad during the pandemic comes with risks and travel insurance can’t protect you from all of them.

When looking for a policy, make sure you look for the following things:

  • Coronavirus medical cover To cover you if you’re infected when you’re away.
  • Coronavirus cancellation cover You’ll need this if you want to be able to claim on insurance for refunds if COVID-19 stops you travelling for any reason. The insurers in this table offer some form of this.
  • Scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI) To cover you if your airline goes bust.
  • Excesses This is what you’ll pay towards what your insurer pays out. You’ll need to be able to afford them if you’re claiming.

Which? recommends getting the following levels of cover:

  • Emergency medical cover: £2m for Europe, £5m worldwide
  • Cancellation, curtailment and missed departure: £3,000
  • Personal belongings and money: £1,500
  • Personal liability: £1m

Find out more: flight cancellations and compensation

How can I make a claim?

The pandemic has left thousands of holidaymakers out of pocket. If you had a trip booked that you couldn’t take, or you have one coming up, you might need to make a claim yourself.

Before you get in touch with your insurer, you should try to get a refund from travel or accommodation providers.

Insurers will only pay out for costs that couldn’t be refunded, so if you approach them with a claim before exploring the refund route, they will want you to do that before you can progress further.

Next, make a list of all the non-refundable costs you want to claim for. Not just hotels and flights, but transfers, tours and excursions.

After that, you’re ready to contact your insurer. We’ve gathered the claims numbers for more than 40 travel insurance providers in the table below. Click the name of the insurer to see our review of its service and find more details about how to make a claim.

If we don’t have a review, contact your insurer directly for more information.

Is there a deadline for claiming?

You should contact your insurer swiftly if you plan to claim, but the good news is many have said they’re being flexible with their existing claims deadlines.

When we examined 32 travel policy booklets, we found 11 stated deadlines for notifying the insurer of oncoming claims. Nine of these had deadlines 28 to 31 days from the incident or the end of the trip.

Of these nine, AllClear, NFU Mutual and Staysure said that they aren’t enforcing deadlines, and Virgin Money said it’s ‘trying to be as flexible as possible’.

Columbus Direct  and Santander said their deadlines only apply if the delays impede their ability to investigate claims. The Post Office continues to insist customers at least notify it within 28 days.

If it has one, your policy’s deadline will be either in the claims or general conditions section of the ‘policy wording’ document your insurer sent you.

Will my claim be accepted?

Whether your claim is accepted or not will depend on the cover you bought and your reason for cancelling.

You’ll usually find a list of acceptable cancellation reasons in your policy wording.

Also check your insurance product information document and the policy schedule, which may also have sections on cancellation.

When we surveyed 13,169 Which? members in mid October, 980 had submitted travel insurance claims due to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. We found that 65% said their claim was accepted, 18% said theirs was rejected and 17% were still waiting to hear back.

Of those that had been settled, 78% were accepted.

We found a very different picture in June, when only 31% said claims submitted in the previous two weeks had been accepted, 11% were rejected and 58% hadn’t had a decision.

From this, we can see that the majority of members’ claims have now been settled one way or another. It’s worth noting, though, that many of these claims will stem from policies taken out before the pandemic. Since then, policies have become more restrictive around covering the coronavirus.

Can I claim on insurance if I’m offered rebooking vouchers?

Among the Which? members with cancelled plans who didn’t claim, many were offered vouchers – or refund credit notes (RCNs) – from their travel providers instead of cash refunds.

If you accept vouchers or credit notes as compensation, you can’t claim for cash from your insurer as well as this would be a double claim.

Legally, you should be able to reject vouchers and get cash refunds instead, but many holiday firms are ignoring this rule.

Your insurer will likely advise you to pursue this legal right if you’re in this situation. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) told Which?: 

‘Where travel operators have a legal obligation to refund customers, insurers expect them to honour that legal agreement. Insurance cancellation cover kicks in when no other safety net is available with insurers expecting to pay out £275m in cancellation costs due to COVID-19.’

After campaigning from Which?, the government confirmed that RCNs will be covered by the travel industry’s Atol scheme. This means if you accept an RCN and your holiday provider goes bust, your money will be protected.

If you’re not offered a cash refund by your travel operator, and you don’t want to accept an RCN, Which? believes banks should refund customers under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, for purchases by credit card of more than £100, or through the chargeback scheme for other purchases.

Banks don’t always accept these claims, but card issuer Mastercard has confirmed that chargeback is valid in these cases.

Can I get a travel insurance refund?

Since many are unlikely to want to travel in the near future, anyone with an active travel insurance policy might reasonably ask if they would be able to get a refund on their premium.

The ABI told Which? that it expects these refunds will be happening and that customers should contact their insurers for more details.

However, it warns that while your current policy – if bought before the pandemic – will cover you for COVID-19-related claims, a new policy likely will not. So you should think carefully before cancelling.

On 1 May, the FCA launched two quickfire consultations with proposals to offer general insurance customers payment holidays, reduced cover and refunds in light of the way coronavirus has changed the market. These measures came into force on 18 May.


This story was originally published on 25 February and has been updated since then. The last update was to reflect changing lockdown restrictions and was published on 27 October. Additional reporting by Dean Sobers.


 

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