What does it mean when the travel advice changes for a country I’m visiting?

As you may well have seen, especially if you have a trip planned to Spain, France or The Netherlands, the government has updated their travel advice for these countries after previously saying they were okay to travel to. Undoubtably many more countries will be affected by updated travel advice.

Below we'll try to help you understand what typically changes and what it means. And also, what it means for other holidays that could be affected by more changes in the future.

What's normally announced?

Firstly, it's worth understanding that there are two travel lists, it's confusing, we know!

  • Travel corridors - a list of countries that if you visit you won't have to self-isolate when you return back to the UK after visiting.
  • FCO travel advice - a list of countries and territories that from the the FCO are saying you can travel to (where they aren't advising against travel to).

Most of the time, a country is added to the self-isolation list and also removed from the FCO's safe list. But you need to check this for your destination.

So, a normal announcement from the Government, like for Spain and France, is:

  1. A country is removed from the self-isolation list / travel corridor list, when you return from that country, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days in the UK.
  2. A country is also removed from the FCO's safe to travel list, you won't be covered on your travel insurance at all if you travel there. This is because the government is advising against travel to your country and this invalidates your insurance.

What do I do if I'm already in the country?

If you're in the country and the rules change, you may be given 24-48 hours notice, but generally the advice changes very quickly.

The Foreign Office (FCO) doesn't usually advise people to return to the UK immediately. So you can wait until your trip is due to end as normal. Your travel insurance also won't stop covering you because you're already there. But, you also aren't covered if you stay there for another few weeks for example, you are expected to come home in a reasonable amount of time.

If you can't make it back in time before the government deadline, then you'll be expected to self-isolate when you return to the UK for 14 days.

What do I do if I have an upcoming trip?

Your airline or package holiday/tour operator may cancel your trip. If this happens, under EU law, you're entitled to a full refund by your airline or tour operator. Don't cancel your holiday without speaking with them first.

If your trip doesn't get cancelled, and you do still travel, please remember that you wouldn't be insured to anywhere the FCO is advising against travel to.

We would recommend you speak with your airline, hotels, etc. and ask if you can move your holiday, get a refund or credit note.

What does this mean for holidays in other countries that are still safe?

It's a tricky one really, as it sets an unpredictable precedent by the UK Government that travel destinations may be removed at little or no notice from the travel corridor list and/or removed from the FCO's safe list.

We've seen reported in The Guardian that government is looking at the number of new cases per 100,000 people in a country. If this consistently stays above 20, then the country is like to be considered high risk. You can see this live data here.

Pluto's travel insurance, like most other insurers, no longer covers travel disruption caused by coronavirus, like the situations with Spain, France and others. So unfortunately, your travel insurance probably won't be able to help if this trip was booked after the 11th March 2020.

Our best travel advice for future trips is:

  • Always book flexible tickets, accommodation and activities. Ensuring you can cancel these at short notice or change dates at little or no cost.
  • Don't travel somewhere or plan to travel somewhere that the FCO is advising against travel to. Your travel insurance won't cover you for anything, whether it's related to coronavirus or not if you do still go.
  • Keep an eye on the news and/or the FCO's website for the latest updates on your destination.
  • Don't cancel your holiday if you're worried that the advice might change without speaking to your travel company first as you may forgo your refund or ability to make a date change.
  • Always still get travel insurance, even though it won't cover you for disruption like this. It can still cover loads of other things that might affect your trip and importantly any medical costs when you're abroad, including coronavirus treatment.

What does self-isolation mean?

In short, you are expected to go straight home when you arrive back in the UK and stay there for 14 days. You're not allowed to go outside to see anyone, you cannot have visitors and you cannot go outside to shop, walk a dog or exercise. You are expected to ask neighbours, family or friends to help with anything essential and get food deliveries whenever possible. See the governments full guidance on self-isolation.

You can leave your home for an emergency or if there is no way for you get food or necessities brought to your home.

If you don’t self-isolate in England, you could be fined £1,000, which could increase to £3,200 if you don’t provide an accurate or up-to-date contact information.

Team Pluto

Team Pluto

Written by the travel lovers at Pluto HQ