Travel insurance change could catch Britons out amid sudden FCO u-turn

With the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Transport rapidly changing travel regulations due to sudden surges in coronavirus, Britons are being urged to stay up-to-date with their travel insurance provider. Though travellers might assume they will be notified if their insurance is suddenly invalid, one travel expert has revealed this isn’t always the case.

The warning comes in the wake of the FCO’s sudden u-turn on quarantine travel to Spain after a series of localised lockdowns sparked Government concerns, and left holidaymakers scrambling to confirm their rights.

If a country is deemed unsafe to travel to by the FCO and a travel advisory is put out, holidaymakers who decide to push ahead with plans will no longer be protected by their insurance policy.

However, it is not always possible for the travel insurer to notify the customer of this, as Fiona Macrae, head of consumer awareness initiative, explains.

“When you purchase a travel insurance policy, your provider doesn’t always ask for the exact country you are travelling to,” she warned.

“Many just ask which geographical region so it is unlikely that they will be in a position to contact you in this situation.

“It is the holidaymaker’s responsibility to be aware of what cover they have and keep up to date with any changes to the FCO advice.

“If you are unsure of your cover, you should contact your travel insurance provider to clarify your position.”

The FCO adds: “Many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you travel to a high-risk destination (often defined as a place where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel or all travel), so make sure you check your policy wording and the relevant country travel advice pages for updates when booking your trip and buying insurance.”

For those who’s impending plans are suddenly cancelled due to travel restrictions, most travel insurers will offer some kind of refund, says the expert.

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“It’s important to be sure that you absolutely no longer need the cover before you cancel your policy,” adds Fiona.

“This is especially important for those who are still waiting for money back from their travel agent or tour operator for cancelled holidays

“If you cancel your annual travel insurance policy, you will generally receive a pro-rata refund for the months remaining on the policy.

“If you cancel your single trip policy it will depend on when you took the policy out as to the amount of refund you will receive, for example, if you cancelled within the 14-day cooling-off period you would receive a full refund of premium, but if you bought you policy a couple of months before the cancellation date, then you would only receive a portion of the premium back as you have had a couple of months cover.”

It goes without saying that if you do make a claim on your policy, then you are not able to cancel the policy and expect a refund.

While many holidaymakers at home in the UK were suddenly faced with ruined plans, due to the fast-paced change to the travel advice for Spain, thousands of Britons were already in the country.

With the FCO giving the go-ahead for travellers to complete their trip, under the condition they entered into a mandatory quarantine period once back in the UK, many may have been concerned about how much protection they had.

The good news is, in cases of rapid amendments to travel guidance, holidaymakers who are already in their destination should remain safe according to Fiona.

“If you have already arrived at your destination but then the FCO changes its advice, with most providers, your travel insurance will still remain valid until you return home,” she explained.

“However, if you are on an extended holiday, longer than 28 days, and the FCO changes its advice to the country you have travelled to, you would be expected to make every effort to return home.

“If you don’t, you could void your policy. We would advise anyone on a longer holiday to contact their travel insurance provider and discuss their options.”

Though the Government has given no confirmation as to any other countries it may be keeping an eye on, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned they will be quick to act if necessary.

The UK Ministry of Transport states that the re-evaluation of the air bridge list continues to be done every four weeks, but adds it may introduce “changes weekly, to reflect the changing panorama of international health”.

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