Covid Travel Rights – UK Restrictions, Refunds & Insurance Help


When the pandemic took hold more than two years ago, most would have thought that booking a holiday in 2022 was a safe bet.

But the turbulence of successive, intermittent lockdowns and COVID variants have taught us that it’s much more challenging to get out of a global pandemic than we initially thought.

As people realize that the pandemic will not be over anytime soon, many travelers do not want to delay their adventures overseas.

There’s no doubt that people universally miss foreign holidays, but with so many postponements already, it’s pertinent to check if it is safe to book one for the early part of 2022.

Overseas Holidays – Where Can You Go in the UK

Vaccinated travelers to the UK and children under 18 do not have to present a negative Covid test before departure anymore.

Everyone aged five and over must still take a PCR test or lateral flow test (LFT) within forty-eight hours of arrival but do not have to self-isolate while waiting for the results.

You must follow many rules if you are traveling abroad, so where does this leave your travel rights?

Rules for Traveling to the UK in Covid

There are also rules to follow when traveling to the UK.

Fully vaccinated travelers:

  • Require a rapid antigen (lateral flow) test within forty-eight hours of entering the UK
  • Do not require a PCR test
  • Not required to self-isolate on arrival or take a pre-departure test.

Unvaccinated travelers

  • In England, you can end self-isolation as early as day five by taking an extra PCR test
  • Must self-isolate for ten days after arrival
  • Pre-departure PCR or rapid antigen test required

Must also take PCR tests on day two AND day eight after reaching the UK

If you test positive for Covid in England, you must take and log an NHS test result and self-isolate for five consecutive days. If you travel to the UK and stop on the way without exiting border control, you should take the test forty-eight hours before the first leg of your trip.

Covid Test Requirements

If you have not taken your vaccines to travel to England, you must take a COVID-19 test before traveling from abroad to England.

If you have not taken your vaccines before air travel to England, you do not need to take a test before you travel.

When to take your test

You must take the Covid test two days before the flight to England leaves.

For example, if you travel to England directly on Friday, you could take a test any time on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. The test result must be available before boarding starts.

Type of test

The Covid test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

These could include tests such as:

  • an antigen test, such as an LF test
  • a LAMP test
  • a nucleic acid test, including a PCR test

You must check that the Covid test meets the required standards with your provider. You may not travel to the UK if it does not live up to those standards.

The test could be either:

  • a self-administered test
  • a face-to-face or in-person test

Where to take your test

It would be best to find a private provider to take a test.

You can choose to take a test:

  • in another country on your flight to England, if you are traveling through another country
  • in the place where you start your journey

Positive test results

If your test result is positive, you cannot travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive Covid cases.

If the Covid result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

Getting A Refund for A Canceled Trip

If you can’t travel because of Covid, you might be able to get a refund or choose to rebook for another time.

You should check the company’s website you booked with or any emails you’ve received from them. They might have a Covid refund policy.

You have different rights depending on whether:

  • you wish to cancel your booking, but it’s still going ahead
  • the travel company canceled your booking

If the company cancels your booking

You’ll have the right to a refund automatically if your booking was for:

  • a flight flying to the UK with a UK or EU airline
  • a flight arriving in the EU with a UK airline
  • a flight leaving from the UK
  • a package holiday – if your booking qualifies as a package holiday

Your Rights If Your Trip Is Still Ongoing

With millions of trips cancelled due to the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, you may be concerned about what happens if you can’t go.

Fear not. Whether you’re looking at booking a new trip or trying to get a refund for a canceled one, we’ve got a round-up of your rights below.

Travel Firm Cancellations Policies

If they offer a voucher instead of a refund, it’s usually advisable to ask for a refund instead – you should contact the travel firm you booked with and ask. The company should give you a refund if they cancel your travel.

If you’re thinking of taking a voucher, check the terms and conditions, including:

  • If the firm you booked with has gone bankrupt
  • whether you can change your mind later and get a refund
  • when the voucher expires

You should check if your booking can still go ahead. For that, you could:

  • Write to or call the company and ask  
  • check the company’s website 

If you booked with a travel firm, you should contact the other companies your travel is with – for example, your hotel or flight provider.

You might be able to get a refund if the company cancels your booking. New rules and procedures governing international travel dictate as much.

If your refund is taking longer than you expected

When you need money urgently – for example, if you lost your job – you should tell them.

If the refund doesn’t happen as soon as the company promised, you can file a complaint.

If the company refuses to give you a refund

Verify whether your travel insurance covers a claim. Your home or bank account insurance might also cover your loss.

If you claim on your insurance, you might have to pay: 

  • more for insurance in the future
  • an excess fee

Airlines Voucher Redemption Policies

Strict consumer laws had existed long before the pandemic dragged the issue of airline refunds into the spotlight.

For flights that you booked (rather than through a travel company), you are entitled to a full refund up to seven days after the scheduled flight, granted one of the following is true:

  • The airline cancelled the flight
  • The airline has its headquarters in the European Union
  • The flight was to take off or land in a European Union country
  • Return journeys are also covered.

The company might offer you a voucher for booking a holiday as a replacement for cash, but you do not have to accept that voucher.

In May 2020, the European Commission recommended that any unused vouchers be automatically refunded as cash by European Union airlines 14 days after they expire.

However, you must first check the airline’s policy, as this is not a legal requirement.

If the airline is delaying your refund:

  • You can contact the airline
  • Or write to them and outline your legal rights and their obligations

If it still doesn’t provide you with a full refund, alternatives depend on whether you pay by:

  • Debit card: You could try to use the bank’s chargeback scheme
  • Credit card: for sums between £100 to £30,000, you can try to claim through your credit card company under Section 75 of the European Union’s Consumer Credit Act.

Your Rights If You Are Stuck Abroad.

You can always make a claim abroad. Before you travel, ensure that you have put not a copy of your policy number but the contact details of your insurance company on your phone.

Check that the number given is the correct one for traveling abroad.

The more credentials and information you hand over, the faster you can deal with your problem.

Holidaying In the UK – Your Refund Rights

I had to cancel my holiday – can I claim on my insurance policy?

What your insurer provider can cover depends on your policy.

It would be advisable if you tried to get a refund from the airline or travel firm before attempting to claim your insurance.

Even those customers with adequate insurance cover have been struggling to secure refunds due to the disruption caused by Covid.

But if the situation alters when you are already in the UK, you should be covered as standard under the medical and personal accident sections of your policy.

You should be prepared to go the distance if your insurance company does not heed your claim, which may involve going to the Financial Ombudsman.

Approach the airlines, hotels, or travel companies first to try and get your refund or reschedule for a later date if you can.

Standard insurance policies in Europe do not cover you for canceling domestic breaks. If you are still unsure about the procedure, you can contact your travel insurance provider.

Staying Connected While in the UK

For many people, having a good wifi connection abroad can be an extremely expensive wish, as roaming data plans often are.

There are many reasons why someone might need a wifi connection while traveling; you might use travel apps like Google Maps, Google Translate, Uber as well as communication apps like Whatsapp, Gmail, Zoom and more.

Three ways to stay connected on the go

You have a wide variety of options to stay connected while traveling the world. However, costs vary by area. Some parts of the world have meager data charges. A GB can cost you as little as a few pennies in Israel and India. In some parts of Europe, like Greece, it can reach 10-12 pounds.

Here are some alternatives:

1. Use mobile roaming

This option is the easiest as you don’t have to buy another device or another SIM card.

You can ask your phone company if they offer international roaming in the UK. They could have their network (Vodafone has its network in 26 countries) or a local partner (T-Mobile users in the US use Orange when in the UK). The cost depends entirely on your operator.

2. Buy a local SIM card

This method is an effective solution in two cases:

  • If you are traveling to a country with low SIM and data costs, you can buy a local Talk Home SIM. It usually costs less than 25 cents a minute, probably cheaper than your SIM roaming charges.
  • If you frequently travel to another country for business, you may want to have a local SIM in conjunction with the one from your home country.

3. Use the free wifi

This option is the de facto solution for most travelers. Hotels, airports, train and bus stations usually offer free wifi. Free wifi has been available in coffee shops and restaurants like Starbucks for more than a decade.

Buying a new local SIM or signing up for a data-roaming plan can be quite a process. The simplest solution is to use your device’s wifi connection to connect to a network wherever you can.

There are free wifi hotspots in public spaces such as libraries in much of the UK, Australia, and Europe. It’s reasonably fast, but it doesn’t necessarily deliver your typical, faster speeds. However, this option is free.

Your smartphone will tell you which connection is more robust. Once you connect, a page will open in your browser and ask you to enter information.

This method has some disadvantages. Typically, your connection will end after one hour or after using 500 MB. Some public networks might even block access to sites that use a lot of data, like YouTube.

It’s essential to remember that your privacy can easily be compromised when using public wifi, so refrain from activities that involve personal or financial information.

Which is the best way?

If affordable, an international data plan or a local SIM is usually the best method. If not, newer solutions like Skyroam and international SIMS allow you to save quite a bit of money.

If you don’t want to spend excessive money on data, changing plans, devices and SIMs, then using public wifi networks is the best option.

Travel Insurance – What It Won’t Cover.

Almost all travel experts underline the importance of travel insurance. But not all insurance policies provide blanket protection or are the same – so how do you know which policy to get?

The most vital thing travelers must do is get travel insurance which covers cancellation if they catch COVID. If the tour operator can’t provide the holiday (due to lockdowns or restrictions), just like any other illness when traveling, they have to refund you, but they won’t do that if you get sick yourself and can’t travel.

We also advise looking closely at the insurance company’s booking policy.

The changing landscape has emphasized the importance of having the right travel insurance for international travel more than ever.

Travel insurance companies use an algorithm to rate countries, and you may see a lower premium for your policy if the UK is high risk when you quote and lower risk when you buy.

Therefore, we encourage travelers to consider buying travel insurance a little closer to departure to ensure that they have the required cover for the UK at the time of their trip.

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