Best Covid holiday insurance policies explained if you're booking a trip this summer

SUMMER holidays may be back on the agenda but don't let poor travel insurance ruin your plans.

The government is set to unveil its traffic light system of Covid-safe holiday destinations but you will still need to make sure your travel insurance covers you in case the pandemic disrupts your travels.

International travel is set to be allowed from May 17, which will let sun-starved Brits book half-term and summer holidays.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is due to announce a traffic light system this eveningfor holiday bookings.

The safest places will be "green" countries and travellers won't have to quarantine as long as they have a negative Covid test when they return to the UK.

You will need to quarantine at home for 10 days if you have holiday in an "amber" country but this may be cut to five if you have a negative Covid test.

Those travelling to "red" countries will be required to do a 10-day stay in managed hotel quarantine that costs £1,750 per person.

The list will be reviewed regularly and there is a risk that your destination could be moved from green to red or amber and you may no longer want to or be able to travel.

Additionally, you may catch coronavirus and have to self-isolate when you are due to go on holiday or even while you are abroad, which could mean large medical bills or extra accommodations costs.

All this makes travel insurance crucial.

Many insurers stopped covering Covid-related issues at the start of the outbreak last year.

This was to avoid getting hit by a barrage of claims for cancellations plus they could argue that coronavirus is now a known risk when booking a holiday and travel insurance usually only covers unforeseen circumstances.

It is now possible to get Covid cover included in your travel insurance policy but levels of protection vary so it is important to check before you buy so you are not left out of pocket.

What to check for in your travel insurance

There are lots of risks when booking a holiday abroad during a pandemic.

You may need to cancel if you catch coronavirus or have been told to self-isolate.

There could be a lockdown at your destination or you or someone you are travelling with may need hospital treatment for coronavirus while abroad.

Travel insurance may cover the costs of cancellation, medical treatment or if you need to pay for emergency accommodation but you will need to check the policy to ensure it covers Covid-related issues.

Providers will have different inclusions and exclusions and you should check the level of cover as insurers may payout different amounts.

The price and level of cover you get will also depend on any pre-existing medical conditions, your age and destination.

Martyn James, of consumer website Resolver, warns some policies may only cover you for cancellation if you have a positive Covid test rather than if you just have symptoms.

He said: "I’ve not come across a policy that covers you if government advice changes so you can’t travel.

"The insurance industry has been bouncing people back to the travel firms for this – or on to card providers for chargeback or section 75 claims on a credit card.

"Bear in mind that the death of a relative may mean you can cancel and claim – but you must meet the definition of having a ‘close’ relative. This varies by insurer."

Research from comparison website GoCompare has found that out of 978 single trip insurance policies on the market at the moment, only three offer cancellation cover due to the Foreign Office advice changing after booking as standard and only one as an optional extra.

That means most single trip travel policies do not cover cancellation if the advice changes after booking.

More than a third, 335, offer cancellation cover due to being told to self-isolate as standard, and 750 single trip policies offer cancellation cover as standard due to a positive test.

Consumer watchdog Which? quizzed 73 travel insurers in October 2020 and found that 13 cover you you for cancellations if you have to self-isolate without testing positive such as if you get an NHS Test and Trace app notification.

Some even provided cover if you have to cancel your holiday due to changes in lockdown restrictions.

Every insurer offered the basics of emergency medical cover if you catch coronavirus while you’re away.

Just over half of the insurers, 43 out of 73, offered cancellation cover if you can’t travel because you’ve been diagnosed with coronavirus.

No insurers provided cover at the time if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises against travel.

It also isn't yet clear how insurers will treat different destinations when they are green, amber or red.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, told The Sun: "The best way to protect yourself from last-minute changes to the red, amber and green lists, as well as any other changes such as cancellation or rebooking if you cannot travel as planned, is to book with a reputable package holiday provider that has a flexible booking policy covering these events.

"This will give you greater protection than most travel insurance is able to offer, and will ensure that if changing travel rules or coronavirus disruption affect your travel plans, you won't be left out of pocket."

Which insurance policy should I buy?

James suggests getting the best policy you can afford and asking upfront what will happen if your holiday is cancelled or you need to leave earlier or later than planned.

He said: "Get them to be specific. For example, what happens if you get Covid while on holiday. Not all policies cover cancellation, for example.

"No matter what, have back up money on a credit card so you have cash if something does go wrong, like the country you are in going on the red list and leaving you with a huge UK quarantine hotel bill.

"These will not be covered by any policies I’ve seen so far."

Which travel insurer offers the best Covid cover?

Covid cover may vary depending on your destination and things may change once the green, amber and red list is published.

Personal finance website Forbes Advisor analysed 89 policies from 33 insurers in March to assess their level of Covid cover.

They were ranked on how much they will pay for cancellations, medical bills or if you have to return home earlier.

Insurers were also rated highly if they have enhanced Covid-19 cover that will payout for cancellation if you can no longer travel.

Which insurers offers the most Covid cover

Coverwise

Medical cover – £20 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £6,000

Southdowns

Medical cover- £20 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £6,000

CoverForYou

Medical cover – £15 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £6,000

OK to Travel

Medical cover- £10 million

Cancellation/curtailment- £5,000

Big Blue

Medical cover – £10 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £5,000

Insure For

Medical cover- £10 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £5,000

RAC

Medical cover- £10 million

Cancellation/curtailment- £5,000

Sainsbury's Bank

Medical cover – £15 million

Cancellation/curtailment- £5,000

Travel Insurance Saver

Medical cover – £10 million

Cancellation/curtailment – £4,000

Source: Forbes Advisor UK

The top rated insurers were Coverwise and Southdowns, which will pay up to £20 million of medical bills and £6,000 for cancellation or curtailment in their Select Platinum policies.

CoverForYou's Premier policy will payout up to £15 million for medical bills and £6,000 for cancellation or curtailment.

Kevin Pratt, spokesperson for Forbes Advisor UK, said: "Insurers will be monitoring the travel restrictions and requirements closely to see how it affects their policies.

"Certainly any policies that have already been purchased will be honoured in full but, as happened last year when the extent and severity of the pandemic became clear, insurers may make changes to policies if it becomes clear that a lot of claims are likely to emanate from a particular location or because of a particular cause."

Pratt added that any travel insurance policy will be void if you travel against official advice.

He added: "If you simply decide you no longer wish to travel but there is no official barrier to you doing so, you will not be able to claim for cancelling your policy. This is deemed 'disinclination to travel' and is not covered by insurance.

"Always scrutinise any policy before you buy so you know exactly what you're buying – some policies offer more coronavirus cover than others.

"Buy insurance when you book so you've got cancellation cover straight away."

Read our guide on how to get a holiday refund.

How to get a refund from Ryanair as it extends free rebooking policy.

See the travel firms with the most flexible summer holiday booking policies.

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