Holidaymakers who are desperate for a sunny break could face bills for thousands of pounds if disaster strikes while they’re abroad.
Earlier this month, ministers revealed a new traffic-light system to clarify where it was safe for families to travel. But far from clarifying the rules, it has sparked widespread chaos.
Green-list countries are fine, if you are allowed in and take the necessary tests. Red-list countries are a no-no. But amber-list countries, such as France, Spain and Italy, are murky territory.
Sunshine dreams: The Government has said families should not travel to amber-list countries on holiday but this hasn’t deterred hundreds of thousands of Britons from booking trips
It is legal to travel to these destinations, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson says families should not be visiting them on holiday – only for pressing family or work reasons. And if you do travel, you face strict quarantine rules on your return.
Yet Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, says this hasn’t deterred hundreds of thousands of Britons from booking trips to amber-list countries in recent weeks.
But hopeful holidaymakers should be warned that their travel insurance may not pay out if they do choose to go.
Regardless of what the Government’s traffic-light system says, you must check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website as this is what can impact your insurance.
Most insurers will typically refuse to cover anyone travelling to a destination the FCDO advises against visiting. And its current recommendation is that you should avoid most amber-list countries to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
A handful of travel insurers, including Staysure and Avanti, are allowing customers to purchase an add-on to their policy for as little as £5 to cover travel to Europe against FCDO advice. This also applies to Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia.
As well as usual medical and baggage cover, you will also be protected if you fall ill with Covid while away — providing you have had both vaccinations.
But if the Government recommends you return home early, you must. You will also not be covered for trips to amber-list countries outside of Europe such as Canada.
Some insurers, such as CoverForYou, Cedar Tree and Outbacker, will also cover you providing you are travelling to an amber-list country for an essential reason.
This could be for work or education purposes, or to visit someone who is dying. You will not be covered for holidays disrupted by coronavirus.
Just to add to the confusion, some popular destinations on the amber list, such as the Canary Islands and Barbados, are not included in the FCDO warning. So in this instance you would need to check with your travel insurer.
At present, most insurers will not cover you if you want to cancel your trip because the destination has changed from green to amber since you booked.
Flight risk: Hopeful holidaymakers should beware that their travel insurance may not pay out if they do choose to go
Anna-Marie Duthie, travel insurance insight consultant at rating site Defaqto, says: ‘With holiday firms allowing bookings to amber countries, the FCDO not publishing warnings about all amber destination restrictions, and the Government telling people not to travel to these places, it has never been more important to check with the insurer before you book any holiday to ensure you would have cover in place.’
There is also no guarantee of a cash refund from the airline. Almost all holiday providers will cancel the trip and refund you if FCDO advice changes.
British Airways says if the status of the country changes you can swap the date or destination with no additional fees, or request a voucher, as part of its Book With Confidence policy.
However, you will need to pay more for flights if the prices increase.
TUI customers can only fly to countries on the green and amber list where FCDO advice allows.
If the destination moves to the red list or quarantine restrictions are introduced on arrival, TUI will cancel the flight.
You will then be offered a cash refund, date change or alternative holiday. TUI is also offering free date changes 14 days before travel for anyone due to fly before the end of August.
If Virgin Atlantic flights to an amber or red country are still scheduled to operate but you are unable to travel, you can change date or destination with no service fees until April 30, 2023. You can also change the name of one traveller for free, or request a travel voucher.
If you have booked a Virgin package holiday and the destination moves from green to amber you can amend your booking, accept a voucher or transfer the holiday to another person for free. But for a cash refund you face a penalty of up to 100 pc of the cost of the trip.
Ryanair flights bought between June 10 and June 30 for travel before October 31 can be changed twice without fees. You must make the changes at least seven days before the departure date.
EasyJet says if your trip is impacted by a lockdown travel ban or hotel quarantine this summer, you can request a refund or voucher, or move your flight for free up to two hours before departure. This applies to changes made up to and including September 30, 2021.
Rory Boland, from Which?, says: ‘I would be wary of flexible booking policies from airlines as you could end up paying much more when you choose alternative flights. And if you do not pay the extra you could lose the trip.’
Some holiday firms offer much more protection.
For example, Trailfinders states you can get a refund if a country moves to the amber list.
Explore and HF Holidays do not operate to amber countries so they will cancel and refund you. Kuoni Flex Plus allows you to claim a refund up to ten days before departure for any reason.
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