Since it first came to the attention of the World Health Organization, the coronavirus has swept across the globe, being categorized as a pandemic in March 2020. If you have to travel for essential reasons during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to do so safely and responsibly, so having an insurance policy that covers travel disruption and medical provision is crucial.
Many insurance companies have reviewed their policies in recent weeks, making getting a policy that covers COVID-19 more difficult. Some have stopped selling travel insurance altogether, while others have refused to compensate travellers to high-risk destinations or added exclusions to cover. To help give you peace of mind, Rough Guides have answered some of the most pressing questions regarding travel insurance, with tips on how to make sure your policy covers coronavirus.
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If I have travel insurance already, will I be covered for coronavirus?
If you’ve already booked a holiday with an existing policy, it will not be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, travellers will want to consult their policy carefully to see exactly what’s covered – it’s your responsibility to check the details. Ensure your policy includes compensation as a result of cancellations (flights may be suspended at short notice), delays and medical expenses. Read the small print closely and if you aren’t sure about what exactly your policy covers, contact your insurer directly – many companies have pledged to increase support to their customers during this uncertain time.
Remember too that if your travel plans change as a result of coronavirus, or you decide to rethink your holiday destination, then your existing insurance policy may no longer be valid, and you’ll need to purchase a new one.
What should I do if I need to buy travel insurance now?
If you’re travelling away from home, it’s important that you’re covered for the effects of coronavirus, from travel disruption (cancellations and delays) to any medical treatment you might require if you contract the virus abroad. With about one third of the global population under lockdown, international trips will most likely only be for essential reasons. Most travel insurance companies have reviewed their guidelines as a result of COVID-19, based on risk analysis and commercial implications. A number have stopped offering travel insurance, or excluded coronavirus from their policies.
Travellers should buy travel insurance in the usual way, shopping around to find cover that suits their needs. Travelex is still offering compensation for costs incurred as a result of COVID-19, including trip cancellation/trip interruption coverage if the insured or their travelling companion contracts the virus, and emergency medical/evacuation coverage if the insured party catches the disease. Note that “fear of travel, travel advisories and the destination being inaccessible due to this illness” are not covered by their policies.
Rough Guides is partnered with World Nomads. While World Nomads excluded COVID-19 from many of their insurance policies at the beginning of February 2020, it does not have a pandemic or epidemic exclusion for policies purchased by US residents. US policy benefits include emergency medical and trip-interruption coverage due to coronavirus.
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What exactly should my travel insurance cover?
It pays to know exactly what the different benefits described by travel insurance policies mean. Here are some of the main things to look out for on policies during the coronavirus outbreak. You’ll need to check that any new policy you take out does not exclude COVID-19, even if they appear to offer the below.
Cancellation Coverage: Cancellation coverage awards you compensation for pre-paid expenses if you need to cancel your trip. Usually the insurance company will supply a list of “covered reasons” for cancelling your trip, such as sickness, bankruptcy of your travel supplier or even being called up for jury duty. “Cancel For Any Reason” cover is more comprehensive, doing more or less what it says on the tin: you can abandon your trip for any reason. Policies covering COVID-19 will generally reimburse you if you get sick and cannot travel.
Trip Interruption Coverage: If your trip is interrupted for pretty much any of the reasons listed under “Cancellation Coverage”, your insurance will pay for any costs relating to the lost part of your trip. Policies covering COVID-19 will generally reimburse you if you get sick abroad and have to cut your trip short, or get quarantined abroad.
Medical Expense Coverage: This will cover the medical costs you incur if you get sick and have to receive treatment abroad. Policies covering COVID-19 will cover your healthcare costs if you need medical attention away from home.
Emergency Evacuation Coverage: This means that your insurance will pay for you to be brought back home in an emergency, on a medically equipped flight if necessary. Policies covering COVID-19 will generally fly you home if you contract the disease.
Travel Delay Coverage: Travel Delay Coverage will include compensation if your flight is delayed, and will pay for extra costs incurred in this period (e.g. hotel and meal costs).
24/7 Travel Assistance Services: Every travel insurance company has an emergency contact number that you can call in case of an emergency. They will help you locate the nearest hospital, organise immediate transportation and arrange for treatment and your safe return home.
If I visit a destination that the government advises against travelling to, will my insurance policy still be valid?
COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, with one third of the world in lockdown. A UK-wide lockdown came into effect on 24 March 2020, while the Foreign Office still advises UK nationals against all but essential international travel to any destination. If you have to travel, check the Foreign Office website regularly for up-to-date advice. You can also sign up for email alerts to specific destinations to make sure you’re kept in the loop.
If you travel against government advice, this is likely to invalidate your travel insurance policy. This is something you’ll need to check with your individual insurer, as all policies are different. If you are travelling because your trip is “essential”, it’s best to check that your insurer agrees this is the case before you go. If you travel for non-essential reasons during lockdown, you risk arrest and heavy fines.
If I cancel my travel plans, will I get compensation from my insurer?
Again, this will depend on your specific policy and insurer. Many policies do offer compensation for cancellation in a number of circumstances – the same applies to other details such as delays and evacuation costs.
If I've booked by credit card, will I get my money back?
If you’ve booked a holiday by credit card that is subsequently cancelled due to coronavirus, you may be entitled to money back from your credit-card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act that protects consumers. In practice, this means that your credit provider is partly responsible for the services you have paid for. Get in contact with your provider to make a claim, but note that bookings must come to more than £100 for you to be entitled to compensation. In addition, the travel company must be the one that pulls the flights or hotel.
What should I do if I need help while I’m abroad?
Whenever you travel abroad, it is a good idea to take a print out of your insurance policy. More importantly, be sure to make a note of your travel insurance policy number and the emergency contact telephone number, and try to save these in more than one place. If you need urgent help while you’re away, call the emergency contact number. If your claim is not urgent, you can make a claim from back home; be sure to keep any receipts and paperwork to support your claim.
The situation surrounding coronavirus is constantly evolving, so check all travel advice and insurance policies carefully before going abroad.
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