Travel during the coronavirus outbreak

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 12.05.2020

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is felt around the globe, we aim to ensure that our readers are fully informed. Here is our overview of the major factors of the outbreak and how they may affect travellers and their future travel plans.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses in humans and animals. These illnesses can be mild – like the common cold, or more serious, like the SARS outbreak in 2002. The most recently discovered coronavirus started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It causes the infectious disease COVID-19 which typically has symptoms of fever, tiredness, and a dry cough, sometimes accompanied by aches, pains and a sore throat.

Countries currently affected

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world has thrown the international travel industry – and entire economies – into turmoil. The outbreak has now affected most of the countries in the world. Of the some 3,850,000 people infected globally, the disease has claimed more than 266,000 lives; more than 1,300,000 people have recovered so far. Those most at risk are the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

While some states and countries across the globe are gradually lifting restrictions, many are still under enforced lockdowns, with people unable to leave their houses except for essential reasons. Around one third of the global population is currently under lockdown, including the UK. The EU – categorized by the World Health Organization as the 'epicenter' of the outbreak – has closed its borders to outside visitors. The IATA Travel Centre is closely monitoring the outbreak and regularly updating the situation for country-specific travel restrictions.

Airport Technology is watching the situation carefully to provide the latest updates regarding the outbreak and safety measures that are in place at major international airports.

Tailor-made trips to affected destinations

A statement from Franziska Worth, Rough Guides Trips:

At Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips we are monitoring the situation very carefully and are in constant communication with our local tour operator partners.

We are working closely with our local tour operator partners to ensure maximum flexibility with regard to re-booking travellers booked on forthcoming trips. This may include date changes as well as destination changes, which will only be made in discussion with the traveller. Travellers are also advised to check the terms of their (self-organised) travel insurance to see if they are covered under these circumstances.

Refunds and travel credits will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the regulations of the local tour operator. The Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips team is developing an emergency plan with all local tour operators in order to provide our mutual travellers with maximum flexibility. Please get in touch if you have booked with us and have any concerns.


Traveller wearing a face mask boarding a flight in China © Maridav/Shutterstock

Should I cancel or postpone my travel plans?

If you have a trip away planned for the next few weeks – and potentially even months – you will have to cancel or postpone your plans. The UK government is currently advising against 'all but essential international travel'. If your government advises ‘against all travel’ or ‘against all but essential travel’ to your destination, your trip cancellation should be compensated by your travel insurance. Check the terms of your policy. If you decide to travel against government advice, you risk invalidating your insurance policy – if you travel during lockdown, you could face arrest.

What should I do if my travel plans are affected?

If lockdowns, travel restrictions or government advice affect your travel plans, check with your airline whether your flights and/or route are cancelled. If you are booked on a package holiday, contact the supplier.

Useful links

How can I protect myself when travelling, exercising or just at home?

Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially when returning to your accommodation from outdoors, or before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel.

Practice social distancing

Try to maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) between yourself and anyone else. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray tiny droplets from their nose or mouth. If the person coughing has the virus and you breathe in the droplets, you may also become infected.

Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose

Hands touch numerous surfaces and can easily pick up viruses. If surfaces are contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your body through your eyes, mouth or nose.

Practice respiratory hygiene

If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or the crook of your elbow. Then throw the tissue away immediately. If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical assistance. If you develop a fever, a cough or experience difficulty breathing, seek medical advice quickly. Call in advance so that your local health authority, who will have the latest information on the situation in your area, can quickly direct you to the best health facility. Be aware that if your symptoms aren't serious, it may be safer to stay at home – seek medical advice and heed it closely.

In light of the daily changing nature of the situation, we will no longer be updating this page. For up-to-date travel information, visit our Corona Travel Updates page.

Check the NHS website for health advice relating to COVID-19, and Gov.UK for up-to-date travel advice in the UK. The links in the main article should be used by international readers.

Top image: Travel restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus © Rarrarorro/Shutterstock

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 12.05.2020

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to discover
tailor-made travel?

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍