With some countries relaxing travel restrictions, and vaccine passports being introduced across Europe, there’s a glimmer of hope for booking a holiday abroad this year. But many travellers feel reluctant to take that chance for fear of being taken ill, being stranded, or not getting a refund if their trip is cancelled.
It’s no wonder that in a survey by UK-based company Medical Travel Compared, almost half (43 per cent) of British tourists said they are wary of booking a trip during the pandemic, and two thirds (66 per cent) say that having COVID-19 covered by their travel insurance policy would make them feel more secure.
According to the research, May 2021 is currently the most popular month for UK tourists to book a getaway - and the favourite destination is Europe.
We’ve answered the most common questions about travel in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Get in touch on Twitter @euronewstravel if yours isn't answered.
Will my travel insurance cover me for travel issues related to COVID-19?
This is down to the individual insurance provider, so you will need to check with them before making bookings or travelling.
Unfortunately, finding an insurance provider who will cover you for COVID-19 has become increasingly difficult.
As a general rule, travel insurance providers will not cover you if you travel against government advice, which is why it’s so important to keep up to date with the guidelines in both your home and destination countries. You can do that here.
It is also advised that you pay for your holiday on a credit card to add an extra layer of protection if your trip is cancelled.
Can I travel if I've had the COVID-19 vaccine? Do I need a vaccine passport?
Despite Europe still grappling with a rise in COVID-19 infections, some countries, like Greece, are allowing immunised tourists to enter the country without having to quarantine. And now, the European Commission is working to introduce a universal vaccine passport for use across the continent by the end of January.
Read full details on vaccine passports here.
Is it better to book a hotel or private accommodation?
To minimise contact with people outside of your bubble, booking private accommodation, such as a villa, apartment or a campsite, is the safer option.
The more self-sufficient you can be, the better. Even if hotels are taking bookings, restaurants, bars and cafes might be closed in the country you’re visiting - this is the case in a lot of European countries at the moment. But if you have self-catering accommodation, you’ll be able to get to a supermarket and cook for yourself, rather than being reliant on hotel room service.
Having said this, you shouldn’t completely rule out hotels and resorts. A lot of hotels across Europe have introduced extra safety measures to stay open, such as only serving food via room service, one way systems and enhanced cleaning protocols.
Is it safer to fly or drive?
Again, in terms of socially distancing and minimising contact with other people, driving yourself could be a safer option and it will mean you don’t need to rely on public transport once you reach your destination.
Although you’ll have to present a negative PCR test before you can board your flight, there’s no guarantee that you won’t pick up the virus during your journey. This is why in some countries, you have to be tested again and quarantine once you arrive.
In most European countries, the same travel restrictions for flying apply to drivers, but there’s a reduced risk of picking up the virus if you’re in your own car.
If you’re transiting through a country, you won’t be required to self-isolate if you’re going to be in that country for a certain amount of time.
The best way to find out how borders are operating is to visit the Re-open EU dashboard.
I’m clinically vulnerable and no longer feel safe travelling. What should I do?
If you’re clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 and you no longer wish to travel, a refund will be at the discretion of the individual tourism provider or your insurance provider. The advice is to check all of the scenarios with them before booking.
If you can provide a medical note that proves travel for you is not advised, this will help.
Be aware though, if you knew the risks to your health at the time of booking the trip, the insurance provider could still deny you a refund.
What if I catch COVID-19 before my trip and I can’t go?
If you catch COVID-19 before you’re due to travel, you will have to stay at home. In this case, you will need to cancel your holiday and speak to the individual provider. Most holiday companies are sympathetic to the situation and advocate safe and responsible travel. They might allow you to rebook your stay, or a full or partial refund could be offered.
Some holiday companies are offering holiday packages ‘risk free’, meaning they will fully refund you or allow you to rebook should a COVID-19 related scenario arise, so it’s worth enquiring about this when you book
Above all, if you’re booking a trip anywhere, be prepared for the possibility that your trip could get cancelled without notice and you could be waiting a while to get your money back.
What will happen if I cancel my holiday?
If you decide to cancel your holiday - especially if your provider is still going ahead - you are unlikely to be fully refunded.
You should, however, be entitled to a refund if travel to your destination - or in your own country - is banned or advised against.
What if I catch COVID-19 and become ill while on holiday?
It can be hard to find travel insurance which will cover you for COVID-19 related illnesses - especially if non-essential travel is advised against at the time. Though some providers are covering it, so do your research and shop around.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles you to medical care at a discounted rate, no longer applies to UK travellers. However, UK travellers can now apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which works in exactly the same way. So, if you’re travelling from the UK, make sure you’ve got a GHIC card.
For anybody planning a holiday in Europe, we would recommend:
- Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 cases and restrictions in the country you’re travelling to. It’s important to consider how well the hospitals are coping there, and do some research around seeking medical help.
- Consider your own health and the health of those around you.
- Where possible, wait until you’re vaccinated to travel.
- If you do decide to travel, make sure you have any medical records on your person in case a doctor needs to see them.
- Take your own medical supplies just in case.
What should I do if I get stranded abroad?
People being stranded abroad has been common throughout the pandemic, with governments imposing last-minute travel restrictions. Just before Christmas, a lot of countries banned flights from the UK in a matter of hours, after the new COVID-19 variant was discovered.
Getting stuck abroad is a real possibility, so you need to be prepared:
- Make sure you pack extra supplies of medication or medical supplies.
- Check your travel insurance covers you if you do get stuck abroad or need to take a repatriation flight.
- If you're buying single-trip travel insurance, it’s a good idea to buy more cover than you think you need.
- Make sure you have extra money to cover any costs incurred if you get stranded.
Leave a key to your home with someone back home in case they need access.
Keep all records and receipts for your insurance.
Do you have any unanswered questions about travelling during the pandemic? Let us know on Twitter @euronewstravel.