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The world of travel has been completely decimated by the pandemic. With countries around the world plunged into lockdown at short notice, international travel was quickly off the cards, and staycations followed suit. It’s a well-known fact that we Brits love our holidays; they offer us the chance to escape to hot, sunnier climes, relax on sandy beaches and explore new destinations and their cultures. Summer is fast approaching but there’s still a big question mark over whether we’ll be able to travel abroad any time soon, or what we could need in order to do so, i.e. a ‘vaccine passport’.

We spoke to Dan from Virgin Money’s Travel Insurance team to get the inside scoop on travel insurance post-Covid.

1. How important is travel insurance right now?

In today’s climate, with Covid significantly disrupting travel, it’s more important than ever to have appropriate protection for you and your family. Travel insurance isn’t compulsory in the same way as, say, car insurance, but anyone looking to book a holiday or travel should seriously consider taking out a policy. Costs of medical treatment around the world, even for simple things, can run to thousands of pounds and in some instances, you can’t get treatment without a valid insurance policy.

2. What about if I’m planning a staycation this year?

It should definitely still be something you consider. Many policies cover UK trips and offer cancellation cover, in case you aren’t able to go on holiday due to an accident or illness. With Covid meaning many people are having to unexpectedly isolate, this added protection for relatively little cost can be incredibly valuable.

3. How has travel insurance changed since Covid?

It’s been a time of significant disruption for everyone, and this has meant insurers having to adapt. Once the pandemic hit, Covid became a ‘known event’ and insurance can’t offer cover for something that is already known about. Therefore, many insurers either withdrew cover or excluded Covid related claims. Customers will have found changes to their terms and cover versus the last time they bought and will notice updates coming through when they renew. Over time, insurers have developed new cover specifically for Covid, but even this isn’t uniform across the market. With different potential risks – customers having to isolate, customers getting ill overseas, UK government enforced lockdowns, airport checks, changes to travel corridors – all policies will offer something different in terms of protection. As with all insurance, it’s really important that you understand what is and isn’t covered when considering buying travel cover.

4. What are the main things to look for when it comes to buying travel insurance now?

Start off by thinking about what’s most important for you to protect and then find providers that offer that – i.e. do you need specific cover for any pre-existing medical conditions, your baggage and any particular gadgets or valuables? No policy in the market today will cover every eventuality, so it’s a good idea to do your research and shop around. Which? and Money Saving Expert offer independent advice on things to look out for.

5. If the destination I’m due to travel to restricts UK arrivals, and closes the travel corridor, will I be covered by my insurance if I don’t travel?

Probably not. Government actions – either lockdowns in the UK or restrictions imposed by other countries – are usually not covered by insurance. However, your travel company should offer you a refund or the option to move to alternative travel dates, so it’s unlikely that you’d need to claim on your insurance anyway. Insurance typically only covers costs that can’t be recovered from elsewhere, so your first point of contact for any issue should be the travel agent or tour operator you booked with. Although there were issues with processing refunds when the first lockdown was announced, the travel industry has become much better and quicker at processing refunds now. If you book using a credit card, then you may have an alternative route to a refund, too.

6. What happens if I get told to self-isolate by the NHS Track and Trace app in the days before I’m due to travel but don’t have a positive test result?

If you’re told to isolate by the NHS, then typically policies which offer cancellation for Covid will cover any costs you can’t get back from your travel provider.

7. If Coronavirus cases are rising in the area I’m due to travel to for a holiday and I no longer want to travel, am I able to cancel my holiday and have the cost refunded?

If you decide you don’t want to travel, insurance will not cover your lost holiday costs. It may be worth speaking to your travel provider who may be able to offer you alternative travel dates or destination.

8. What if I am advised not to travel by the Foreign Office?

If the FCO advises UK citizens not to travel to a destination then (provided you booked your trip and insurance before the restriction was imposed) your insurance should cover you, although you should be able to get a refund or move your trip by speaking to your travel provider first. It’s worth noting that no insurance will cover you if you travel against FCO advice.

9. What happens if I fall ill with Coronavirus while I’m abroad?

You should seek treatment quickly and follow all local guidance about isolation. Try to speak to your insurer before getting treatment – especially in a private facility – as they can direct you to the best place to get the care you need, plus it will ensure you don’t incur unnecessary costs. Whilst it might be tempting to try and get back home, the chances are that you’ll need to stay overseas and isolate. Some insurance policies offer additional cover for extra accommodation costs that you might need to pay and claim back if you have to extend your holiday.

10. Does having had the vaccine have any impact on the cost of my travel insurance? Can it make my premium go down?

Currently, no. But in time, insurers may factor this into insurance pricing.

11. What about Brexit? How has that impacted travel insurance and what I’m covered for/not covered for?

The main impact of Brexit has been the replacement of the European Health Insurance Card with the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). If you’re travelling to Europe, you should apply for a GHIC which will offer free treatment in state healthcare facilities in many countries around the world. If your EHIC is still valid, then you’ll be able to continue using it until its expiry date. Other than that, the impact of Brexit on travel insurance has been relatively minimal.

12. I’ve had the same annual travel insurance policy for years, will I be covered if I renew it this year?

You’ll be notified of any changes to your policy when it comes up for renewal. Keeping continuous cover can give you greater protection, as any trips that were booked before the pandemic and have been rearranged would likely have full protection and not be subject to any restrictions on cover that might have subsequently been brought in.

13. And finally, what are your top tips for booking a holiday this year in terms of keeping yourself as protected as you can?

Holidaying might not be as straightforward as it used to be, but we’re here to help keep you right. Find out more about Virgin Money’s Travel Insurance here.

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