What happens if you ignore government advice to travel right now?

Jul 28, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

In March, the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice that advised “British nationals against all but essential international travel” worldwide. This advice has since been revised to allow travel to dozens of destinations from England, including much of mainland Europe. This FCO advice is under constant review and is subject to change quickly, as we saw recently with Spain.

So, right now, there are some destinations you can travel to without breaching the FCO advice, and many destinations you cannot. For example, you can travel to Italy but not Portugal.

If you want to travel to a destination where the FCO still advises against non-essential travel this summer, here’s what will happen if you do.

Related: What is considered essential travel vs. non-essential travel during coronavirus restrictions?

SANTIAGO, CHILE - MAY 26: A passenger wearing a face mask looks at the phone waiting for information from LATAM airline at Arturo Merino Benitez Airport on May 26, 2020 in Santiago, Chile. Regional airline LATAM bankruptcy protection filing was spurred by the COVID-19 travel restrictions, which forced to cancel 95% of the company flights. According to the carrier, its operations in Latin America will not be affected during restructuring process. LATAM is seeking support from stakeholders and national governments from Chile, Peru and Colombia. (Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

Regardless of FCO advice, many countries will still not allow British passport holders entry for non-essential reasons, such as the United States. If you do not meet the entry requirements for the destination, you can expect not to be allowed to board the plane.

Europe is reopening to British tourists, as countries try and recoup the enormous tourism revenue they are losing as the peak summer travel season continues. If the country you wish to travel to allows British travellers for tourism reasons, then you will likely be allowed entry whether there is FCO advice against travelling there or not. Note some countries have introduced additional entry requirements, like health checks on entry.

Related: TPG UK readers share their summer holiday plans

You should, however, be aware of what will be meeting you at your destination. For example, if the country is still under some form of lockdown itself, many things may be closed, which won’t be much of a holiday. For example, the Spanish island of Ibiza is best known for its famous nightclubs. Right now, they’re all closed.

Check in advance what the government restrictions are on shops, restaurants, bars, beaches and other public spaces. If you are forced to sit in a hotel room with nothing to do, is this really better than staying at home? Remember to pack a few masks, as you’re like to have to wear one in public wherever you travel.

The FCO advice is just that — advice. It is not law. However, note that if you choose to ignore this advice, your travel insurance is likely to be voided by the decision. This is because most policies have a specific exclusion worded along the lines of “travel in contravention of government advice”, which will bid your coverage null.

Related: Does my travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Some people may not usually hold health travel insurance for journeys to mainland Europe because they rely on their European Health Insurance Card instead. These cards are still valid until 1 January 2021. Note that the EHIC does not give the same level of health cover as travel insurance would. The EHIC only provides the same basic statutory care as citizens of that destination country would receive. In an emergency situation, especially in a foreign language, the last thing you want to be doing is checking if the health care you need matches what a citizen would receive for no cost and you won’t be left out of pocket.

Related: Travel to Europe will be very different from 1 January 2021: Here are the government’s new regulations

A woman wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus walks in front of a screen showing international departures at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai 26, 2020. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Also remember that while you may be able to get a flight out of the U.K. for a holiday right now, there’s absolutely no guarantee you will be able to return home when and how you want. The last few months have seen rapidly changing entry and transit restrictions and thousands of flights cancelled.

If your return travel were to get cancelled and you were stuck abroad, the insurance that would you usually rely on is now invalidated. In many cases, that’s because you travelled against government advice, rendering your insurance invalid.

Also, remember if you choose to leave the U.K., you will be subject to the government’s 14-day quarantine policy upon your return from many destinations. You will need to isolate yourself at home for at least 14 days immediately on your return. Failure to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine policy so can result in a £1,000 fine.

Related: TPG readers share their thoughts on the UK government’s controversial 14-day quarantine policy

Bottom line

If you are allowed to enter a particular country, any FCO’s travel advice most likely won’t stop you from doing so. However, you need to be acutely aware of the risk you are taking if you choose to travel somewhere the FCO recommends against travelling to. By travelling against government advice, your travel insurance will likely be voided during a global health pandemic, you may not be able to return home and you’ll need to isolate for 14 days when you do.

Featured image by amoklv/Getty

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