Will my travel insurance cover a holiday to an amber country this summer?

May 14, 2021

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The U.K.’s government’s long-awaited unveiling of the traffic light system for foreign leisure travel last week brought with it both excitement and disappointment.

From 17 May, British travellers can now finally travel to destinations including Portugal, Iceland, Israel and nine other countries and territories without the need to quarantine on their return to the U.K. with the blanket ban on non-essential travel being lifted after months of lockdown.

Related: What does the ‘traffic light’ travel announcement mean for my summer holiday?

Those looking to visit other destinations this summer discovered that the vast majority of countries, in particular, popular destinations like Spain, Greece, France and the United States, were placed on the amber list. This means anyone arriving from these countries must present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight back to the U.K., self-isolate at home or a place of their choosing in the U.K. for 10 days and have pre-booked two additional PCR tests to take on day 2 and day 8 of their quarantine period.

Anyone self-isolating for 10 days can potentially reduce the isolation period with an additional PCR test through the Test To Release scheme, which must be taken after five full days of quarantine.

Spain plans to welcome British tourists with no COVID-19 test requirement from 20 May, despite being on the amber list. So if you are willing to self-isolate on your return to the U.K. in exchange for a long-overdue holiday, can you legally travel to an amber country, and what does this mean for your travel insurance?

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(Photo by Carrigphotos/Getty Images)

Depending on which amber country you are travelling to, you should always check the individual U.K. government advice, as there may be different advice for different parts of that country.

Looking at popular Spain as an example, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) currently advises “against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.” This means that for Spain, from 17 May when the travel ban ends, the U.K. government advice is that you can travel to the Canary Islands for a holiday, but for the time being, you should not travel to the rest of Spain for a non-essential reason.

As was the case last summer, this government advice is critical when it comes to your travel insurance. Most regular travel insurance policies will be invalid where you choose to travel to a destination against FCDO advice. Insurance giant AXA, for example, states the following: “A number of our policies no longer cover cancellation or curtailment if the FCDO or another regulatory body advises against travel due to a pandemic.”

This means for Spain as an example, an AXA travel insurance policy is unlikely to cover travel to mainland Spain while this amber-related travel advice exists. It would cover travel to the Canary Islands, as no advice against travel exists to the Canary Islands.

If you do want to travel to an amber destination where there is FCDO advises against doing so and still want to be covered with travel insurance, some specialist providers have launched COVID travel insurance for these situations, where traditional travel insurance policies may be invalid. These COVID policies may be more expensive and have different exclusions to traditional policies, so you should carefully read the fine print before selecting a policy to understand what is covered and what is not.

Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, are offering free travel insurance for any destination you book with it regardless of government advice. However, for Spain, airlines like EasyJet offer normal travel insurance for an additional fee but state the policy will not cover you if you travel against government advice, even if the flight still operates.

Bottom line

Always check the FCDO website before travelling abroad this summer. Where the FCDO advises against travelling to a destination, this will likely invalidate normal travel insurance policies.

If you still wish to travel to an amber list country for a holiday against FCDO advice, some specialist travel insurance companies are providing coverage for these situations. Some airlines are also offering this insurance to encourage you to book with them.

 Featured image by Marco Simoni/Getty Images.

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