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Indefinite Advice Against Travel: Now What?

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel abroad indefinitely – updated from the initial advice which was set to end on 15 April – leaving many travellers wondering what on earth this means for existing bookings, and when we’ll be able to travel again.

 

From The FCO’s Website

“The FCO advised British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This applies for an indefinite period due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.”

Even if you believe a journey overseas is essential for whatever reason, very few flights are available and you’re unlikely to find travel insurance that will cover you when you travel against FCO advice.

 

How Long Is “Indefinitely”?

The big question… nobody can put a specific date to this as it all depends on what happens over the next few weeks, but many airlines, cruise lines and tour operators are hoping we’ll be back on the road and in the air in a month or two – and they’re offering bookings for those dates too.

Planning to travel this summer could be a tad optimistic as the world is still hard at work trying to control Coronavirus and governments will not take re-opening borders lightly, but it isn’t all bad news.

2021 holidays should be a good bet, as long as you check the Ts+Cs carefully. Make sure you’re happy with the refund policy, flexibility of dates, and options for changes should you need to reschedule. Just like travel insurance policy wordings, these are different every time.

A report in news.co.uk suggested that one of the reasons for the change to “indefinite” advice against travel may have been the large number of low-cost airline tickets being sold for April, to destinations such as Milan which have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Onestop4: managing director, Kate Huet, notes that while we assume 2021 will be ok, “We must remember that it will take time for some areas to get back to normal, and countries will not all open their borders simultaneously. If you think about the order of the spread of this disease, you realise that we won’t all come out of this at the same time. Closed borders can also mean closed airspace.”

Many Brits have been looking up holidays to Spain and other favourite sunny destinations in the last few weeks, but travel may resume to only a few countries at first – those that are less severely affected. This could be a good time to branch out and try somewhere completely different. It also is likely to mean that having not travelled abroad as much in 2020, the demand for 2021 could be exceptionally high and that always increases prices. The deals now are unlikely to be there the moment the travel ban gets lifted.

 

How will we know it’s safe to travel?

USA today offered some great suggestions in this regard. Obviously, government/FCO must change its advice to allow travel, and the World Health Organisation needs to agree too. They also noted the US Centres For Disease Control (CDC) needing to be on board.

Other signs highlighted by USA Today include:

  • Schools, restaurants and businesses re-open (at home and in your destination country.)
  • Travel agents are happy to book for you – their clients’ safety is a great concern.
  • Travel insurance is available and can provide all the cover you need.

Another excellent point made by the publication is that it isn’t good enough to see one of these signs or changes – it all needs to happen along with government and WHO approval of travel.

 

What if I have already booked?

If you have booked a trip for April/May 2020 it will almost certainly have been cancelled by now. You will be entitled to a refund, rescheduled holiday of equivalent value, or vouchers that can be used in the future.

Remember that airlines based in the UK and EU have to provide a full refund according to EU regulations, as do tour operators/travel agents for package travel. These refunds are taking time and many are offering vouchers instead of refunds, but don’t give up.

If you paid with your credit card, you can also try claiming your refund from your credit card company – especially for payments to hotels, and tickets you’ve purchased for shows and other events that have now been cancelled. American Express has a great reputation for helping with this, but we have also heard of successful claims from Visa and Mastercard – e.g. for April tickets to a London musical that has now been cancelled.

 

We hope this information is helpful and that you’re as excited as we are to travel again when the coast is clear. Please get in touch if you have any other questions that we can help with, or tell us where you want to travel the minute you can!