The world is eagerly awaiting the moment when we can rush to the local airport and fly off somewhere on holiday. We’re hearing about folk who aren’t even waiting for the all-clear before they start snapping-up holiday bargains. Is that a risky strategy, when half of the world is still locked-down? We decided to summarise what we think are the most important points to check before booking a coronavirus travel deal.
- Will your country of origin permit you to travel?
- Is the airline or tour operator solvent?
- Will your destination country allow you to enter?
- Do you need a medical certificate?
- Are hotels and restaurants open?
- Will you need to quarantine, wear a mask or social distance?
- Will the flight be comfortable?
- Does your travel insurance cover you?
- Can the local medical system cope if you needed it?
- Will you have to quarantine when you return?
Will your country of origin permit you to travel?
That’s right, before you book a discounted trip, check you can leave the house! For example, at the time we wrote this, the British Government imposed restrictions on movement that prevented travel outside of our home for longer than a day. We could go out and about, but not stay overnight anywhere.
Passengers could be questioned about the nature of their travel and risk being sent home by the police.
Additionally, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) imposed a travel advisory to not travel abroad unless essential. This statement alone invalidated most travel insurance policies.
The British Government has relaxed restrictions while it eases local lockdown measures. We’ve covered all the countries the UK allows travel to/from in another post.
Is the airline or tour operator solvent?
We’ve seen that airlines are making no secret of how near to bankruptcy they are. Despite being sat on billions in cash, the bigger airlines told us they’re burning £100m+ per day. Even the richest don’t seem to have enough cash to last a long-term grounding of their fleets. They’re all desperate to get their aircraft back in the air and are telling us that’ll be soon. Package holiday companies are in the same situation. They too have aircraft to pay for, and also have commitments for accommodation. The travel sector is speculatively selling tickets with optimism attached.
We’ve seen some great deals out there, but buyer beware. Cancelling travel because your airline went bust is terrible, but being stranded abroad without a hotel is even worse. If you’re planning to speculatively book a trip, check the airline has a strong cash position or has already been bailed-out by a government.
Will your destination country allow you to enter?
Even if your country of departure lets you leave, will the country you’re heading to be happy to receive you? Remember, if your journey requires a transit stop along the way, you’ll need to check the restrictions for the layover country too. For the purposes of arrival, most countries will consider you to have travel from both your origin and transit country. This may increase the likelihood of needing to quarantine on arrival.
Here’s an up-to-date list of countries that the UK permits travel without quarantine.
Notable “closed” countries
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Africa
There may be glimmer of hope within Europe. The EU issued guidance on 13th May that it wants tourism between member states to start reopening. The guidance specifically calls for the restoration of freedom of movement and for countries to lift their internal border controls.
Even if the country is officially allowing visitors to enter, it might be worth checking the mood with the local tourism office and reading the press (most are online these days). You wouldn’t want to arrive at your destination only to receive a tirade of abuse from the locals. Our bet is most tourist spots will be hanging out the flags when the tourist income returns.
Here’s an exhaustive list of travel restrictions for every country.
Do you need a medical certificate?
Infectious diseases are nothing new and travel has always been affected by it. For example, you have to present a yellow fever immunisation certificate when you travel to certain countries from affected regions.
We’re already seeing strong signals that coronavirus travel documentation will be adopted for travel in the not too distant. Iceland recently stated it will exempt tourists from a mandatory 14-day quarantine rule if they present a recent negative test certificate or subject themselves to a test on arrival.
Are hotels and restaurants open?
Just because the flights are operating doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the local tourism industry will be open for business. Check that hotels and restaurants have reopened at your destination. If they report to be open, check the protocols they need to follow – reduced capacity and mandatory bookings might make it harder to get a table.
If you’re planning on seeing some sights, check that they’re able to receive visitors. If you’re planning a beach holiday, check the beaches are open.
Also check the price of your desired accommodation before you lock-in your plans. Basic supply and demand dictates low prices = low demand. If your destination is one of the few accepting tourists, you should expect prices to skyrocket when every man, woman and their dog head there.
If you struggle to find affordable accommodation that is open, booking that coronavirus travel deal might feel like a false economy.
Will you need to quarantine, wear a mask or social distance?
While open for business, life may be far from normal when you arrive. Check if quarantine restrictions will be imposed when you arrive. Many countries are mandating 14-day self quarantine, which could royally ruin a 7-night beach holiday. If you’re planning to take advantage of the quarantine rules to stay in a remote villa for 14-days, bear in mind that you cannot leave at all, not even for food! It would also be wise to check that the villa owner is happy with this arrangement.
Even if you’re not asked to quarantine, you will have to contend with social distancing. More and more countries are insisting you wear a mask in public. Spain, Italy, Turkey and the UK are all mandating face coverings in public places – especially indoors. In Spain, masks must also be worn when sat by the pool or when on the beach. Decide whether or not this is likely to negatively impact the activities you hope to enjoy as part of your trip. If you won’t get much value from the trip, you might think twice before booking that coronavirus travel deal.
Will the flight be comfortable?
Let’s face it, flying right now is far from fun. Airports are ghost towns, which might sound fun, but some hospitality and retail is closed. Airline lounges are gradually reopening, but offering limited services. On the plane, you’ll be asked to stay in your seat and will only receive a bare-bones cabin service. Almost all airlines now require you to wear a mask throughout your flight. Most countries will require you to keep your mask on as you pass though the airport and use the public transport system. Food is either non-existent or a very trimmed-back affair. Sandwiches in a box and a bottle of water, and that might only be in business class! If you have a weak bladder, be mindful that access to washrooms will be managed by the crew, so go easy on that water. That said, 5-star airlines are bucking the trend. For example, Qatar Airways are still offering a full meal service to their passengers. It pays to do your research now more than ever. You may get a lot more for your money on some airlines and a lot less on others.
Does your travel insurance cover you?
If you have to cancel your trip, or the airline cancels, will your insurer cover you? Many travel insurers have warned policy holders that they won’t cover claims related to COVID-19.
What about medical care if you developed severe COVID-19 symptoms? If you’re on holiday and you fall sick, will your insurer still cover your costs?
Many insurers are varying their terms of cover with the home and foreign government advice. We’ve seen some policies only cover trips that were booked before or after the advice not to travel was issued. Even if your trip is way in the future, if you booked it when government advice was not to travel, your insurer still may not cover you. Please don’t get caught out; it could be very costly. If you can’t find the relevant information, contact the insurer for clarification. Ask them to show you where they’ve written the new policy variation – screen-shot it.
We think travel insurance is such a big consideration we’ve written a separate article on whether or not we should travel without insurance.
Can the local medical system cope if you needed it?
Nobody plans to get ill or have an accident on holiday, but it does happen, and often at the most inconvenient time. How is the medical care at your destination? Are hospitals coping well with COVID-19 cases, or are they overwhelmed? If your little one gets hurt playing by the pool, or one of you gets food poisoning, are you happy the local infrastructure will be in a position to help you? Check with your travel insurer that they will cover you for medical incidents aboard during your period of travel. Many are varying their terms of cover with the home and foreign government advice. Again, don’t get caught out. Medical bills soon escalate.
Will you have to quarantine when you return?
Finally, you may have aced the perfect bargain getaway, but unless you’re emigrating, getting back is also necessary. Will the authorities expect you to quarantine at home before you can to go about your normal daily life?
In the UK, everyone arriving from overseas (with the exception of Ireland and France) should quarantine at home for 14 days. This might be less of a problem if you’re working from home, but it would mean no-one in your household could leave home for two weeks. Not even to exercise. For the right trip, it might be a price worth paying.
As long as you’ve considered these points, you can get on with booking that coronavirus travel deal with little regret. If in doubt, follow the advice of your government and travel insurer. These are the folk who’ll be bailing you out if the trip doesn’t go according to plan.
We’ll start posting the 2020 deals when we think they’re a safer bet. For now, we’re focusing our deal searches on 2021.