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Coronavirus: things to consider when booking a holiday

After being cooped up for so long, it’s a joy that we can finally travel again.

No wonder many of us are planning much-needed getaways.

You can’t guarantee your next holiday will go without a hitch. But with a little forward planning, you can reduce the impact of things going wrong.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Is your destination on the green list?

Under the government’s traffic light system, countries are now classed as green, amber or red. The benefit of travelling to a green-list country is you won’t have to isolate when you get home – unless you test positive for coronavirus.

Keep in mind, there are different coronavirus rules if you’re entering Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Before you travel, check the red, amber and green list rules for entering England. You’ll find links to all the countries on the list, with details of their current status.

If you live in England and travel to a green-list country, before you travel back home, you’ll need to:

The tests will cost between £120 and £200, depending on which country you take the pre-departure test in and which UK provider you use. Some travel providers are now offering test packages for as little as £20 to make their holidays more affordable.

For all the latest guidance, including what to do when you’re abroad and how to prepare for your return to the UK, visit GOV.UK’s travel abroad and coronavirus pages.

Have you been fully vaccinated?

You can now travel to an amber-list country and won’t need to quarantine when you return to England, or take a day 8 COVID-19 test, as long as you:

  • have had your final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before the date you arrive in England

  • have not been in a red-list country in the 10 days before you arrive in England

You’ll just need to declare that you have been fully vaccinated on your passenger locator form and show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.

As with travel to green-list countries, you’ll also have to take a pre-departure test before you come home, and book and pay for a day 2 test.

Children under the age of 18 and people taking part in formally-approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials will also be exempt from requirements to quarantine and take the day 8 test.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, can you quarantine when you get home?

If you travel to an amber-list country without having both jabs, you would need to quarantine for 10 days at home on your return to the UK.

As well as your pre-departure test, you’ll need to take a test on day 2 and day 8, after your arrival home. Or you could pay extra for an additional ‘Test to Release’ test on day 5 to end self-isolation early.

Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.

The current guidance says you shouldn’t travel to red-list countries for leisure purposes.

Is the holiday you’re considering ATOL- or ABTA- protected?

Coronavirus has brought much economic uncertainty. While unlikely, there’s always a chance that your holiday firm could go into administration before you leave or while you’re away.

With an ATOL- or ABTA-protected holiday, if your travel firm goes bust before you set off then you’ll get a full refund. And if it happens while you’re away, chartered flights will bring you home. This kind of protection is not a substitute for travel insurance, but it can provide some extra peace of mind.

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser's Licence. ATOL protection applies to package holidays that include flights. ABTA is the operating name of what was formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents. ABTA protection covers holidays that involve rail, cruise or self-drive, but not flights. 

Can you pay for your holiday using a debit or credit card?

If you book your holiday using a debit or credit card and your travel plans get disrupted by coronavirus, you may be able to recover some of your money via a ‘chargeback’. However, if you pay with a credit card and it costs over £100 and under £30,000, you may also have protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Claiming a refund from either your travel operator or your card provider may lead to a better outcome than claiming via your travel insurance, as you may be able to claim the full amount you paid without having to pay an insurance excess. You could also potentially recover losses for all the party members on the booking.

Before making a claim, make sure you follow the supplier’s refund/re-booking terms in the first instance.

Is there any protection on your travel money?

Many providers have currently paused some or all of their travel money services. So it’s hard to know what protection may be available with regard to changing travel restrictions.

However, if you purchase your travel money from HSBC and cannot travel due to your destination moving categories, we’ll purchase your currency back at the rate you paid so you won’t be out of pocket.

If you already have travel insurance, what’s covered?

If you’ve had a policy in place before the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, you may still be covered for coronavirus-related disruption. But before booking anything new, check with your insurer to see what sort of cover you’d have if:

  • you travel to countries where restrictions are still in place

  • your destination gets moved to the amber or red list after you book

  • you or someone you’re close to gets coronavirus before you’re due to travel

  • you or someone you come into contact with gets coronavirus while you’re away

  • you get quarantined at an airport

For details of the travel cover offered through HSBC policies, see our coronavirus travel guidance.

If you don’t yet have travel insurance, what sort of cover is available?

As coronavirus is a known event, you may struggle to get coronavirus-related cancellation cover. But there are plenty of other things you’ll likely be covered for, such as:

  • medical costs, including the cost of treating you and getting you back home

  • lost or stolen baggage

  • delayed or missed flights

  • personal liability for any injuries you cause

To find out more, read should you get travel insurance?

If you decide to get travel insurance, it makes sense to buy it as soon as you book your holiday. Because, as well as covering you while you’re away, travel insurance can also cover you for things that might go wrong before you travel, such as:

  • finding out your travel company’s gone out of business

  • being made redundant

  • getting ill or injured

  • experiencing a death in the family

If you’re planning 2 or more trips within a 12-month period, then annual or ‘multi-trip cover’ is usually cheaper. Although it depends on where you're travelling to and how long you’re going for, so compare the cost against single-trip cover before buying a policy.

What travel insurance is available from HSBC?

We’re no longer selling single and multi-trip travel insurance policies to new customers.

However, we do offer comprehensive worldwide travel insurance as one of the options in our multi-cover policy, Select and Cover. And it even provides a degree of cover for cancellations related to coronavirus.

Cover starts from £19.50 per month for 3 options and there’s 7 different types of insurance to choose from. It covers you, your partner and any children living with you who are under 18 – or under 23 if they’re in full-time education and living at home during the holidays.

It’s available to HSBC UK customers who are registered for online banking. The Worldwide Travel option is provided by Aviva Insurance Limited and covers up to the age of 70.