Contrary to popular belief, you can visit a country to which the Foreign Office (FCO) advises against travel without invalidating your insurance – you just need to contact one of the few providers willing to offer cover. What’s more, it shouldn’t cost much more than an ordinary policy.
Holidays to some parts of Europe and a few long-haul countries currently have FCO approval. But that still leaves the majority of the planet (including, as of September 22, France, Portugal, Spain, Croatia and several Greek islands) off-limits.
Travelling against official government advice is not illegal, but most tour operators will not offer trips to destinations which the FCO deems unsafe – in normal circumstances, that means places like Iraq and Afghanistan; in these strange times, it means just about everywhere – and most travel insurers won’t provide cover.
But some do, including – as of last month – Staysure. It claims to be the first major UK insurance brand to introduce policies “specifically designed to support those who choose to travel to European destinations where the FCO has advised against all but essential trips due to Covid-19”. Which means it won’t offer cover for, say, Yemen, but it will for Tenerife or the south of France.
Customers won’t be covered for Covid-related issues, but they will be protected in the event of other medical problems, delays, lost luggage, and all the other standard travel setbacks.
In addition, if the FCO changes its advice on a host destination once a traveller has arrived, Staysure “will pay the policyholder up to £1,000 for additional accommodation and travel expenses incurred if they need to repatriate or return to the UK earlier than planned.” It is something that would have been useful for those forced to scurry back from France and Spain at short notice over the summer.
As for cost, a spokesperson said a basic two-week policy would be around £20 for a 50-year-old visiting Spain.
Ryan Howsam, CEO and Founder of Staysure, said: “Against a backdrop of ever-changing travel advice and widespread uncertainty, we have worked hard to bring this new cover to market as quickly as possible.
“We know that, for a multitude of reasons, people are choosing to travel to European destinations even when FCO advice advises otherwise. In doing so, they find themselves exposed to additional risk, as they are no longer insured for other eventualities.”
Another firm that offers cover is Campbell Irvine. Director Mike Berry told me: “We have a separate facility through Lloyds of London and they will provide cover to places the FCO says you shouldn’t go. For routine holiday destinations like Spain or the Maldives there is no hike in premium; it shouldn’t cost much more than £20 for a one-week trip.
“We’ve sold policies during lockdown and only need 24 hours’ notice to approach the underwriters and get a quote. The only snag is that there’s no cover if you catch Covid-19 – but that’s the case with all travel insurance policies at the moment. Most of our clients, having been told of the exclusions, went ahead anyway because often they will be driving all the way to their destination.”
In recent weeks Campbell Irvine has sold numerous policies for trips to Spain and Portugal. “Certain airlines are still flying and not offering refunds, and people with family living in Spain or holiday homes remain keen to travel,” said a spokesman. “The general consensus of opinion is that you are just as likely to contract the virus in the UK as you are overseas.”
There’s also Battleface. This fearsome sounding insurance provider “covers all destinations, including countries under FCO and government non-essential travel advisories.” For a one-week holiday in Spain, I was quoted £21.14. Other firms may be able to help; contact them to discuss your options.
So don’t despair if your favourite country is not on the approved list of air bridges. You can get travel insurance. You will, however, still have to self-isolate for two weeks when you return to Britain...