Coronavirus: How to plan your holiday if you’ve bought travel insurance too late
Important:Travel insurance rules continue to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re working hard to keep up and make sure our guides are up to date, however some information may not be accurate during the pandemic. It’s even more important to double-check all details that matter to you before taking out cover. Please know that some policies may not be available through Finder at this time. Here are some helpful tips:
- If you're buying a policy today, it's unlikely that you'll be covered for any coronavirus-related claims
- If your travel plans go against government advice, your policy will most likely be voided and you won't be covered
Planning a trip but worried about coronavirus? We answer your travel insurance questions here.
Have a trip booked but worried about coronavirus? If you bought travel insurance after January 2020, you probably won't be covered for claims related to coronavirus. However, that doesn't mean you should cancel your trip and stay at home. Here's how to plan your holiday if you've bought travel insurance after coronavirus became a known event.
To stay up to date with other coronavirus guides, head to our coronavirus hub.
Will my travel insurance cover me?
Most travel insurers won't cover any coronavirus-related claim if you bought a policy after January 2020. This includes cancellations and medical cover. This is because travel insurance is designed to cover unforeseen issues and coronavirus has been considered a known event since this time.
If you bought insurance before this time and are planning to travel to a country where there is a travel ban in place (such as China and Iran) you might be covered for cancellations. To be sure, contact your travel insurer directly to see whether you'll be able to claim on your policy. If other countries are added to the list, then the same rules apply.
For travelling to countries where there is no travel restriction, you probably won't be covered if you decide to cancel. While the epidemic is all over the news, you can't cancel your trip solely out of fear and expect a refund.
How much will your insurance cover you for?
You might be able to get cover for cancellation expenses if the Australian government changes the travel warning to "Do not travel" in the country you are planning to go to. This is only if you bought a policy before the ban was put in place. In most other cases, you won't be able to get cover for cancellations if there is no travel ban in place, unless you already have CFAR travel insurance, which lets you cancel for any reason.
The type of cover you get will also depend on how your insurer treats epidemics and pandemics. Many travel insurers will automatically exclude cover related to epidemics and pandemics. It's worth reading your product disclosure statement (PDS) for either of those terms to find out whether your insurer covers them or not. For example, Budget Direct provides cancellation cover for epidemics while 1Cover excludes pandemics and epidemics.
- Budget Direct says it will cover you "if the cancellation of your trip is necessary and unavoidable as a result of [...] you being unable to travel because of travel restrictions imposed on you after an epidemic, terrorist attack or natural disaster".
- 1Cover, on the other hand, says it will not pay "if your claim arises from, or is associated with an actual or likely pandemic and epidemic or the threat of an epidemic or pandemic".
For a full list on how insurers treat epidemics and pandemics, head to our guide where we analyse it.
It's worth keeping in mind that, if your policy excludes epidemics or pandemics, you should still be covered for claims unrelated to coronavirus.
For example, if your luggage was stolen while you were in an infected area, you would still be covered for that. Similarly, unless stated otherwise, you should still be covered for overseas medical and hospital expenses if you become ill when you are in a foreign country.
Looking for other insurance options?
Find out how to protect your finances during the global coronavirus pandemic with insurance.
What happens if a travel warning is put in place after I've booked accommodation?
Because most insurers will not cover you for coronavirus-related claims if you bought a policy in January 2020 or thereafter, it might be difficult to get a refund from your insurer.
If a travel ban is put in place after you've booked accommodation, you will probably have to speak to the booking site or third-party provider (like Airbnb) about seeking a refund. This really depends on the terms and conditions of the provider you used. For example, many Airbnb hosts have flexible cancellation policies. Booking sites also often have their own terms and conditions. However, most advise you to obtain suitable travel insurance to cover your booking for the property, in the event you have to cancel your booking.
Airbnb has also released a statement stating that people may be able to cancel and receive refunds under its "extenuating circumstance policy". See the statement below:
If you paid for your accommodation by credit card, you might be able to seek a refund. This is because if the accommodation provider hasn't provided the service, you can request a "chargeback" through your credit card provider.
What happens if a travel warning is put in place after I've booked flights?
If a travel ban is put in place after you've booked flights, you will probably be entitled to a refund from the airline itself. For instance, Jetstar recently suspended its Seoul to Gold Coast service until 30 June 2020 and is offering those affected the option to defer their travel dates until March 2021 or a refund if they no longer wish to travel.
Similarly, Qantas is offering the following services to those who have been affected by the current immigration restrictions. You can either:
- Rebook your flight
- Cancel your ticket and retain its value in credit
- Cancel your flights for a full refund
If there has been cases of COVID-19 in the country you are travelling to, but no travel restrictions, you probably won't be entitled to a refund, unless the airline is offering one.
Should I keep planning my holiday or prepare for things to change?
This is really up to you, but it's worth keeping in mind that the World Health Organization (WHO) only recommends delaying or avoiding travel to affected areas if you are sick, unwell, elderly or have any chronic diseases or underlying health conditions. At the moment, Smartraveller advises that Australians continue to "exercise normal safety precautions", meaning taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene. To keep up to date with the latest information, go to Smarttraveller.
Though there's no way to predict exactly what will happen, there are some travel tips worth following:
- Stay in places with flexible cancellation policies so you don't lose out on a lot of cash if you do need to cancel.
- Buy on a credit card that will give you a refund if you do need to cancel.
- Go on holiday! If you don't have any underlying health conditions, are elderly or sick, there's absolutely no reason why you can't still go on holiday.