MSE News

Coronavirus Travel Rights

Latest on UK and overseas travel restrictions, plus refunds and insurance help

Coronavirus Travel Rights

The 'traffic light' travel system used to determine the rules for those travelling to the UK has been overhauled. We've full info on what's happened, including changes to testing and quarantining. Plus, this guide also has key info on travel insurance, refund rights and more.

Important: This is a fast-changing situation. The info below is the best we have currently, but we'll be updating this guide. If you've a question that isn't covered below, please let us know at (though unfortunately we can't respond to every email).

Looking for other help? This guide focuses on travel, but also see:

Plus we've specific info on: Wedding cancellation rights & WFH tax reclaiming


Overseas holidays return as travel restrictions are lifted – where can you go?

Travel restrictions have been easing gradually since the start of spring – travel within the UK is now allowed and overseas holidays have resumed.

As restrictions are lifted, a suite of rules has been put in place. There are three key points to bear in mind before you book: 

  1. Check the UK's travel system for what you need to do on your return. You can jump to How the travel system works below – or read on. It's important to note that the rules don't give the whole picture, as they're primarily about what you have to do on returning to the UK, so you also need to follow the steps below.

  2. Check the UK Foreign Office's advice on whether it's safe to travel. This is key for travel insurance cover and your rights to a refund. If the Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel" or "all travel", you aren't supposed to go, and this may trigger a refund – see more on refund rights if the Foreign Office warns against travel below. Travelling in defiance of the advice may also invalidate your insurance.

  3. Remember, even if the UK Government says it's OK to travel, there's no guarantee your destination will let you in (and many won't). For example, Australia is on the green list from a UK perspective, but it's not letting holidaymakers in. Even where there's no outright ban, there may be other restrictions in place, eg, you may have to provide a negative coronavirus test and quarantine on arrival. Check the Foreign Office website, as well as directly with the country itself (or its UK embassy website), for the latest.

There's still a huge amount of uncertainty, as the rules could change unexpectedly. Essentially, before booking anything it's crucial to make sure you fully understand the financial risk, and book flexibly wherever possible.

The latest on UK and overseas travel restrictions – the key need-to-knows

Travel restrictions vary depending on which part of the UK you're in. To find out the exact rules which apply in a given area, see the following Government websites for: EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland – but here's a summary:

  • Holidays within England, Scotland and Wales are allowed and there are no longer any restrictions on the number of people you can travel or stay with in holiday accommodation.

    You can also leave to travel to Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland – but this does rely on the rules in these regions allowing you to enter, so check before booking.

    Overseas holidays are also allowed. 

  • Travel from Northern Ireland to anywhere within the Common Travel Area (CTA) is permitted – but if you're staying overnight, you're expected to take lateral flow Covid-19 tests before you travel and after you return.

    In addition, all types of holiday accommodation can now reopen, including hotels, caravan parks and B&Bs. A maximum of ten people from up to three households (not counting any under-13s) can stay together overnight. If one of the households includes ten or more members, then a maximum of 15 people (again not counting any under-13s) are allowed to stay together.

    Overseas holidays are also now allowed.

The rules for those arriving into the UK

As part of a system of rules on international travel, destinations had been placed in one of three categories – green, amber and red. But on 4 October 2021, the green and amber lists were scrapped and replaced with a red list and non-red list group of destinations.

The shake-up means fully vaccinated adults returning to the UK from a non-red list destination no longer have to take a pre-departure test, while children aged 17 and under who reside in the UK and who are travelling back to the UK from abroad can follow the same rules as people who are fully vaccinated. 

In addition, fully vaccinated travellers to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can now take a cheaper lateral flow test on or before day two of their arrival, instead of a PCR test. See our Cheap Covid travel tests guide to find the cheapest test. 

Plus, all remaining countries on the red list were removed from 1 November for those travelling to the UK, meaning no traveller will have to foot the bill for 11 nights of managed quarantine. 

Summary of the rules for those returning to the UK

Category Destinations on list Rules on travelling to the UK

Non-red list destinations

ALL countries and territories, incl Australia, Austria, the Azores, Barbados, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan

Fully vaccinated travellers (or u18s):

• No pre-departure test required

• Must take lateral flow test within two days of returning to the UK (excludes u5s)

• Don't need to quarantine on return, unless you get a positive result


Unvaccinated travellers:

• Must take pre-departure test before returning

• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back in the UK
• Must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival – can be at home 
• Eng only: you can end self-isolation early on day five by taking extra PCR test 


Red list destinations

No destinations currently on the red list. However, the UK Gov says the option to re-add destinations will remain. Fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers (including u18s): 
• Must take pre-departure test before returning (excludes u11s) 
• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back to the UK (excludes u5s)
• Must undergo 11 nights of managed quarantine in hotel, which could be pricey (currently single adult travellers are charged £2,285) (1)

(1) Day two/eight tests and managed quarantine packages must be booked before departure. If booking tests, see our Covid test cost-cutting tips. Also see help booking hotel quarantine packages in EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales

  • No-one needs to pay for managed quarantine at present as there are no destinations on the red list. However, if this changes and you are a UK resident who is worried you won’t be able to meet the cost of managed quarantine when travelling from a red list country to the UK, you may be eligible for help via a hardship arrangement. These so-called hardship arrangements are only available to those undergoing essential travel for:

    • Compassionate reasons (e.g. to attend a funeral)
    • Education
    • Urgent medical treatment
    • Work

    Hardship arrangements are also only available to UK citizens and individuals with residency rights. You must also meed one of the following criteria:

    • You have a household income below £13,800
    • You have no savings
    • You have a dependent and significant care-related expenses
    • You’re on benefits
    • You’re above state pension age and on a fixed income.

    If you meet this criteria, there are two forms of support that may be made available to you:

    1. You could be offered a repayment plan where you pay for the cost of managed quarantine in monthly instalments.

    2. In exceptional circumstances, you may be eligible for a reduction or waiver of the cost of managed quarantine.

    To apply for hardship arrangements, you need to complete this online form - make sure you apply at least 14 days before you’re due to arrive in the UK. The form says it's for England but it can be used for all of those arriving into the UK.

Top holiday destinations – what are their rules?

The table below, which we're updating regularly, shows the latest situation for 20 of the top travel destinations for Brits. It shows where tests are needed pre-departure, though you may also need to take a test at the airport and quarantine if it comes back positive.

WARNING: Some destinations' entry requirements now take into account the length of time since your last Covid vaccine shot. For example, travellers to Israel are no longer considered fully vaccinated if they travel more than 180 days after their second jab (unless they've had a booster), while travellers to Austria must've had their second or third jab in the last 360 days. And for travellers to Croatia it's 365 days. After these dates you may need to follow extra entry requirements and testing rules – so double check before travelling.

From midday on Friday 19 November, travellers who have a had a booster jab will now be able to use the NHS Covid Pass to display and confirm that they've received a third shot.

Most countries require that travellers must fill in a passenger locator form on arrival but don't get caught out in thinking you have to pay for these forms. They'll always be available free of charge on the Government website in the destination you arrive in.

Always check for yourself before travelling or planning travel, as this is a fast-moving situation – if you spot something in the table that needs updating, please let us know.

Top holiday destinations – what are their entry rules and restrictions?

Destination Foreign Office approved travel? Rules if fully vaccinated Rules if not fully vaccinated
Entry not allowed (1)
Austria (2)

- Entry only allowed if within 360 days of second jab or booster jab

- No quarantine or test required

- Entry allowed if had single jab 22 to 270 days before travel

- If not jabbed, entry allowed with negative test but min 5-day quarantine

- U12s must follow the rules that apply to their parents/guardians

- Entry only allowed with negative test
- No quarantine
- Entry only allowed with negative test
- Min 5-day quarantine (but u18s with fully vaccinated adult only need to quarantine until negative test result)

- Entry only allowed with negative test

- No quarantine

- Entry not allowed (u18s can enter with negative test but must quarantine for 14 days; u12s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult without having to quarantine)

- Entry only allowed if within 365 days of second jab or booster jab

- No quarantine required

- Entry only allowed with negative test or proof of recovery and single jab (u12s exempt)

- No quarantine

France (3)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry not allowed (u18s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult; u12s exempt from testing)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry not allowed (u12s can enter without a test with fully vaccinated adult but must quarantine for 5 days)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry only allowed with negative test (u12s exempt)
- No quarantine
Greece (incl islands)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required

- Entry only allowed with negative test or proof of recovery (u12s exempt)
- No quarantine

- Entry only allowed with negative test
- No quarantine 
- Entry only allowed with negative test (u6s exempt)
- Five-day quarantine (u18s exempt if travelling with vaccinated adult and show negative test. u6s exempt)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry not allowed (u12s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult; u5s exempt from testing)
Portugal (incl mainland, Madeira and Azores)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required

- Entry only allowed with negative test or proof of recovery (u12s exempt)

- No quarantine

Spain (incl Balearic and Canary Islands) (3) (4)
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry only allowed with negative test (u12s exempt)
- No quarantine
- Entry allowed
- No quarantine or test required
- Entry not allowed (u18s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult; u16s exempt from testing)
The Netherlands
- Entry only allowed with negative test (u12s exempt)
- No quarantine
- Entry not allowed (u18s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult without quarantine; u12s are also exempt from testing)

- Entry allowed

- No quarantine

- Entry only allowed with negative test or proof of recovery (u12s exempt)

- No quarantine

United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
- Entry only allowed with negative test (u12s exempt)
- No quarantine

Entry only allowed with negative test

- No quarantine

- Entry not allowed (u18s can enter with negative test with fully vaccinated adult; u2s exempt from all testing)

Last fully checked 19 November 2021 – please let us know if you spot anything that needs updating. (1) Immediate family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents may enter the country. A full list of exemptions can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website. (2) From Monday 22 November Austria will go into a national lockdown meaning all non-essential businesses will close. This includes restaurants, bars and most shops. The only valid reasons to leave home include medical attention (including vaccinations), education, exercise for physical or mental health, and for purchasing essentials such as food or medicine. These measures will be reviewed every 10 days. (3) May need to show proof of accommodation, which might include a paid-for official letter. (4) Rules if travelling directly to the islands from the UK; if travelling from mainland Spain, other requirements may apply. 

How can I prove my vaccination status?

Here's how to prove your vaccination status:

  • In England, if you're registered with a GP the Government says you can use the existing NHS health app to show your vaccination status when abroad – though it's best to check your destination will accept this before travelling. Alternatively, you can request paper validation online or by calling 119.

  • In Northern Ireland, if you're travelling within the next three months, you can request a digital certificate and QR code online. Or, you can request a paper version by calling 0300 200 7814.

  • In Scotland, you can view your vaccination record online or request a copy via the Covid-19 Status Helpline.

  • In Wales, you can access your digital vaccination record online or request a paper certificate if you can't use the digital service or need a bilingual copy.

What are my rights if I get stuck abroad?

With some countries around the world banning Brits and operators cancelling travel services, it may mean some UK travellers have been or could be stranded abroad. If so, here are your rights...

  • If your flight home is cancelled and it's leaving from the UK or an EU country, or it's to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline, then the operator must get you home by any means at the earliest opportunity. If your flight doesn't fall within this scope, you're at the mercy of the rules of your flight operator.

    For those on a package holiday, there is also an obligation on providers to arrange for you to get home, but this won't necessarily be as soon as possible.

    For travel by any other means, contact your provider. If you're struggling to get help, you can also try contacting the UK embassy in the country for assistance.

  • If you're stranded due to a cancelled flight which is leaving a UK or EU country, or it's to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline, then your airline must pay to put you up in the meantime, although you may need to pay and later claim this back. Keep hold of receipts and only expect reasonable costs to be reimbursed. If your flight doesn't fall within this scope, check with the airline if it's responsible.

    For package holidays, trade body ABTA says providers are only obliged to put you up for three nights if your return trip is cancelled.

    For travel by any other means, contact your provider. If you're struggling to get help, you can also try contacting the UK embassy in the country for assistance.

  • If you're abroad for longer than planned due to your return journey being disrupted by travel bans, insurers we spoke to said your cover would be extended.

    But while this means you'll continue to be covered under the usual terms of your insurance – so for example, you should be able to claim for emergency medical expenses – insurers we spoke to said you won't be covered for extra costs incurred by having to stay longer, such as extra accommodation or travel.

    It's still worth checking with your insurer – but most policies won't cover you for coronavirus-related cancellation if you took out the insurance and booked your trip after mid-March 2020. As insurance only covers unknown events, that's the period most classed the pandemic as a 'known event'.

If my flight or holiday is cancelled, can I get a refund? 

As restrictions ease, many will be considering booking a holiday in the UK or abroad. But with millions of trips cancelled as a result of the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty about the future, you may be concerned about what happens if you can't go.

Fear not. Whether you're looking at booking a new trip or trying to get a refund for a cancelled one, we've a round-up of your rights below. (The following applies to overseas and UK bookings, but for extra help on your rights domestically, see UK holiday bookings below.)

Travel firms SHOULD refund you for cancelled trips – though many have dragged their feet

As a general rule, if you've paid for a trip and then the travel firm cancels, you should be due a refund. Yet that hasn't always proved easy with cancellations due to the pandemic. While coronavirus has been devastating across the travel industry, firms have been treating customers in very different ways – as shown by several major (MSE) surveys we ran last year.

  • A poll we ran between 19 November and 4 December 2020 – which was our third looking at refunds for those unable to travel due to coronavirus – asked travel firms' customers about their refund experience. We asked them to rate it as 'great', 'OK' or 'poor' (and to say if they actually got a refund) – we had 42,653 individual responses.

    Big names with dire overall feedback included, with just 8% of customers telling us they'd had a full refund, while Teletext Holidays (12%), Loveholidays (32%) and Ryanair (33%) also performed poorly.

    On the other side of the coin, Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 had the highest proportion of full refunds, with 89% of customers of both brands whose bookings were cancelled saying they'd had their money back. Hays Travel also did well, with 73% reporting full refunds. For full details, see our Covid travel refunds MSE News story.

Even if some firms have previously been slow to refund customers, your right to a refund is clear:

  • With most cancelled flights, you're due a full refund within seven days. Most cancelled flights will fall under flight delay rules (which have been written into UK law, and cover all flights leaving the UK or EU, as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline). These state you're entitled to choose between:
    • EITHER a refund for the flight that was cancelled.
    • OR an alternative flight (airlines call this re-routing) to your destination.

    We've seen some airlines pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead, but you are absolutely entitled to a refund in this situation. In theory and according to the law, this should also be paid in seven days, though aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) acknowledged it was "very challenging" for airlines to sort it that quickly at the height of the pandemic. While refund backlogs should now have been cleared, refunds may still take longer in the future if restrictions suddenly change and there's a spate of cancellations.
  • With cancelled package holidays, you're due a full refund within 14 days. Package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are also entitled to all their money back under the Package Travel Regulations.

    Technically you're due this refund within two weeks, but in practice it could be longer – the Chartered Trading Standards Institute previously told us that insisting on a 14-day turnaround could be tricky given the volume of refunds travel firms were grappling with. While most of these backlogs should now have been cleared, it may still be advisable to show forbearance and not push the law as far as it can technically go on the timescale. But the important thing is that you are due a refund.

  • With other travel bookings (hotels, car hire etc), the rules are less clear-cut but you SHOULD still get a refund. Generally speaking, if the service you have booked isn't provided, you should be refunded – and that's a principle the UK competition watchdog has clearly supported. Enforcing it may be tricky though, especially if the firm is abroad where local laws may be different to those in the UK – so there are no guarantees.

    Some countries may require you to show a negative test result on arrival. If you've taken the test but the trip is then cancelled, you need to contact the provider you ordered the test from to see if it'll refund you – but there are no guarantees. If you've paid for the test but not yet taken it as your trip was cancelled, you may find providers are more willing to give refunds.

Quick info & questions
  • The standard flight cancellation rules (which have now been written into UK law) state that if your flight is cancelled you are entitled to choose between a full refund or an alternative flight. If you've booked a specific return deal with the same airline and one leg is cancelled, you would expect a refund for both parts.

    However some say they've struggled to get refunds, and it may be because some budget airlines don't consider it a return flight but two individual flights.

    There's no easy answer here, and we need to be straight – we're still researching this (please do feedback your experiences) and hope to add more info as we get it. In the meantime, here's our provisional list of what to try:

    • Get in touch with the airline. The start point is always to contact the airline and ask. Before things get militant, you may just find you're pushing at an open door – we have certainly heard of a few (but not many so far) refunds in these circumstances.

    • Under flight rules, you can push for a refund. So if softly softly fails, let's start to consider the rules. EU regulation 261/2004, which has now been written into UK law, gives specific cancellation rights for EU-regulated flights, which is defined as:

      – Any flight departing from the UK/EU
      – Any flight arriving in the UK/EU provided it's operated by a UK/EU airline

      Within these rules, it states that what counts in terms of getting a refund for the return flight if the outbound flight is cancelled is if the flights are part of the same 'booking'. If they are, you should be offered a full refund on both flights.

      Sadly, the Civil Aviation Authority has admitted the precise definition of the same booking can be a grey area – for example, it says if you booked through a ticket agent and the two legs are with different airlines, it wouldn't count as the same booking. One key help though is if the outbound and return flights have the same reservation numbers. If so, then:

      1) Contact the airline and ask for a refund in writing.

      2) If this doesn't work or you don't hear back, you can make an official complaint and demand a refund. You may also be able to escalate your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution service – most are free to use, though double-check first as some may charge fees. See our Flight Cancellations guide for more info.

      3) If you've no luck speaking to the airline and you paid by debit or credit card, you could try and get a refund from your bank or card provider under the chargeback scheme, or Section 75 legal protection if you paid £100+ on a credit card. (Though while it's rare, after that the airline can dispute this and push for the money back – so don't think once it's in your account it's done and dusted.)
    • If you booked the flights before the pandemic and had travel insurance in place then too, speak to your insurer. You may be able to claim (assuming your policy covered pandemic cancellations), as clearly an unusable return flight is a knock-on cost.

      However, most insurers are pushing for people to go the whole way with their airline first before they will provide cover. That doesn't necessarily mean they are right to insist on you exhausting every possible avenue with the airline first, just that it isn't easy. So if your insurer isn't paying out when you feel it should, again you can take it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

    We hope to add more detail to this section, so do check back. Plus please do feedback your experiences.

  • We've heard from MoneySavers who have had 'cancellation charges' of up to £75 per person taken off their refunds by their travel agent after an airline or package holiday firm has cancelled their trip.

    Travel agents' association ABTA says agents ARE allowed to do this, as long as this is included in their T&Cs – though if in doubt, check what you agreed to when you booked.

    Yet even if a travel agent does cover this in their terms, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute told us there's a chance it may not be a "fair term", so might not be allowed. It told us it couldn't comment on whether such terms are fair at this stage, or whether holidaymakers can successfully challenge these fees – but if you think a cancellation charge is unfair, contact your travel agent and ask it to justify the fairness of its fees.

    Also note that tour operators and airlines can't charge you a cancellation fee if you booked direct, so if this happens, make sure you demand a refund in full.

  • The Government and the Air Travel Trust will protect credit note refunds issued since 10 March 2020 for ATOL-protected bookings that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning those who accept them will get their money back if the travel firm goes bust.

    If you opt for a refund credit note, you can choose at any point up to 30 September 2022 to cash it in for a refund or to rebook another trip instead (the initial deadline was 30 September 2021, but this has been extended). The Government's said it would give a month's notice before ending the scheme.

    See our Government to protect refund credit notes MSE News story for full info on how to check if your refund credit note is protected.

  • Those who receive holiday refunds get it returned to the payment method used. This can often mean being £1,000s in credit on credit cards. And many have contacted us worried that they'll pay the usual 3%-ish fee to pay this into their bank account – yet those are money transfer fees, for shifting debt.

    If you're significantly in credit, you should be able to ask your provider to transfer the credit back into your bank account free of charge. You can do this by getting in touch with your provider directly and requesting a "refund of credit balance".

    All the providers we spoke to, including major names such as BarclaycardHSBC and Lloyds, told us they offer this service to customers.

    But if your provider refuses to transfer your credit back to you for free for some reason, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman – and do so on the grounds that it's not following standard industry practice. There's full info on how to do this in our Financial Ombudsman guide.

  • We've been asked this a lot, so we put it to aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority. It told us that if you accept a voucher for a cancelled flight and use it to book a second flight, you're subject to the T&Cs of the second booking – and these will often state that if you booked using a voucher, you can only get a voucher back if the flight is later cancelled. 

    In essence, the second booking will generally be regarded as a completely new transaction with no reference to the previous booking – though it's worth checking directly with the airline as T&Cs can vary.

    It's also worth noting that the above doesn't apply to package holidays – if your package holiday is cancelled by the travel firm, you're entitled to a full cash refund regardless of how you made the booking. For more info on the extra protection you get with package holidays, see our Holiday Rights guide.

Struggling to get a refund? You can also try your card firm or insurer – though there are no guarantees

If you're having real difficulties getting the refund you're owed for a cancelled trip, there are other avenues you can try – though none are guaranteed to work:

  • You may be able to claim from your card firm. If you paid by debit or credit card, you can also try getting money back via your card firm. Try claiming from your card provider under chargeback (or Section 75).

    Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from – you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. Alternatively, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim. See full Section 75 and Chargeback info.

    MSE founder Martin Lewis suggests you try chargeback first though: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing."

  • You can try speaking to your insurer... but it's tricky. Most travel insurers have told us if you're entitled to a refund from a firm you've booked with, you'll need to chase that firm for a refund rather than claim on your insurance. This also applies if you're offered a voucher when you're legally entitled to a cash refund.

    Just because insurers say they won't accept your claims though, that doesn't mean there's no point trying. Insurers want to avoid paying out when they can and, while you should seek a refund from the provider first when you're legally owed one, if you're really struggling, ask your insurer if it can help – even if it's by goodwill. Plus if you are unhappy with your insurer's decision you can also take it to the independent arbitrator, the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

  • If all else fails, there's the legal route. Even though some insurers say you must do this before going to them, in practice this is probably the last resort – we've put it last because it could cost money, may be time-consuming and you'll need to weigh up seriously whether the sum you're chasing is worth it. How you do it will depend on what you're claiming for. A good first step may be to threaten court action in a letter – then you could end up having to file a county court claim online. See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.

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If my flight or holiday goes ahead but I don't want to travel – or can't – what are my rights? 

NB: Here we're only talking about trips, either overseas or within the UK, which AREN'T cancelled by the firm you booked with. If your trip is cancelled, see above for full help on how to get a refund.

Important. Check refund policies and DON'T automatically rush to cancel your trip yourself

The table below goes through different airline, tour operator etc refund policies. If you can't go and you can get a refund, then simply claim that money back and you're done.

But if you're not certain to get a refund, and your trip has NOT been cancelled by the firm you booked with, don't make a rash decision and automatically cancel the trip yourself. That's because if it later cancels it (given how fluid the situation is, that may yet happen) you're due a refund, so it's a bit of cat and mouse.

However, don't leave it too late and miss out on a voucher or the ability to change the ticket, as there are often deadlines to invoke these policies. Even if there's a fee, that's better than losing all your money.

Remember, though – if you booked a cancellable hotel, or your airline lets you cancel for no charge, then you can cancel at will.

Unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions or is a border you want to cross closed? You may get a refund

We've an overview of the different scenarios, and what your travel firm or airline should do for you in each:

  • Your trip's still going ahead but lockdown restrictions don't allow you to travel. General guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) states that you should get a full refund if it would be illegal for you to use a booking, for example, if there's a full lockdown or 'stay at home' directive in place.

    Yet this isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and the CMA has been investigating travel firms which only seem to offer vouchers in this scenario – so getting a refund may not always be plain sailing. Plus if you've flights that start in other countries, or hotels booked there, you're at the mercy of your travel provider and the country it's governed by.

  • You can go on the trip but your destination won't let you in. If your trip is still going ahead AND you can leave your region BUT the destination you're going to won't let you in, then you're also at the mercy of your travel provider – check its cancellation policy to see if it'll refund you.

    Plus the Package Travel Regulations state if "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances" occur which "significantly affect the performance of the package," you're due a full refund even if YOU cancel. So this may offer some protection if you can't get to your destination.

  • You can leave your area, and your destination will let you in, but you simply don't want to travel. You're unlikely to get your money back as the provider is still offering the service you booked, unless you have a flexible flight and/or flexible or cancellable hotel booking.

If your flight or holiday is still running and you have travel insurance, it might cover you for overseas trips where it's illegal for you to travel – but only if your policy covers coronavirus cancellation. This will usually only be the case if you took out the insurance and booked the trip before mid-March 2020, but check. If the trip or hotel was booked later, travel insurance is very unlikely to help you.

The same goes for those who simply change their mind – travel insurance won't cover this scenario regardless of when you took out the policy or booked the trip. See more in I've bought travel insurance – am I covered? below.

What are travel providers' cancellation and rebooking policies?

The table below covers the cancellation policies of major travel firms, split into your rights when the firm cancels and your rights when you cancel – this applies for usually inflexible tickets.

Be aware though that the situation is changing fast, so it's best to double-check with your travel provider directly before making any decisions:

Travel firm cancellation and rebooking rights

Travel firm Refund policy if firm cancels Refund policy if you cancel
Airbnb Full refund Refunds vary depending on how far in advance you cancel and the host's booking policy. Eg, can usually get full refund if you cancel 24hrs+ before check-in if host has 'flexible' policy or 5 days+ before check-in if 'moderate flexibility'. Cancellation fees apply with other policies and service fees may be non-refundable depending on your booking history
British Airways Some flights may be cancelled (check yours here) – full refund, voucher or rebooking For flights before 31 Aug 22 – can rebook (must pay any fare difference) or claim voucher before check-in closes
Easyjet Full refund, voucher or rebooking For flights up to 31 Dec 21 – full refund, voucher or rebooking if a travel ban means you can't fly. Otherwise cancellation fees may apply
Eurostar Full refund Rearrange trip without paying fees (must pay any fare difference)
Hoseasons Full refund, voucher or rebooking Full refund if proof of positive Covid test. If you cancel for non-Covid reasons, refunds depend on how long before arrival you notify Hoseasons eg, 7 days or less = 5% refund, between 56 and 70 days = 50% refund, 70+ days = loss of deposit
Jet2 Full refund Full refund if destination has mandatory quarantine that you can't exit with negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination (must request 3+ days before departure). Can rebook without fees in some other cases (must pay any fare difference). Otherwise change/cancellation fees apply
Logan Air Full refund or rebooking Full refund or rebooking (but must pay any fare difference) if new UK Govt restrictions mean you legally can't fly. Otherwise change/cancellation fees apply

Full refund or rebooking


May be able to rebook without fees in some cases (but must pay any fare difference). Otherwise cancellation fees apply
Ryanair Full refund or rebooking For bookings made before 30 Sep 21 – up to 7 full days before departure, can rebook without fees for travel by 30 Dec 21 (must pay any fare difference). Otherwise change/cancellation fees apply 
Tui Full refund or rebooking May be able to rebook without fees in some cases (but must pay any fare difference). Otherwise cancellation fees apply
Virgin Atlantic Full refund, voucher or rebooking For flights up to 30 Apr 22 – up to day before departure, can rebook without fees (but must pay any fare difference) or claim voucher to be used by 30 Apr 23. Otherwise change/cancellation fees may apply

The information in this table is constantly changing. This was the situation when we last checked on 1 November 2021.

What if the Foreign Office advises against travel?

Between March and July 2020, the Foreign Office warned against all non-essential travel overseas. That blanket warning has now been lifted for some countries, but remains in place for others.

As well as being a useful safety guide, Foreign Office warnings are important in the following scenarios:

  • Package holiday firms should refund you if there's a Foreign Office warning. If a Foreign Office warning is put in place under the Package Travel Regulations, you SHOULD be able to get a refund within 14 days – even if the trip's not been cancelled – though always check first with the firm before you cancel. 

    This isn't the case with DIY trips where you've booked hotels and flights separately. In that situation you can still try asking the companies concerned for a refund, but you don't have the same legal protection or rights.

  • If you travel when there is a Foreign Office warning, most travel insurance becomes totally invalid. This applies even for non-Covid issues as the whole policy is usually invalid. As there are some exceptions, do check.

Foreign Office advice doesn't exactly align with the 'red list' travel system – and it can be the key factor when it comes to refunds.

Can I get a refund if I need to quarantine on arrival at my destination?

If the country you're going to insists you must quarantine for a certain amount of time on arrival, it's unlikely that airlines or hotels will offer a refund if they're open and running services. You also won't be able to use credit or debit card protection, because the service is still available.

However, if you've a package holiday, you MAY be able to get a refund from the travel firm. Where the destination country puts a mandatory quarantine in place for all arrivals, this could be considered a 'significant change' to your holiday. Package travel association ABTA says travel companies should offer an alternative or a full refund in those circumstances.

What if I can't or don't want to go because I have to quarantine on my return?

We've previously been asked by users if they'll legally be able to get a refund on travel bookings (for example, a flight or package holiday) if they are unable or unwilling to quarantine on their return, and are therefore unable to take their trip. The short answer is no, as the company would not have to refund you for your disinclination to travel – though some firms may agree to help out, so it's worth asking.

Your travel insurance is also unlikely to cover you if you have to quarantine. However, insurance trade body the Association of British Insurers says you should ask your insurer directly to be certain, as some insurers may consider exemptions if you will be disproportionately affected, eg, if having to quarantine on your return will affect your employment.

Similarly, if an overseas destination moves to the red list in the new 'red list' travel system, it's unlikely that you'll be able to claim a refund from travel firms or your travel insurer, as the change wouldn't affect the delivery of your holiday – only what happens when you get back. However, if your destination is reclassified, it's possible your travel provider may choose to cancel your booking itself – in the event this happens, the normal rules on cancellations would apply.

Quick questions

  • If you are quarantined during a trip abroad, you may incur extra costs, such as paying for more accommodation or booking new flights home.

    The first thing to do in this situation is to speak to your tour operator or the agent you booked your trip through to see if you can recover any extra costs.

    For any unrecoverable costs, you may be able to make a claim through your travel insurer if you have the right kind of policy. This situation will generally fall under 'disruption to travel', so check for this clause in your travel insurance documents – though in any case, it's worth speaking to your insurer directly to see if you're covered.

  • Some people will have medical risk factors that make coronavirus a more serious threat – for example, the NHS says older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) are more likely to become seriously ill with the virus.

    If you're due to travel to an area which has a high volume of coronavirus cases but there's no Foreign Office warning at the time you travel, and you're worried about the heightened risk of the virus due to your age or underlying health conditions, speak to your insurer to discuss your options.

    The Association of British Insurers says that whether you'll be covered by your insurance depends on your specific policy and your situation. You may be asked to provide evidence of your pre-existing condition – a doctor's note, for example. Many insurers will make a decision on a case-by-case basis.

  • In general terms, don't expect a refund if you cancel in these circumstances. Unfortunately, if no warning is in place at the time that you're travelling, then airlines, tour operators and insurers won't usually offer a refund if you decide not to travel.

    Yet if you've booked a package holiday and were sold on the basis that you'd be able to visit a specific attraction and this was the main reason you booked the trip, you could argue that the attraction being closed counts as a "significant change" to your holiday under the Package Travel Regulations, and therefore ask for a refund.

    Check the documents and T&Cs from your travel provider to see whether you may be able to argue this. However, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says it's unlikely that many packages would have been sold on this basis.

  • Many cruise lines have cancelled trips or altered their itineraries to avoid stopping at ports in affected areas.

    If you were due to travel on a cruise that has been cancelled, you'll generally receive a full refund – though check your cruise line's policy directly. If you have consequential losses, you can follow the steps above to try and recover them.

    If your cruise itinerary has been altered and you no longer want to travel as a result, your cruise line may let you cancel and get a refund or credit to spend on another cruise – again, you'll need to check directly to find out your options.

    If you can't get a refund this way and you had booked your cruise as part of a package holiday, you may have some protection under the Package Travel Regulations if you had a major alteration to your itinerary – though it's unlikely that changes to a couple of stops on a long cruise would count as "significant".

    The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says if changes "are significant in relation to the overall trip", customers may be entitled to a refund.

    It said: "With cruises, there is the cruising element with the facilities and entertainment on board as well as ports of call, and all aspects of the trip must be considered in any decision about the significance of any changes to the itinerary."

Holidaying in the UK? Your refund rights

While the above sections on cancellations apply to both UK and overseas holidays, there are some specific extra points to consider with UK holidays – especially if you're still chasing a refund for a cancellation as a result of a previous lockdown.

Of course, UK holidays are now generally allowed currently, but as that hasn't always been the case previously, and since it's possible restrictions could return, we've detailed your rights in different circumstances below.

If your holiday firm cancels your trip, you're likely due a full refund

As with overseas holidays, a key factor in whether you're owed a refund for a UK trip is whether your holiday firm has cancelled your booking. If yours does, then in simple terms you're likely due a full refund.

If you've booked a package holiday, then under the Package Travel Regulations you are entitled to get all your money back within two weeks of cancellation. But even if it's not a package, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says as a general rule firms MUST offer cash refunds for cancellations. So if your holiday or accommodation booking is cancelled, you're likely due a full refund and should ask for one if it's not offered.

  • If you do want to push for cash or you're struggling to get any refund, here's what we'd suggest, but there are no hard and fast rules:

    1) Insist on a refund in writing. Firms will naturally want to push you to accept a voucher or rebook your holiday, as it avoids them having to cough up. So make it clear, in writing, that you expect a refund. Sadly, pushy customers tend to be more successful than those who just leave it, though be firm and polite rather than rude and aggressive. It's also worth quoting what the CMA has said in cases about refunds in this situation.

    2) Try going to your card firm and asking it for a refund (ask for chargeback first, then try Section 75 if that doesn't work). Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, the card firm's equally liable if something goes wrong, so you may be able to claim your money back from it.

    Under chargeback, which isn't a legal requirement, just a customer service promise, your bank will try to get money back from the bank of the firm you bought from, and you can try it on debit card purchases and those which are less than £100. See our Section 75 and Chargeback guides for full info.

    As MSE founder Martin Lewis explains though, try chargeback first. Here, Martin explains why: "Even if you actually have a credit card and qualify for Section 75, I wouldn't ask for that at this stage. I would ask for a chargeback. That's because under the chargeback process, which is part of the Visa, Mastercard or Amex rules, your bank is asking for money back from the holiday firm's bank, which your bank is unlikely to have an issue doing.

    "If you claim under Section 75 though, then you are asking the credit card company itself to cover you, and while it may be legally obliged to do this, it is likely to be much more reticent to do it. So it's worth trying Section 75 only if chargeback fails. And with both, if you are rejected you have the right to go on to the free Financial Ombudsman, which can adjudicate."

    There's no guarantee this will work, but some who've struggled to get other travel refunds, eg, for Ryanair flights, have had joy this way. Do be aware that even once you're paid the money with chargeback, the firm can dispute it with the bank and the money may later be clawed back. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. See chargeback clawback help if it does.

    3) If you are prepared to play hardball, threaten court action. This is the route a very senior, and often litigious, lawyer told us he would take if it happened to him. This is about writing a formal note that you plan to file a county court claim if it doesn't pay a refund. Keep it short and sweet, with just the basic information about what's happened, and state a time (say, three weeks later) when you expect a response or you'll go ahead.

    Think carefully about whether you want to do this and how hard to push. Consumer lawyer Dean Dunham previously drafted two template letters for Sykes Cottages customers, and we saw some report that they'd successfully used them to get a refund. Of course, these should no longer be necessary for Sykes Cottages customers as it's now committed to provide full refunds, but they could give you a sense of what this type of letter could look like if you want to write to another firm. (Some details will be specific to Sykes, so should be treated as inspiration rather than as direct templates.) 

    4) File a county court claim online. This is following up on your promise to go to court – and again, it's what our senior lawyer says they'd do, but of course everyone is different. Essentially, it will hopefully go through the small claims route – a low-hassle online process for simple cases where you can represent yourself – though it will take some time, and it does depend on how good you are at this type of thing. This can be objected to by the other side though, and be pushed up to a district court, where you may need legal representation.

    There is a cost for doing this – it's £25 to £300, and it's refunded if you win. If you lose, there are no costs against you in the small claims court, but there may be if it goes up to a higher court (you'll know beforehand though and could drop the case then). See our Small Claims Court guide for full help.

    Let us know how you get on at

Holiday not cancelled? Your refund rights depend on rules in place at the time of your trip

Things are more complex if your holiday is running and your accommodation is open but you're unable to go due to lockdown restrictions either at your holiday destination or in your local area. The key to your rights here is the legal status of the restrictions which are stopping you travelling:

If travel's illegal under coronavirus rules, you're likely due a full refund

The good news is in this situation the CMA says you should expect a full refund. Its guidance states that consumers should get their money back if they're not provided with a service due to lockdown laws, or can't access what they paid for "because, for example, lockdown laws in the UK or abroad have made it illegal to receive or use the goods or service". This would apply both to not being able to leave their area or to get to an area where the accommodation is based.

It's important to note however that CMA guidance isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and this is a new scenario which hasn't been tested – so while you can direct your holiday accommodation provider to the guidance, complain to the CMA or even pursue legal action, there are no guarantees.

If travel's advised against but not illegal, your refund rights are less clear

If your trip is to or from a part of the UK where travel is advised against but is not illegal, things could be more complicated.

Unfortunately, in this situation you may find it more difficult to get your money back if you decide not to travel. The CMA's guidance says if the restrictions which prevent a service being used aren't legal restrictions, it's not clear whether a consumer would be entitled to a full refund.

This doesn't mean you're definitely not entitled to a refund. The CMA says if a consumer would be at serious risk if they went ahead with a contract (such as a holiday booking) against Government guidance, the contract could be deemed to have been "frustrated" – in which case you could be owed a full refund. But it's much murkier – and again, you need to remember these are untested situations and ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies in different scenarios.

The best bet is to speak to your holiday or accommodation provider and ask what it'll offer. You may be able to cancel under your usual terms and conditions, or ask for more flexibility such as a date change. If you can't come to an agreement you're both happy with, you'll need to weigh up how hard to push for a refund. You can try the steps we outline above, but there are no guarantees and you may be less likely to have success if your trip isn't technically forbidden by law.

If you're still allowed to travel but decide not to go, you've no automatic right to a refund

If you are still permitted to go on your holiday under official restrictions and guidance, it's important to understand you don't have any automatic right to a refund if you choose not to go.

If your holiday's still on or the hotel's still open, your refund rights will simply depend on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you booked. Of course, these may still let you cancel for free or move your trip, and some firms are also offering extra flexibility to all their customers at the moment due to coronavirus, so it's still worth checking what your options are.

What if I've booked a trip for multiple households?

If your holiday is to and from a permitted area, but would break the rules because the travellers are from multiple households, CMA guidance suggests you'd be owed a refund (though it's not completely clear-cut and there are no guarantees).

When we checked back in September 2020, all the major UK firms we'd spoken to said they would pay out – see more details in our Social gatherings of more than six banned – your refund rights MSE News story.

Travel insurance WON'T cover cancellations if travel rules change

We need to make one thing clear from the outset – going forward, most new travel insurance policies WON'T cover cancellations due to future UK or foreign government no-travel rules.

No mainstream policies we know of cover cancellations where coronavirus rules mean you can't travel, or where you need to quarantine on your return and can't go as a result. Nor will they cover you cancelling if the rules will let you go, but you don't feel safe.

This is because coronavirus became a "known event" in March 2020 and insurance is usually only there to protect from unexpected events.

So whether you need to cancel because you legally can't travel due to a local lockdown being reimposed, the Foreign Office has advised against travel to your intended destination, or the country itself won't let you in, the result is the same – you're very unlikely to be able to claim on your travel insurance.

However, there are still a couple of scenarios where your insurer may still offer some level of cover:

  • You or a family member get coronavirus before you're due to go. Some policies still cover coronavirus medically, and will pay out if you (or a family member or travelling companion) catch coronavirus and therefore can't go on holiday. Similarly, if you or your family catches Covid-19 abroad then some policies will cover any treatment and costs. See our Cheap Travel Insurance guide for the top picks (all of which cover cancellation if you catch coronavirus before you go).

  • You or a family member are told by the NHS to self-isolate before you're due to go. Under the NHS's Test and Trace system and the Covid-19 app, you may be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 10 days. If you are told to do this, you'll be asked not to leave your home for any reason, and so, if you had travel booked during this period, you wouldn't be able to go.

    Not all travel insurance policies will cover you in this scenario. If you have a policy that doesn't exclude coronavirus as a medical condition (this will be the case with most policies taken out before March 2020, but double-check), then the Association of British Insurers says it expects insurers to pay out to cover the trip.

    But with newer policies, only some cover cancellations where you've had to self-isolate – if you're looking for new cover after booking a trip, see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide for the top picks (all of our top picks cover cancellation if you're told to self-isolate by the NHS).

Quick travel insurance questions

  • You may be, but only if your trip(s) were booked before March 2020. If they were, it may be worth renewing your existing policy for the continuation of cover – though check first if your travel insurer will cover this scenario and ask if your insurance will renew automatically or if you need to actively request this (it may vary depending on your policy).

    City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed to us that if you had an annual policy before mid-March 2020 and renew with the same insurer after that, you SHOULD still be covered for coronavirus issues for trips purchased before March 2020 (as long as you were covered before you renew). So if you're rejected, go to the Financial Ombudsman and argue the firm isn't following "standard industry practice".

    If you've now no future trips left that were planned before March 2020, then there's no gain from renewing your travel insurance, though you should still get cover ASAB (as soon as you book) for future trips – see our Cheap Travel Insurance guide for help choosing a policy.

    All our current top picks cover you if you catch coronavirus on holiday and need medical help, and cover cancellation if you can't go because you catch it in the days before your trip. We also have a few picks which let you add cover to travel against Foreign Office advice.

    It's important to note that other reasons you may need to cancel a holiday, such as bereavement, illness, accident or redundancy, for example, should still be covered as normal (provided you're not travelling against Foreign Office advice). And many of the other normal reasons to get travel insurance still apply.

  • If you are one of the many who had to postpone your holiday and rearrange it, you might find that you can still use your current travel insurance policy. To move the insurance dates, or extend your annual travel insurance policy, you will need get in touch with your insurer. But in short:

    • Your cover stays the same except for the coronavirus cover. While your original travel insurance policy might have included cancellation cover if the Foreign Office advice was not to travel due to coronavirus, it is likely you will lose this cover for any extension period of an annual policy or a rearranged single-trip policy. But you should still be covered if you need to cancel because you or a family member is diagnosed with coronavirus before you go (many give this, but not all). Plus when you are on holiday, you will still have medical cover, including repatriation, if you need medical help abroad due to coronavirus.

      Everything else will stay the same – so, for instance, if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel, your usual cover will remain in place.

    • You may be able to move your policy if it's due to Foreign Office advice or travel disruptions (eg, local lockdown). If your holiday has been rearranged because you no longer want to go, it may not be possible to change the insurance dates (as it will be viewed as disinclination to travel), but it is always worth asking.
  • Insurance is about unexpected eventualities. Within that there are the usual likely known eventualities, such as illness or lost luggage. Then there are the unknown eventualities, like Icelandic volcanoes or pandemics. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict whether insurers will pay out in different circumstances.

    Yet it's important to understand insurers are covered by the financial 'treating customers fairly' rules, which mean if you don't think it has been fair, you can make a formal complaint. After it replies, or after eight weeks if it doesn't, you can then go on to the free Financial Ombudsman to adjudicate.

    Eight weeks may be a long time in this case, so if your situation is really financially pressing, tell the ombudsman.

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