With foreign holidays firmly back on the agenda, the following Q&A will help answer any questions you have about travel and COVID-19.

If you need further assistance related to a booking with an ABTA member, you can find out how we can help at abta.com/help-and-complaints

Airlines are not members of ABTA and neither are all travel agents and tour operators. You can find out if your travel company is an ABTA member using our search tool. If you have any questions or need information about a specific booking with an airline or a company that is not a member of ABTA, you will need to contact them directly or contact Citizens Advice for further help and guidance.

If you’re heading off on holiday and would like some advice about how to prepare, please visit our webpage: Get ready for travel: your essential guide.


How do I show proof that I’ve been fully vaccinated/boosted against COVID-19 to travel abroad?

Some countries require visitors to show they have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus as part of their entry requirements. You should check gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice to find out if this applies to the country you’re visiting, what proof they will accept (e.g. you can’t use the NHS appointment card from your vaccination centre), and their definition of fully vaccinated.

How you show proof depends on where you live in the UK:

If you’re using an app, it’s a good idea to download a pdf copy to your phone so you can access it easily when travelling. If you’re requesting a paper certificate, make sure you allow plenty of time for them to be sent to you as they may take up to 10 working days to arrive. Visit the Government’s website for more information on demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status when travelling abroad.

If you're not fully vaccinated, check if your destination will accept a negative COVID-19 test result instead. You might also be able to complete your vaccinations, perhaps by visiting a walk-in centre, just make sure that the date of your second dose meets your destination’s entry requirements and you’ll be able to show proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated in time for your trip. See here for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/

Some destinations will also accept proof of natural immunity against COVID-19 for entry, so check if they will accept proof of having recently recovered from the virus through the NHS COVID Pass.

If these options aren't possible, and you're unable to enter the country because of its rules on vaccinations for arriving passengers, speak to your travel provider to see if they are able to offer any help or flexibility to change your holiday destination or the dates of your booking. If you have a package holiday, you can see if you can transfer your holiday to another person as you have the right to do that and you should also check with your travel insurance as to whether you have any cover for this. 

What type of test do I need for my holiday and how do I get one?

Most destinations no longer require travellers to take a COVID-19 test for entry, but it’s important to check the requirements for the country you are visiting at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. You may not need to take a test for entry if you can show proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection.

If you would like more detailed guidance, visit our blog: How do I show proof of vaccination or get a COVID-19 test for my holiday?


What should I do if I test positive for Coronavirus before returning to the UK?

If you test positive for Coronavirus before you return to the UK, you’ll need to follow the advice of the local authorities and you should contact your travel insurance provider to see what your policy entitles you to, e.g. if it covers any additional costs associated with extending your stay or seeking medical treatment if required. Any additional costs that aren’t covered by your insurance policy will need to be covered by you. You should also advise your tour operator who will offer support and advice and may be able to help you make arrangements for extending your stay if needed.

Many insurance policies include different types of cover for Coronavirus, including cover for medical expenses while on holiday, so make sure you read the policy details carefully when you take out travel insurance for your trip to ensure it has the level of cover you want. If you’re on holiday in the EU, make sure you have an in-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you or a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as these will allow you to access public health care services, but they don’t cover costs for extending your stay to cover any quarantine period, tests, accommodation or rearranging your return journey. More details here.

I’ve heard that package holidays provide extra protection compared to making my travel arrangements separately, is this true?

Yes, booking a package holiday provides the greatest level of protection for your travel plans, including the right to a refund if your holiday is significantly affected by a change in the situation at your destination. Any type of holiday – such as a city break, a beach holiday, a ski trip or a cruise – can be a package holiday, it just means that a travel company has put more than one element of your trip together for you, such as your flights and accommodation. You can read more about the benefits of booking a package holiday at our webpage: abta.com/packageholidaybenefits

What are my rights to a refund? 

Always check the booking conditions that apply to your booking, but generally, you will be entitled to a refund from your tour operator if:

  • They cancel your holiday. 
  • Your holiday is significantly changed.
  • The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is advising against all but essential travel to your destination at the time you’re due to travel.

Examples of significant changes, meaning refunds are generally due (not an exhaustive list): 

  • The flight is cancelled and a replacement on the same day can’t be found.
  • Your hotel is changed to a different resort or lower standard.

Examples of changes which are not significant enough to affect the main characteristics of your holiday and therefore do NOT entitle you to a refund (not an exhaustive list): 

  • Testing requirements, such as you having to test for Covid before you travel, and while in destination, are not significant changes. Your holiday services can be provided by your tour operator, it’s just that the authorities have added extra requirements.
  • Vaccination requirements, such as being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter your chosen destination or to obtain a pass or to access services and facilities.

If you no longer wish to go on your holiday but it can go ahead as planned or with only minor changes, your travel company will have the right to charge you the normal cancellation charges. You can see if you can transfer your package holiday to another person, as you have the right to do that and you should also check with your travel insurance as to whether you have any cover for this. 

Some companies do have flexible policies which will enable you to rebook for a later date, so you should speak to your travel provider to see what your options are.

How might my holiday be different to previous experiences? 

To help reduce the spread of coronavirus, there may be some minor changes to your holiday, both on the journey and once you arrive in destination.

During your journey, you may still encounter some pandemic-related health and safety policies including  the use of face coverings and/or protective screens, additional cleaning procedures, extra hand sanitising stations, and encouraging contactless payments or storing tickets and boarding passes on an app. 

While you’re on holiday, there may still be rules in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. These may include the offer of a waiter service instead of a buffet, restrictions on the number of people at the beach or in public areas to aid social distancing, more options for alfresco dining and socialising, extended opening times, and enhanced cleaning procedures at your accommodation. Make sure you follow the advice of the local and public health authority in destination, noting that any new measures are in place to keep you and others safe and shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying your holiday.

If you find there are considerable changes to the main characteristics of your holiday that mean a significant change to the holiday as whole, then your travel company should offer you the choice of an alternative holiday if available or a refund of your holiday cost.

Will travel insurance cover me if I catch Coronavirus before I go on holiday or while I’m away?

There are many insurance policies that include different types of cover for Coronavirus, such as cover for cancellation if you test positive and are unable to travel or medical expenses while on holiday. So, make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance as soon as your book your holiday and read the policy details carefully to ensure it has the level of cover you want.

As with any illness that means you have to cancel your holiday; cancellation charges will apply and your travel insurer will be able to tell you what cover your policy provides. You can find more advice on travel insurance at abta.com/travelinsurance.

What happens if I travel to a country where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel?

If you decide to travel abroad against FCDO advice, you should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so, including that you may not be able to get home if travel restrictions are in place. You must check with your insurance company as to whether your travel insurance will still be valid, as travelling against FCDO advice is likely to mean it will be invalidated. If you are still considering travel you need to be realistic about the level of disruption you are willing and able to endure.

Before you travel, you’ll need to read the FCDO travel advice for the country you are visiting to find details of entry requirements, to confirm that the country is granting access to UK travellers and to sign up to email alerts which will help you to keep across any changes in advice. The FCDO advice page will also include a link through to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website that provides specific travel health advice for each country. 

I don’t see how my holiday can go ahead, should I still pay the remaining balance? 

You do not have to pay the remaining balance for your holiday if you do not want to go. However, if you decide not to pay the final balance of your holiday, before it has been officially cancelled by the company, then you will need to pay the cancellation charges attributed to your booking. This could mean loss of deposit and/or any monies paid thus far. 

Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. If you’re unable to get through to pay your balance then please email the travel company and wait for their response – it is unlikely they will cancel the holiday if you have made attempts to pay. 

Remember for package holidays that are eventually cancelled by the company, then you will only be due a full refund if you have an active booking at the time of cancellation. So, if you fail to pay the final balance of your holiday you will voiding your right to a refund at a later stage. 

What are my options for postponing or amending a trip?

Many travel companies are doing all they can to offer more flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to postpone or amend their holiday. You should speak to your travel provider to discuss what your options may be.

However, travel companies are not legally required to offer a postponement if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is not advising against all but essential travel to your destination. Normal terms and conditions will apply if the company can still provide the holiday and any change of date would also need to be agreed by their suppliers.

As prices change in response to demand, it’s also possible that a postponed or amended booking may be more expensive than the original booking. Any increase in cost will need to be covered by you and not the travel company.