Protect your post pandemic holiday and don’t end up out of pocket
After two years of Covid, many families are itching to go abroad this Easter.
For some, it may be their first overseas trip since the coronavirus crisis began, and a lot has changed since then.
Britons jetting off on holiday must now navigate new mobile phone roaming charges, redrawn insurance rules and ever-changing compensation criteria for disrupted flights.
Holiday hurdles: Britons jetting off on holiday must now navigate new mobile phone roaming charges, redrawn insurance rules and changing compensation criteria for disrupted flights
What’s more, British Airways and EasyJet have cancelled hundreds of flights because of staff shortages. Here is our guide to ensuring your holiday plans aren’t thrown up in the air…
Pay for your delay
Under UK law, an airline may have to compensate you if your flight is more than three hours late. This applies to flights departing the UK or Europe, or with a UK or European airline.
You won’t be eligible for compensation if the cause of the disruption is out of the airline’s control. This would include delays caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as extreme weather.
Travellers can currently claim £220 if they arrive more than three hours late on a short-haul flight of under 1,500km.
Compensation for a medium-haul flight of over 1,500km or a long-haul flight of more than 3,500km is £350 and £520 respectively.
You should also get refreshments and other help if take-off is significantly delayed.
For example, if you wait more than two hours for a short-haul flight, you should be offered food and drink vouchers, accommodation if you have to travel the next day, and transport. If it’s not arranged by the airline, pay for it yourself and keep receipts to claim it later.
An overhaul proposed by the Department for Transport (DFT) could mean travellers get less in future.
If a flight is cancelled within 14 days of departure, you may be able to claim between £110 and £520, depending on distance.
Delayed: Under UK law, an airline may have to compensate you if your flight is more than three hours late but not if the cause of the disruption is out of the airline’s control
Some airlines are still offering flexible booking policies if either you or your travel companion gets Covid-19 before your trip. However, there is huge variation, so make sure you read the terms before you book.
British Airways passengers can ask to cancel their booking and request a voucher if they or another person on the booking tests positive within two weeks of travelling.
The request must be submitted within 48 hours of the positive result, and the voucher must be used by the end of September next year.
If you test positive within five days of your EasyJet flight, you can transfer to an alternative one online.
If you show a satisfactory doctor’s note, EasyJet may reimburse you the fee or provide a voucher for future travel.
Virgin Atlantic says customers can make changes to their travel dates, origin or destination with no service fees until December 31, 2023, as well as one free name change. Or you can choose a travel voucher.
Additionally, its ‘Too Ill to Fly’ guidelines offer a free date change to customers faced with unexpected and late changes to their plans or ability to travel due to an infectious disease, such as Covid-19.
No additional fare difference will be applied if your new travel date is within 90 days of the original one.
Get well covered
Travel insurance is a must, but be sure you check the small print carefully. Many policies now pay out if you have to cancel your trip because you test positive for the virus before your trip, or catch it abroad and need to extend your holiday or get medical treatment.
Many travel insurance policies now pay out if you have to cancel your trip because you test positive for Covid
Lots of firms will also extend the period of time you’re covered for, if you can’t return as scheduled because you are sick.
A few may also cover you if you can’t travel because of restrictions in the UK, such as a new lockdown or a change in travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office — but not all do.
And there can be a minefield of exclusions in the small print, so make sure you read it and contact the insurer if it’s not clear.
Standard travel insurance will not cover travel against Foreign Office advice, or if you decide you don’t want to travel because you don’t feel safe.
No policy will cover you for every Covid-related eventuality, so it’s also a good idea to book flexible flights and accommodation that can be rearranged if necessary.
Always buy your policy on the day you buy your holiday, or you won’t benefit from cancellation cover.
The proof you need
Since 4am on Friday, March 18, travellers entering the UK have no longer had to fill in a passenger locator form, take a pre-arrival or post-arrival test, or self-isolate.
However, other destinations still have their own entry requirements, so check before you travel.
This could include providing proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result, and a passenger locator form with your flight and accommodation details.
You can check what is needed with your airline, or search for a destination online at gov.uk/foreign- travel-advice.
There may also be requirements for the flight. For example, EasyJet says passengers over six must wear FFP2 masks on flights to, from and within Italy, Austria and Germany.
Make sure your passport is valid for your stay.
For most European countries, you should have at least three months left on your passport on the day you travel but other destinations will have their own requirements.
If you are travelling to a European country, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) means you can receive emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident.
This could be at a reduced cost or free. The EHIC lasts for five years and although it is being replaced with the GHIC, you can continue to use it until it expires.
Lifesaver: A European Health Insurance Card or the new UK Global Health Insurance Card means you can receive emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident
If you are a UK resident and need a new card, you can apply for the GHIC, which covers treatment in the 27 EU countries including France, Germany and Greece.
Most EHICs and GHICs are not accepted in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
If you need emergency treatment while you are visiting another country and haven’t received your card, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC).
The NHS is warning of delays in processing cards because of high demand, so bear this in mind if you are due to travel this summer.
Apply via services.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/cra/which-service for a free card, and watch out for online firms that charge.
Neither card is a replacement for travel insurance, as they don’t cover all health costs, quarantining in hotels if you catch Covid, or repatriation.
Be mindful of using your mobile phone abroad or you could be hit with a shock bill when you get home.
Roaming fees were scrapped in June 2017 — but now the UK is no longer part of the EU, the largest mobile phone firms are bringing them back.
Vodafone customers who signed up to a new contract after August 11 last year will have to pay £2 a day to use minutes, texts and data in European countries.
Brexit loss: Roaming fees were scrapped in June 2017 – but now the UK is no longer part of the EU, the largest mobile phone firms are bringing them back
You can cut this to £1 a day if you buy an eight-day or 15-day roaming pass. Some monthly plans automatically include roaming in Europe.
Those who upgraded or joined EE after last July 7 will pay £2 a day to use their phones in 47 European destinations.
Alternatively, you could buy a 30-day Roam Abroad Pass.
This will cost £10 for those on the Essential plan. If you have a Smart or Full Works plan, it’s free to add it to your account.Those who took out a new contract with Three or upgraded from October 1 will have to pay a £2 daily roaming charge from May 23.
Sky Mobile has also reintroduced roaming charges of £2 a day. O2, Virgin Mobile and Giffgaff have not brought back roaming charges.
Car hire hikes
The average cost of renting a vehicle in Europe has soared by more than 100 per cent since 2019.
Many firms have gone two years without income and now need to recoup their losses.
There may also be a shortage of vehicles, after some companies sold cars during the pandemic to keep themselves afloat.
Pre-pandemic, a family could expect to pay about £226 for a week’s car hire in popular European destinations, but now it costs £455, according to insurer iCarhireinsurance.com.
Soaring hire: The average cost of renting a vehicle in Europe has soared by more than 100% since 2019
The average cost to rent a vehicle for a week in Tenerife is now £345, up from £155; and £571 in Milan, a rise of £267.
Ernesto Suarez, the founder of iCarhireinsurance.com, says: ‘Prices have rocketed since the pandemic for many reasons.
‘Rental companies have had to put extra measures in place to keep their staff and customers safe, which has added to the price.
‘Also, with fewer people wanting to take public transport, there has been increased demand for rental cars, affecting their supply and causing costs to rise for tourists.
‘Then there is a worldwide shortage of new cars, which may also be affecting the number of cars available to rent.’
To cut costs, make sure you book and pay for the car early — as soon as you have bought your flights.
Last summer, the consumer group Which? found that people who booked their August rental in July paid 26 per cent more than those who paid in May.
Use a well-known firm such as Enterprise in the UK, Alamo in the U.S., AutoReisen in the Canary Islands or Zest for bookings worldwide, Which? recommends.
Don’t buy insurance, or extras such as satnavs and car seats, at the rental desk, as they will be more expensive. You can download a free maps app such as Navmii and bring your own seat.
A standard debit card charges £11.88 on a £250 cash withdrawal abroad, while some credit cards charge £14.95 before interest is applied, according to the data firm Moneyfacts.
You will also have to pay fees on purchases. You could be charged an extra £1.38 on a £50 spend on a debit card, or £1.50 on a credit card.
Starling Bank, Monzo and Virgin Money offer free current accounts that don’t charge for using a debit card overseas, while Metro Bank customers can use their card in Europe without fees.
You’ll get the same benefits with TSB’s Spend and Save Plus account, which costs £3 a month, and Nationwide’s Flexplus account, which is £13 a month.
Halifax’s Clarity credit card and Barclaycard’s Rewards card are free to use overseas.
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