Is it safe to book a holiday? Booking tips from flexible policies to refund rights

Brits are getting an increasing choice of holiday options, with heaps of countries welcoming back UK tourists including the likes of Spain, Greece, Portugal and Turkey.

Then there’s the fact that more countries are due to reopen their borders – one of the biggest being the USA which is due to lift its travel ban for vaccinated Brits in November.

To top it all off, from October 4 the traffic light system will be simplified, with countries placed on either the red list (no-go) or the ‘rest of the world’ list, where holidays will be allowed.

It’s therefore not surprising that Brits are looking to book getaways to enjoy the last of the summer sunshine.

However, the pandemic isn’t over so there’s still a risk involved when booking a trip abroad.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve flagged some of the top tips you need to know when booking a holiday, from the benefits of flexible policies, to your refund rights if a country goes on the red list.

Check out our guide below..

1. Check the UK’s travel rules for your destination

This will determine what tests and possible quarantine requirements are in place.

Currently the UK places countries on green, amber and red lists. Green requires no quarantine back in the UK but a PCR test on day two, amber requires a PCR test on day two and for the unvaccinated, 10 days of self-isolation with a second test on day eight. As for red, this involves mandatory hotel quarantine. It’s worth noting that England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own lists, so always check the rules based on your location.

There are plenty of holiday options for Brits


LightRocket via Getty Images)

However, from October 4, the amber list is being scrapped for Brits. Instead there will be the ‘red list’ (no-go) and ‘rest of the world’ list (where holidays are allowed).

Red list rules: Anyone arriving in the UK will still need to stay in a quarantine hotel. (Usually the Foreign Office also bans travel to a red list country).

Rest of the world rules: These differ depending on your vaccination status.
For the vaccinated, pre-departure tests will no longer be necessary when you’re coming back to the UK. Later this October – although there’s no confirmed date yet – you’ll be able to take a lateral flow test on day two instead of a PCR test. Meanwhile, all unvaccinated arrivals in the UK will need to self-isolate for up to 10 days, and take Covid tests on day two and eight.

2. Check your destination’s own rules

Just because the UK government says you can travel somewhere doesn’t mean it’s open to Brits. For example, Australia is on the UK’s green list but the country is keeping its borders firmly closed to tourists.

Countries have their own rules for UK travellers – some are only open to fully vaccinated Brits for holidays (for example Malta, Iceland, France), some are open to all UK travellers but with PCR test requirements (for example Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Portugal), and others are keeping borders closed entirely or have quarantine in place, so most firms/airlines aren’t operating packages there.

You can get the information on entry rules in the Foreign Office’s travel advice for a destination, whole your tour operator should also be able to advise.

3. Look for flexible booking policies

Travel rules can change quickly during a pandemic, which means your plans may need to change. The good news is that most travel firms have flexible booking policies which allow you to amend your destination/dates if you need to, with no extra cost.

Before parting with your cash, make sure you know the firm’s policy if you’re unable to travel – including if this is due to someone in your party testing positive for Covid. If it’s not clear what the rules are, get in touch direct.

4. Check the Foreign Office advice

Not only does this include any entry requirements, but the Foreign Office advice determines if your travel insurance is valid for a trip. In most cases if the Foreign Office advises against travel to a destination, you won’t be covered – regardless of its status on the green/amber/red lists. For example, Egypt and Sri Lanka were recently removed from the red list, but the Foreign Office continues to advise against travel.

Foreign Office advice isn’t just Covid-related, it also takes into account other factors such as a country’s political situation, natural disasters and terror threats

5. Stick to package holidays if you can

October half term is coming up – but whether the new travel rules will be in place by then is unclear


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are benefits to booking a package deal; you’re usually protected if a firm goes bust, it’s only one tour operator to deal with if travel rules change and your holiday needs to be changed, and often it’s a smoother process for getting money back.

For example if you book a flight separately but travel restrictions mean you can’t go, the airline doesn’t necessarily have to cancel the flight – meaning you aren’t automatically entitled to a refund.

Holidays booked through travel agents and tour operators should include ATOL protection that protects you if a travel firm or airline goes bust (we’ve got a wider guide explaining ATOL protection where you can find more information).

You can also check whether a travel firm is a member of ABTA – The Travel Association, where members are protected financially in the event of a company failure. You can find out more on

6. Get travel insurance

Travel insurance is important, and not just because of Covid – it can help you get money back if something goes wrong from a lost suitcase to a medical emergency or cancelled holiday.

During Covid, some countries won’t accept travellers who don’t have proof of insurance in place.

Make sure to check the wording of your policy and look out for Covid cover, so that should something go wrong you know exactly what you’re covered for, which can make the process even more stress-free.

However, a word of caution; if the Foreign Office advises against travel to a destination, this can invalidate your insurance.

7. Your rights if a country goes on the red list

A country going red means your holiday is cancelled


Getty Images)

If a country is on the red list, the Foreign Office usually advises against all non-essential travel, so your holiday will likely be cancelled.

When a travel firm cancels your holiday, you are entitled to a refund. Some travel companies have still been offering alternatives such as rebooking to a later date or different destination, and credit vouchers. You are welcome to choose these options, but you are entitled to a refund if this is what you would prefer.

If you booked a flight and hotel separately, then you may need to do some negotiating, especially if your flight isn’t cancelled. As for your accommodation, whether you can get your money back will depend on your booking policy.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has some useful advice here regarding refund rights when it comes to coronavirus.

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