What to do when the FCO advises against all but essential travel

More than 50 nation states around the world are out of bounds to British tourists, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has added Sri Lanka to the list of no-go zones, changing its recommendation to advise against all but essential travel.

This updated advice follows the bomb attacks in churches and hotels on 21 April (Easter Sunday) that killed more than 250 people.

But what should you do when the Government advises against all but essential travel?

How do I return home?

Hopefully, you have travel insurance that will cover you for medical and other risks while you are in a location with a declared state of emergency.

If you decide to return home earlier than planned:

  • Check with your travel insurer to see how they can help you.  Your policy may cover you for an early return.  However, if you make your own return journey arrangements with the expectation that you could claim from your insurer at a future point, you need to recognise that your insurance policy may not cover these costs.
  • Check with your tour operator if you have one, to see if they will bring you back.
  • Check with your airline to find out what arrangements are being made to help travellers return home sooner than planned and sometimes airlifts will be organised to bring British travellers home.
  • Monitor the FCO website for guidance (assuming that networks and wifi are working).  Their recommendation will be to follow the advice of local authorities and hotel security staff.


Curfews and security checks may mean travellers face long queues at the airport.  Travelling to an airport without confirmed travel plans may not be an option.

Some may prefer to carry on with their holiday, and follow Foreign Office advice to remain vigilant.  Check with your travel insurer first to make sure your insurance cover is valid during a state of emergency.  Also check with your airline as if the state of emergency persists there may be a limited window to help British holiday makers return to the UK.

Can I still go on my holiday?

If you are due to travel to a country, but the Foreign Office advises against it, your tour company will not take you there.  But they will give you the choice of deferring your travel plans, choosing an alternative holiday or a refund.

If not, or if you’re still out of pocket as a result of not being able to travel, you can also contact your travel insurer.

Some insurance policies will provide cover for your flight or holiday costs, especially if you booked flights and accommodation direct.

Once the Foreign Office advises against travel to a specific location, holidaymakers are able to claim on their travel insurance.

Why travel insurance matters

People think of travel insurance as protection for their property and health abroad which is perhaps why so many travellers wait until the last minute to invest in a travel insurance policy.

Premature as it may seem, you really should buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday to protect against travel cancellations and mishaps that might occur in the run-up to your trip.

Buying a policy early also means that you have more time to shop around for the right cover for you, rather than a one-size-fits-all policy.

Yet as soon as you book your trip, you run the risk of suffering a loss if the trip is not able to go ahead for any reason.

While tour operators, airlines and hotels may refund your main travel costs, your travel insurance’s cancellation cover should meet any additional costs that you have incurred that cannot be refunded by your travel provider.

1)  You’re covered if you are holidaying in a country that declares a state of emergency

2)  You’re covered if your airline or hotel goes bust

3) You’re protected against illness before travel

4) There’s time to shop around for the right policy for you

5) It doesn’t cost any more

One of the main reasons to take out travel insurance is in case the worst happens while away on holiday. But insurance can come in handy if illness means the policyholder is not able to make it in the first place.

There are many horror stories about airlines refusing to refund the cost of flights, even when a customer is seriously ill. Taking out travel insurance early ensures travellers are protected from the date of purchase until the end of the trip.

3) Time to shop around for the right policy for you

For travellers who are able to plan holidays well in advance, it may be better to take out an annual travel insurance policy, rather than taking out cover for a single trip.

In some cases the cost of an annual policy may just be a few pounds more, yet will cover multiple trips abroad. Like with all annual insurance policies, remember to check that the policy is still suitable when the renewal date comes around. Those who are planning ahead have time to consider which option is more cost effective.

Adults on Banana Boat
Be aware that riding a banana boat may not be covered by travel insurance CREDIT: STUART WESTMORLAND/GETTY IMAGES

4) Adapt the level cover to meet your travel plans

Holidaymakers can always add extra cover if their travel plans change. For example, if a beach holiday is now likely to include some extreme sports activities, travellers can add extra insurance to a policy.

Consumers should also check exactly what their insurer considers “extreme”. Some providers classify swimming with dolphins, horse riding and inflatable banana rides as extreme activities, while others do not.

5) It doesn’t cost any more

Unlike plane tickets, travel insurance pricing is not usually “dynamic”. This means it does not typically change depending on demand, or how far in advance it is bought.

If travellers plan on taking out travel insurance anyway, then booking early will not usually cost any more money, but has all the added benefits listed above.

Jane Hewin

Jane Hewin

Published on 26/04/19

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