Planning an overseas trip while coronavirus is in full swing

15 March 2020

With coronavirus sweeping the globe, measures to prevent further spread and to contain the situation have been put up by many countries that have impacted global travel in ways like never before.

Here are three things you should know if you are planning your overseas travel.

Countries most impacted by coronavirus

Here are the countries with the most cases of coronavirus (as of writing):

  1. China (Do not travel)

  2. Italy (Avoid)

  3. Iran (Do not travel)

  4. South Korea (Avoid)

  5. Spain (Caution)

  6. Germany (Caution)

  7. France (Caution)

  8. United States (Caution)

  9. Switzerland (Precaution)

  10. United Kingdom (Caution)

The list above is based on the information provided by worldometer.

It is wise to avoid travelling in general right now, but especially to the countries above.

In brackets next to each country are the travel advisory status (e.g. Do not travel) from Safe Travel at time of this writing. Safe Travel is the official government travel advisory site for New Zealanders, providing travel advice for most countries as compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is an important source of information for travellers as most insurance companies take into account Safe Travel's advisory and warnings when assessing a claim.

Making overseas travel bookings

If you are a keen traveller or have a special trip planned this year, you may still want to go ahead with booking your trip now. If this is you, you will find this section useful.

The travel industry has been particularly affected as people avoid travelling during this time. Travel industry operators including airlines are doing all they can to keep business going so deals are aplenty. However, with the ongoing uncertainty as to when coronavirus will fade away, travellers are best to consider travel cancellations or rescheduling becoming a reality.

Airlines like Air New Zealand are currently offering a waiver of change fees for new international travel bookings made between 5 - 31 March 2020. For travellers, this provides some comfort knowing that the booking can be changed without incurring change fees. However, the traveller is still on the hook for fare differences if the new booking period is more expensive.

For your accommodation and car bookings, check the cancellation policy and it is best to look for ones with the ability to cancel without any charge - typically up to a certain date. This provides the option to cancel and not be out of pocket in the event the situation does not get better by the time your travel comes around. Sites like Booking.com can be especially useful to help sift through the numerous hotels that offer this benefit.

It's best to book for a trip much later in the year so there's a better chance that coronavirus will be contained by then. However, weigh up the current deals and do your best to find ones that gives you the option to cancel or rebook without penalty.

What it means for travel insurance

Most, if not all, travel insurance companies will no longer cover any coronavirus related events if you are to purchase your cover now. As of late January, most travel insurers have classed coronavirus as a "known event". For consumers, this means that anything related to coronavirus (e.g. travel cancellations, medical treatment, etc.) will not be covered if something unfortunate happened to you.

If your trip and insurance had been preplanned and prepaid before it became a known event to your insurer, there's a good chance you will be able to make a successful claim if you need to. The best thing to do is to get in touch with your insurance company and check with them.

For airfares, travel and accommodation bookings, check with your provider if they will reimburse any payments you have made. Airbnb for one are allowing guests with eligible bookings to cancel with no charge - applies to Mainland China, South Korea, Italy and United States.

Travel insurers and advocates for travel insurance have long recommended that travellers buy their insurance as soon as they make their travel bookings. This event is a good example and reminder especially for travellers that had made arrangements months before but have put off insurance till just before the trip. In this unfortunate instance, leaving insurance till later may cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in cancellation costs.

It is wise to get travel insurance the same time you make your travel bookings.

Here's a great guide produced by Safe Travel and Consumer New Zealand on travel insurance. Well worth a look through, with a bunch of examples of why travel insurance should always be front of mind for travellers.

Don't forget, for quick and easy access to your travel insurer and details while on-the-go, Get Quashed. All your insurance info made handy online; accessible anywhere anytime. You can also easily and securely share your insurance info with your loved ones so they are kept in the loop.

Try Quashed, it's free.

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