Concerned about travel insurance policies? Curious about quarantine? We've compiled this trusty information sheet to help travellers navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
Tom Hanks is in quarantine and disinfectant sprays are greeting us on the tarmacs of airports the world over. In the midst of the drama, you've decided to pack your carry-on and brave the great outdoors. What should you bear in mind?
Running the gamut from swab tests to undertourism via travel insurance policies, we've researched far and wide when compiling this trusty information sheet. We've even put together a somewhat chic anti-coronavirus packing list. Those who have yet to order face masks have done well to wait: it turns out that brands are clamouring to smother us with design-forward mouth coveralls.
Six things to expect as a traveller during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. You might get swabbed
Be prepared to come face-to-face with staff in medical-issue boiler suits and full overhead respiration masks upon touchdown, but be not afraid. Policies vary from country to country, but those travelling from infection hotspots - namely China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy and South Korea at time of writing - might be intercepted, swabbed and checked for a raised temperature at border control.
2. Rerouted flights
Due to lack of interest, some airlines are pooling travellers on empty flights which might mean unexpected stop-offs en route and therefore longer journey times.
If your airline happens to collapse while you're abroad, as happened to thousands of Flybe customers, you might be rescued by a competitor airline. The UK's Civil Aviation Authority is calling upon other airlines to save wayward travellers. Frustrating though it may be, we recommend extending your trip by a couple of days rather than bumming about the airport expectantly, as it's unlikely you'll be able to hop on the next available flight.
Those with plans to visit the US might be a little stumped. At the time of writing, those in the Schengen Area (either residents or visitors) won't be allowed entry. UK travellers do not qualify for the ban. Countries impacted as follows: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
If your flight's cancelled due to coronavirus, you aren't necessarily entitled to compensation. If an airline gives 14 days notice before the flight, they're legally not bound to pay out. Sorry.
Perhaps the one silver lining of the coronavirus for travellers is that destinations otherwise swarming with visitors will be significantly less busy. Obviously this will have a detrimental impact on tourism-driven economies in the long term, but it should enable you to see more, quicker.
4. Iffy travel insurance policies
If you're a regular and sensible traveller, you'll likely have annual travel insurance. Make sure to check in with your provider before jetting off.
Those in the UK should keep an eye on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's website. It's the source of most travel insurance providers' policies and will determine whether or not you receive compensation for disrupted flights. Some insurers won't pay out if you haven't followed FCO advice. If you aren't insured, do it. Right now. Instead of grabbing the cheapest deal going, read each provider's small print to check their coronavirus policy.
We should add: travel insurance providers won't refund your flight if you cancel due to coronavirus concerns. You'll only receive compensation if the airline in question suspend services. But again, check with your insurance provider.
5. Once you're back home?
If you're returning from a high-risk country, it's time to self-isolate. We're assuming your employer already has a policy in place for this. In those two weeks that you tentatively wait for symptoms to surface, keep cabin fever at bay by gorging on your favourite books and films.