Portugal quarantine: Can I get a refund if my destination is added back to the list?

Praia de São Rafael, Albufeira, Portugal
Portugal could soon be added to the quarantine list, so what does this mean for travellers? Credit: PA

Searches for flights to Portugal soared after the country was removed from the UK’s quarantine list.

But now, barely two weeks later, travellers are facing the prospect of 14 days in quarantine once they’re back home in the UK.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not yet announced a decision on Portugal – that’s expected later this week.

Until changes are actually made, experts advise holidaymakers not to cancel their flights as this would forfeit any hope of a refund.

If the FCO does put Portugal back on the quarantine list, here’s what travellers can and can’t do. Why might Portugal be removed from the exemption list?

There were 21.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Portugal in the seven days to August 30, up from 19.4 in the seven days to August 29.

A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine conditions.

This is not the only consideration, with the trajectory of cases also taken into account.

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger explains why Portugal could be placed back on the quarantine list

What will happen with my travel insurance if Portugal is added to the list?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said travel insurance will remain valid for people who are already in the quarantined countries until they return home.

So if you are in Portugal already, your travel insurance will still cover you according to its original policies.

Those who travel to the listed countries after the FCO advice has changed would “likely” find their insurance invalid, the ABI said.

According to consumer rights group Which?, most travel insurers will not cover you if the FCO changes its advice before you fly.

They list just one insurance provider that will cover you in this case – Nationwide. Even then, you must be an account holder at the bank to be eligible in the first place.

Which? has listed insurance providers according to what they will and won't cover during the pandemic here. Can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday to Portugal?

If Portugal is removed from the exemption list, it is likely that your only hope of a refund is via your tour operator.

This is because the vast majority of insurance policies will not pay out for coronavirus-related changes to government advice.

Travel expert Simon Calder explaining the problem faced by travellers earlier this summer

Which? advises against cancelling your holidays as you will not be eligible for refunds.

Instead, they suggest waiting until your flights and holiday are cancelled as you will then be eligible.

Even then, there is a good chance you will not be entitled to a refund. Flights may well go ahead as planned despite any changes, in which case you won’t get a refund.

It is important to remember - if your flights are cancelled, you are entitled to a refund if they were booked on an EU airline or any airline from an EU airport. Will I be covered for loss of earnings from my quarantine period?

Unfortunately not. The UK Government is relying on the goodwill of employers at this moment.

Those who are able to work from home may be asked by employers to do so, but for those unable to, it is down to employers.

Those who are freelance may be entitled to claim Universal Credit for that 14-day period.

So, is it wise to book a holiday at the moment?

People headed back to Bournemouth on Bank Holiday Monday - a staycation comes with less risk. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

That depends, Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: "With new restrictions on foreign travel being introduced every week, it's really only safe to head off abroad if you're confident you can quarantine for two weeks on your return. "

Mr Boland added that the government's list remains "under constant review", meaning countries can be taken off the list without warning.

The government also highlights the risk of being expected to quarantine or self-isolate in your holiday destination if the local authorities ask you to.

If you do decide to book, Mr Boland advises taking the following steps to reduce the risk of being left out of pocket.

  • Consider booking a package holiday, as this will give you better protection if foreign advice changes, while many package holiday providers also offer flexibility if you can't travel because of test and trace or a local lockdown.

  • Be sure to book with a reputable provider that is committed to paying refunds if something does go wrong.

  • Take out appropriate travel insurance as soon as you book. While few insurers will cover changes to FCO advice, there are now comprehensive policies that will cover most other eventualities.