Dirt cheap family holidays abroad on sale for just a few hundred pounds could end up costing travellers thousands.
Travel firms have slashed the price of trips abroad after a 19-week ban on holidays overseas was lifted on Monday. Ministers revealed a ‘green list’ of 12 countries that people can visit without having to isolate on their return.
But with the threat of Covid still looming, holidaymakers desperate to get away could be stung by huge extra fees for testing and quarantine.
Money Mail found that a family of four could holiday in Portugal for four nights for £187 per person.
Hidden costs: With the threat of Covid still looming, holidaymakers desperate to get away could be stung by huge extra fees for testing and quarantine
But pandemic red tape means that bill could spiral, adding much as an extra £4,396 to the final cost.
This is because those travelling abroad must pay for pricey virus tests before they can board flights, while abroad, then again when they get home. And if they test positive, they could be forced to pay for another two weeks in a hotel.
As a result, consumer experts have warned families not to travel unless they have thousands of pounds in cash or credit to cover a Covid crisis.
The consumer lobby group Which? has also warned that travellers are being given a false impression that their insurance will cover them if the pandemic affects their plans.
One travel insurance policy in five will not pay out if a holidaymaker tests positive before a flight, according to the finance data firm Defaqto.
How it all adds up
- Flights and accommodation for family of four over four days in the Algarve at £187 per person: £748
- Test before you travel: £150 x 4 = £600
- Test when you are away: £129 x 4 = £516
- If the test is positive, isolation cost of hotel: £2,500
- Change of flights home: £45 x 4 = £180
- Tests on second day of arrival home: £150 x 4 = £600
- Total extras: £4,396
If you travel to a country that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office later advises against visiting, your cover is also likely to be void, leaving you to foot the bill for thousands of pounds in new flights and any quarantine costs.
And some holidaymakers booked to travel to ‘amber list’ countries have already been denied refunds when they have tried to cancel.
Martyn James, of the complaints site Resolver, says: ‘I’d urge anyone considering travelling abroad to think long and hard about what would happen if something went wrong. And don’t even think of boarding a plane unless you have at least £3,000 in available cash or credit.’
Despite fears that travel firms would hike the cost of holidays to make up for months of lost revenue, there are now plenty of cheap last-minute deals.
Portugal, which is on the approved green list for travel, is now welcoming sun-seeking Britons, with 22 flights arriving on Monday alone.
A family of four, including young children, could pay just £187 per person for flights from Luton Airport and a four-night stay in an apartment in Albufeira, on the Algarve coastline.
Summer dreams: Travel firms have slashed the prices of trips abroad after a 19-week ban on holidays overseas was lifted on Monday
Holidays to the Algarve are about £19 cheaper than they were before the ‘green list’ was published, according to snapshot research by Which?
Emma Coulthurst, of the comparison site TravelSupermarket, says: ‘There are still many holidays available, often cheaper than normal.’
Yet while holidays are going cheap, the costs of travelling in a pandemic are not.
All passengers flying to Portugal, except children aged two and under, must show a negative Covid test result before boarding their flight.
It must be a RT-PCR test, which, unlike 30-minute lateral flow tests, has to be processed in a lab. Travellers need to take it within 72 hours of their departure time – and if you are taking it to go on holiday, you are not eligible for a free NHS one.
Tests are around £150 — so it would cost a family of four £600.
However some travel firms are offering passengers discounted individual tests and packages, with TUI offering customers the three tests they would need for a holiday to Portugal for just £60 per person.
Covid costs: Those travelling abroad have to pay for pricey virus tests before they can board flights
Those returning home must also find an approved provider abroad and book another PCR test or a cheaper lateral flow test before they return home.
In Portugal, tests usually cost between £43 and £129 – leaving a family of four with another bill, possibly of over £500.
The penalty for arriving back in England without a negative result is a £500 fine. And if anyone in your family tests positive, you must all self-isolate in a hotel for 14 days before you can return home.
This could cost a family of four an extra £2,500 in Albufeira, unless you are specifically covered for this eventuality in your travel insurance.
And fewer than 5 per cent of insurers will cover the cost of a quarantine stay if a policyholder tests positive for Covid while on holiday, according to Defaqto.
Families forced to isolate abroad will also have to pay to reschedule flights home, which most insurers won’t cover, adding another £180 to their holiday bill.
When you get home, you will then need to take another PCR which should be booked before you travel, potentially setting a family of four back a further £600, or £352 if you are coming back to Scotland.
A family of four could holiday in Portugal for four-nights for as little as £187 per person. But pandemic red tape means that bill could quickly spiral to as much as an extra £3,996
Half of holidaymakers believe they will be covered by their travel insurance if lockdown restrictions prevent them from travelling. But this type of cover is rare — especially if government travel advice changes after a trip is booked.
Campaigners blame providers for using confusing terms such as ‘Covid cover’ or ‘Enhanced Covid cover’ on their websites without clearly stating the exclusions.
Some providers describe their policies as covering a ‘range’ of scenarios and direct customers to Frequently Asked Questions for more details.
Aviva is one of the few firms that will pay out if you have to quarantine abroad, but no provider covers the cost of a quarantine hotel in the UK.
Money Mail found that a family of four could get a single-trip Aviva policy for about £133 that would cover you for a variety of Covid-related claims, including if UK lockdown rules prevented you from travelling (provided these were not in place when you booked).
An Explorer Travel Insurance policy would cost the same family just £15, but will pay out only for emergency medical expenses caused by or related to Covid-19, not cancellations or extra costs after a positive test.
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