Travel safely despite Corona: Your right to travel on summer vacation: You have to consider this when planning your vacation message
by Felix Petruschke, Euro on Sunday
First of all, the good news: summer vacation seems to be saved. The borders to other European countries are open again in time for the summer holidays that are already beginning in some federal states. After the federal government had warned against vacation trips to all countries of the world for almost three months because of the corona pandemic, this has ended for most of Europe since mid-June.
Nevertheless, this year’s vacation will differ from the usual summer vacation. Because the fear of the virus, the precautionary measures such as a mask and distance rules and the uncertainty about what travelers have to pay attention to at the destination are a constant companion. € uro on Sunday has compiled the answers to the most important questions.
Where can you go?
Basically in every country that has not imposed an entry ban. The Federal Foreign Office’s travel warning is not a travel ban. However, it makes traveling significantly more difficult because, for example, package tours are not possible. This can also limit insurance coverage.
For most European countries (EU countries, Great Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), however, the federal government converted the travel warnings into travel advice in mid-June. Since then package tours have been possible again. Sweden (too high a number of new infections), Finland and Norway (immigration restrictions still apply here) are excluded from the easing. In the UK, holidaymakers face a 14-day quarantine until further notice.
For the remaining 160 countries in the world, the travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office will remain in effect at least until August 31. Decisive for the risk assessment is the number of newly infected on site, the reliability of the information and the test capacities. However, exceptions are possible. For example, the government is currently negotiating with Turkey whether the warning about travel there can be lifted soon.
What are the consequences Risk classification for already booked trips?
If there is a travel warning, package tour operators cancel planned trips to the corresponding area. Customers are then entitled to repayment of amounts already paid. However, these reimbursements are currently experiencing massive delays because companies prefer to offer customers coupons rather than money.
Can I cancel free of charge after the end of the travel warning?
Basically no. With the end of the travel warning, there is a return to the normal state in travel contract law. That means: Cancellations only against fees. Fear of an infection or worries that museums do not open regularly at the destination are not grounds for a free travel waiver. However, when there are no flights or hotels are closed, tour operators cancel tours on their own initiative. This is often the case for the current transition phase until early July.
First of all, fundamentally: Depending on the type of booking, whether flat-rate or individual, holidaymakers have other rights, for example if they want to cancel or change their holiday. Package holidaymakers are generally better off than individual travelers. The latter can only cancel individual services if they are not available. Otherwise they have to negotiate with their contract partners on site and hope for goodwill.
What can I get from travel health and travel interruption insurance?
Travel cancellation insurance only pays if the customer falls ill before the start of the holiday. On the other hand, if you get symptoms on the go, travel cancellation insurance usually helps. However, this is usually only worthwhile for very expensive trips. In the case of a disease of Covid-19, it does not help much because infected people are immediately quarantined in the holiday destination and are not allowed to simply leave the country again.
Assumption of costs
Does the health insurance cover the costs if I become infected with Corona abroad?
The statutory health insurance companies pay for medically necessary treatments in EU member states. In principle, this is about services that cannot wait until the patient is back home. But be careful: only costs that are customary for residents abroad are reimbursed. In contrast, privately insured people across Europe benefit from the full scope of the standard benefits. In both cases, return transport is only paid for in urgent emergencies.
What does international health insurance bring?
Health insurance abroad, which in principle every traveler should take out, covers the costs of medically necessary medical treatment abroad. This also applies in the event of illness to Covid-19, explains Bianca Boss from the Association of Insured Persons. The insurance would also cover the costs for a medically necessary return transport.
But be careful: International health insurance is not an all-inclusive package. Consumer advocates advise checking the small print in the contracts: in some cases, insurance companies rule out pandemic cases. The same usually applies to countries for which there is a travel warning.
Will I come back when the borders in my holiday country are suddenly closed again?
A large-scale return campaign for tourists, such as after the outbreak of the corona pandemic, will not happen again. The Federal Foreign Office has emphasized this several times. This is one of the reasons why the travel warning will remain for many countries outside the EU. Within the EU, the return of tourists after the border closings in March was not a major problem. The tour operators assure that they will bring their customers back. According to travel law, you are also obliged to do so.
What happens after an infection on vacation?
No airline will let infected people on board for a regular return flight. As in Germany, infected people have to go into a two-week quarantine abroad. If the stay there is longer, additional costs are possible. Who has to wear them in the end has not yet been finally legally clarified.
Can I book my summer vacation safely now?
If you have informed yourself about the regulations in your holiday destination and about the small print in the contracts: yes. Consumer advocates, however, warn that the situation in the country of travel or the Federal Foreign Office’s assessment (travel warning yes / no) could change at short notice. For travelers who are too uncertain, all that remains is the fatalistic consideration of whether it is not the most beautiful at home anyway.
Trouble with airlines and travel providers
Voucher solution or refund of tickets?
Consumer frustration is growing daily: Many have been waiting for their travel expenses to be reimbursed for weeks. Under EU law, they are entitled to a refund within one week for flights and within two weeks for package tours (in the event of a cancellation due to a travel warning). The problem: The airlines and tour operators are running out of money. On the one hand, the pandemic has had its earnings cut off, and on the other hand, they have to pay customers back money. Many providers are therefore playing for time – to the annoyance of their customers. According to the German Travel Association, unpaid refunds now total four billion euros. Postponed is not canceled: Customers still have the right on their side. If requested, travel providers must pay back the money for canceled tickets. Alternatively, you can offer a voucher – but customers do not have to accept it.
Image sources: Schroders, haveseen / Shutterstock.com