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Europe heatwave: what should you do about travel plans across the continent?

As temperatures in southern Europe remain high, many holidaymakers due to fly out soon will be wondering whether they still want to travel. Here we look at what rights you have in these situations.

I’ve booked a family trip to Greece next week – will my travel insurance cover us if we decide not to go?

Unfortunately not. Travel policies will generally only allow claims for cancellation in the event of serious illness of one of the travellers, a bereavement of the insured or a very close family member or an exceptionally long delay prior to departure. The weather in countries such as Greece may be unbearably hot but if your cancellation is purely because you cannot face it, your insurance will not cover the loss.

There is one caveat. If the government were to announce that it was advising against travel to your destination on health or safety grounds, quite a few policies would pay out, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Travellers would need to check their policy terms, it says. However, at the time of writing no such advice has been issued.

What if I have a medical reason not to travel?

Travellers who have specific conditions and who told their insurer about the condition when they bought the policy – usually paying an additional premium as a result – may be able to claim if their GP advises them not to travel, says the ABI.

For example, someone with breathing difficulties brought on by a known condition could well be advised not to travel to an area hit by wildfires. Again, it will depend on the policy terms, and the insurer will want to see proof of the GP’s advice. This would assume that the person did not know about the excessive heat when they booked the trip.

I really don’t want to travel – what other options do I have?

Most package holiday tour operators will charge you all or at least 90% of the price paid if you cancel at the last minute. Equally, you will generally lose your money if you decide not to take a flight. However, some airlines will allow passengers to rebook for another date, subject to a charge, so check your booking.

It’s a similar story with hotels, especially if booked through a reservation site such as These sites will sometimes allow you to cancel or rebook up to 24 hours before check-in, so dig out the booking email and see if you can limit your losses.

The area I was due to travel to is ablaze. What about that?

If you booked a package tour and the operator can no longer provide your holiday – or a last-minute alternative – it may offer you the chance to cancel.

Those who have booked their own flights but find their accommodation no longer exists may be able to claim if they bought a more expensive travel policy, but this is not clearcut and will largely depend on the policy’s terms and conditions. The same applies if the local authorities prevent you from reaching your destination. Better policies will pay for alternative accommodation, though it is a bit of a grey area.

If I go ahead with the trip but require medical treatment because of the heat, will I be covered?

Yes. If you become ill, insurers will usually have a 24-hour phone number for you to call if you need to use your insurance. The ABI says travellers in emergency situations should seek help at the nearest appropriate medical facility and contact their insurer as soon as it is safe to do so.

“If you need support but it’s not an emergency, call your insurer before seeking medical assistance,” it says.

Source: The Guardian