Okay, so the world is panicking right now. And yes, for solid reasons. “Coronavirus travel” seems to be the new trending word in travel communities and everyone is wondering how to get a refund for travel plans that have been made in advance.
I don’t deny that I’m a planner. Someone who likes planning months in advance for trips and making sure all hotels/homes, flights, visas, and you know the drill is sorted out. But this is the time when I envy those last-minute planners! I mean, Coronavirus and travel seem to be enemies.
What is Coronavirus?
Well, if you’ve been living under a rock (an idiom used to describe someone oblivious), okay scratch that! You can still live under a rock and have access to social media now.
For someone completely devoid of the latest happenings, Coronavirus is a virus that was first found in Wuhan city of China late in 2019. The official name of this disease now is COVID-19 (“Co” from Corona, “vi” from virus, “d” for disease, and 2019 is the year it was found)
This virus has no known cure as of now and is spreading massively throughout the world. What started in China has now claimed over 3,000 lives around the world and has infected about 100,000 people. The only non-affected place now is Antarctica.
A simple way Coronavirus travels is through touch.
What are Coronavirus symptoms?
Something as simple as a fever and sore throat. This comes along with body aches and cold which could later result in pneumonia for older patients.
You can avoid Coronavirus transmission by isolating yourself when sick. Since the symptoms can take about 14 days to appear, any travel to the most infected places by Coronavirus like China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy should result in isolation for this period.
Some common FAQ’s about Coronavirus:
Is Coronavirus contagious?
Of course, you can limit the risk by avoiding crowds and close contact with people. Avoid shaking hands and kissing as a greeting.
What started the Coronavirus?
The main reason is still unknown but this disease appears to have started from a live market in Wuhan. A number of people seem to have contracted it from live animals and then spread it unknowingly.
Should I be worried about Coronavirus?
Unless it has resulted in an outbreak in your country, I wouldn’t be worried. However, the best way to battle this is by practicing good hygiene.
Can you die from Coronavirus?
The current mortality rate stands at 3.4% which was increased from the earlier estimate of 2% by WHO. From what I’ve read, deaths are mostly occurring in older patients with other health issues.
The reason Coronavirus is taken so seriously is the rate of spreading is quite fast and it causes illness in even people who appear to be healthy. Other than the fact that there is no known cure to this, symptoms only appear within 14 days which is long enough time to spread to at least 100 people or more.
Are you wondering, “can I travel during Coronavirus?”
Yes, you can. However, before traveling do check the Coronavirus travel warnings from WHO depending on the country of your travel.
Another alternative is to check if your country has a ban on traveling or restrictions that you should be aware of.
In such a situation, it is not uncommon to wonder, are airline tickets refundable?
If you have bought them from a budget airline, chances are they would not be. However, if you intelligently chose the “cancel for any reason” option, then you might be the lucky one who can get an airline ticket refund.
The current situation has the travel industry coming down to its knees and I have heard many companies laying off their employees or sending them on paid leave. It is very unfortunate and I only pray that a cure soon comes to light and the infected people, as well as, businesses recover soon.
On the other hand, there are thousands who have made bookings and plans for travel and are now confused about whether to proceed or not.
First, make a decision. Will you be going ahead with your vacation during Coronavirus? Some points to consider are:
- Are you traveling with kids and elders? – People older than 60 years have shown to be most at risk especially if they have other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and breathing problems
- Can you get quarantined? – There is a possibility of a quarantine situation if a fellow guest at your hotel or flight seems to be infected. Are you able to lose out on those days of isolation? It will be interesting to read this article about quarantine and the costs covered.
- Worst case scenario – What happens if you catch the novel Coronavirus? In this situation, the person is sent to a hospital to get treated in the country of travel
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HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED YOU? Nurseries have been closed for 14 days, people are opting to not use public transport, those who can are working from home, and travel plans have been cancelled What precautions have you been taking from #coronavirus? I have had to cancel cancel my trip to Italy this month unfortunately, because of it becoming one of the major places in Europe to be infected 😭 Let’s hope the world is able to fight this disease soon and wish everyone infected has fast recovery 🙏🏻
How to Avoid the Risk of Getting Infected during Travel: Coronavirus
Note: I am not a doctor. All tips and advice about Coronavirus should only be treated as precautions.
Some preventative measures you can take are:
- Packing a box of medicines to make sure you have the required medication in case your health is at risk due to food poisoning or weather conditions
- Wash your face and hands up to the elbows frequently with soap to kill germs. The right amount of time is about 20 seconds and make sure to wash between your fingers and under nails
- Keep a hand sanitizer to keep hands always clean if no water is available
- Use your elbow to block your cough or sneezes if there is no tissue paper available. If using tissues, discard immediately after use in a closed dustbin
- Always keep your immunity in check and avoid eating street food. I’d say go for packaged items at this moment
- If you do feel sick, take a day off your travel plans and stay in the hotel/home until you feel better. Most places have online food delivery options so you need not step out for food
- Wear a face mask if you HAVE to travel during your sickness so as not to infect others. Also, discard the used face mask after one day of use
Alternatively, if you decide to cancel, you may be thinking “can I get my money back if I cancel my vacation?”
How to get a refund for travel?
I was due to travel to Italy in a few days when I realized that the Coronavirus situation was getting out of hand, especially in the Northern part of the country near Milan where I was supposed to land.
Apart from being totally upset about having to cancel my trip, I decided that it was for the best as I didn’t want to face quarantine time when my toddler of 2 years would be in another country waiting for me. Also, the United Arab Emirates has advised postponing travel plans if not necessary which was a factor in this decision too.
Refund for flight ticket
The best way is to check the website of the airlines you have booked from. The official website usually contains updated information regarding cancellations if any, or flight changes. In the event that your flight has been canceled, you receive a full refund.
Can I cancel the flight and get a refund? In case the flight hasn’t been canceled and you are canceling it from your side, only a part of refund can be claimed. Sometimes, airlines don’t even refund this if the ticket was bought at a very discounted price.
Unfortunately, I was subject to one of these “discount schemes” by Opodo(dot)com through which my flight to Milan was booked. The customer service is nil because there is absolutely no way of contacting a real person via chat or email! Also, the other option provided by the “chat bot” is to call their international number to the UK where no one answers the call even after waiting for more than half an hour (side note: you are also wasting your money on an international call here because they don’t have a toll free number)
Bottom line? Don’t ever book through Opodo although they may have the cheapest flights ever.
This is not to put other budget alternatives to shame, I believe that traveling is for everybody and every budget. Sometimes, such cases do happen when companies try to cheat the customer and unfortunately, this happened to me at this time.
If none of your tickets have been canceled on their own and you need to take matters in your own hands, the best policy right now is to wait it out. The Coronavirus outbreak is only spreading and may soon impact the particular area you are traveling to and your flight may be canceled.
If you have a month’s time or more, wait up to a week before your departure date and then check the rules again. Do be mindful, however, to cancel at least 3 days in advance or read the airline policy to act accordingly.
Can you get a refund on a hotel room?
Again, this depends on the type of booking you have made. In the case of Coronavirus being a widespread disease, some hotels may allow you a full refund or let you postpone the date.
If made through third-party services like booking.com, you can directly contact the help center at the company who will speak to the hotel/guest house for you. I was able to receive a chance to postpone one of the hotels I had initially booked which is until the end of 2020. Of course, I don’t know the situation until then so I am going to try harder to get my room rate refunded at least in part.
If you don’t have future dates, be insistent and show proofs that might make them consider a refund. This might be a tiring process but well worth it if it works out.
Official country websites showing travel bans/restrictions from your country, or news websites can be proofs you can send.
How to get a refund on Airbnb?
This also depends on the place you are traveling to. I had booked an Airbnb in Rome which is not very affected in Italy as of this moment. However, when speaking to Airbnb customer service, I produced proofs of travel restrictions from the UAE and flight cancellations proof so I was able to get a full refund (thankfully!)
Can you get a refund on train tickets or tours?
If you have non refundable tickets, then it might be difficult. But again, check the official website, that’s the rule. Rail Europe has a complete page dedicated to the rules for each train listed. Check it here.
If you have booked your tours through Get Your Guide, then congrats! You are eligible for a refund if you have booked in these circumstances. I always recommend booking tours through them as they have amazing offers on skip the line tickets and experiences that have only good reviews.
Lesson learned for traveling in 2020 and future
I think the main lesson I learned from this experience is to always choose the “cancel for any reason” option which I thankfully did for 2 places and did not have to worry about getting a refund for those.
If you don’t want to entirely rule out traveling this year, consider places that haven’t been hit as hard yet or places close to your country of residence.
If Europe is where your home is, then love for food might take you to some cities known for foodies.
Until then, happy traveling! xx
P.S. If you want to save and read later, here are some pinnable versions 🙂
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