The Holiday Guru is always on hand to answer your questions.
This week the issues tackled include travel restrictions to Costa Rica, coronavirus travel insurance and passport renewals.
Q. In February, before travel restrictions came into play, I booked a holiday to Costa Rica for November. Now you must take a Covid PCR test within 72 hours of going. Should my travel insurance cover the cost? And if the test result is delayed, meaning that travel is not permitted, should my insurance cover that?
David Little, by email.
Tropical getaway: Manzanillo Beach on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coast
A. Your insurer probably would not cover a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. However, there is no harm in asking, nor checking the policy’s terms in relation to this and the potential test delay. Most results are promised ‘within three days’, so the timings should be OK. Tests typically cost around £65.
However, current Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice is against all but essential travel to Costa Rica. And those returning to the UK from there must quarantine for 14 days.
Q. Are there any insurance companies that will cover me for travel to countries where the FCO advises against non-essential travel?
Brenda Welfare, by email.
A. Staysure offers cover for claims unrelated to coronavirus, such as lost luggage (staysure.co.uk). Meanwhile Battleface, a small specialist firm which usually offers cover to journalists in war zones, is providing full medical coronavirus coverage for those aged under 60 (battleface.com).
It has reported a recent surge of interest from holidaymakers. A week in Spain costs from £21, or a week for a family of four in France is £97. Cover excludes trip cancellations and curtailment costs.
Q. Before lockdown, myself and five girlfriends booked two nights at a hotel in Liverpool for my 65th birthday. The cost was £1,519, non-refundable.
At the time we did not realise it was an Aintree Racecourse weekend, so the price was high. We asked for a refund but the hotel said we could not have one, despite the lockdown. We could, however, rebook, so did so for October.
Even though it is a cheaper price, the hotel will not pay the difference. Can I get this money back via my credit card?
Mrs Debbie Podmore, by email.
A. This is complicated. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card issuer was jointly liable with the hotel for the service. Where a hotel has not offered a refund, as in this instance, you could have claimed via the issuer.
Now you have accepted an alternative date, the hotel can argue that it is fulfilling its contract with you, despite the price difference. It may be best to ask politely if the difference could be offered in the form of a voucher.
Another course of action is to go to ‘Report a business behaving unfairly during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak’ at gov.uk.
Q. My son applied for a passport renewal on August 1 and was informed on August 10 that his new passport was coming via a TNT delivery. We have had four delivery times set, and still it has not come. When my son called TNT he was told someone had tried to come but, strangely, could not find the address. When he called again, an operator said that there had been a computer problem.
We have a holiday in Italy booked for September 19 costing £5,000. What can we do?
Mrs Pauline North, near Chelmsford.
A spokesman for the Passport Office said due to the pandemic, passports are taking up to six weeks to arrive
A. We emailed TNT, which did not get back to us before we went to press.
The Passport Office, however, said that it would look into the matter and your passport arrived (without notification, in the usual manner) the next day.
A spokesman apologised and said the Passport Office would be speaking to TNT about the issue. The firm took over passport deliveries from DX Group in January on a three-year contract worth £77 million.
The spokesman added that, due to the pandemic, passports are taking up to six weeks to arrive. See: gov.uk/apply-renew-passport
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