Coronavirus in Europe: What are my passenger rights while travelling?

Update: 11:55 am

The coronavirus spread all over the world in a very short time. France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom have been affected severely.

In view of the coronavirus crisis, many people ask themselves whether they should book, undertake or cancel their holidays. But in case of cancellations: Will the money be reimbursed or not? 

This depends on the fact whether you have booked a package holiday or an individual trip. 

But not only package holidays, cruises and flights are cancelled or postponed. Lots of events are also concerned: The UEFA EURO 2020, concerts, festivals and fairs. Please find the answers to your frequently asked questions on our website: Coronavirus & Cancelled Events.

Moreover, protect yourself against fraudsters. The European Commission provides the corresponding information on their website: scams and unfair commercial practices.

Coronavirus / Covid-19: The current situation

Travelling to Germany

There are travel restrictions for many countries. These travel restrictions are issued by the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). Prior to travelling to Germany, please have a look on the website of the BMI in order to find out which regulations apply for your country. Entry to Germany is possible from: EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Further countries where the epidemiological situation makes an entry to Germany possible. Please find here the corresponding list. Entering from other countries is only possible in case of a valid reason.

Corona tests

Since 8th August 2020 people returning from a Corona risk country have to submit a negative Covid-19 test or to quarantine themselves for 14th days. From 1st October on, people returning from a risk area has to quarantine themselves for 14 days. They can do a test on the 5th day. If the test is negative the quarantine will be obsolete. From 15th September on, corona tests for people returning from a non-risk-area are no more longer free of charge. 

Travel warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Germany


There are currently travel warnings for Germans concerning the following EU-countries: 

Austria: Federal State of Vienna

Hungary: Capital Budapest

Bulgaria: Administrative districts (oblast) Blagoevgrad

France: Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, Auvergne-Rhônes-Alpes, Occitanie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Hauts-de-France, Corsica, French Guyana, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, La Réunion. Furthermore, the German Federal Office of Foreign Affairs advises against travelling to French overseas territories having still entry restrictions.  

Czech Republic: Prague, Central Bohemia Region (Středočeský)

Romania: Districts of Bacău, Bihor, Brăila, Brașov, Caraș-Severin, Iaşi, Ilfov, Neamt, Prahova, Vâlcea, Vaslui  and the capital Bucharest.

Netherlands: Aruba, St. Maarten, North Holland (Noord-Holland with the city of Amsterdam) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland with the cities of The Hague and Rotterdam)

Belgium: Brussels

Spain: Spain mainland, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands

Croatia: Zadar, Šibenik-Knin, Split-Dalmatien, Dubrovnik-Neretva, Požega-Slawonien, Brod-Posavina und Virovitica-Podravina 

United Kingdom: Gibraltar

Switzerland: Cantons Geneva, Waadt (Vaud) and Fribourg

The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against touristic travelling to Hungary.

Please find detailed information on the website of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in German language) and on the website of The Federal Government.

The German Federal Foreign Office has prolongated the travel warning until the end of September 2020. It is applicable for more than 160 non-EU-countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

 

Restrictions decided by the federal and state governments

 

  • The existing distance regulations 1,5 m continue to apply.
  • Regarding the contact restrictions, there are different regulations in the individual federal states.
  • Masks are still mandatory in all federal states when shopping or using public transport. This can also be a self-made mask, a cloth or a scarf. Children under the age of 6 generally do not have to wear a mask.
  • Limited exit bans are possible: If there is a renewed sharp rise in new infections in a particular area, there will be regional or local exit restrictions on residents. These measures need not relate to the entire district, but should be limited to the affected areas (including neighbouring districts), depending on local conditions.

New platform for travel information

What applies in the 27 EU member states and what travel recommendations are made can be read on the European Commission's "Re-open-EU" website. There you can find information on border procedures, means of transport, quarantine regulations, distance rules and the obligation to wear a mask.

Travel information for other countries

Entry is again permitted from most EU countries, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City State. Persons from Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal, Romania. main island Spain (not applicable for people entering from Canary Islands or Balearic Islands) and Sweden may not enter. Entry from all other countries is only permitted if there is a valid reason. A health certificate must be carried with that proves a negative COVID19 test. Since July 24, 2020, the test must be done by a certified laboratory and must not be older than 72 hours. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs provides further information.

The government has also issued travel warnings for many countries, including some from the EU. All travel warnings can be found on the website of the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

Masks are mandatory in supermarkets, bank and post offices, in public transport, taxis, cable cars and rack railways, coaches and in the interior of excursion boats, in pharmacies and at events in closed rooms without assigned seats and if the minimum distance of 1 metre cannot be observed or if there are no other protective measures (e. g. protective screens). In Upper Austria wearing masks while entering public places in inner spaces. These include in particular shopping centres, market halls and restaurants. 

Restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, hotels, tourism companies and sights are open. 

Detailed information is available in the FAQ of the Austrian Government.

Further information on travel and cancellation possibilities is available on the website of the European Consumer Centre Austria.

Further information on the safety instructions can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (in German).

Entry is permitted for persons from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. The quarantine obligation does not apply. If you want to enter into Belgium you have to fill in the electronical Public Health Passenger Locator Form. If you want to enter into Belgium from one of these states considered to be a risk are there is a 14-days quarantine and you have to take part in a Corona testing.  Please find more information on the website of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

For travelers coming from non-EU member states, from states outside the Schengen area and outside the UK, there is a 14-day quarantine obligation and a Covid-19 test. Exceptions to the quarantine regulation apply to: commuters, seasonal workers and professional drivers as well as to those people arriving with a valid reason.

Currently the following applies:

A safety distance of 1.50 m applies. Masks must be worn in public transport, at bus stops, in train stations and on platforms, at airports, in shops and shopping centers, in shopping streets, in churches, in cultural institutions, on markets and while entering restaurants / cafes. The municipalities are allowed to define zones in public area where masks are required. The number of customers in stores is limited, depending on the size of the store. Purchases are to be made individually or with maximum 2 people and within 30 minutes per shop. In Brussels masks are mandatory in all public areas.

Further information on the exit restriction in Belgium can be found on the website of the Federal Public Service (FPS).

Unrestricted entry to France is possible from:  

all EU Member Saates, Andorra, Icland Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Ruanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.


Special regulations apply to:
people entering from other countries. Depending on the country, travelers must present a negative Covid-19 test, which is not older than hours or a declaration regarding the reason for entering into France and a declaration thus they do not have Covid-19 symptoms. Otherwise they have to go to quarantine.


Depending on the travel destination, travelers have to fill in one of the following declarations:  

Further information:

 

The international airports may be approached again from Germany. Passengers entering by sea, air or land must register. Registration must be made at least 24 hours before departure using an online form. After that, travellers will receive a QR code which they must show on entry.

Hotels, campsites, youth hostels and holiday homes, restaurants, bars and discos are open. Beaches, too. Regarding outdoor pools the number of users is limited. Indoor pools are still closed. Excavation sites, open air cinemas and museums are open.

From 1st August 2020 on cruise ships are allowed to come to: Piräus, Rhodos, Heraklion, Volos, Korfu, Katakolon.

In addition, Greece also applies safety distances. Masks are mandatory in supermarkets, retail stores, public transport, taxis, elevators, doctor's surgeries, hospitals, hairdressing salons, cosmetic centers, banks and in offices with customer traffic and on markets. Furthermore, masks are compulsory at public cultural events in outdoor areas and in churches. 

Further information is available on the website of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the German representations in Greece (in German).

Anyone entering the country from the EU or a Schengen state or the United Kingdom does not have to go into quarantine.

Travellers from Greece, Malta, Spain and Croatia must present a negative COVID 19 test, which must not be older than 72 hours, or undergo a test on entry.

Anyone entering from a third country, even if entry is via the EU, a Schengen state or via the UK, needs an entry declaration. After entry, they must be registered with the local Italian health authority (Dipartimento di prevenzione dell'azienda sanitaria locale) and placed in quarantine for 14 days. 

Passengers travelling to Sardinia by plane or by ship must register 48 hours before entry. For this purpose, the Regione Autònoma de Sardegna provides information in Italian and the online form in German. Registration is also required for Calabria and Puglia. For Sicily you have to register using the online form, or you can use the “SiciliaSiCura” app.

There are still restrictions on air, train, bus and ferry traffic. 

Masks and disposable gloves are often mandatory, e. g. in shops and whenever the safety distance cannot be observed. Furthermore, masks are mandatory in public areas where people could meet each others between 18:00 and 6:00.

In Lombardy, masks are mandatory in closed, publicly accessible rooms, e.g. in public transport and on outside areas if the safety distance of 1 meter cannot be complied with. 

Italy has extended the state of emergency until 15th October 2020. This provides the government with the possibilty to enforce restrictions without large bureaucracy.

Further information on the coronavirus in Italy is available from the Federal Foreign Office (in German).

There are no entry restrictions for German tourists.

All passengers must fill out a form before departure to prove that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms. More information about travelling to the Netherlands by air can be found on the website of the Dutch government.

Museums are open. The number of visitors is controlled and limited by online bookings. The beaches are open, but parking sites and access roads may be closed. There may also be restrictions regarding the accommodations - Ask the hotel / camp site / owner of the appartement a. s. o. prior to travelling.

In the Netherlands, the following regulations currently apply: safety distance: 1.5 metres. Masks are compulsory for people being older than 13 years in local public transport and on ferries. Furthermore, masks are mandatory in parts of Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the outside areas.

Further information is available on the website of the Dutch government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Entry from all neighbouring EU countries is possible without restrictions. Citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland as well as their spouses and children do not have to go to quarantine after entry. A negative Covid-19-testing is also not required. 

Border controls are carried out at the borders to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

The following applies within the country:

Since 8th August 2020, the country has been divided into green, yellow and red zones with different restrictions. For more information and the parties and cities concerned, please visit the website of the Polish government. 

For public and private meetings a maximum of 150 people is allowed in the green zone, 100 in the yellow zone and 50 in the red zone. Open-air concerts and cultural and entertainment events are permitted in the green zone. However, only every 2nd place may be occupied and masks and distance regulations must be observed. There are upper limits for the quantity of persons regarding sports facilities, fitness centres, events and sports activities (50 % occupancy, a maximum of 250 persons). There are further restrictions in the yellow zone. In the red zone there may be bans.  

Discos and clubs are closed.

Shopping centres, shops, restaurants, bars and cafés are open. In restaurants, bars and cafés, masks may only be taken off at the table.

Childcare facilities, schools, universities may gradually reopen. Schools reopen in September. 

Masks are compulsory in shops, public transport, churches, public institutions, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and cultural venues. But also in cases where the safety distance of 1.5 m cannot be guaranteed. In red zones, a mask must also be worn in the outside areas and if the minimum distance can be observed. Exceptions: Children younger than 4 years, people who are driving alone or with people of their own household, persons who cannot wear masks for health reasons.

More information and what applies within Poland can be found here on the website of the Federal Foreign Office or on the website of the German Embassy in Poland.

There are currently no entry restrictions for Germans arriving by plane or overland to Portugal (mainland). When entering the country, the destination, the reason for the trip and the contact details must be indicated.

Body temperature is measured for incoming travelers. If the temperature exceesd 38 ° C, further physical examinations the health authorities, e. g. a Quarantine, is possible.

Since 15 September the following applies (for the mainland):

  • Cafés, bars and discos can decide for themselves when they close. However, times must be between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
  • There is a ban on alcohol in public places. Alcoholic beverages may not be sold at petrol stations and from 8 p.m. onwards, also not in restaurants (except in connection with meals).
  • There is a maximum limit of four people per group in restaurants and cafés 300 metres from schools.
  • There is a maximum limit of four people per group in the dining area of shopping centres. 

For further information regarding Madeira und the den Azores please take a look on the website of the German Ministry of foreign affairs. (German language)

Entry from all EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland is possible without any restrictions.

Since 1 July 2020, air travellers have had to fill in a form on the Spain Travel Health portal. They will then receive a QR code which must be presented upon entry. This can be done using the Spanish app "SpTH". Until 31 July 2020, the form can still be filled out on paper upon entry.

For entry from non-EU countries, restrictions still apply at the EU external borders. Entry is permitted from Andorra and Gibraltar. Further information can be found on the website of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.  

The border crossings at Ceuta and Melilla are closed. 

The current situation in Spain:

Nationwide, wearing masks is mandatory in all public places inside and outside closed rooms and in public transport. Exceptions: children under the age of six years and people who cannot wear masks due to health reasons. 

On Mallorca, establishments in the Schinkenstraße (Playa de Palma, "Ballermann") are closed. 

Further information is available on the website of the Spanish Ministry of Health, the respective Autonomous Community or at the German Embassy in Spain as well as at the Foreign Office.

German nationals may enter Switzerland without restriction. The borders with all EU Member States, Liechtenstein, Iceland (by air), Norway and the United Kingdom are open again.

Since 6 July 2020, a 10-day quarantine has been in force for entries from risk countries. Anyone entering from these countries must report to the Swiss authorities within 2 days and enter quarantine. The list of risk countries is available from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health

In Switzerland, a safe distance must be maintained. In addition, mask wearing has been compulsory on all public transport since 6 July.

Further information can be found on the websites of the Swiss authorities and the government.

The German Office for Foreign Affairs warns against unnecessary tourist trips to Turkey. There are no more travel warnings for Aydin, Antalya, Izmir and Muğla.

Traveling to family members is not covered by the travel warning. Turkey itself stopped the entry ban for Germans on 11 June 2020.

On entry, temperature measurements are carried out and additional health checks are carried out when the temperature is too high, e.g. a corona test. If this test is positive, the Turkish health authorities decide on further action. Quarantine measures are possible.

Those who want to return from Turkey to Germany must do a Covid-19 testing 48 hours prior to leaving for Germany. Anyone who is tested positive must got to quarantine or take part in a medical treatment in Turkey

This applies in the country:
Masks must be worn in market places, supermarkets and public transport, but also in the public spaces of many cities, such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and partly Antalya. Furthermore, a safety distance of 3 steps must be kept.

Further information can be found on the website of the German representations in Turkey.

There is no quarantine obligation for persons who, 14 days prior to their entry, have stayed in countries only isted in the so-called Travel Corridor.  This regulation also applies to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

Those wishing to enter the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must register themselves electronically in advance. The registration must be done online and at least 48 hours prior to entry. You have to show the proof of registration while entering the UK or Northern Ireland.

The safety distance is 1 to 2 meters - depending on the country.

The following regulations apply within the country:

In England, contact restrictions have been relaxed. Hotels and restaurants may reopen. People from 2 households may meet, as long as there are no more than 30 people in total. Persons from more than 2 households may meet, as long as there are no more than 6 persons in total and the meeting takes place in the outside area. Overnight stays in groups of more than 2 households are not allowed. Masks are compulsory in public transport, in supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

There are contact restrictions for the Manchester area and parts of West Yorkshire, East Lancashire and Preston. Members of different households are no longer allowed to meet each other indoors or in private gardens. They are also not allowed to go to pubs and restaurants together. The measures also apply to the city of Leicester, where a regional lockdown has been imposed.

In Scotland it is permitted to meet indoors with up to 6 persons from up to 2 households, but a 2 metre safety distance must be maintained. Masks are compulsory in public transport, in restaruants and in shops. Flats, hotels and other accommodation are open again as well as museums, galleries, cinemas, libraries, hairdressers, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs and cafés. 

Restrictions have been imposed to Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire: Meetings of different households in private indoor spaces are prohibited. Visits to hospitals and care facilities are restricted. Schools and nurseries are open. Hotels and holiday homes are also open. 

In Wales, self-catering accommodation without common areas (no common washrooms, kitchens e.g. on campsites) are open again. In Wales, 2 households are allowed to meet without restriction on the number of people. However, they must always be the same households. 

In Northern Ireland up to 10 members from up to 4 households may meet indoors.

More information about the regulations within the country can be found on the website of the British government and on the websites of the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Entry ban to the USA

The USA has imposed an entry ban. The corresponding presidential decree has been in force since 13 March 2020.

Persons who have stayed in Germany or in another part of the Schengen area for 14 days before entering the United States are not allowed to enter the USA.

Entry is now only possible for

  • US citizens
  • persons who have a permanent legal residence in the USA (Green Card)
  • Family members of a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident of the U.S., e.g. spouse, parents, children or siblings under the age of 21.
  • diplomats or employees of an international organization

Further information for travelers to the USA can be found on the Federal Foreign Office (in German)

Coronavirus: Your rights for package holidays

You have booked a package holiday if you have booked and paid for at least two main travel services, for example flight and hotel, as one package. Package holidays also include cruises and day trips that cost more than 500 euros.

Corona crisis: Can I cancel my package holiday free of charge?

Many courts accept travel warnings by the German Federal Foreign Office as an exceptional circumstance. How it will be with the coronavirus is still unclear.

You should negotiate with your tour operator and argue with "unavoidable extraordinary circumstances" or "force majeure", i.e. events that were not foreseeable at the time of booking. With this argument it should normally be possible to cancel the trip free of charge.

However, it is essential that this is the case at the time of travel. If your trip is only planned in a few weeks or months, you cannot rely on a free cancellation.

Current judgment of the Frankfurt District Court (Amtsgericht) dated 11th August 2020 regarding package travels: 

Consumers having canceled their holidays due to the risk of Covid-19 infection can, under certain circumstances, claim for a full reimbursement of the travel price when there is no travel warning. In the current case (file number: 32 C 2136/20) the comsumer canceled his trip to Ischia which was planned for 14th April on 7th March indicating exceptional circumstances in Italy and illness. The consumer asked the tour operator to return the 25 % of cancellation fees. The tour operator rejected and told the consumer that there was no travel warning at this time. The court judged as follows: The decisive factor is not the travel warning itself. But the date of cancellation and the fact whether there have been extraordinary circumstances at this time. A certain probability of a spread of the virus is sufficient to for this assumption. This was the case in Italy at the date of the travel cancellation. Advice: If you have had to pay cancellation fees in a similar case due to the fact that you cancelled the journey by yourself, you should contact your package tour operator again and ask for the reimbursement of the cancellation fees.

Important: 

If you are only afraid of getting sick, it will not be enough to cancel a trip for free.

Should I cancel my package holidays that take place at a later date? Or should I better wait?

If you cancel early, the cancellation costs are usually lower. If you wait, the following cases are possible:

  • The trip is taking place. This means that the situation has calmed down so that you can start the travel. In this case, everything remains the same.
  • The journey takes place, but you no longer want to travel. Then you must expect high cancellation costs.

The trip will be cancelled by the tour operator. In this case you will get your money back.

You must weigh up the risks and then decide for yourself what you want to do.

If you have canceled the trip early and it later turns out that there was a travel warning at the time of the trip, you may be able to claim back the cancellation fee back. This is because you would not have had to pay the trip price if you had waited and cancelled at a later date. Legally this case is not yet clearly clarified.

In any case you should cancel the trip in writing. This will give you proof of the cancellation. Indicate the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for cancellation. You should also point out that you would like to have the full travel price back in the event of an ongoing travel warning.

If there is no more travel warning, it is the goodwill decision of the tour operator whether you can cancel free of charge or rebook the trip.

If you are unable to visit tourist attractions that form an essential part of the package tour, or if there are major changes to the itinerary, this may also be a reason for a free cancellation.

This can be the case, for example, if the route changes in the case of a cruise trip. Ask your tour operator. A major change would also be made if you had to undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

In any case, if the tour operator cancels the package tour on his own initiative, he must refund the price of the tour.

I have to extend my stay because of the coronavirus. Who'll pay for it?

If you cannot travel back at the scheduled time, for example because the flight is canceled due to the corona virus, the tour operator must pay the cost of the extended stay for up to three days.

Everything else you have to pay for yourself. Unless the costs are covered by another institution (e.g. public authorities).

If you are quarantined at your holiday location, in some countries the authorities will pay the additional costs. However, this depends on the laws in the respective countries.

For more information, contact your tour operator or local authorities.

I have to leave early. Do I get my money back?

In our opinion, if you have to return earlier than planned, you can get back part of the travel price. The amount depends on the number of days you leave earlier.

But it remains to be seen how the courts will ultimately judge this case. Therefore, first try to find an amicable solution with the tour operator.

What rights do I have if I have booked an individual trip?

In contrast to package holidays, different rules apply to self-organised trips. For example if you have booked and paid for the flight and the hotel with different providers.

It is worth taking a look at the provider's website. Due to the Corona crisis, many travel companies are currently offering special cancellation conditions and rebooking regulations.

Important: Guidelines on EU Passenger rights

In view of the travel restrictions and border controls in the respective EU Member States, the European Commission provides guidance on EU passenger rights. The guidelines are intended to ensure that travellers' rights are applied uniformly throughout Europe.

Air travel: What rights do independent travellers have?

When travelling by air, in many EU countries it depends on the general terms and conditions and the goodwill of the airline whether the flight can be cancelled free of charge. Negotiate with the airline. Many are accommodating in the current situation and offer free rebooking or cancellation.

When changing your booking, make sure that you know exactly what the offer contains. Normally you do not have to pay any rebooking fees. However, if the alternative flight costs more, you will have to pay the difference yourself.

If your contract is based on Italian or Spanish law, flights can even be canceled free of charge in the event of force majeure. This is the case if Spanish or Italian law should apply according to the terms and conditions. If there is no applicable law in the terms and conditions, the law of the country in which you live applies if the flight either starts or lands there. Otherwise, the law of the country in which the airline is based applies.

If this does not apply to your destination country, you will be refunded the taxes and fees of the ticket in any case.

If you booked your flight via a booking portal, the airline is your first point of contact in case of problems, even if you paid the ticket price directly to the booking portal. Nevertheless, we recommend that you contact both the airline and the booking portal in writing if the airline does not respond or does not respond within a reasonable period of time.

Flight Cancellation: Do I get a refund?

If your flight is cancelled, you must be reimbursed for the ticket price or offered alternative transportation to your destination, such as rail travel or rebooking the flight to a later date.

So far it has not been clarified whether you can cancel free of charge if you have to go into quarantine for several days at your destination. In this case, please contact the airline and ask for a free rebooking or cancellation option.

Important: appropriate accommodation

In the European Commission's guidelines on passenger rights, the following has been pointed out: If you are stranded for days at your holiday or transfer destination, the airline must assist you. This means that the airline must provide you with suitable hotel accommodation and pay for it until you can travel back home.

Although these guidelines for interpretation are not binding for courts, judges usually take them into account in their decisions.

Coronavirus: Is this an exceptional circumstance?

This must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Exceptional circumstances are circumstances that could not have been avoided even if the airline had nevertheless taken all reasonable measures to carry out the flight.

If the conditions at the destination make it difficult or impossible to carry out the flight, the airline can rely on exceptional circumstances. You are then no longer entitled to compensation.

When an area or region is completely closed, it is usually an exceptional circumstance.

Voucher instead of a refund: Do I have to accept it?

In some cases, tour operators, airlines or hotels offer vouchers instead of a refund in case of cancellation. According to German law, you do not have to accept the voucher if you had the right to cancel free of charge.

If the tour operator offers the voucher as a gesture of goodwill, a voucher can be a solution. Please note that with a voucher you are not necessarily protected against the insolvency of the tour operator.

Furthermore, vouchers now have to be accepted in some countries, even if you would normally be entitled to a refund.

Vouchers and special rules for refunds: This applies in the individual EU countries

This applies to package holiday cancellations in Belgium

If a package tour  is cancelled between 20 March 2020 and 20 June 2020, the tour operator may issue you with a voucher. You must accept the voucher. There will be no refund of the tour price. It is irrelevant whether you yourself or the tour operator cancelled the trip.

The voucher must be valid for at least 1 year and must cover the full price of the trip. No additional costs may be charged. Furthermore, the voucher must state that it was issued due to the Corona pandemic.

If you accept the voucher, you are protected in case of insolvency of the tour operator. You will then receive a full refund of the travel price.

This is regulated by the Ministerial Decree on the reimbursement of cancelled package tours of 19 March 2020.

This is regulated by the Ministerial Decree on the reimbursement of cancelled package tours of 19 March 2020.

A package tour operator may offer a voucher instead of a refund if the trip was cancelled due to the declared state of emergency in Bulgaria. If the traveller does not accept the voucher and in the absence of any other substitution agreement between the tour operator and the traveller, the tour operator shall reimburse within 12 months from the date of the abolition of the emergency all payments received by or on behalf of the traveler.

If the package travel should have taken place after 1st March 2020, the consumer has the possibility to cancel the trip within 180 days after the end of the exceptional circumstances. The tour operator is allowed to offer a voucher. The voucher must be issued for at least the price paid and be valid for at least 12 months. If a partial amount is left over when the voucher is redeemed, the package tour operator must pay this amount. The voucher must be issued within 14 days of the consumer's request for reimbursement or at least 90 days before the scheduled departure. The voucher is transferable. If the consumer chooses a replacement trip that differs from the original one, it must be made by the end of the year after the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 have ended. The consumer is not forced to accept the voucher. If he rejects it the tour operator has to reimburse the money within 14 days after the end of the exceptional circumstances.

In the Czech Republic there is a so-called protection period for package holidays from 20 February 2020 to 31 August 2020. This means that the tour operator can issue a voucher. The voucher must be issued in writing and may only be valid until 31 August 2021. The vouchers are secured against insolvency. There are ertain groups of people who are allowed to refuse the voucher: People with disabilities, people who are older than 65 years, job seekers, people on parental leave and single parents caring for children.

If the voucher was not used within the protection period, the tour operator must reimburse the amount within 14 days.

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Due to a new law, Czech traders can apply for a three-month payment deferral until 31st August 2020. Czech Airlines, Smartwings and the travel agency Firo Tour asked for this delay at the end of August. According to Czech law, these dealers do not have to pay any refunds within 3 months.

All cancelled package tours until 14 April 2020 are covered by a guarantee fund. This means that tour operators can offset losses from the fund. For consumers this means that they get their money back. This also applies if a voucher has already been accepted: It can be converted back into a refund.

For cancellations after 16 September 2020, the regulations from the EU Package Travel Directive apply. This means: if the supplier cancels the travel service, the consumer must be reimbursed. A voucher may only be issued if the traveller agrees.

France previously allowed vouchers to be issued for all cancellations notified between 1 March and 15 September 2020.

The right of cancellation only applies in the event of exceptional and unavoidable circumstances or in the event of force majeure. 

The voucher solution concerns the following tourist offers:

  • Package Holiday
  • Hotel Booking
  • Car Rental
  • Bicycle Rental
  • SPA treatments
  • Ski rental, ski lift passes

In our opinion, holiday apartments from professional providers also fall under the concept of tourist services (accommodation). Accordingly, they can also issue a voucher. In our opinion, private providers who regularly rent their holiday apartments are also allowed to issue a voucher.

This regulation does not apply to:

  • Flights
  • Bus tours
  • Train journeys

The company must inform you within 30 days that a voucher will be issued. The vouchers are valid for 18 months from the date of issue.

If the voucher has not been used after the expiry date, you can request a full refund of the voucher. If only a partial amount has been redeemed, you will get back the remaining voucher amount.

Furthermore, the company must make you an alternative offer within 3 months.

For cultural events wich have been cancelled between 12th March and 15th September the voucher is valid 12th months.

You can refer to your contractual partner on "Ordonnance Voucher" No. 2020-315 dated March 25, 2020. Further information (in French) - see below

The French "Ordonnance Voucher" regulation dated 25th March 2020 and the corresponding right to cancel the contract have been set due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Corona situation is regularly reassessed by the French government. The next evaluation is expected by the beginning of June. If the government will release the lockdown, it is possible that the regulation will be revoked and the right of cancellation does no more longer exist.

Voluntary voucher solution for package tours

For cancelled package tours booked before 8 March 2020, tour operators may offer vouchers to their customers. On 3 July 2020, the German Bundestag approved the corresponding bill of the Federal Government. The law came into force on 17 July 2020.

The following regulations apply:

  • Tour operators may offer a voucher instead of a refund for travel booked before 8 March 2020 and cancelled due to the Corona pandemic. 
  • The traveller still has the choice between voucher and refund.
  • The customer must not incur any costs for the issue, transmission or redemption of the voucher.
  • The value of the voucher is protected against insolvency of the provider. If, for example, the tour operator only pays back part of the voucher value to the consumer in the course of insolvency proceedings, the Federal Government will reimburse the rest.
  • If the voucher is not redeemed by 31 December 2021 at the latest, the amount paid must be refunded.

Notes: Anyone who has already received a voucher for a cancelled trip should ask the travel provider to adjust or exchange the voucher in accordance with the new law. The voucher must state that it was issued due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Important: The voucher regulation does not apply to individual travellers, i.e. holidaymakers who have only booked a flight or a hotel/holiday home.    

Further information on the voucher scheme for package tours in Germany can be found on the website of the German government (in German).

Airlines may issue a voucher instead of a refund for the ticket price for flights cancelled between 25.02. and 30.09.2020. The voucher is valid for at least 18 months from the date of issue and can be redeemed for all destinations of the airline. You may only request a refund if the 18 months have expired without having used the voucher.

The same applies to sea voyages, e.g. ferries, except that the regulation here applies to cancellations between 25.02. and 31.10.2020.

In the case of package holidays between 25th February and 30th September tour operators may issue vouchers within 30 days of the cancellation. If they do not do so within this period, you have the right to demand an immediate refund of the tour price. The voucher must be valid for at least 18 months from the date of issue and must be valid for travel services similar to those originally agreed. After the 18 months have expired, you may request a refund.

The voucher regulation does also apply for hotels which have been booked individually. And you have a further right of cancellation: Article 388 of the Greek Civil Code states that hotel bookings may be cancelled due to force majeure. In this case, the services provided must be reimbursed. However, there is no right to a refund or to obtain a voucher if you as a consumer cancel less than 21 days before the planned arrival.

The following applies to package holidays as well as to individually booked air travel, travel with other transport companies and accommodation:

In Italy there is now a law that allows the issue of a voucher. It is irrelevant whether you or the service provider cancel the service. Vouchers may be issued for the entire duration of the COVID-19 emergency. This means as long as the hotel has to stay closed and/or the guest cannot travel due to a travel restriction.

The provider has fulfilled his obligation when he issues the voucher. It does not matter whether you accept the voucher.

The vouchers have a validity of 18 months. If the voucher is not used within this period, a refund can be requested. In the case of transport contracts, payment is even possible after 12 months.

For more information, please visit the website of the European Consumer Centre Italy.

In Latvia, the tour operator may offer a voucher instead of a refund if the package was cancelled by the consumer or tour operator due to the COVID emergency situation in Latvia or force majeure. However, for this the tour operator needs a special permission and sufficient insurance. The voucher must be valid for 12 months. The period runs from the day on which the emergency situation in Latvia has ended. The voucher is transferable if this has been agreed with the tour operator beforehand.

If a consumer does not want the voucher, the tour operator and the consumer can find another solution, e.g. repayment within a maximum of 12 months from the day the emergency ended.

If the full amount of the voucher is not used, the tour operator must refund the unused amount within 14 days of the end of the period of validity.

Vouchers with a validity of 12 months may be issued for package tours. However, the consumer has the right to request a refund within 14 days once the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 are lifted. When the voucher is redeemed, the consumer must pay the difference if the new trip costs more. If the voucher is not redeemed, the consumer can reclaim the amount after the expiry of the 12 months.

Luxembourg announced the state of crisis on March 18, 2020. This status can usually be maintained for up to three months. During this period, Luxembourg package tour operators do not have to reimburse travel prices.  It is irrelevant whether you yourself or the tour operator cancelled the trip.

This is regulated in the Grand-Ducal Regulation of March 27, 2020.

There are no voucher regulations as known from other EU countries.

So far, Malta does not have a voucher scheme for package travel. The tour operator has to refund the travel price within 6 months.

This applies to package holidays:

  • In the Netherlands, package tour operators may issue vouchers. However, you do not have to accept the voucher if you do not want to. But: If the tour operator becomes insolvent, your money is lost.
  • However, if you accept the voucher, it is valid for 1 year. You must then book the trip within one year. The actual date of travel can be later.
  •  If you accept the voucher, and if the tour operator is member of the ANVR/SGR you are protected against the insolvency of the tour operator.
  • If you book a trip that is cheaper than the voucher amount, you will get the excess money back.
  • If you have accepted the voucher and you are unable to start your trip for personal reasons, you will receive your money back. This regulation applies after 6 months from the date of issue of the voucher.

This applies to individually booked flights

Airlines are allowed to issues vouchers. But the air passengers are not forced to accept them. They can reject them and claim for a refund.

Consumers whose flight has been cancelled by KLM and who have received a voucher can now apply for a refund in accordance with European regulations by clicking on the following link: https://apps.isc.klm.com/refundvoucher/

Those who prefer to have a voucher can also apply for a refund via this link. In both cases patience is required. It may take two months before you receive an answer.

This applies to holiday houses and apartments

You do not have to accept a voucher for holiday homes or apartments at the moment. Please note: If you accept the voucher, you are not protected against the company's bankruptcy.

Further information can be obtained from the European Consumer Centre in the Netherlands.

Package tour operators are allowed up to 3 months before they have to make refunds. This applies to all cancellations between 1 March and 14 June 2020 and to all outstanding refunds. his applies to all cancellations between 1 March and 14 June 2020 and to all outstanding refunds.

Since 01.04.: If the package tour was cancelled due to COVID-19, the tour operator has 180 days to make the refund. If the consumer does not want to wait that long, he can ask for a voucher, which must be valid for 12 months. The same applies to hotel reservations cancelled by the hotel provider.

For individually booked accommodations and for package tours which have been canceled between 13th March 2020 and 30th September 2020 due to the Corona crises, travelers can request either a voucher or a rebooking. This regulation applies if a reimbursement is not possible due to the contractual conditions. From 4th September 2020 on package tour operators are no longer allowed to issue a voucher if the consumer requests a reimbursement. The organizer must reimburse the money if the cancellation was done due to unavoidable extraordinary circumstances.

On April 30th, a law came into force that allows package tour operators to offer vouchers if the trip was cancelled because of COVID-19. These vouchers are valid for 24 months and must be insured against insolvency by the organiser. After the 24 months have expired, the consumer may reclaim the unused amount. However, you do not have to accept such a voucher, but can still request reimbursement. The travel organiser has 12 months from the notification of the end of the pandemic to do so.

If your package holiday is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may continue to claim reimbursement of the travel price.

It is possible that the tour operator or travel agent does not or only partially receive money back from his own service providers (e.g. hotels, airlines). If he can prove this, he may issue you a voucher instead of a refund.

The voucher must be valid for one year (after the end of the coronavirus alert) and cover the full amount of the refund. After the end of the validity period, you can request a refund if you have not redeemed the voucher. The redemption of the voucher must be guaranteed.

The following applies to individually booked services such as flights, trains and other means of transport, holiday accommodation, event tickets:

If your contract cannot be fulfilled due to the Coronavirus measures, you can cancel the contract. This must be done within 14 days after the end of the Coronavirus alert. Companies may offer alternatives such as a voucher instead of a refund. If you have not agreed to a voucher within 60 days, the company must refund you the money. However, the company may retain the costs it has incurred.

Tip: Take a look at the company's general terms and conditions. Perhaps there is a more favourable cancellation or rebooking rule for you, which you can refer to. Also check whether, for example, a transport company offers special arrangements that are better for you.

Hotels & holiday homes: Can I cancel free of charge?

In many EU Member States, hotel operators themselves determine whether hotel accommodation may be cancelled free of charge, whether cancellation fees apply or whether the full amount must be paid.

However, it always depends on the legal situation in the respective country. If the hotel operator is allowed to continue to offer accommodation at the destination, you often bear the risk of travelling to and from the destination. If you cancel your hotel room in such a case, it is quite possible that you will have to pay the cancellation costs despite an existing travel warning.

The same applies if you have booked a holiday home. Here, too, the tenancy law of the holiday country and the contractual conditions are important.

Attention: If the free cancellation is possible according to a law or the terms and conditions in case of unforeseeable circumstances, it is not possible to speak of an unforeseeable circumstance for bookings made after 11 March 2020 regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. On this date, the coronavirus was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Therefore, restrictions on travel were to be expected. So if you have booked accommodation after that date, you can no longer cancel free of charge due to the coronavirus pandemic as an unforeseeable circumstance.

How do I exercise my rights?

First try on your own to find a solution with the provider. Make sure you do this in writing in order to have the appropriate proof. Give the provider a reasonable time to reply to you, as many consumers are currently making enquiries.

If no solution can be found, you have various options:

  • out-of-court settlement of disputes through us (Network of the European Consumer Centres)
  • use of an Alternative Dispute Resolution Body (ADR)
  • the judical assertion of your claim.

Important: You have to decide on one thing, or you can only use the different options one after the other. It is not allowed to contact us and an alternative dispute resolution body and a lawyer at the same time.

If you would like us to try to find a free, out-of-court dispute resolution or if you have general questions, please fill out our form. Condition: You must be resident in Germany and your complaint must be against a company from another EU country, Norway, Iceland or UK.

Information on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bodies (e.g. for air travel, holiday homes, package holidays, etc.) can be found here.

Names and addresses of lawyers can be found, for example, in the nationwide official register of lawyers published by the Federal Bar Association.

Lawyers in other EU countries can be found at E-Justice.

And perhaps a European judicial procedure is also possible (no lawyer necessary). You can find further information here.

What about futher payments?

You may have booked a trip but not yet paid for it in full. Basically, you have signed a contract and must fulfil it. This means that you also have to pay outstanding invoices.

If you have agreed with your contractual partner to postpone the trip to a later date, clarify the exact payment modalities with him. For example, negotiate the date by which outstanding payments must be settled. And have everything confirmed in writing. It is quite possible that your contract partner may wish to receive the final payment this year for trips that will not take place until 2021. If you do not want this, argue that the payment modalities that were originally agreed in the terms and conditions should continue to apply. For example, if the GTC say "payment of balance 4 weeks before departure" and the departure date is 2021, then the payment of the balance is also due 4 weeks before the departure date 2021.

The situation is different if you have the right to cancel the contract free of charge. Then you do not need to pay the open invoice amount. However, you must have informed your contractual partner that you are exercising your right to cancel free of charge.

Entry ban due to coronavirus

According to the German travel law expert Prof. Dr. Ernst Führich, an officially imposed entry ban is a case of force majeure. As a result, package holidays and individually booked flights can be cancelled free of charge.

In the case of individually booked services, you can also argue with the airline that the basis for the contract no longer applies. For example, because you had planned a longer stay in the destination country. You can prove this, for example, by making hotel reservations.

Whether this can actually be argued in this way will ultimately have to be decided by the courts.

In such a case, travelers cannot claim compensation payments.

Coronavirus and Travel Insurance: Am I covered?”

Whether the insurance cover of your cancellation insurance or your trip interruption coverage applies depends on the respective contractual conditions.

Epidemics, pandemics and terrorism are usually excluded from the insurance. Normally, the travel cancellation insurance or the trip interruption corverage usually applies to to  accidents, serious injuries (broken bones) or unforeseeable illnesses of the insured person.

If you fall ill or injure yourself abroad, your travel health insurance usually covers the treatment costs. However, please take a look at the terms and conditions of your travel health insurance.

Some insurers exclude insurance cover in the event of a pandemic regarding the respective disease. Therefore, please take a look at the contract documents of your insurance company.

Some insurers exclude coverage for a pandemic-related disease. Take a look at the contract documents of your insurance company.

Attention

Insurance companies require a medical certificate as proof. Pure fear of falling ill is not enough to claim insurance cover.

Tips for travel booking in times of Covid-19

When booking a trip, you should now pay attention to the following:

  • Think about whether a package tour is an option for you. Because with package holidays you have a better chance of cancelling the trip free of charge if there is a second corona wave or a lockdown in the respective country.
     
  • If you book an individual trip, e.g. a hotel stay with your own journey, you should only book travel services that can be cancelled at short notice free of charge or at low fees. Before booking, please read the cancellation rules and the general terms and conditions of the provider carefully.
     
  • Clarify before the booking whether there is a possibility for a free rebooking. This way you can postpone your holiday in case of a second wave or a lockdown.
     
  • Especially for holiday flats / holiday homes you should pay attention to the cancellation regulations or rebooking possibilities.
     
  • Ask if it is possible to book "cancellation packages". If the travel service is very expensive, it can sometimes be worthwhile to add a cancellation option for a few euros.