Coronavirus crisis in Europe: What are your travel rights?

Update: 2:00 pm

The coronavirus has spread all over the world in a very short time. The EU Member States France, Italy and Spain as well as Great Britain are particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

In view of the coronavirus crisis, you may ask yourself whether you should start or cancel your booked holiday. But will the cost of air tickets or holidays be reimbursed?  

This depends on whether you have booked a package holiday or an individual trip. In any case, you should inform yourself regularly and in good time about the current situation.

But not only trips and flights are cancelled or postponed. Numerous events are also affected: From the UEFA EURO 2020 to concerts, festivals and trade fairs. You can find answers to frequently asked questions on our page: Coronavirus & Canceled Events.

During the coronavirus pandemic, you should also beware of fraudsters. The EU Commission gives advice to consumers on scams and unfair commercial practices.

Coronavirus / Covid-19: The current situation

 

Travel restrictions for travelers to Germany


Germany introduced travel restrictions on for entries from outside the Schengen area. All relevant entries by non-EU citizens and citizens of non-Schengen countries by air or sea are affected. German citizens are allowed to enter.

EU citizens as well as citizens of the United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can also travel through Germany to reach their home country if no other travel connection is possible. They may also enter the country if they are resident in Germany. Other persons may be refused entry if they cannot prove any reasons for entry.

Important: Anyone returning to Germany after a stay of several days abroad must undergo a two-week forced quarantine. (In North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate the quarantine was lifted on 15 May for people from other EU countries. Other German states are to follow.)

Border controls:

• Border controls with Austria, France and Switzerland will continue until June 15, 2020. However, there will be slight easing from May 16, 2020: The controls are only carried out in individual cases. If you want to travel from one of these countries to Germany you need a self declaration. This declaration is available on the website of the Bundespolizei.
• Border controls on the airside borders with Italy and Spain will continue until June 15, 2020.
• The border controls with Luxembourg end on May 15, 2020.

Further information on the opening of the borders on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (in German).

Important questions are also answered in the FAQ of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

 

Travel warning to Germans and people living in Germany


The German Federal Foreign Office has warned its citizens against unnecessary tourist trips to other countries. Many EU countries have introduced travel and entry restrictions. Some countries have imposed a quarantine for travelers from Germany. Due to the increasing restrictions, the return to Germany can be difficult.

The worldwide travel warning was extended to 14 June 2020.

 

The federal and state governments have agreed to lift further restrictions
 

  • The existing distance regulations 1,5 m continue to apply.
  • The existing contact regulations are extended to 29th June. But the several state governments have their own regulations. Please have a look on the website of the state governments.

Detailed information is available on the website of the German Federal Government.

When shopping and on public transport, you must wear a mask in all federal states. 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.

Travel information for other EU countries

Austria has reintroduced border controls. These will remain in place until 15 June 2020. If you want to travel from Germany to Austria, you need a medically proven negative test for the coronavirus, which is not older than four days. Commuters are exempt from this rule. Further information and a template for the medical certificate is provided by the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior (in German). Passing through Austria without a stop is allowed.

In Austria, wearing mouth and nose protection is mandatory in supermarkets, shops and on public transport. Children up to the age of 6 years do not need to wear a mask. This will probably apply until the end of June 2020.

The exit restrictions in Austria expired on May 1, 2020. However, the minimum distance of 1 m must still be observed. Meetings with a maximum of 10 persons are permitted.

From 15th May on restaurants, coffee houses, bars and pubs are open. As of May 29, 2020, hotels, tourist businesses and attractions are to reopen.

Please find further information regarding travelling and cancellation possibilities on the website of the European Consumer Centre Austria.

Detailed information can be found in the FAQ of the Austrian government.

Relaxation of restrictions in Belgium

Belgium started the first relaxation on 4 May 2020. More public transport is to be used again. However, people over the age of twelve will then be required to wear masks.

The shops will be allowed to open again. Exceptions: Beauty salons, non-medical pedicure institutes, nail salons, massage parlours, hairdressing salons and barbers, wellness centres including saunas, fitness centres, tattoo and piercing studios, casinos, slot machines and betting shops.

Sport is allowed if the distance rules are observed with 2 people who do not live in the same household.

However, people should still stay at home, except to get to work or for other necessary purposes, for example for shopping, to the pharmacy or to the doctor, to the post office or to the bank or to help other people. Travel from Belgium abroad that is not absolutely necessary is prohibited. Germans are allowed to travel to Germany.

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

Please note: All departures planned until June 12, 2020 are currently being postponed by the French package tour operators.

Relaxation of restrictions from 11 May 2020

France was divided into two zones. Green and red. The spread of the virus, the utilization of the intensive care units and the capacity of the regionally performed tests are decisive for the classification, whether green or red. The map is regularly updated to determine which region may relax the exit restrictions and how. Red zones are subject to stricter exit restrictions than green zones.

The map showing the zones is available on the French government website. The red zones currently include Grand Est (Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne-Ardenne), L'Ile-de-France (Paris), les Hauts-de-France, la Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

You can find out which regulations apply to which zones on the website of the French government (in French). A summary is available on the website of the Zentrum für Europäischen Verbraucherschutz e. V. (in German)

The border controls France-Germany and Germany-France will continue until June 15, 2020.

For trips to France you need a valid reason and special forms. If you are coming from another EU member state, Switzerland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, UK and Vatican City you need the following declaration: Attestation de déplacement international dérogatoire vers la France Métropolitaine depuis l'Union Européenne. If your destination in France is more than 100 km away from your place of residence you need the following declaration: Déclaration de déplacement en dehors de son département et à plus de 100 km de sa résidence. If you come from a third country, you need the declaration: Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire vers la France métropolitaine depuis les pays tiers. Furthermore, everyone travelling to France needs a declaration indicating that you do not have corona symptomes, the so-called Déclaration sur l'honneur attestant qu'ils ne présentent pas de symptômes d'infection au covid-19. These rules are not applicable for cross-border commuters.

Information regarding the coronavirus in the Franco-German border region is provided by the Zentrum für Europäischen Verbraucherschutz e. V. (in German).

From 3rd June 2020 on, Italy plans to reopen the frontier for travellers coming from the Schengen area. But it is not clear yet when the hotels will open again. In Südtirol the hotels and the holiday homes are already open.

Since 4th May, the production facilities are reopen. Since 4th May, individual family members can also be visited again, but only within their own region. Outdoor sports and walking is allowed again. However, most shops will remain closed. Bars and restaurants are now allowed to open complying to high hygienic regulations.

Entry into Italy is only permitted if it is for work-related travel, health reasons or other absolute necessity. Travellers must prove this in the form of a written, verifiable declaration of entry. A modified form of entry declaration must be submitted for goods traffic. Anyone traveling to Italy has to be in quarantine for 14 days. Exceptions can be claimed for in case of work-related reasons für a period of 72 hours which can be extended to further 48 hours.

It is allowed to travel back to Germany. But a self-declaration about the necessity of the journey has to be taken with you.

Those travelling in Italy can contact the telephone number 1500 if they have any questions. The number can be dialled within Italy.

The hotline 800 894545 has been set up for the Lombardy region (only available locally).

Further information on the coronavirus in Italy can be obtained from the Federal Foreign Office (in German).

First easing of restrictions in the province of Zeeland. Since 1 May, visitors to Zeeland are again allowed to stay overnight under certain conditions.should be relaxed. So owners can stay in their second home again. Leisure center operators are allowed to rent 15% of their sleeping accommodation. However, only after prior registration. These rules should apply until 22 May.

More information is available on the website Zeelandveilig.nl.

The regulations that currently apply in the Netherlands (1.50 m distance, leave the house only when absolutely necessary, etc.) have been extended to 19 May 2020.

Events requiring a permit are prohibited in the Netherlands until 1 September 2020.

Further information is available on the website of the Dutch government and, for Zeeland, on the website Zeelandveilig.nl

Since 15th March the entry from Germany to Poland is only allowed in exceptional cases. Poland plans to re-open the border on 15th June 2020.

The following people may enter: Polish citizens; foreigners who are spouses or children of Polish citizens; foreigners who have a Karta Polaka; diplomats with their families; foreigners with temporary or permanent residence permit in Poland; foreigners having a work permit; foreigners who carry out their business activities in Poland; EU citizens who work for a Polish company; EU citizens being sent to Poland for a one-time working activity (e. g. fitters); persons who have a special permission issued by the chief commander of the border guard; drivers for freight or passenger transport.

Anyone wishing to enter Poland must leave the contact data while crossing the border and then take part in a 14-days quarantine. Exceptions: commuters, business travellers, traders, pupils and students from Germany / Poland.

If you want to leave Poland and cross the German border you need a valid reason.

This applies in Poland: 

  • Public assemblies are not allowed.
  • The minimum distance is 2 m.
  • Children and teenagers under 13 years of age are allowed to go to public areas without accompaniment.
  • Masks are compulsory. Children under 4 years must not wear masks.

Spain has extended the curfew restriction until 7th June. In order to be allowed to leave the house, a good reason is required (e.g. visit to the doctor, shopping, etc.) One walk per day, which may last one hour, or doing sports alone (staggered by age groups) is allowed. Since 11 May 2020, gradual relaxation has been introduced in some regions according to the Spanish government's four-phase plan.

Wearing protective masks is compulsory from 20th May on for people being older than 6 years. They have to wear it in the public in enclosed spaces. Outside they have to wear it if the minimum distance of 2 m cannot be kept.

The hotels are expected to reopen in summer with restrictions. However, it is unclear whether German tourists will then be able to enter the country again, as this also depends on German decisions and worldwide travel warnings.

If you are currently in Spain, contact your tour operator immediately. If you cannot reach him, contact a German diplomatic mission in Spain.

If you are traveling by land, you will need papers stating that you are on your way home to Germany.

You can find more information on the website of the German embassy in Spain (in German) There are also sample letters and translation aids for the relevant papers.

Anyone entering Spain from abroad from 15 May 2020 onwards will have to go into domestic quarantine for 14 days. Exceptions: commuters, transport companies, crews and health personnel who have had no contact with corona infected persons.

Further information on the coronavirus in Spain can be obtained from the Federal Foreign Office (in German).

First relaxation planned in England

In June numerous shops are expected to reopen, e. g. clothing stores, furniture stores, electronics stores, bookstores, auction houses and tailor shops. Outdoor markets are also scheduled to reopen on 1st June.  Furthermore, schools should start in June again. Moreover, England plans to quarantine all air passengers arriving from abroad.

Attention: These relaxations do not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Entry into the British Virgin Islands is prohibited for travellers who have been in a country (including Germany) particularly affected by Covid 19 in the preceding 14 days. Exceptions: Nationals of the British Virgin Islands, holders of an unlimited residence permit.

The Foreign Office recommends all those currently in the UK to return to Germany as soon as possible if they are not resident in the UK.

Information on flights and travel connections can be found on the website of the German Embassy in London.

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.

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. For example Lufthansa, Airbnb and Deutsche Bahn.

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 other 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.

In Bulgaria the tour operator should offer at first a rebooking or a nearly similar package travel. If the customer does not accept this, the tour operator is allowed to offer a voucher. If the voucher is rejected by the customer the already paid amount of money should be reimbursed within 1 month after the end of the state of emergency.

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 Ministry of Tourism is currently working on the details regarding the voucher regulation. 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.

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.

Vouchers may be issued in France. This applies to all cancellations notified between 1 March and 15 September 2020. It is irrelevant whether the trip is canceled by you or by the company.

The regulation applies to the following tourist services, among others:

  • Package Holiday
  • Hotel Booking
  • Car Rental
  • Bicycle Rental
  • Tickets for sports events, concerts, leisure parks
  • 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.

If you accept the voucher, you are protected against the insolvency of your contractual partner.

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

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, 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 following applies to hotels: 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 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.

You have 12 months to redeem the voucher.

Even if the general terms and conditions provide otherwise, a voucher can be issued. Therefore, please contact the provider. Have the details confirmed in writing. For example, if you have agreed on a longer term for the voucher or have remained with the entrepreneur in such a way that you can transfer it to third parties. 

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

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.

You can find more information at the European Consumer Centre Luxembourg.

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.

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.

If you have individually booked a flight with an airline, the airline cancels the flight and then offers you a voucher, you do not need to accept it if you do not want to. The airline must refund the ticket price.

For individually booked accommodation and package holidays that are cancelled between 13.03.2020 and 30.09.2020 due to COVID-19, you can request a voucher or rebooking. No matter whether you or the provider cancelled. This regulation applies if a refund would otherwise not be possible according to the terms of the contract.

The voucher must be valid until December 31, 2021 and can be transferred to other people. If you have not redeemed the voucher by this date, you can request a refund.

It must also be possible to rebook until 31.12.2021. If the price is then lower than the price already paid, the rest will not be refunded. However, you can use the difference for other services of the provider. If it was not possible to rebook until 31.12.2021, you can request a refund. You must receive this within 14 days.

Exception: If you are unemployed as a consumer, you can request a refund by 20.09.2020, which must also be made within 14 days.

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.

Cancellation options in Italy and Austria

In Austria and Italy you can invoke the abolition of the basis of the contract. If this is different in the destination country, ask for a voucher for a later date. Hotel operators are more likely to agree to this than to a free cancellation.

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.