“To hell with” – Forties don’t care about travel insurance but won’t ruin my vacation


SLeaving the Hôtel du Commerce this morning in the small hamlet of Bar-Sur-Seine, we sipped a coffee and nibbled on croissants in the morning sun. I really wondered what it was about.French airports were apparently hit yesterday – making social distancing virtually impossible. The Eurostar was full. Additional ferry crossings were planned.

Britons, desperate to avoid further quarantine restrictions, were cutting short vacations (often paying exorbitant prices) to rush home before they started at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning. At the same time, we got on a ferry in Dover and sailed in the opposite direction – for our well-deserved vacation in France.

There was no way I was giving it up. We booked in early July when government communications focused on ‘back to vacation’.

Now they had only given 30 hours’ notice for the introduction of quarantine. It’s desperately short to change travel plans, especially when the announcement comes in at 10pm. We had to leave at 7 am the next day. What to do? Give up our vacation and risk losing all our money too? No insurance policy will cover you if you cancel under these circumstances. And frankly, at this time of night, it’s not like we could have contacted the ferry company and the hosts to even discuss the postponement.

So to hell.

Forties is a complete pain, but of course we will. My wife is a teacher. She really needs to be back and quarantined before the trimester reboots. So we found ourselves at midnight trying to find a foot passenger ferry ticket to the UK. In the middle of our vacation I’m going to have to drive seven hours each way from the Dordogne to put her on top to bring her home while we continue our vacation without her.

But just as big and often forgotten is the invalidation of your travel insurance.

As soon as the government imposes quarantine restrictions on a destination, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice changes to “do not travel there unless it is essential.” Suddenly that means the vast majority of travel insurance policies are invalid. It’s crazy.

We need a much more pragmatic approach to travel insurance and FCO travel advice in these times. Do you have to write off an entire country on the grounds that only certain regions have high levels of Covid-19? The Germans don’t think so. And travel insurers must mobilize. I don’t expect coverage for Covid if I choose to travel somewhere where there is a possibility that I can catch it. But surely they could cover me if someone steals my phone or if I lose my luggage?

Large parts of France currently have low levels of the coronavirus. We run less risk in Burgundy, where we are at our destination than in large parts of the north of England. But the FCO decided it was all too risky, therefore we are not insured. Fortunately, as we remain in the Brexit transitional period, the British retain the right to reciprocal emergency health care in France. I’m not sure I would have been so enthusiastic otherwise.

So here we are. And it’s lovely. We drove under a dappled sun along long, straight roads bordered by shady woods and fields of brilliant green vines. We searched sleepy villages with crumbling half-timbered buildings. Next, we visit the historic 12th century abbot of Fontenay. There are maybe 40 cars in a parking lot that could fit a few hundred. And it is prefect. France without a lot of tourists is even better.

At some point today I will call our travel insurer and cancel the policy we purchased last week. There is a 14 day cooling off period during which you can cancel with a full refund. It’s no use now.


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