Even when a country has a UK FCDO advisory against travel in place, it is still possible to travel. However, there are many factors to consider.
Most airlines are now operating again, although schedules are often reduced and/or amended from pre-Covid. Early fears about prices being hiked up don’t seem to have come to fruition, and fares generally seem normal. Each airline has specific Covid protocol, but in general you will be expected to wear a face mask when travelling. Most airlines will ask to see a negative PCR test result, especially if your destination country requires one for entry. If you are arranging your own flights please be aware it is 100% your responsibility to research and be aware of any and all airline requirements.
All countries have their own entry requirements regarding Covid, and these requirements can change regularly and be different for people arriving from different countries. UK FCDO country travel advice is the most reliable place to check all aspects of entry requirements, though if you are travelling from outside UK you will need to also check the relevant travel advice from your own government.
The most common entry requirement currently is a negative PCR Covid test result. Some countries have quarantine requirements (which makes it unlikely you will wish to visit), whilst others are requesting testing on arrival. Many countries will check your temperature on arrival, or require you to sign medical declarations or travel surveillance forms.
We will of course advise you of the relevant current requirements, but if travelling at this time you need to be prepared for potential last minute changes, and also be aware of what will be required of you if you test positive for Covid, or exhibit symptoms.
Health & Safety on Safari
Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of this pandemic is that a safari camp in a wilderness area of Africa would have been potentially the safest place on earth to be during the pandemic!
The safari industry in Africa has always been pretty organised and sophisticated, perhaps partly due to the fact that operating in the realm of dangerous animals, in the middle of nowhere, requires a certain level of basic organisation. As hopes of a normal safari season in 2020 started to fade, the reality of what would be required for travel in the Covid era set in, and practices were put in place. Flexibility is a keystone offering of many good quality safari operators, so it wasn’t too hard for them to adjust to Covid. Un-crowded vehicles (usually open air), spacious, open plan central areas (usually open air) and well spaced individual accommodation units (often tents with free flow of air) make for naturally socially distanced experience. The ability to offer private vehicles and private dining, or even private camps or safari houses, all adds to the flexibility. The reality is that once you are able to get out on safari, the risks of Covid will be extremely low. Health and safety practices in camp will involve regular hand washing, the regular sanitisation of central areas and vehicles, and the use of face masks where appropriate. Staff will also be tested as regularly as possible.
Travelling to your safari will of course involve flying both internationally and, usually, domestically too. Local airlines in Africa are following strict operational protocols and any airline you fly with will be able to confirm these measures in advance. It is harder to maintain distances within smaller light aircraft, but passenger numbers are being limited, face masks are required and of course pilots and airline staff undergo regular testing.
All in all, whilst the risk of Covid can never be completely removed, the airline and safari industries in Africa have collectively made sure that travelling is as safe as it possibly can be.
FCDO advice and Quarantines
As a UK based company, we follow UK FCDO advice when determining whether or not we can provide a holiday. We do not make decisions based on any other country advisories. For clients based in UK, if the UK FCDO advises against travel then we legally must offer to postpone or cancel your holiday, but only when we are certain the holiday cannot go ahead, which is usually between 4 and 6 weeks prior to departure, depending on the situation. However, for clients travelling from outside the UK, the UK FCDO advice is largely irrelevant and whilst your rights do not change, your decision to travel will be more greatly impacted by your home country policy. Even for UK based travellers, we are able to facilitate arrangements against FCDO advice.
Booking Terms & Conditions
Provided you are booking reasonably in advance, and you agree our terms, then you are fundamentally covered if we are unable to provide the holiday down the line. Subject to Package & Travel Regulations you have the right to a full refund if we can’t provide your holiday due to UK FCDO travel advisories, though this decision is only taken when we are certain travel is not possible. However, we hope it never comes to this, as postponement of your holiday is a much better solution if circumstances look like travel will not be possible.
If you travel against UK FCDO advice, you be will be asked to sign an additional waiver which confirms, in essence, that you are choosing to travel under the prevailing conditions and that you understand what your responsibilities are (which will vary depending on where you are visiting). For last minute bookings (within 10 weeks of departure) where it is expected the travel advice and requirements will not change before you travel, there will be an additional clause in your waiver.
The past 18 months have been challenging for the industry but a key change through the year has been the extra flexibility progressively offered by suppliers in Africa. At this uncertain time we naturally prefer to work closely with companies we know well, trust and have the most flexible arrangements with. We are now quite used to agreeing special terms to help the booking process move forward, and to give our customers some peace of mind. We understand that if booking a holiday while Covid is still around, you will want to know there is as much flexibility as possible, and common sense regarding cancellation terms. As far as possible we will be able to provide that flexibility, and we will certainly be able to give you clear guidance of how and when you are committed to any cancellation charges.
As mentioned above, if you are happy to postpone a holiday that can’t proceed as planned, that is the best outcome for everyone and it is unusual for a postponement to cause any significant increase in price (changing seasons and flights are usually the only areas that can create price movement).
Given that most travel insurance policies issued in the UK become null and void if you travel against FCDO advice, it is fair to say that travel insurance is the biggest blockage to travelling against UK FCDO advice. Certain policies also exclude cover for Covid 19, and should where possible be avoided. However, even when there are FCDO advisories in place, there are limited insurance options.
In the UK, the most comprehensive policy is currently available through Battleface. Provided you are under 60 years old (sadly the policy currently isn’t available for 60 years and upwards), you can get cover which includes medical treatment and evacuation for Covid (and other medical emergencies) whilst travelling against FCDO advice. Other than the age restriction, the only other limitation is that cancellation and/or curtailment is not covered for Covid reasons. Pre-departure cancellation cover for Covid can be covered with a separate policy through Campbell Irvine, but in-country curtailment cannot be covered.
Whilst the situation will hopefully change soon, at the moment we are not aware of a UK based solution for travellers 60 years and older.
However, Seven Corners are a company based in USA who have confirmed that their Covid insurance covers UK citizens travelling against UK FCDO advice, up to an age limit of 74. Their policy does not cover cancellation and curtailment for Covid, but it does cover the more crucial element of medical treatment and evacuation.
With some flexibility from suppliers, it is possible to make a plan that takes into account limited cancellation cover for Covid. If you want to travel over the next few months when the UK FCDO advisories are possibly going to remain in place, please talk to us. Please note that we are not insurance specialists and are not licensed to offer technical advice or issue insurance products.