UPDATE ON THE CORONAVIRUS SITUATION IN RUSSIA – 23 April
We’d like to sincerely thank all our partners and customers for the continued support; we greatly value your trust and confidence and appreciate your loyalty. We understand the current situation is causing a lot of worry but the best we all can do is keep calm and stay safe.
Entry and borders
On 30 March, temporary restrictions on entry and exit via Russia’s land borders, including with Belarus, were enforced as part of wider coronavirus-related measures. Duration of these remains unspecified. The restrictions do not apply to certain groups including members of diplomatic missions.
On 18 March the Russian government introduced restrictions on entry into the whole country for almost all foreign citizens until 1 May 2020. These restrictions do not apply to certain groups including those with permanent residency in Russia and members of diplomatic missions.
On 19 March, the Russian government announced that all arrivals to the country should self-isolate at home for a period of 14 days, regardless of whether they show symptoms. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.
The Russian Prime Minister also announced that anyone arriving into the airports will be tested for COVID-19 at the airport on arrival.
All Moscow inhabitants must stay at home, except for those seeking urgent medical assistance, travelling to essential work, visiting the nearest food shop or pharmacy, walking pets within 100m of their property and taking out rubbish. Social distancing of 1.5m is to be followed everywhere except in taxis.
If you show any symptoms of coronavirus, such as respiratory illness or a temperature, you are required to self-isolate even if you haven’t been tested. You will only be permitted to go outside in order to seek medical help. You will need a digital code for this journey if using transport. Any cohabitants must also self-isolate and can only use transport to seek medical help. However, cohabitants can travel by foot for urgent medical care, for essential work, to visit the nearest food shop or pharmacy, to walk pets within 100m of their property and to take out the rubbish.
From 15 April Moscow residents, including British Nationals, are required to secure a personal digital code to be able to use any sort of public or private transport in order to: undertake essential employment, go to hospital for medical assistance and to undertake up to two private trips per week (e.g. to the shop, dacha or train station).
A pass is required to travel to/from Moscow City to Moscow Region and to travel to Moscow from another region. Law enforcement authorities have put checks in place.
From 28 March all restaurants, cafes, bars, canteens/eateries, shops, parks and hairdressers in Moscow were closed. Food shops, pharmacies, medical/rehabilitation services, social services, transport services, banks and insurers will remain open. Many Russian regions have introduced similar measures.
If you’re having second thoughts about a package holiday you’ve booked, or are planning to book with us, as an ABTA approved travel agent we can help you rearrange your trip if your destination becomes unsafe to travel to according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice. More advice at: abta.com/coronavirus
General advice for travellers around the world: ABTA’s consumer advice and Q&A
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the country they are travelling to, which includes entry requirements and a link through to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website that provides specific travel health advice for countries.
As a precautionary measure enhanced health screening procedures have been put in place at arrival and departure areas in many countries. Travellers should comply with these processes and take relevant preventative measures to reduce the risk of exposure.
Some countries have also introduced entry restrictions for people travelling from certain countries, travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice and sign up to email alerts for the country they are travelling to, as these are subject to change at short notice.
Further information on Coronavirus, including advice on preparing for foreign travel and helping reduce the spread of the virus, is available from Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england and on the TravelHealthPro https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/
I’m due to travel imminently, but my travel provider has told me my holiday will no longer go ahead as a result of the FCO travel ban. What should I do now?
We would recommend the following steps:
If your trip has been affected because of the change in FCO advice, talk in the first instance to your travel provider to discuss your options.
If possible, amend your holiday or travel arrangements to another date, don’t cancel – this will mean you have a holiday to look forward to in the future, and it will help your travel provider maintain its cash flow through the short-term challenges.
If you are not able to amend your holiday to another date, your travel provider might offer you a Refund Credit Note instead of an immediate cash refund. This Refund Credit Note can be used to rearrange a holiday at a later date and, in the meantime, it is protected by ABTA / ATOL if your original booking had that protection, so you would be reimbursed if the travel company failed financially. (See more below about “What is a Refund Credit Note”.)
If your travel provider has said they will offer a cash refund, please be patient with them as they process this: they are likely to be dealing with an exceptionally high volume of enquiries.
What is a Refund Credit Note? (RCN)
A Refund Credit Note entitles you to rebook a holiday at a future date or receive a cash refund at the expiry date of the note. It also retains the financial protection that you had with your original booking.
If your original booking, for example a package holiday with flights, came with ATOL financial protection, the RCN will still provide this protection. If your original booking came with ABTA financial protection, for example a cruise holiday or other package holiday including rail or coach travel, the RCN will still provide this protection.
Refund Credit Notes may look different depending on your travel provider, but they should all comprise the following:
- An expiry date, which is the date to which your money is protected, and is based on your travel company’s financial protection arrangements. You are entitled to re-book or have a cash refund by this date at the latest (if your original booking was for a package holiday).
- The value of the Refund Credit Note must be equal in value to the amount you paid for the original booking (or less the amount your travel provider has offered you as a part cash refund).
- The Refund Credit Note must include the original booking details and reference.
- The Refund Credit Note must not include any other amount offered as a rebooking incentive or other offer. Any such offers must be documented separately and are not covered by any scheme of financial protection.
- You should retain all previous booking documentation including booking confirmations, ATOL Certificates where appropriate and proofs of payment.
My travel provider has offered me a Refund Credit Note instead of a cash refund. Should I accept this?
Thousands of customers have already amended and rebooked their holiday or have received a Refund Credit Note from their travel provider. If your original holiday was covered by a financial protection scheme (e.g. ATOL or ABTA), your Refund Credit Note is financially protected by ATOL or ABTA (whichever covered your original booking) in the event your travel business fails. It is important that your Refund Credit Note includes certain things, please see more detail on this there (see What is a Refund Credit Note above). If you are uncertain about accepting a Refund Credit Note, then talk to your travel provider about your options. If you are experiencing particular hardship – for example, if you have been made redundant during the Covid-19 crisis and your travel insurance policy does not cover you for that risk - you can ask your travel company if they can prioritise your case. This will be a matter for discussion between you and the travel company.
If I accept a Refund Credit Note, will I lose my right to a cash refund?
No. A Refund Credit Note preserves your right to a cash refund, which can be redeemed at the latest at the expiry date of the note.
How is my money protected and why is it important?
The majority of package travel arrangements provided by ABTA Members are protected by either the CAA’s ATOL scheme or by the ABTA Bond of the Member company. Both the ATOL and ABTA schemes protect a refund that was due for a holiday that has not taken place if a travel company fails. You can check this for yourself on the ATOL Air Travel Trust Payment Policy, section 4.2 on page 28.
ABTA is an independent organisation, recognised by the UK Department for Business (BEIS) as an Approved Body under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. Some of our Members provide bonds through one of the other two Approved Bodies – ABTOT or the CPT Bonded Coach Holidays schemes. ABTA accepts the use of both of these schemes for our Members. Some Members also use financial failure insurance products rather than Bonds. These are also permitted under the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. ABTA checks that all these are in place and monitors them, so that customers do not have to do so when booking with an ABTA Member. Further information on the ATOL scheme can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority website.
What does the current travel advice mean for future travel, e.g. my summer holiday booking?
At this time the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals. However this travel restriction can be removed at any time, so travel companies are doing their best to manage arrangements for customers.
Each company will have their own process for managing future departures and will be contacting customers due to travel imminently. There is no legal definition of ‘imminent travel’, however it is generally considered to be within the next few days.
Our advice to customers with future bookings is to be patient and wait to be contacted by your travel provider. Travel companies are extremely busy, given the pressures of the current crisis, and will be looking at imminent departures first and deciding how far in advance they will offer alternative arrangements or refunds.
What are my options for postponing a trip?
As a result of the extraordinary situation and customer concerns over coronavirus, many travel companies and airlines are doing all they can to offer more flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their travel date should they wish to postpone their holiday. In certain circumstances this may not be possible. Customers should speak to their travel provider to discuss what their options may be.
If I cannot follow my initial travel plans due to the coronavirus outbreak, am I entitled to compensation?
You won’t be entitled to any compensation, as the reason for the holiday not continuing is outside the control of the tour operator.