COVID-19: Travel and your consumer rights

Introduction

From 19 July, you can travel abroad for non-essential purposes (such as a holiday). Government advice is to travel safely, in line with public health guidance and restrictions. Ireland will operate the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel within the EU/EEA.

This page has information about planning a ‘staycation’ in Ireland, the EU Digital COVID Certificate as well as your consumer rights if your travel plans are disrupted because of COVID-19.

You can get more specific travel information about COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantine on arrival in Ireland.

Is it safe to travel abroad again?

Travel advice is under constant review to ensure it reflects the latest assessment of risks.

Travelling abroad

From 19 July 2021, you can travel abroad for non-essential purposes.

You can use the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel within the EU and EEA to show that you are fully vaccinated, or have tested negative or have recovered from COVID-19.

You should check the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place in the country you are going to. You should do this even if you are travelling to an EEA country.

You can check the combined indicator map to see how prevalent COVID-19 is in the country you are going to within the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA).

You can check the website Re-open EU for real-time information on borders and available transport and tourism services in Member States.

Travel outside the EEA

If you are travelling outside the EEA, you should get travel insurance. If you have a travel insurance policy already, or travel insurance is included in your health insurance policy, you should check that you are covered for hospital treatment for COVID-19.

The Irish Government advises against travelling to countries where an ‘emergency brake’ has been applied. If you choose to travel to one of these countries, your travel insurance may not apply (unless you can prove your travel was for an essential reason). You may have to quarantine in a hotel if you return from a designated country or a country where an emergency brake has been applied, unless you are fully vaccinated.

You can get full details of the latest restrictions on travelling abroad during COVID-19.

Arriving back into Ireland

You should check the latest information on travel restrictions to Ireland before you travel back.

When you arrive back into Ireland you must:

  • Complete a Passenger Locator Form.
  • Have proof that you are either fully vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19. If you do not have either, you must have a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of your arrival. The best way to prove that you have been vaccinated, or have recovered, or have tested negative is with a DCC.
  • You may have to quarantine in your home unless you are exempt. You can stop home quarantine once you get a negative RT- PCR test, taken no less than 5 days after arrival. Stricter advice applies for people arriving back from certain countries, you may have to quarantine at a hotel.

You can get full details of the latest rules on travelling to Ireland during COVID-19.

What about booking holidays abroad this summer?

From 19 July, you can travel abroad for non-essential purposes. Government advice is to travel safely, in line with public health guidance and restrictions. Ireland is operating the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel within the EU/EEA.

If you decide to book holidays for later in the year, you should carefully check the terms and conditions of each booking before giving your payment or deposit.

Many standard terms and conditions may not cover rescheduling options or refund your deposit if your holiday cannot going ahead for example, because you have tested positive for COVID-19. You have stronger cancellation rights if you book a package holiday – see below.

You can get more advice from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) on what you need to know before booking a holiday.

What is the EU Digital COVID Certificate?

The EU Digital COVID Certificate (previously called the Digital Green Certificate) will help people move freely and safely within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate is digital proof that a person has either:

  • Been vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Received a negative test result
  • Recovered from COVID-19

Booking a ‘staycation’ this summer

Under current public health advice, you can travel anywhere in Ireland. Public transport is running at 50% capacity.

Hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and hostels have reopened. If you are an overnight guest or resident, you can use the hotel’s leisure facilities, indoor restaurant and bar services.

If you are booking a staycation, make sure you know the cancellation and refund policies before you book and pay a deposit. Check the terms and conditions carefully to see what your rights are if you have to cancel closer to the time (for example, because you have tested positive for COVID-19).

The CCPC has tips for booking a staycation.

Package holidays and your rights

A package holiday is advertised and sold as a whole and must last for more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay. It also must be made up of at least 2 of the following:

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Car rental
  • Other tourist services – for example, tours, excursions, guides or tickets for concerts or theme parks

I have to cancel my package holiday

Under the EU Directive on Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements, you have the right to cancel your booking for free, before the start of the holiday, in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. This includes disease or serious conditions at the destination.

A number of different factors affect your right to cancel, including the official health and travel advice in Ireland, as well as in the destination country.

If you want to cancel a holiday (for example, because you have tested positive for COVID-19), you are not guaranteed a refund. In this case, check the terms and conditions of your contract for information on cancellations. You can contact the travel agent to discuss the options available to you.

COVID-19 refund credit note

Tour operators and travel agents can offer customers a State-guaranteed refund credit note for package holidays, if they are not able to provide a cash refund or a full cash refund.

Do I have to accept a refund credit note?

The refund credit note has a future date (the redeemable date) that it can be exchanged for a cash refund or to book a replacement holiday.

The refund credit note can be for the full value of the refund or for part of the refund, along with part cash.

The refund credit note is State-guaranteed. This means that your refund is protected if your travel agent or tour operator goes out of business and cannot pay back its customers.

You do not have to accept a refund credit note and can insist on getting a full refund.

I accepted a refund credit note for a cancellation last year but I still cannot use it. How long do I have to use it?

Your refund credit note is valid for two years from the date it was issued to you. You have two years to book a holiday with your package travel organiser for future travel.

You can redeem the refund credit note for its value in cash 9 months from the date it was issued, once you have not used it to book an alternative holiday.

All COVID-19 refund credit notes issued by Irish package travel organisers are protected by a State guarantee.

This means that if you haven’t used your refund credit note by the end of the two years, you can get a full cash refund. If you have used only some of the credit note value, you can get a cash refund of the remaining balance.

You can transfer the refund credit note to another person, and travel agents and tour operators must facilitate this transfer without any extra charges.

If my travel organiser goes out of business

The Commission for Aviation Regulation licenses travel agents and tour operators (‘travel organisers’) in Ireland.

Your travel organiser must provide a financial guarantee (also known as insolvency protection). If your travel organiser goes out of business, this guarantee covers refunds you are due and costs of bringing you home if necessary (repatriation).

You can check that your travel organiser is licensed with the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

How to make a complaint

You can get advice from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) for complaints about travel organisers based in Ireland. The CCPC has specific powers to oversee the enforcement of Irish law covering package holidays and to identify legal breaches (that is, misleading advertising and or inaccurate brochures). The CCPC cannot bring proceedings on your behalf.

You can read more about package holidays.

Flight cancellations and your rights

If you have booked a flight directly with an airline that you now have to cancel because of COVID-19, you should contact the airline. If you do not get a response from the airline within 6 weeks, you can escalate the issue to the Commission for Aviation Regulation using this complaints form.

How to complain

If you have a complaint about cancelled or delayed flights, you must begin by contacting your airline directly.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation is the enforcement body in Ireland who deals with complaints arising from flight cancellations. Find information on your rights and how to make a complaint on flightrights.ie.

You can read more in our section on air travel.

Ferry and cruise ship cancellations and your rights

Under EU law transport companies that run ferries and cruise ships (travel operators) must resolve issues caused by cancellations. The rules are set out in EU Regulation 1177/2010.

Many ferries have resumed sailing schedules. This means you might be charged a cancellation fee if you no longer want to travel.

Check the terms and conditions of your booking and contact your ferry company. They may negotiate alternatives such as a voucher or allow you to rebook for a date in the future.

You can read more about your rights when travelling in the EU by ship or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport's Maritime Sector COVID-19 FAQ (pdf). Contact the National Transport Authority (NTA) (or phone 01 8798300), if you have queries or complaints about your rights as a ferry or cruise ship passenger.

Is COVID-19 covered by my travel insurance?

Whether you can make a claim against your travel insurance depends on the terms and conditions of your travel insurance and when you bought it.

If you took out a policy with ‘disruption cover’ (also known as ‘catastrophe’ cover) before the Government travel advice first came into effect in March 2020, you should be able to claim any costs not refunded by your travel provider from your insurer. Disruption cover is usually an ‘optional extra’ to your insurance policy and is not included as standard in most travel policies.

Since March 2020, many insurers have changed aspects of their travel insurance policies, for example specifically excluding claims relating to COVID-19.

The Central Bank has said that insurers must:

  • Handle claims effectively and properly
  • Interpret terms in your favour, where there is a doubt about the meaning of a term or what cover is provided and what is included
  • Accept and pay claims promptly, where there is insurance cover in place
  • Make sure that any settlement offer made to you is fair and takes into account all relevant factors

The CCPC have more information about travel insurance in the COVID-19 Information Hub.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Under EU rules, you may be entitled to compensation in certain circumstances, when your flight, ferry or cruise is cancelled.

However, you are not entitled to compensation for a cancellation caused by an extraordinary circumstance. A pandemic is considered an extraordinary circumstance and is outside of the control of the travel organiser.

The rules on compensation rights are:

Further information

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has information on travel rights in the COVID-19 Information Hub.

The European Consumer Centre has information about holiday cancellations and other related issues.

The Central Bank has information about travel insurance in its COVID-19 Consumer FAQ.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have published a COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol. It covers health and safety guidelines for airlines once they resume regular flight schedules.

You can also get more information on:

Page edited: 19 July 2021