COVID-19: Travel and your consumer rights

Introduction

Under current public health advice you must not travel beyond your county or within 20km of your home, unless you have a reasonable excuse. These rules include non-essential travel abroad.

This page has information about your consumer rights if your travel plans are cancelled because of COVID-19. Flight, ferry and holiday cancellations have affected many travellers and are likely to continue.

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

When will it be safe to travel abroad again?

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

Travelling abroad

You should only travel abroad if you have an essential reason for doing so.

You can be fined €2,000 for unnecessary travel abroad.

If you are legally allowed to travel abroad, check the travel advice on your country of destination. Some countries have closed borders or may require you to self-isolate or restrict your movements on arrival.

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

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

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

Arriving back into Ireland

When you arrive back into Ireland, you must have a negative or ‘not detected’ COVID test (PCR test) taken no more than 72 hours before your arrival.

By law, you must quarantine when you arrive into Ireland. This does not apply if your journey starts in Northern Ireland.

You must quarantine for 14 days at the address stated on your passenger locator form. You can stop the quarantine once you get a negative PCR test, taken no less than 5 days after arrival.

There is stricter advice for people arriving back from certain countries. If you arrive from certain high risk countries, or do not have a negative PCR test as required, you have to quarantine in a designated hotel.

There are very limited exceptions where you do not have to complete the mandatory quarantine.

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

What about booking holidays abroad this summer?

The Government is urging people to avoid making bookings in light of the continuing COVID-19 threat.

International travel restrictions look set to continue, however the situation remains under constant review.

The European Commission is developing a proposal for a Digital Green Certificate. However it has not yet been agreed by Member States – see more below.

You should monitor current advice on travelling abroad, before you decide to book.

If you do 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 public health measures prevent a booking from going ahead. You have stronger cancellation rights if you book a package holiday – see below.

You can get more advice from the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland about booking a holiday abroad in 2021.

What is the EU COVID-19 Certificate?

The European Commission is proposing to create an EU COVID-19 Certificate (previously called the Digital Green Certificate) to enable free movement within the EU. The proposal is expected to be ready before the summer. It must be agreed by Member States and the European Parliament.

The EU COVID-19 Certificate will be digital proof that a person has :

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

Being vaccinated will not be a pre-condition to travel.

Who will be eligible?

The certificates are for:

  • EU citizens, residents and their families
  • Non-EU citizens who are legally staying or residing in the EU

Will EU COVID-19 Certificate holders still have to quarantine or test?

The EU COVID-19 Certificate will be proof of vaccination, testing or recovery so that you may be exempted from testing or quarantine requirements.

A Member State who continues to require holders of a EU COVID-19 Certificate to quarantine or test, must notify the European Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.

Where can I get more information?

You can read more in the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate factsheet and Questions and Answers about the Digital Green Certificate.

Is it safe to book a ‘staycation’ this summer?

Under current public health advice, you can only travel within your county or within 20km of your home.

From 10 May 2021, you can travel between counties, and public transport will run at 50% capacity.

Hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and hostels can reopen on 2 June 2021. 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.

The CCPC has tips for booking a staycation.

What if my accommodation has to close because of public health restrictions?

If you have a non-refundable hotel booking, you will need to check your terms and conditions to see if it covers circumstances where the hotel cannot honour your booking. Most terms and conditions address situations where you cancel, and not the hotel. However, some contracts contain force majeure terms and this may cover hotel closures that are enforced by government restrictions.

In general, if you booked with a booking website, your contract is with the hotel and not the booking website. You may need to go to the hotel directly to ask for a refund.

If a hotel is refusing to refund your booking, despite being closed and you paid by credit card or debit card, you may be able to get your money back using chargeback. Contact your card provider to see if this is covered under their chargeback scheme. Whether you can get a refund depends on the terms of each card provider’s chargeback policy.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information on chargeback.

Self-catering accommodation and Airbnb

Before you book, check the cancellation and refund options. You should contact the booking site directly if you need to cancel.

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 because of government advice on non-essential travel

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 that is outside of the Government’s travel restrictions, 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.

The travel organiser is refusing to give me a full refund because flights are still operating

Package holiday legislation protects your right to a full refund in certain circumstances including:

  • In the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances
  • Where a significant part of your package holiday has been affected

Contact your travel organiser and quote the government advice on non-essential travel to support your case.

If your travel organiser refuses to give you a refund, you can get legal advice. You can also take a claim against the travel organiser using the small claims procedure (for refunds less than €2,000).

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.

Insolvency protection

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 travel restrictions, 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.

If the flight is cancelled

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a choice of:

  • Refund of the cost of your ticket within 7 days or
  • Re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or
  • Re-routing at a later date that suits you, subject to availability of seats

These rules are set out in EU Regulation 261/2004. Airlines still need to meet their obligations under the law but it might take longer to get your refund because of current circumstances.

You may be able to submit a claims form online, to request a refund if your flight has been cancelled - see forms for Ryanair and Aer Lingus. Alternatively, you can contact Ryanair on 0818 30 30 30 (local call costs) and Aer Lingus on 1890 800 600 (Lo-call).

My flight has not been cancelled but I am no longer allowed to travel

If you have booked a flight that has not been cancelled yet, check guidance from your airline. You should contact your airline directly if you want to cancel your flight because of government advice or you are ill.

In general, if the airline has not cancelled the flight but you can no longer fly, you are not automatically entitled to re-routing or a refund. However, some airlines may offer you alternatives such as a voucher or allow you to rebook your flight for later in the year.

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 national 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.

If the ferry or cruise ship is cancelled

If your ferry or cruise ship departure is cancelled, you are entitled to the choice of a refund or an alternative journey.

My booking has not been cancelled but I am no longer allowed to travel

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

Check the terms and conditions of your booking and contact your ferry company. They may be willing to 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: 30 April 2021