What to know before making your decision.

By Cailey Rizzo
Updated February 27, 2020

(Updated: Wednesday, March 11)

Travelers with trips planned to areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak may be concerned about how to proceed — is it necessary to cancel? How much will that cost? Here’s what you need to know when deciding what to do, including the latest travel advisories and information from travel insurance companies.

How widespread is coronavirus?

There are more than 121,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world. Of the more than 4,300 deaths reported from the virus, the vast majority — 3,046 — have been in mainland China, according to China’s National Health Commission. Italy has reported more than 10,100 cases and at least 630 deaths. Iran has 9,000 cases and 354 deaths. South Korea reported 7,755 cases but only 54 deaths. There are more than 2,000 cases in Spain, almost 1,800 in France and at least 1,600 in Germany. 

The disease was first reported in the U.S. in Washington state on January 21. Since then, it has ballooned to more than 1,000 confirmed cases and 31 deaths, 23 of which have been in Washington. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know If You're Traveling During the Coronavirus Outbreak (Video)

Do I need to cancel my trip to China?

Both the CDC and State Department have issued their highest level warnings against travel to mainland China. The CDC warning is against all nonessential travel to China, but does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. The State Department’s warning says outright “do not travel to China.”  Travel around the country is severely impacted as authorities have suspended air, road and rail travel around Wuhan. Travel throughout other parts of the country is severely restricted, with many national attractions closed during the outbreak

Global airlines have suspended service to mainland China through the summer. American Airlines will not resume its service to mainland China until October 24, it announced in a press release. Delta has cancelled its China service through April. 

For more information, contact your airline directly. 

Do I need to cancel my trip to other parts of Asia?

The State Department issued a level 3 warning for South Korea, urging Americans to reconsider travel to the country as it deals with its coronavirus outbreak. The CDC recommends canceling all nonessential visits to South Korea at this time. 

Visitors to South Korea should review the CDC’s guide to coronavirus precautions and treatment. Travelers should take care to frequently and thoroughly wash their hands. Frequently-touched objects should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.  

Travelers are encouraged to check the South Korean government’s website on coronavirus for the latest information. 

The CDC has issued a Level 2 warning against travel to Japan, urging travelers to practice enhanced precautions while in the country. However, there are not any warnings against travel to the country at this time. 

Do I need to cancel my trip to Europe?

Italy was placed on lockdown on March 10, with many of its busiest cities turning into ghost towns. The CDC issued a Level 3 warning against travel to Italy, urging Americans to consider cancelling any nonessential travel to Italy. 

The CDC has not issued travel warnings against France or Germany, two other countries battling large coronavirus outbreaks. Travelers should regularly wash their hands and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces. They should exercise extra caution in crowded public areas and avoid affected areas designated by the government. 

For the latest information, pay attention to alerts from the World Health Organization and the embassy of the country where you intend to travel. 

Related: How U.S. Airlines Are Adapting to Ongoing Coronavirus Concerns

Will travel insurance cover my cancellation costs?

As always, it's a good idea to purchase travel insurance immediately after booking upcoming trips. The longer you wait to purchase travel insurance after booking your trip, the more benefits you may miss out on. 

If you do have travel insurance on your upcoming trip, check your provider's specific policy.

AIG Travel Guard’s standard policy reads: “Trip cancellation for concern or fear of travel associated with sickness, epidemic, or pandemic is not covered.

Travelers using Allianz Travel would be issued refunds to their existing plan, “if the customer’s travel supplier canceled the customer’s trip due to Coronavirus, or if the customer’s covered trip included a trip booked to China” that was specifically canceled because of the virus, they specified in their alert.

Allianz also will let customers change their plan’s effective dates to cover a new or rescheduled trip.

As travel insurance plans don’t cover preemptive cancellations, you’re more likely to be covered should you contract coronavirus while traveling or if you were to be placed under quarantine during your trip.

What type of travel insurance should I buy?

Travelers who are concerned about upcoming trips should opt for a travel insurance plan that includes “cancel for any reason” coverage. The caveat is that these plans must be purchased within a few weeks of booking a trip and often don’t reimburse the traveler for the full amount of their trip, InsureMyTrip.com notes.

What if I didn't purchase travel insurance?

Considering that upcoming trips to Asia or Italy, where the coronavirus has infected the most people, are most likely planned months in advance, a best option would be to check with your hotel and airline to see if they have policies for cancelation that are specifically accommodating travelers during the outbreak. 

JetBlue, United, Delta, American and Alaska airlines have waived change fees for upcoming flights, no matter the destination. Southwest Airlines already allows travelers to change or cancel their reservations without penalty. For more information on rebooking upcoming travel, contact your airline directly.  

Regardless of insurance policies or airline changes made to accommodate travelers, advisory and alert levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. State Department are vital to be aware of while traveling.

What should I do if I booked a cruise?

On March 8, both the CDC and the State Department issued warnings against boarding cruises during the coronavirus outbreak. Travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, are being urged to delay their plans. 

One of the worst cases of coronavirus didn’t happen on land but on a quarantined cruise ship. The Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan and reported at least 705 confirmed cases of the virus aboard the ship, with eight deaths. Currently, the Grand Princess cruise ship is in its disembarking process in Oakland, Calif. following the death of a passenger who was on the ship for a previous voyage. 

In February, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) detailed new cruise ship policy for dealing with the virus. Cruise ships are to deny boarding to any passengers who have traveled from or through airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days before embarkation. Boarding is also to be denied to anyone who has come in contact with a coronavirus patient within 14 days. Preboard health screenings are also necessary for passengers at this time. 

Cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have canceled or rerouted a number of cruises that were scheduled around Asia

Travelers who have already booked a cruise should contact their cruise line directly for the most up-to-date information. 

What if I become ill while traveling?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends staying home and rescheduling travel plans if you have a fever or cough. If you become ill while traveling, you should inform the transportation crew or medical personnel. 

The first symptoms of Coronavirus feel a lot like the flu. Travelers who begin to feel these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. “You'll get a fever, cough — it’s primarily a lower respiratory virus — general malaise, there may be some gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Rebecca Katz, a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, recently told Travel + Leisure. When complications of the virus occur, patients could develop pneumonia or kidney-related issues, which could lead to death. 

For more information, check out Travel + Leisure’s guide to everything you need to know about travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

The information in this article reflects that of the publishing time above. However, as statistics and information regarding coronavirus rapidly change, some figures may have may be different since this story was originally posted. While we strive to keep our content as up to date as possible, we also recommend visiting sites like the CDC or websites of local health departments.

Advertisement