The Holiday Guru is always on call to answer your questions. This week he answers queries on river cruises, Covid-19 certificates, renewing passports and more.
Q. I had a French river cruise booked with Great Rail Journeys (GRJ) and was told the company was making decisions on whether or not trips would happen approximately 30 days in advance. I paid my balance on July 8 and bought insurance on July 12 for my holiday which was supposed to begin on September 10.
On July 15, however, I was informed that the cruise had been cancelled in line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice. Now I hear that river cruises are declared safe. I’m devastated. Can the trip be revived? Marie Sims, via email.
One reader had been due to travel on GRJ’s Biarritz and Bordeaux River Cruise, but the trip has been cancelled and she needs advice. Pictured is the marina in Biarritz
A. Unfortunately not. Having chartered the entire ship for its Biarritz & Bordeaux River Cruise, GRJ felt it had no option but to cancel, despite departure being more than 30 days away.
This was because of the blanket nature of the FCO’s anti-cruise travel announcement. When, a few days later, it changed its mind about non-ocean-going river cruises — which use smaller ships and are deemed safer — the wheels had already been set in motion to cancel your voyage.
You may transfer your booking to another cruise or have a refund. Sorry I could not be more helpful.
Q. I’m starting to panic as my passport runs out next March and I’m booked to go to the Canary Islands in October. Do I need six months left on my passport to be able to travel?
Michelle Eaton, via email.
A. As long as the FCO allows non-essential travel to Spain by October (which currently it does not), you will be fine. Rules, however, are changing — due to Brexit — so that, from next year, you will need to have at least six months’ validity for travel within the EU. See gov.uk for details.
Q. Certain countries are said to require negative Covid-19 certificates taken within 72 hours of travel, but how can I get one?
Michael Cowtan, Chichester, West Sussex.
Some countries are requiring tourists to prove they are Covid-free before they travel
A. You are right. Some countries, including Austria, require certificates that prove you are Covid-free to be obtained before travel. However, the turnaround in 72 hours has proved problematic. The United Arab Emirates has even changed the period from 72 hours before travel to 96 hours.
The whole process is fraught, with private companies offering swab tests at home and results within 24 to 72 hours.
Alternatively, it is possible to arrange private consultations with GPs who can give you results ‘within three days’. Private tests cost around £120 to £140. The NHS offers tests only for those with symptoms, those living with others with symptoms, those about to go for surgery or those living in areas with outbreaks, such as Leicester (nhs.uk).
Frankly, if a country is requiring such tests, it would be much easier simply to chose another holiday destination.
Q. Please can you advise us on an issue regarding a cancelled Wizz Air flight on a leg of a journey to Abu Dhabi? The alternative flight costs £216 and we have already paid for our accommodation. Our travel agent is offering only a £20 voucher if we cancel. Is this illegal?
Finlay Gleeson, via email.
One reader revealed that his Wizz Air flight on one leg of a journey to Abu Dhabi, pictured, has been cancelled
A. If you have booked a package holiday with an Atol (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) certificate and travel is no longer possible, you should be entitled to a refund under the Package Travel Regulations.
However, if your flights and accommodation were booked separately and there is no Atol certificate, you will lose out. If this is the case, it may be best to bite the bullet and buy new flights.
Q. I have read that you need to use an app on your mobile phone to do various things while on holiday abroad. What happens if your mobile phone does not support apps? How do you order drinks and food etc?
Robert Nash, Tonypandy, Mid Glamorgan.
A. Yes, some restaurants and bars have introduced apps, which can be downloaded on to smartphones. Up pops the menu and orders can be placed by entering your table number. Payment can sometimes be made via the app, too.
Confusingly, other places are instead using QR codes — a kind of barcode that can be scanned by mobile phones to access menus. However, it is also common for establishments to have disposable menus. No one wants to turn away business now!
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
If you need advice, the Holiday Guru is here to answer your questions. Please email them to [email protected] — and include your contact details.