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FCO latest travel advice for Japan

March 30th, 2011

The following is the latest Travel Advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for Japan issued 30th March 2011:

1. We advise against all but essential travel to Tokyo and north east Japan given the damage caused by the 11 March earthquake, the resulting aftershocks and the tsunami.

2. Due to the evolving situation at the Fukushima nuclear facility and potential disruptions to the supply of goods, transport, communications, power and other infrastructure, British nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of Tokyo should consider leaving the area.

3. At present this advice does not apply to Hokkaido due to its significant distance north of Fukushima. We will continue to monitor the situation.

4. In response to reports of contamination of food or water supplies, we advise British nationals to follow the advice of the relevant Japanese authorities.

Nuclear

5. We urge British nationals to observe the advice being given by the Japanese authorities. The Japanese Government has put in place an exclusion zone of 20km around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which must be observed.

6. As an additional precautionary measure, British nationals are advised to remain outside an 80km radius of the Fukushima nuclear facility.  This is in line with the advice issued by the US Government to its citizens.

7. Any British nationals currently within 80km of the facility are advised to leave the area or take shelter indoors.

8. The Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies (SAGE), chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser, has been examining possible worst case scenarios.  Even in these worst cases, it considers that the risks to human health beyond the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities could be managed by precautionary measures, in particular staying indoors to avoid exposure.

9. The consular counter at the British Embassy in Tokyo is currently operating extended opening hours, from 09:30-16:30, Monday to Friday.  It will be closed during the weekend. If you require emergency assistance outside public hours, please call the British Embassy on 03 5211 1100 03 5211 1100  and follow the instructions.

10. The consular counter at the Consulate-General in Osaka is now open from 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00, Monday to Friday.

Keeping in touch

11. Keep listening to local media for real time information and monitoring FCO travel advice for further updates.

12. We will be using Twitter and Facebook to provide updates and advice.  We recommend following “FCOtravel” and “British Embassy Tokyo” on Facebook and “@fcotravel” and “@ukinjapan” on Twitter.

Flights

13. Those wishing to leave Japan should use the commercial flights, which continue to operate to and from Japan.   The UK government does not currently have plans to organise further charter flights.

This advice is brought to you by www.travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance

British Airways cabin crew vote in favour of new strikes

March 29th, 2011

British Airways cabin crew have voted overwhelmingly to stage fresh strikes in their row with the airline, raising fears that Easter holidays will be disrupted.

Which flights are likely to be affected?

Unite, the union that represents 90 per cent of BA’s 12,000 cabin crew, must start any strike action within the next 28 days, or it will be obliged to conduct another ballot. It must also give the airline at least seven day’s notice before any industrial action. Therefore, unless an agreement is reached, strikes must begin next week (April 4), at the earliest, or on April 25 (Easter Monday), at the latest. The number of flights which have to be cancelled will depend on how the strike is organised and how many cabin crew take part. Previous experience suggests that British Airways will try to operate as many long-haul flights as possible, and sacrifice shorter flights, which tend to be more frequent and easier to merge. A BA spokesman said it has well-established contingency plans and it hopes to run all of its flights from London City Airport and Gatwick, should the strikes take place. It will also aim to operate all long-haul flights, and “the majority” of short-haul flights from Heathrow.

Can I cancel my flight before they do?

You could, but unless it is a flexible, or refundable ticket, then you will lose your money.

Am I entitled to a refund if BA cancels my flight?

Yes. EU regulations require that the airline offers you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets (to be paid within seven days), or the soonest available flight, or flights, to your final destination. If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund.

What are the other options?

BA has not announced what it will do yet, but it is likely that passengers on cancelled flights will, instead of accepting a refund, be able to rebook for a later date. It is also possible that BA will arrange for flights on other airlines.

What if I am stranded abroad, or at an airport in the UK as a result of the cancellation?

BA is liable to pay for: meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time; two free telephone calls, emails, telexes or faxes; overnight hotel accommodation and transfers as necessary.

I have booked a package holiday and my flight has been cancelled, what do I do?

Speak to your tour operator. It is responsible to trying to make alternative arrangements, or cancelling, refunding or rebooking your holiday.

I have booked other arrangements, such as accommodation or car hire or hotels, and I now won’t be able to use them. Can I claim compensation for this?

BA isn’t responsible for this sort of “consequential loss”. If the car hire company or the hotel won’t refund your deposit, and you can’t find another way of travelling to your destination, you will lose out, unless you can claim through your travel insurance.

What about travel insurance?

This is complicated and, as always with insurance, depends on the individual circumstances and the policy you have bought. Generally, you can claim abandonment of your holiday and the consequential loss, if you can prove that you have been delayed by 12 hours or more. But your insurer will need a letter from the airline confirming that the cancellation involves such a delay, and it is likely only to consider cancellations which have been made at short notice. And obviously, it will only apply if you bought the insurance (and the travel arrangements) before you knew about the strikes.

Am I entitled to compensation as well as a refund if my flight is cancelled?

EU regulations suggest that you should be entitled to compensation if you flight is cancelled within 14 days of departure (or delayed). However, according to the Air Transport Users Council (AUC), a provision in the regulation which excludes “strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier” has been used by airlines to avoid paying compensation. It is untested in law, but your chances look slim.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Watch out, there’s a thief about!

March 10th, 2011

Regrettably, the increasing incidence of theft abroad is going largely unreported. It is a growing problem and affects thousands of holidaymakers abroad each year. Generally, when we go abroad, our guard is down and this is what the professional gangs and pickpockets look out for. Whilst baggage that is lost, whilst under the control of the airline, may be attributed to theft, generally this will be marked down as lost in transit and a claim against the carrier and travel insurance will be fairly straight forward providing that a passenger irregularity report is obtained from the airline.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg for the unwary traveller. Many thefts occur as soon as you have picked up your bags and ventured into the arrivals hall. Picking up a hire car is a very common place to be targeted where bags are taken whilst distracted at the counter. Travelling on public transport is another popular target area where jostling can appear harmless, only to find that a purse or wallet has been taken in the confusion. Placing bags under your chair in a restaurant is an open invitation to it being lifted.

If you are unfortunate to have any items stolen on holiday, do make a list of the items stolen and cancel your credit cards and travellers cheques immediately. Go to the local police station as soon as possible and insist on a police report. This is an absolute must if you intend to claim on your travel insurance and most policies insist that this should be done within 24 hours of the incident.

If you don’t, then you will find your insurer less inclined to pay out. If you lose your passport, then contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate who will be able to issue you with an emergency replacement passport to get you home.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

New snow beckons half term skiers

February 16th, 2011

Half term is upon us and new snow is falling across the Eurpean and North American resorts.  At this time of year, thousands take to the slopes for the first time but some unfortunately will return with an injury. And it’s not just first timers as the more experienced take on new challenges, on and off piste, the wipe-outs just tend to be more spectacular.

That is why it is essential to have the proper ski and snowboard travel insurance to provide the necessary cover on and off the slopes. So what should people be looking for? Most travel insurance providers offer good cover for intermediate and beginners. This is the vast bulk of the market. Yes, accidents do happen but they are more likely to be in a controlled fashion, by that we mean on well groomed pistes and with assistance and help on hand.

The problem area is when the skier or snowboarder gains in confidence and skill and wants to seek greater challenges and with it more thrills. This generally means tackling ever more severe slopes but also to venture into what is loosely termed ‘off piste’. This is where the unwary can very quickly become unstuck and we are not talking about the snow conditions. Most travel insurance policies will have restrictions on ‘off piste’ such as ‘only with a guide’ or ‘only within a specified resort area’ so when seeking that ‘adrenaline rush’ it is important to know what you are getting yourself into first.

What’s more, the increasing popularity of ‘half pipes’ and ‘free style’ means that the potential risk of injury has increased as more and more people are attracted to this immensely enjoyable leisure activity. To make sure you are properly covered for these more extreme sports activities, it is essential that winter sports insurance is obtained that offers protection to this level of activity. The more expert you are, the more likely you will need more specialist cover than provided by the usual high street provider.

Mountain rescue and medical costs are expensive and if this requires repatriation then the costs mount up rapidly. It’s probably too late, as you are being strapped to the rescue sledge, to wonder whether the travel insurance you bought before the holiday is going to cover you. Know before you go.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

British Government flights for British nationals wishing to leave Cairo

February 3rd, 2011

In addition to the chartered plane scheduled to leave Cairo on Thursday 3 February to assist British nationals wishing to leave Egypt, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has decided to charter a second plane scheduled to leave Cairo on Saturday 5 February.

The charter flight leaving Cairo on Thursday evening is now full. British nationals who wish to use the second charter service on Saturday should register with the FCO. Please note that there will be a charge for this service – seats on this flight will cost £300 each. Those already booked on other commercial flights should not cancel their bookings.

To register for a seat on this flight and further instructions please call: +44 (0)207 008 8765 / +20 227 916 000 in Egypt
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/egypt

This advice is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

British Government flights for British nationals wishing to leave Cairo

February 1st, 2011

In light of the ongoing unrest in Egypt the British Government has chartered a plane to supplement commercial capacity. The plane will depart from Cairo International Airport on Thursday 03 February and there will be a charge of approximately £300 per person.

To register for a seat on this flight and further instructions please call: +44 (0)207 008 8765 / +20 227 916 000 in Egypt . For more advice, click on

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/egypt

This advice is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Tunisia travel disrupted

January 15th, 2011

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Tunisia following the declaration of a ‘State of Emergency’ in the North African country after violent political unrest and demonstrations.  Tour operators, Thomson and First Choice have and continue to fly out their British customers from the coastal resorts though hundreds are determine to stay and finish their holidays.

Should you become caught up in what is neatly termed, civil commotion or civil unrest, you need to be aware that most travel insurance providers include this as a general exclusion in their policies. The impact of this is that you may not be as well insured as you think you are. If in doubt, do check with your travel insurance company before you travel and look at your policy wording.

Generally, medical expenses and medical repatriation will be included but if you want to be covered for all eventualities then you will have to pay an increased premium for this. Thankfully, the chances of being caught up in these types of incidents are still rare and, even when they do strike, they tend to be away from the main tourist destinations.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in Ethical Travel Insurance.

FCO warn of wintersports medical bill costs

December 29th, 2010

As British holidaymakers prepared to head for the slopes for 2011, new research from the Foreign Office revealed that almost a third of people in the UK admitted to not taking out travel insurance for their winter sports holidays. In addition, less than one in five people (16%) said they always read the small print of their travel insurance policy before going skiing. The Foreign Office have also issued a warning to skiers and snowboarders that they risked huge medical bills if they weren’t properly covered by travel insurance.  Their examples highlight the average cost in Andorra for a leg injury and repatriation to be £6500 rising to a whopping £28,000 for the same injury in Canada!

Everyone appreciates the thrills of Wintersports but not everyone appreciates the dangers that are associated with it. The Ski Club of Great Britain has reported in the past that more than half of British skiers take to the slopes without a ski helmet, despite the risks of sustaining a serious head injury. Head injuries account for almost a quarter of all ski injuries sustained on the slopes. Research in Canada and Sweden has also found that snowboarders are up to four times more likely to have an accident on the slopes than skiers, while men are more likely to get injured than women.

Alarm bells should be ringing here, not just against the rise in the accident rate on the slopes but also that a high number of people are still going abroad without any travel insurance. Whether this is just forgetfulness or a desire to live dangerously, it is shows that many people view travel insurance as an extra expense which can be added or deleted depending on the holiday budget.

But with price of travel insurance premiums, particularly on the internet, being relatively cheap – you can find a week’s Winter Sports cover to Europe for under £10, it does seem to be an unnecessary risk to take. It is not necessary to pay through the nose these days and if you are prepared to surf the net then there some excellent deals to be had.

This article is provided by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Travel Delays for Eurostar passengers

December 21st, 2010

With this month registering as the coldest December since 1910, the plunging temperatures have seen Eurostar services to Europe either delayed or cancelled. The delays have been caused by speed restrictions on both sides of the Channel due to the freezing temperatures. Trains could only run at 105mph, rather than the normal speed of 190mph.

This in turn led to 25 per cent of services being cancelled, with the problems exacerbated by hundreds of stranded airline passengers trying to grab last-minute rail tickets.

For those caught up in this unexpected travel delay, you can limit the financial loss by taking out adequate travel insurance which will provide financial cover and compensation if caught up in such events. To start with, all travel insurance policies should have a travel delay section, generally to pay a fixed amount for each 6, 12 or 24 hours delay experienced. This is what is termed as a benefit so does not require receipts to claim but you will need a note from the Rail Company or station, such as St Pancras if departing from the UK, to confirm the number of hours delayed.

Secondly, most travel insurance policies will have a section for Abandonment. This is just another term for cancellation which permits the traveller, once they have experienced the required number of hours travel delay, to cancel their travel and holiday in its entirety and claim back the costs. Whether you choose this option will depend on many factors, such as the length of your trip away, how long the delay will be and personal preference but it is a very valuable addition to have in any travel insurance policy.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.

Higher Air Passenger Duty travel costs

November 1st, 2010

Travellers will feel  more pain now that Air Passenger Duty (APD) has risen yet again. APD falls into four bands, with passengers being charged according to how far they fly. The latest increases hits medium and long-haul travellers hardest. A family of four flying to the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya or Thailand will pay £300 in APD, while those families planning trips to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia or Australasia, pay £340, that’s £85 per passenger, more than double from just two years ago.  What are the new Air Passenger Duty rates?

Band A (0 – 2000 miles from London)

Includes: Europe, Algeria, Greenland, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia

APD: £12 Economy cabins and £24 Premium cabins.

Band B (2001-4000 miles)

Includes: Bermuda, Canada, Egypt, Gambia, Jordan, Oman, Russia (east of Urals), Syria, UAE, USA

APD: £60 Economy cabins and £120 Premium cabins.

Band C (4001-6000 miles)

Includes: Botswana, Brazil, Caribbean, China, India, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Seychelles, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand

APD: £75 Economy cabins and £150 Premium cabins rising to £50 and £100 respectively in November 2009 and to £75 and £150 respectively from November 2010.

Band D (more than 6000 miles)

Includes: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore

APD: £85 Economy cabins and £170 Premium cabins.

APD is a contentious area for many passengers because airlines are reluctant to pay back APD to customers who cancel flights.  By rights, customers should have the APD portion of their flight tickets refunded if they don’t fly but airlines are now charging an ‘administration’ fee for the processing of a refund, In the past, this fee has generally equated to the value of the APD refund so we may see airlines increasing their fees in line.  This makes most customers not bother to pursue a refund which effectively increases the profit margins of airlines, as APD is only paid to the government based on passengers flown.  It really is a ‘no win’ situation for consumers as travel insurance providers generally exclude APD from any cancellation settlement claiming that it is the responsibility of the airline to refund this element of holiday cost.

This article is brought to you by Travelandinsure.com – specialist in ethical travel insurance.