I have a holiday booked in Tunisia – what do I do now?

British tourists are being airlifted out of Tunisia after it was declare 'too dangerous' - but when will it be safe to go again? Simon Calder explains

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The Independent Travel

Q What has the Foreign Office done, and what are the implications?

The newly revised travel advice places Tunisia in the same category as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia - warning against all-but-essential travel parts of the country, and against all travel to the remainder. This gives some indication of the seriousness of the move.

It says: “Although we have had good co-operation from the Tunisian government, including putting in place additional security measures, the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, reinforcing our view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.”

The new advice obliges travel companies to bring holidaymakers home, and invalidates the travel insurance of anyone who decides to ignore the advice and stay on.

Q I have a package holiday booked in Tunisia. What are my options?

If it is for any time up to 31 October this year, the trip will not be taking place. The strengthened advice actually increases the options for the traveller. Until the Foreign Office warned against travel, holiday companies were offering more than they were legally obliged to do: the possibility of switching to a different destination. They were not, though, offering refunds except for imminent departures.

Now, you can choose between a full refund or switching to a different holiday.

Q The alternative holidays I have been offered are more expensive than the one I booked in Tunisia. Can the tour operator really make me pay extra?

Compared with some other Mediterranean countries, Tunisia is a budget destination. Therefore it is unsurprising that packages to other locations are more expensive. If you feel the price is too high, then take a refund and make alternative arrangements. For example, Ryanair has a promotion on flights to Greece over the next few weeks if you want to put together a cheap DIY trip - though be warned that you would forego the protection offered by proper package holidays.

Q I still want to visit Tunisia. Can the government stop me going? And how could I get there?

No, the Foreign Office advice carries no legal force - though, as mentioned, it does invalidate standard travel insurance policies. You would be able easily to access the country on Tunisair flights from Heathrow to Tunisia, or from other UK airports via Paris.

Q How long will the Foreign Office “no-go” warning apply?

That depends on when the UK government is satisfied that the Tunisian authorities can prevent a repeat of the attacks on tourists. The Foreign Office currently says: “We do not believe the mitigation measures in place provide adequate protection for British tourists in Tunisia at the present time.”

That could change in days or weeks. But in order to provide some certainty for customers, tour operators have cancelled their entire summer programmes. Jet2 Holidays has gone one stage further, and has axed its 2016 programme to Tunisia as well.