What Brexit Means for European Travel

The freedom of movement that we have enjoyed for decades in and around the EU has ended on 1st January 2021. There are now a few notable changes to our travel habits that we need to get familiar with, to help travel plans run smoothly into 2021 & beyond.

Know your Passport Expiry Date

There is a new Passport painting the town dark-blue, however the good news is your old European Union, burgundy-coloured passport is still valid for use, if it falls under the following: 

  1. More than six months away from expiry: If you are travelling from the UK to other EU countries including Iceland, Norway, or Switzerland, you must have at least six-months or more on your passport on tyour departure date. When you travel from the UK to Ireland your passport is valid for the period of your stay, as Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area.
  2. Issued within the last ten years: On the day of travel, passports must be less than 10 years old, even if you have 6 months or more left on the expiry date. 

You can use the Government’s passport checker to see if you need to renew your passport, the government is advising that you should apply with plenty of time before your scheduled departure date, to make sure you avoid any travel disruption.

Healthcare When I'm Abroad

You may already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), if so, that will remain valid until its expiration date, when you travel to Europe.

As of the 1st January 2021 most of us will now not qualify to be able to apply or renew our old cards. Those who do not have a valid EHIC should instead look  to apply for a free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. The GHIC will grant you access to emergency state-provided healthcare while you are travelling.

If you are going to Iceland,  Norway, or Switzerland you cannot use either the GHIC or the old EHIC to get medical treatment, therefore make sure you have sufficient travel insurance that covers any pre-existing conditions.

Please note these cards are not an alternative to travel insurance and you must make sure you have appropriate travel insurance for your needs, including cover for emergency medical treatment.

Border Control

We were all used to slipping through the border easily when we enter the EU for our holidays.

Things are changing, for example, you may now be asked to show a return or onward ticket, demonstrate you have enough money for your stay, as well as using separate lanes in passport control from the EU, EEA, and Swiss Citizens. This means, UK nationals will not be able to use fast-track passport control and customs lanes. Make sure you add some extra time when crossing the UK border now.

Visa and Work Permits

Tourists are currently able to stay up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. For most EU countries that will be a 90-day total of travel across all countries in the EU. So, for example, you can enjoy a 4-week trip in Spain and then travel for a further 4-week holiday in France straight after without needing to apply for a visa. This means that for most short tourist trips to EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, there will be no need to apply for a visa ahead of travelling.

There are slightly different rules when travelling to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, or Romania. These destinations do keep to the 90 days in a 180-day period, however, will not count periods of travel in other EU countries towards that total. Instead, these four countries allow you to stay up to 90 days in one destination, regardless of other EU travel you have done within that 180-day duration.

For business travel you may need to apply for a visa, work permit or other documentation if you are planning to stay longer than the 90 days. Work permits will also be needed if you are transferring from a UK branch of a company to a different country (even for a short period), providing a service to a client in another country or providing services in another country as a self-employed person. You can learn detailed foreign travel advice to individual destinations here.

Although it has not yet been confirmed yet, experts have predicted that before the end of 2021, British visitors will need to register online and pay ahead of travel for an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). This is a similar system to the ESTA visa that is required for entry into the US, improving security by tracking individuals’ travel in and out of the country. We will keep you updated, as and when we hear new information.

Driving Abroad

If you are taking your own car or motobike abroad, you will need to make sure you have the following:

Green Card and a GB sticker. This is simply so your UK car insurance to be valid in the EU. These cards will be available from your car insurance provider. You may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs. The ABI advises you apply for a Green Card at least 6 weeks before you are due to travel. You may also need a Green Card for your trailer or caravan, so check with your insurer. Note, you should always have your driving licence, logbook, and valid insurance documents with you in the car when heading abroad.

The good news is that UK motorists will not require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to allow them to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland. You may need to obtain a international driving permit for some other European countries.


Things have changed with what you are allowed to take over the the UK Border. You won’t be able to take any meat, milk or products containing meat or milk into the EU countries. That unfortunately means no more cheese and ham sandwiches on your journey. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as travelling with baby, powdered milk, baby food and foods that are required for medical reasons. Find out more about the rules on the European Commission Website

Bringing goods back in the UK has changed. Passengers from EU countries have access to duty-free shopping, the limits on tobacco and alcohol will increase. There won’t be any longer tax-free airport sales of goods like electronics and clothing.

Data Roaming in EU

From January 2021, the EU-wide ban on roaming charges for phone calls and internet usage will no longer apply to UK, allowing mobile companies to bring back large charges. The UK government has said i it will set a maximum spend for mobile data use while abroad at £49 per month,  unless the user agrees to pay more with the mobile company. While the four main UK operators have said so far they won’t reintroduce roaming charges, it is worth checking with your provider to see if you are likely to incur any additional costs, while you are abroad.

Pets Passport

The old EU pet passport scheme does no longer apply, instead you will need anAnimal Health Certificate  (AHC) and your pet will need to be mircrochipped and vaccinated against rabies. If you wish to take your pet abroad you should speak to your vet in advance to make sure you have these in place before you are due to travel. These rules will be valid throughout most European countries including when travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Cerfificates are issued by a vet and are valid for up to four months. With one certificate you are allowed to take a single trip into the EU, onward travel within the EU and re-entry to Great Britain.

Travellers taking their pets with them, we advise at least one month to 6 weeks to arrange an AHC and the relevant procedures.

As of 2021, The EU Includes The Following Countries.

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

The European Economic Area (EEA), is a free-trade zone created in 1994, composed of the states of the European Union together with Iceland, Norway.

One thing is for sure, these small changes to our way of travel in and out of the EU are going to have very little impact upon your overall holiday experiences. If you have any questions about upcoming travel into the EU or are looking to organise some future getaways, please feel free to call our personal travel experts today on 0203 372 5359, or click here to make an online enquiry. 

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