Travelling to Europe Post Brexit Transition Period

Travel after 1 January 2021

The transition period for the UK leaving the European Union (EU) ended on 31st December 2020. UK holidaymakers and business travellers are still able to travel to Europe. However, there are some extra steps you may need to take now to be ready for your trip. Information for travel from 01 January 2021 has changed not just for travel to EU countries but also for travel to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Please ensure that you are familiar with the UK Government advice for people travelling to Europe after Brexit:

https://www.gov.uk/visit-europe-1-january-2021

Passport Validity

You must check if your passport is valid for entry to EU member states and the Schengen Area. If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must meet the Schengen area rules. Your passport must meet 2 key requirements.

It must be:

  • Less than 10 years old on the day you enter the country you are visiting (check the ‘date of issue’).
  • Valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave the country you are visiting (check the ‘expiry date’).

If you have a British passport, it must be less than 10 years old on the date you enter the EU member state or Schengen Area country. Please note that if you previously renewed your old passport before its expiry date, you may have been granted extra months on top of the usual 10-year validity for your current passport. These additional months granted on top of the general 10-year validity period will not be valid for entry to the EU. Child passports are only valid for 5 years, and will always meet the 10 year requirement. 

Your passport will need to be less than 10 years old on the day you enter the EU, and must be valid for 3 months after the day you leave. The above rules do not apply for travel to Ireland, where you can continue to use your passport as long as it is valid for the length of your stay.

If you believe your passport will not meet the two requirements outlined above, or you are unsure, you may need to renew your passport before travelling to the European Union and Schengen Area. This can be completed online or by postal application.

If you require a replacement passport urgently you can use the 1-Week Fast Track Service. This cannot be applied for online, and you will need to book an appointment.

Recently there has been a high demand for passport renewals which has created delays in the service. Therefore, you are advised to check the validity of your passport and, if necessary, apply for a replacement as soon as possible.

 

Passport Stamping

GOV.UK has advised that all visitors must check that their passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit. You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.

 

Visas

If you are travelling as a tourist on a British Passport, you will not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. You will be able to stay without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.
 
You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.
 

Entering Other Countries Outside the EU

Now that the UK has left the European Union, you may experience delays at border controls in countries outside the EU. You may be required to show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay or use separate lanes from EU/EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing to pass through immigration.
 
 

Healthcare and Insurance

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance with sufficient healthcare cover, including cover for existing medical conditions and any activities you plan to do. ABTA offers advice on finding the right travel insurance:  https://www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/planning-and-booking-a-holiday/travel-insurance

If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that was issued prior to 31 December 2020, it will remain valid up to its expiry date for travel in EU countries except in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 

You can find out more about the EHIC on the Schengen Visa website.

Once your EHIC has expired, you can apply to replace it with the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) that can continue to be used from 1 January 2021 in EU countries. However, the new GHIC card will not be valid for visits to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Some people may be eligible to apply for a new UK-issued EHIC card which will cover you for necessary healthcare state services in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. For details of eligibility and how to apply for the GHIC or new UK EHIC see: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-uk-global-health-insurance-card-ghic/

GHIC or EHIC cards entitle you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as EU nationals. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment, and non-urgent treatment.

 

Taking food and drink into EU countries

Since 01 January 2021, taking meat, milk or any products containing them into EU countries has been prohibited. There are some exceptions, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website: https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/animalproducts/personal_imports_en

 

Taking plants and plant products into EU countries

From 01 January 2021 you must obtain a certificate to take certain plants and plant products into EU countries. Check the rules about taking plants and plant products into the EU on the European Commission website.
 
 

Driving in Europe

Driving Permits

If you plan to drive in Europe, you may need an International Driving Permit to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have a paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man. You may need more than one depending on where you are visiting. Each permit costs £5.50 and is available from certain branches of the Post Office.  To find out more about getting an International Driving Permit visit:

 

Green cards for insurance

If you are driving your own car in Europe, you may need to obtain and carry a physical Green Card for your UK car insurance to be valid in the EU. These cards will be available from your car insurance provider, but you may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs.
 

UK car stickers

You will need a UK sticker for your own car or have a UK 'signifier' when driving in the EU from 01 January 2021 onwards.


Travelling with your pets

From 01 January 2021 you will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. Instead, you will need an animal health certificate (AHC) for your pet. Allow at least 1 month to arrange this and relevant vaccinations. For more information: 

Duty Free Goods

Following the UK’s departure as a member of the EU, changes have been made to the allowances you can bring into the country without paying tax or duty. Please see:
 

Mobile data roaming

From 01 January 2021, rules around mobile data roaming whilst in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway changed, meaning you may face charges when using your phone abroad, including for making calls, sending messages, or using the internet. Check with your mobile phone provider about their data roaming policy. However, a new law means that you are protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing. Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet whilst you are abroad. Your mobile phone provider can tell how you can do this.
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