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What you need to know about post-Brexit travel to Europe

Rules on travelling to and from EU countries changed on 1 January 2021. We answer 10 key questions regarding the new regulations, from pet passports to the new Global Health Insurance Card and more.

Published 8 Jan 2021, 12:00 GMT, Updated 19 Jan 2021, 14:53 GMT
While many normal travel procedures are unchanged, there’s plenty of new red tape to navigate following the ...

While many normal travel procedures are unchanged, there’s plenty of new red tape to navigate following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.

Photograph by Getty Images

There remains much confusion around regulations impacting travel to and from the Continent as we head into the New Year, with the government finalising a deal just days before the free movement rights of UK citizens in the EU expired at the end of 2020. While some provisions remain intact, there’s plenty of new red tape to navigate. 

Is my passport still valid?

Existing British passports that are less than 10 years old and, crucially, have at least six months validity will be accepted for EU travel. All new passports issued now have the new blue British design.

Are there exceptions for Ireland?

The six-month passport validity rule will not apply for trips to Ireland as it’s part of the British Isles' long-established Common Travel Area. Read more.

How long can I stay?

Up to 90 days in any 180-day period within the Schengen Area, plus up to another 90 days in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.

Do I need a visa?

From 2022, British nationals will have to apply for an ETIAS (which stands for European Travel Information Authorisation System) visa waiver to travel to Europe. This document grants permission to enter and is similar to applying for an ESTA to visit the US, which electronically checks the eligibility of visitors ahead of travel. Read more. 

What about my pet?

UK pet passports will no longer be valid. Dogs, cats, ferrets and guide dogs will need an animal health certificate from a vet that shows they’ve had the required vaccinations and medical procedures, obtained 10 days before travel; adherent vet visits should begin at least a month ahead of travel in order to complete in time for departure. Read more

What queue do I use at passport control and customs?

EU fast-track passport control and customs lanes are no longer open to British nationals. On arrival in an EU country (except Ireland) you may need to show your return ticket, and prove you have enough money for the duration of your stay.

Can I use my mobile without incurring call roaming charges?

Mobile phone roaming charges may now apply in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway; contact your provider to check. However, the four main UK mobile phone operators (Three, Vodafone, EE and O2) currently have no plans to reintroduce roaming fees.

Can I still drive in Europe with a British licence?

Yes, but you’ll also need supporting documents. These include a V5C logbook if driving your own car, and a green card from your insurer (applied for six weeks before departure) to prove your vehicle is still covered outside the UK. Full insurance papers and, in some cases, an international driving licence (acquired at post offices for £5.50) are required, too. Read more

What happens if I need medical assistance while away?

Any European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued before the end of 2020 will be valid until its expiry date (found on the front of the card), and UK citizens can now apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies. It’s always advisable to take out travel insurance with medical coverage that includes repatriation, notably for those that have pre-existing conditions. Read more.

Can I shop duty-free?

Yes. British passengers travelling to EU countries can now take advantage of duty-free shopping, and limits on duty-free tobacco and alcohol products will increase. However, the sale of such items as electronics and clothing will now be subject to tax. Read more.

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