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Brexit and travelling in Europe for UK citizens

Author: David Pettitt

Pettitts Travel have put together the following advice and information with regards to Brexit and the new rules to travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from 1st January 2021.

Do I need to renew my passport?

If you are travelling to the EU from 1st January 2021, you may need to renew your passport earlier. Your passport will need to be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left) and it also needs to have at least 6 months validity left.

To check the requirements for different countries, please follow this link.

These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland and you can continue to use your passport as long as it is valid for the length of your stay.

If your passport is burgundy or has ‘European Union’ on the cover, you can continue to use it until it expires. Due to the current challenges of Covid-19, the waiting time for processing passport renewals is longer than 3 weeks, so please allow sufficient time for the application. To renew a passport, please follow this link.

Will I need a visa to travel into the EU?

If you are a tourist you will not need a visa for short trips to EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Different rules apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries do not count towards the 90-day total. 

The EU has said that British visitors will be visa-exempt 'third-country nationals' initially, which means that there is no need for an application in advance. But within a couple of years, British citizens will be subject to the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which the EU is working to impose no later than 2022.

At border control in the EU, you may need to:

- Show a return or onward ticket
- Show you have enough money for your stay
- Use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing

If I want to drive to EU countries, will I need to get another driving licence?

It has been confirmed that from 1st January 2021 UK passport holders will not need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland if they have a card driving license that has been issued in the UK. 

International Driving Permits may be required in some EU countries and Norway if you have:

  • a paper driving license
  • a license issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

Check the embassy of the country you will be driving in.  

There are a number of different permits available for different countries within the EU, so you should check carefully which permit is required for each country you intend to drive within, as you may need more than one permit to comply with the law. If required, International Driving Permits cost £5.50 and are available directly from the Post Office.

If you are taking your own vehicle, you will need a GB sticker for your car when driving in the EU after Brexit. You will also need a ‘green card’ – a certificate extending the travel insurance to the minimum legal requirements in EU countries which will be provided by the car insurance company.

Will I still get free health care?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will continue to be valid until its expiration date when travelling to an EU country. A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will replace the EHIC to cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and other emergenices whilst in the EU. Further details of the GHIC can be found here. 

Pettitts Travel advise that you have appropriate travel insurance whether you have an EHIC/GHIC card or not.

When travelling in the EU and beyond, it is important travellers take out travel insurance and check that it covers their current circumstances, including any pre-existing medical conditions. If you have an annual policy, make sure you check the Terms and Conditions and contact your insurance provider if you are not sure.

What are the new rules with regards to mobile roaming?

As the UK is no longer part of the EU, there is no guarantee of free roaming services or that telephone calls and messaging services will remain the same cost. Some UK network companies have already announced they will not provide free roaming, phone and messaging services whilst in the EU. Before travel, holidaymakers should check with their mobile phone provider about the costs of using their phone in the EU.

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 while you are abroad. Your phone operator will be able to explain how you can do this.

What are the new rules on taking my pet abroad?

From 1st January 2021 you will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. Instead you will need to follow a different process which takes 4 months. To see the full guidance on pet travel to Europe from 1st January 2021, please follow this link.

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