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Travel to the EU after Brexit: What will change?

The UK leaves the EU on 31 December. Here’s a summary of what the Brexit deal means for your travels if you are a British citizen

Close up of a Visa document and passport (Shutterstock)

Is there any change to passports?

Your current passport will be valid as long as it is less than 10 years old and has six months validity left before it runs out.

The six-month rule won't apply for visits to Ireland, because it is part of the Common Travel Area. 

How long can I go/stay for?

You'll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

The rules for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are different. You could make a 90-day trip to any of them and still not use up your 90-day allowance for other EU countries. And you can stay in the Republic of Ireland for as long as you like.

Does the 90-day rule still apply if I own a second-home in the EU?

Yes, it certainly does.

Will I need a visa to visit the EU?

You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel – this will vary by country. 

From 2022, UK nationals will have to pay for an Etias, similar to an Esta as part of a visa-waiver scheme in order to visit many European countries.

What will happen at borders?

You'll no longer be able to use EU fast-track passport control and customs lanes even if you do have a burgundy passport. Although some countries who rely on UK tourism (eg Portugal and Spain) have said they may set up special arrangements.

Expect extra checks at passport control similar to those we have had travelling to countries outside of the EU. You may be asked the purpose of your visit, to show your return ticket, and even to prove you have enough money for your stay.

What about health cover?

All EHICs (European Health Insurance Cards) issued before the end of 2020 will be valid until their expiry date within the EU but not in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

The government says it will issue a new card, called a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card). Like EHIC, it will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies. However, there are no further details yet on when it will start or which countries it will apply to.

It is advised  that you should buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before traveling - especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

What documentation will I need to drive in Europe?

Most drivers will not need to buy an International Driving Permit, with the exception of those with licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, who will need one for some European countries.

You’ll need to take your photocard driving licence. If taking your own vehicle you’ll need its log book (V5C) and valid insurance documents. You will need to contact your insurer six weeks before you travel to get a Green Card that will prove you have insurance. It will need to be carried as a physical document, not electronic. Note that caravans will need an extra Green Card.

Can I still take my dog with me?

Pet passports issued in Great Britain will no longer be valid. Instead, you will need to get an AHC (Animal Health Certificate) from your vet each time you travel.

Note this also applies if you are taking your pet to Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland. In addition, for entry into NI, Ireland, Finland and Malta pet dogs need to have been treated against a type of tapeworm one to five days before arrival. .

AHCs will be valid for four months and must be obtained 10 days before travel.

Your pet must have been microchipped and have had a rabies vaccination.

What about bringing back duty free?

Limits will now be the same as bringing back from the rest of the world. You’ll be able to bring back 4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling wine, 18 litres of still wine, and 16 litres of beer. The limit on duty-free cigarettes will be 200, and there will be a limit of £390 on all other goods.

Will I have to pay roaming charges on my mobile phone?

Providers will be free to impose whatever fees they wish as the UK will no longer fall under the EU ban on roaming charges.

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