If you’re a UK resident, travel to the EU, Switzerland and Norway has changed. Some things have changed, other things have remained the same but it is best to familiarise yourself with any new processes that have come into effect as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Travel between the UK and Ireland
Travel between the UK and Ireland is regulated by the Common Travel Area (CTA). This is an arrangement between the United Kingdom and Ireland that gives a variety of rights to citizens of those countries. It was agreed upon in 1992 and, in 2019, the Irish and UK governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming the commitment to maintain the CTA following Brexit. There are no routine passport controls in operation for Irish and UK citizens travelling between the two countries.
You can continue to travel to mainland Europe with your UK passport until it expires, as long as your passport is valid for the length of your stay, has at least six months of validity left and is less than ten years old. This includes all current passport designs, including burgundy covers and those with ‘EUROPEAN UNION’ printed on the front. These rules don’t apply to travel to the Republic of Ireland. If you apply for a new passport, you will be sent the new-style blue design.
You can no longer use the EU/EEA/Switzerland fast-track lanes at passport control at airports. You should use the other lanes or e-gates where available. However, some countries that see large numbers of British holidaymakers are expected to make special arrangements.
UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits. UK citizens will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. Multiple holidays within this period will count towards your 90 days.
From late 2024*, you will need to apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver to travel to Schengen member countries. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It is a new system being implemented by the European Commission to strengthen the Union’s borders. All countries that do not currently need a visa to travel to Europe will need to apply for the waiver.
Don’t worry; we’ll provide further information about this scheme nearer the time.
*ETIAS was originally planned to be deployed in late 2022. This has been pushed back to at least May 2024, though likely later.
GHIC and Travel Insurance
Changes have been made to how UK citizens receive free or low-cost healthcare while in the European Union. Whereas previously, the holder of an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) was entitled to healthcare at little, to no cost while on holiday, that is no longer the case.
If you have an EHIC that is still valid, you can continue to use it in the EU until it expires. You can still apply for and use an EHIC if you are a British state pensioner residing in the EU or an EU national living in the UK.
The UK Government has launched a replacement scheme called GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card). You can use a GHIC to get “necessary healthcare” from state services when you’re visiting an EU country.
Necessary healthcare means healthcare which becomes “medically necessary” during your stay, and you cannot reasonably wait until you’re back in the UK to get it.
We recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers your medical needs. Don’t purely rely on an EHIC or GHIC.
The NHS website provides information about healthcare abroad.
Driving in the EU
Driving in the EU has been largely unaffected and won’t require any extra paperwork, an International Driving Permit or a Green Card.
You will need to hold a valid UK driving licence if you plan to drive in the EU including Ireland, Andorra, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland. You will also need to display a UK sticker regardless of any registration plate identifiers.
If you’re towing a caravan, you should check if you need to register your trailer before entering some EU countries. You can find out more at GOV.UK.
Check gov.uk/driving-abroad for a step-by-step guide, and any requirements specific to the country you’re driving in.
From 28th September 2021, new national vehicle identifiers were introduced. It is now illegal to display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle. Instead, you should display a UK sticker if your number plate has any of the following:
a GB identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack)
a Euro symbol
a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
numbers and letters only - no flag or identifier
If your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack), you do not need a UK sticker.
If you’re in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a UK sticker no matter what is on your number plate.
If you have a GB sticker, cover or remove it and replace it with a UK sticker.
Further information on national vehicle identifiers can be found at GOV.UK.
Dashcams are something of a grey area in some parts of Europe as they potentially break privacy laws, especially if the footage captured is shared online or with your insurer without the consent of those in the video. Because of this, using your dash cam in Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal is illegal. In Belgium, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland they are legal but with strict conditions so it’s best to research this before you travel. Dashcams are unrestricted in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and, of course, the UK.
Sat Navs are a useful tool in helping you get from A to B. But the use of navigation systems to give directions isn’t the issue here. Some models can actively search for mobile and fixed speed cameras or interfere with police equipment. Models that offer this option are illegal in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Make sure you disable this feature in the listed countries.
Once a legal requirement in France, breathalysers are now not a requirement but it is advised that you have one to hand. Make sure your breathalyser is NF approved.
Travelling in Spain? Does your outfit exceed 12m? If yes, you are required to fit marker boards to the back of your vehicle. You can either have two small boards or one large board but they must be placed at the back of the outfit between 50cm and 150cm off the ground. The marker board must have a plain yellow centre with red outline, be made of aluminium and manufactured to the ECE70 standard.
Travelling in France? Does your vehicle exceed 3,500kg? If yes, you must have a sticker showing the position of blind spots, visible on the sides and at the rear of your vehicle. This regulation has been in force since January 2021.
Taking Pets to the EU
You can no longer use the Pet Passport scheme to travel with your pet to the EU. Instead, you must get your pet microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.
You will also have to obtain an Animal Health Certificate from your vet no more than 10 days before you travel.
You can find the full requirements for taking pets to the EU at GOV.UK.
The certificate needs to be signed by a vet and will be valid for 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU and Northern Ireland and four months for onward travel and re-entry to the UK.
Some UK mobile networks have confirmed reintroduced roaming charges.
The amount that EU mobile operators can charge UK operators for providing roaming services will no longer be regulated. This means that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU can no longer be guaranteed and we expect more UK mobile operators to announce changes to their roaming policies.
A recently introduced law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing.
Once you reach the £45 limit, you’ll need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell you how you can do this.
Package travel Regulations
The EU is largely to thank for many travel laws and regulations currently in place in the UK like financial protection for package holidays, cheaper flights to more locations, compensation for delayed flights, caps on mobile roaming charges, access to free healthcare and cleaner beaches. Thankfully, there are safeguards to protect these regulations, and the UK Government has confirmed that the Package Travel Regulations will remain in UK law.
Customers who book a package holiday with a UK travel company enjoy the most comprehensive consumer protection. If you book a package, your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.
Your consumer rights in regards to travelling will remain mostly unchanged.
You will have the same rights under UK law in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or long delay of passenger air, rail, road or sea services.
EU law will continue to apply for EU registered passenger transport operators in respect of journeys to and from the EU.
The EU regulations on rail passengers’ rights, bus and coach passengers’ rights and maritime passengers’ rights are now enshrined in UK law. They will continue to protect passengers on cross-border rail services, bus and coach travel and ferry and cruise travel.
Your rights as a passenger using Eurotunnel’s cross-border shuttle services will remain unchanged. Passengers can continue to use Eurotunnel’s existing complaints procedure.
There has been no change to visa and passport requirements for visitors from non-EU countries. However, the ETIAS Visa Waiver scheme may affect overseas visitors when it comes into effect.
Food and Animal Products
The rules on bringing food, animal produce and plants into the EU from the UK have changed. All non-EU countries currently have restrictions on what they can and can’t bring into the Union.
You are not allowed to bring any meat or dairy products into the EU. You can bring a limited quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, egg products and honey. Limited amounts of fish and fish products are also allowed.
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Flights There will be no impact to direct flights to non-EU countries. You should allow extra time as UK passport holders are no longer entitled to use EU/EEA passport lanes at airports. This could lead to long queues and delays during school holidays and peak travel periods.
Aviation Security for Passengers You will not experience any difference in aviation security screening. The UK will continue to apply robust aviation security measures and prioritise passenger safety and security.
Ferries Ferry services and cruises will still sail as most rules under which they operate are not based on EU rules, but are international.
Rail services Eurostar and Eurotunnel services from the UK to the EU will continue to operate as usual. We would advise you to check before you travel to see any cancellations, delays or additional information you need to be aware of.
Ben deals with all things design, working on the visual design of our annual guides, Destinations magazine, information leaflets, social media and email campaigns, and much more across the Alan Rogers, Rallies and Worldwide brands. He also produces written content for our blogs alongside our other contributors.