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Travelling to Europe in 2021: what you need to know

A line of travellers carrying their luggage through an airport terminal.

The UK transition out of the European Union is complete. Here’s what happens next for European travel.

Are you hoping to travel abroad next year? Do you have any concerns? Let us know in the comments and join in the discussion!

Brits have been wary about travelling abroad following the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of Brits said they wouldn't consider travelling abroad*.

And over half (57%) said they worried about catching Covid-19 on the flight if they travelled abroad.

With these concerns, it's understandable that you’d want to delay your travel plans.

Now that the UK’s Brexit transition period has ended, the government has finalised its guidance on travelling in Europe.


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What countries does this apply to?

The changes apply to all European Union (EU) member states. Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein are also included.

For more information on what countries are in the EU, visit GOV.UK.

Post-Brexit travel checklist

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Update your passports

All passports need to be less than 10 years old and have at least six months’ validity left.

This change doesn’t apply when travelling to Ireland – so long as your passport is valid during your stay, you should be okay.

If you need a new passport, applications may take longer than normal to process due to the pandemic.


Changes to European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

With a few exceptions, you won’t be able to get a new EHIC. It has been replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

If you already have a valid EHIC, it should still be valid in the EU. Not that the EHIC and GHIC aren’t valid in Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

Make sure you have a travel insurance policy that covers medical costs. Without it, you may have to foot the bill for any medical treatment you get while on holiday.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure your policy covers it.

Check your policy details or get in touch with your insurance provider for more information.


Driving in Europe

If you’re planning on driving your car in Europe, you’ll need:

  • Valid proof of insurance for international travel – sometimes called a ‘green card’

  • A UK sticker displayed clearly on the rear of your vehicle. You can find more information on this in our guide to driving abroad.

  • If you have a photocard driving licence, you won’t need an international driving permit (IDP) for driving in the EU. If you have a paper licence or are travelling to a non-EU country, you may need to get an appropriate IDP.

  • Make sure your car insurance policy covers travel to Europe.


Taking pets abroad

Pet passports issued in Great Britain won't be valid after 1 Jan 2021.

Before you go abroad, you’ll need to:

  • Get your pet microchipped

  • Get a rabies vaccination

  • Take your pet to the vet 10 days before you travel to get an Animal Health Certificate (AHC).

If you’re travelling to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland Norway or Malta, your dog will need tapeworm treatment.

With some exceptions, you can’t travel with more than five pets.

If you’re travelling to a non-EU country, you’ll need to fill in an export application form, and get an export health certificate.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.


Do I need a visa?

If you’re going on holiday for fewer than 90 days, you don’t need a visa.


Will there be border checks?

There’ll likely be stricter border checks, and you'll need to use a separate queue to EU travellers.

You may also need to show that you have a return ticket and enough money for your stay.

If you're carrying more than £10,000 in cash, you'll need to declare it. You can do this up to three days before you travel. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

If you don’t declare it, you could get a fine of up to £5,000.


Changes to duty free

You can still buy certain items duty free, but there’ll be limits on how much you can bring back:

  • 800 cigarettes

  • 200 cigars

  • 1kg tobacco

  • 110 litres of beer

  • 90 litres of wine

  • 10 litres of spirits


Using the internet abroad

From 1 Jan 2021, you’ll no longer enjoy free mobile phone roaming while on holiday.

You’ll have to opt-in to spend over £45 on mobile internet abroad. But you could still spend up to that amount without realising it.

Check with your phone provider about mobile roaming charges before you go.


What to look out for in your travel insurance policy

With so many changes, it's important to get the right level of cover for your trip. Two important things to consider when getting a policy are

  • Medical cover

  • This is worth considering if you don't want to pay expensive medical costs, especially if you visit non-EU countries.

    Cancellation cover

    With things still uncertain during the pandemic, this could help in case of further complications.


What else can I do to protect myself?

  • If you can, use a credit card to pay for the holiday

  • This gives you extra protection under the Consumer Credit Act. So, if the airline goes bust and your insurance policy doesn’t cover it, your credit card company could.

  • Get cover for the whole family

  • This is especially important when it comes to medical expenses cover. A family travel insurance policy ensures every single member has cover, not just you.


*Omnibus research carried out by OnePoll on behalf of Confused.com. This was a nationally-representative poll of 2,000 UK adults. The research was conducted between 30 June and 1 July 2020.