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Brexit – what you need to know about travel and insurance

The UK has left the European Union (EU) and when the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, you’ll be affected by the changes if you’re travelling there. Start preparing now for travel in a post-Brexit world.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 17 October 2019  | 5 min read

Get ready for life after Brexit

Not every change has been confirmed yet, but by being prepared your travel plans will be more straightforward in 2021 and beyond. 

Here’s what you need to do, right now... 

Key points

  • Check if your passport is valid for travel after Brexit
  • Make sure your travel insurance has suitable health cover
  • You might need additional documents to drive in the EU
  • Arrange pet travel with your vet at least four months in advance

1. Check your passport

Passport validity rules change from January 2021.  

Check your passport’s valid and renew it now if you need to. 

What do I need to check? 

On the day you travel, your passport will need to: 

  • have at least six months left 

  • be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left) 

If you don’t renew your passport, you could be prevented from travelling to travel to most EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

If you have an Irish passport, you can continue using it for EU travel as long as it’s in-date for the length of your stay. 

Top tip:

Check with the company you’re travelling with for news of disruptions or delays to your trip and find out from your travel insurance provider whether you’re actually covered for Brexit-related delays.

2. Get travel insurance that covers your healthcare

For years, you’ve been able to get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which lets you access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country. Although it's no substitute for travel insurance, it’s a valuable addition. 

EHICs will be valid for travel until 31 December 2020. But after that date, they may not be. 

That means it’s even more important to buy suitable travel insurance before your trip that covers your needs, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. 

What travel insurance should I get? 

You should always get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad (even if you have an EHIC card). 

It could save you and your family a lot of money and difficulty if things go wrong before or during your trip. 

Travel insurance can cover a trip being cut short or cancelled, loss or theft of possessions and other eventualities, as well as medical expenses. 

It’s a good idea to buy travel insurance as soon as possible after booking your trip. That way, you could be covered for issues that stop your trip from going ahead. 

When taking out travel insurance you should check: 

  • the level of healthcare cover it includes 
  • the travel disruption cover it includes 
  • the terms and conditions 

Take details of your insurance policy with you when you travel, including your policy number and the emergency assistance telephone number. 

Give a copy of your policy details to the people you’re travelling with and friends or family back home, in case they need to contact your insurer on your behalf. 

3. Get the right documents for driving abroad

It’s possible you’ll need some extra documents to drive in Europe from January 2021 – so make sure you apply for them in good time. 

You might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries. (These are available at the Post Office). 

If you’re taking your own vehicle, you may also need a ‘green card’ or valid proof of insurance and a GB sticker. You might also need the log book (V5C) for your car. 

Also, make sure you also have car insurance and breakdown cover in place that covers you for driving in Europe. 

"The ABI (Association of British Insurers) recommends contacting your provider at least four weeks before you travel to seek advice and get sorted with a green card."
Ryan Fulthorpe, car insurance expert at GoCompare

4. Allow time to change your pet passport

From January 2021, you won’t be able to use your existing pet passport to bring your dog, cat or ferret into the EU and pet travel requirements will change.  

Whatever the changes, you should contact a vet at least four months before you travel.   

Pet passports are issued by EU countries and a short list of other countries such as Greenland, Iceland and Switzerland.  

The UK could be added to this list, but agreements would be needed to make that happen - it wouldn’t be automatic.  

If it is added, the UK would be classed as a Part One listed country or a Part Two listed country.

Part One listed: 

Being a Part One listed country is very similar to the current situation, except that you would have to apply for a UK pet passport instead of an EU one. 

Your pet needs to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel. 

Dogs may also need to be treated for tapeworm. 

Part Two listed: 

If the UK becomes a Part Two listed country then on top of the above you’ll need to visit an official vet no more than 10 days before you travel to get an animal health certificate (AHC) confirming that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. 

You will need to get a new AHC each time you travel with your pet. 

Unlisted: 

If the UK ends up being an unlisted country then, in addition to the requirements above, you’ll need to have a blood sample taken from your pet at least 30 days after its last rabies vaccination, which will then be sent to an EU-approved laboratory. 

You’ll have to wait at least three months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you can travel. 

The blood test results will go on your pet's AHC.

5. Be aware of possible data roaming changes 

From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end.  

You will need to check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges from 1 January 2021.  

You’re legally 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’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.

6. Watch out for business travel changes

For now, you can travel freely to the 27 EU countries for business or work under freedom of movement rules if you’re a UK passport holder.

After the transition period ends, you’ll need to qualify for entry to EU countries in the same way as any other 'third country’ or non-EU national.

While the rules will depend on the country you’re visiting, you’ll only be able to travel without a visa for a limited number of permitted business activities.

This is likely to cover meetings with colleagues, clients or customers as well as attending conferences and exhibitions connected with trade, industry or work. For anything beyond that, you’ll probably need a work visa under the rules of the country being visited. 

New passport and border controls requirements are likely to apply, including: 

  • confirming the purpose and anticipated duration for the trip
  • demonstrating suitable accommodation and funds available for the trip 
  • having at least six months left to run on your passport at the time of entry into the EU 
  • monitoring trips to ensure they stay within the limit of no more than 90 days in each 180 days in the EU.

You should follow the UK Government travel advice before you travel abroad.

Read the latest developments and advice on the end of the transition period here

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