Brexit - what you need to know about travel and insurance

The UK has left the European Union (EU) - here's what you need to know about travelling to the EU from 2021.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 5 January 2021  | 5 min read

Travelling in the EU after Brexit

Brexit shouldn't derail your travel plans through 2021 and beyond. But things have changed, so you need to make sure you've got the right documents and what to do before your trip. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Key points

  • Check if your passport is valid for travel after Brexit
  • Make sure your travel insurance has suitable health cover
  • Arrange an Animal Health Certificate if your pet's travelling with you

1. Check your passport

Passport validity rules have changed 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 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. 

If you already have a valid and in-date card, you can still use it until it expires. 

You can't apply for a new EHIC now, but you can get a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. The GHIC works similarly to your old EHIC, it’s just got a new name. It’s free to apply for a GHIC on the NHS website

Watch out for unofficial sites offering to apply for a GHIC on your behalf – they’ll charge a fee, whereas the official process is always free.

A GHIC or EHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance, so it's still important to buy a suitable policy 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 or GHIC 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

You no longer need to get a green card for driving in the EU, but you'll still need to carry a physical copy of your certificate of insurance with you in the car.

You'll need a GB sticker on your car if there's no GB flag on your number plate and you'll need to bring your vehicle's log book (V5C) with you too.

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

4. Apply for an Animal Health Certificate

You can no longer use a GB-issued pet passport to bring your dog, cat or ferret into the EU.  

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

The UK is now classed as a Part Two listed country.

That means that you 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 need to do this for every trip.

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

Dogs will also need to be treated for tapeworm before returning to the UK.

5. Check data roaming changes 

The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway has ended.  

You'll need to check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges before you travel – although several major UK mobile providers have said that they won't be reintroducing roaming charges in the immediate term.  

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

You now 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 includes things like 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 need a work visa under the rules of the country being visited. 

You need to comply with passport and border controls requirements, 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 make sure you don't exceed 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