Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

12 min read

The landscape of travel for UK residents venturing into Europe has undergone its most significant transformation in decades due to Brexit. With the United Kingdom officially departing from the European Union, a myriad of changes have come into play, affecting everything from visa requirements to travel insurance and even the cost of a holiday. This guide aims to dissect these changes, offering a comprehensive guide to what UK travellers now face when planning their European adventures.

Understanding the New Travel Requirements

Visas and Passport Validity

One of the most immediate concerns for UK travellers is the change in visa requirements. While short trips (up to 90 days in any 180-day period) to EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein do not require a visa, the rules around passport validity have tightened. Your passport must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter (with at least 3 months left after the day you plan to depart). This marks a departure from the ease of travel UK citizens previously enjoyed, urging a more meticulous approach to travel documentation.

The government advises that you do not book travel unless your passport meets the entry requirements of the country you’re travelling to. As always, it is advisable that you apply for a new passport in plenty of time before travel. This usually take up to three weeks but may be longer in busy periods.

Health Insurance and EHICs

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, which allowed UK travellers to access state healthcare during visits to the EU, has been phased out for most people. Though existing EHICs are valid until their expiry, they are being replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which offers similar protection but does not cover Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.

Travellers need to ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance, as reliance on the GHIC or EHIC alone may not suffice.

READ MORE: Guide to EHIC, GHIC and Travel Insurance

Driving in Europe

For those planning to drive in Europe, the post-Brexit rules present a mix of familiar procedures and new requirements. UK drivers can still use their driving licences to drive in EU countries, but you might need an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you’re planning to drive in certain countries outside the EU. The type of IDP you need depends on the country you're visiting, so it's crucial to check the specific requirements before you travel.

In addition to your driving licence, you must also carry a green card as proof of insurance if you're taking your own car. The green card is a document provided by your insurer to prove that your vehicle is covered while driving abroad. Requesting a green card from your insurance company is straightforward, but it’s recommended to do this well in advance of your travel dates. Also, make sure your car has a GB sticker if it doesn't have a GB identifier on the number plate.

These changes underscore the importance of planning and preparation for UK residents aiming to enjoy the freedom of driving across the European landscape. Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail, as the saying goes – especially when it comes to navigating the new post-Brexit regulations.

READ MORE: Car Accidents on Holiday

Taking Pets to Europe

Travelling to Europe with pets from the UK now involves a new set of requirements post-Brexit. Pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid for travel to the European Union. Instead, pet owners must obtain an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for their dog, cat, or ferret if they wish to bring them along.

The AHC must be obtained within 10 days of your travel date and is valid for entry into the EU for 4 months. It permits travel within EU member states for 4 months and re-entry to Great Britain for 4 months. To get an AHC, your pet must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel. Note that each time you wish to travel, you will need a new AHC, highlighting the importance of planning well in advance of your trip.

Always check the specific entry requirements for the country you plan to visit, as there may be additional regulations or treatments required (such as tapeworm treatment for dogs). Also, consider the rules for returning to the UK with your pet, as failure to comply can result in quarantine. For the most current information and preparation steps, visiting the official government website is crucial.

Amsterdam canal

The Impact on Travel Costs

Currency Exchange Rates and Additional Fees

The fluctuation of currency exchange rates is an integral factor that UK travellers need to consider when planning a trip to Europe post-Brexit. The pound's value against the euro can significantly affect the overall cost of travel, from accommodation and dining to entry fees at tourist attractions. It's advisable to monitor the exchange rate closely and exchange money when rates are favourable to get more bang for your buck.

In addition to the exchange rate considerations, there are potential additional fees that could impact the cost of travel. Since Brexit, some banks have reintroduced charges on transactions made in Europe, including fees for ATM withdrawals and purchases made in euros. This means that every transaction could carry an extra cost, making it more expensive to spend money abroad. To avoid these fees, look into using a travel credit card designed for overseas use, which typically offers better exchange rates and lower transaction fees.

Roaming Charges

One of the most overlooked consequences of Brexit for UK travellers is the potential reintroduction of mobile roaming charges when travelling in Europe. Before Brexit, the "Roam Like at Home" regulation allowed UK mobile users to use their phones in the EU at no extra cost. However, with the UK now outside the EU, this regulation no longer applies, leaving mobile operators free to reintroduce fees for roaming. Consequently, travellers need to check their mobile plans before departure.

Some UK operators have pledged to keep roaming in Europe free, but this is not universally guaranteed. To avoid unexpected charges, consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival, or activate a roaming package provided by your mobile operator. Staying connected can suddenly become a significant expense, making it crucial to plan and consider all available options to stay within budget.

Changes in Traveller Rights: Air and Sea Travel

The post-Brexit landscape has also brought changes to the rights of UK travellers when it comes to air and sea travel to Europe. Understanding these changes is essential for anyone planning to fly or take a ferry to European destinations.

Air Travel Rights

For air travel, the UK has opted to replicate the EU air passenger rights regulations, ensuring that travellers flying between the UK and the EU continue to have similar protections. This means that in cases of significant delays, cancellations, or denied boarding, passengers may still be entitled to assistance and compensation. However, the mechanism for claiming these rights may differ, and it's advisable to be familiar with both UK and EU regulations to address any issues effectively.

One crucial difference is the jurisdiction for complaints. UK travellers facing issues with flights operated by EU-based airlines may need to direct their complaints to the relevant bodies within the country where the airline is based, rather than UK authorities. This can potentially complicate the process and extend the resolution time.

Sea Travel Rights

Similarly, rights for travellers using sea transportation, such as ferries, remain largely unchanged in principle but may face practical challenges in enforcement. The UK continues to adhere to the standards set by the EU regulation on the rights of passengers travelling by sea and inland waterways. This means entitlements in the event of delays or cancellations, including care, assistance, and in some cases, compensation, should still be applicable.

However, as with air travel, the process for seeking redress may now require dealing with authorities in the EU depending on the service provider's base of operation. This underscores the importance of knowing your rights and the appropriate channels to seek assistance.

Key Rights

For both air and sea travellers, the key piece of advice is to thoroughly research and understand your rights before travelling. Ensure you have all necessary documentation and evidence (such as boarding passes and communications with the carrier) in case you need to make a claim. Additionally, it's wise to carry comprehensive travel insurance that can provide further protection and cover areas not addressed by statutory passenger rights.

Cruise sunset

Potential Advantages for UK Travellers Post-Brexit

Despite the challenges and changes brought by Brexit, there are potential advantages that UK travellers can look forward to when visiting Europe. One of the significant benefits is the opportunity for the UK to negotiate its travel agreements, potentially leading to unique travel deals and opportunities not available within the EU framework. This flexibility could translate into bespoke agreements with individual European countries, offering UK travellers unique experiences and benefits.

Tailored Visa Agreements

The UK has the autonomy to negotiate tailored visa agreements with European countries, which could result in simplified visa processes or special travel corridors for UK citizens, enhancing ease of travel and opening up new travel possibilities.

Duty-Free Shopping Returns

Brexit marks the return of duty-free shopping for UK travellers visiting the EU, allowing savings on a range of products, from luxury goods to everyday items. This change can make shopping on holiday more appealing and cost-effective for travellers looking to bring back goods from their European trips.

New Travel Destinations

The political shift may encourage UK travellers to explore lesser-known destinations within Europe and beyond, diversifying their travel experiences. With potential changes in travel trends, airlines and tour operators might offer new routes and packages to cater to these emerging interests.

Strengthened UK Travel Industry

Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to bolster its domestic travel industry, promoting internal tourism and encouraging UK residents to explore the beauty and diversity of their own country. This could lead to improved facilities, services, and possibly even incentives for domestic travel.

The Necessity of Travel Insurance

We (and the government) strongly recommend a comprehensive travel insurance policy should always be arranged for any planned trips, whether to Europe or further afield.

Despite the retention and replication of EU air passenger rights by the UK, travel insurance offers a broader umbrella of protection that extends well beyond the scope of delayed flights or lost baggage.

Travel insurance can cover an array of unforeseen events including medical emergencies, which is critical given that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or its post-Brexit equivalent, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), may not cover all health-related costs or repatriation. Additionally, in light of the pandemic, travel insurance has become increasingly important for covering COVID-19-related cancellations and medical care.

You can find out more about what either a single trip or annual multi-trip insurance will cover you for.

Though Brexit has undoubtedly complicated travel from the UK to Europe, it doesn't spell the end of European adventures for UK residents. By understanding the new requirements and planning accordingly, travellers can continue to explore the rich tapestry of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes our neighbouring continent offers. The key lies in staying informed, being prepared, and approaching these new challenges with adaptability and resilience.

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