Post-Brexit Travel – Are You Prepared?

As a nation our minds might be a bit preoccupied right now. But aside from the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on our day to day lives, if you’re planning to head away on a well-earned break next year, you’ll also need to concern yourself with getting Brexit-ready.

On the 31 December, the transition period will end, and EU rules will no longer apply. That means from 1 January 2021 the 67 million of us who take trips to the EU annually will need to tick off a new checklist to keep our travels running smoothly.

The good news is that the government are making sure it’s as easy as possible to know what to do. There’s a handy website page to check and they’ve given us plenty of time to make arrangements.

So if you’re planning a getaway for 2021 and beyond here’s a summary of the changes you’ll need to keep an eye out for.

Where the rules apply

Leaving the EU won’t affect travel in far-flung countries like the US, Australia and India. It will, however, affect travel to the countries in the EU plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. To clarify, the EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. What won’t change are the travel rules within the Common Travel Area – that’s the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. Rights to live and work here will carry on as before, because there’s a separate agreement in place.

Get covered

From the start of 2021, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment, won’t be valid for UK citizens. It means the 27 million holders will need to make other arrangements in case of unexpected health issues abroad. Most likely, this means taking out travel insurance for overseas visits, which has always been advisable even with a valid EHIC as policies will protect you for more than just your medical expenses. Switched On’s Travel Insurance offers comprehensive, great value cover for single trips, multiple trips, and backpacking adventures. To find out more and to get a quote visit our Travel page.

Passports and visas

UK tourists will now only be allowed to visit the above countries for up to 90 days in every 180 days without worrying about a visa. It’s an arrangement that will stay in place as long as the UK gives the same right to EU visitors in the UK, so it’s one to keep an eye on. Also, both adult and child passports need to have at least six months validity left from the date of your holiday. So it’s best practice to check this well in advance as it may take longer than usual to renew passports. When you arrive into a country, you might be asked to show proof that you have enough money for your stay and your ticket for the return or onward journey, so have these details handy.

Consumer rights

When it comes to compensation for transport issues it’s welcome news that nothing will change once the transition period ends. Passenger rights are part of UK law and separate to the EU so rest assured, your rights won’t change. The Department of Transport have confirmed that consumer rights for flights, coaches, ferries, and the Eurostar will stay the same, so continue pushing for that meal voucher if your flight’s been delayed by more than two hours, and the like. Check the terms and conditions of your booking to see what you’re entitled to. You’re also protected if you buy a package holiday and the company goes out of business. This cover applies even if it’s an EU company, as long as the company targets UK customers.

Driving, pets, phones

There are a number of other aspects in terms of travel that will be impacted by Brexit. For example, the government are advising that free mobile phone roaming to the listed EU countries will end. So if you’re planning to take or make calls on holiday, check with your network provider in advance to avoid expensive surprises (although if you spend over £45 in mobile data, a separate law means you’ll be asked to opt in to accept further charges).

When it comes to driving, if you’re planning a road trip it’s likely you won’t be able to use your UK licence and you’ll need an international driving permit (IDP) instead, which lasts one to three years. You can apply for this at participating Post Offices.

And if you’d like a furry friend to accompany you, you won’t be able to use the current pet passport scheme. What you’ll have to do depends on the country you’re visiting. But as a rule of thumb, talk to your vet four months in advance to begin the arrangements, and check the government’s advice on pet travel to Europe to find out about the latest guidelines.


On top of this it’s important to note that as we don’t know what will happen with regards to COVID-19 in the coming months, you’ll also need to keep up to date with any travel rules and restrictions that are in place because of it. Find out more by visiting the government’s website.