So the deal is done. The UK has finally left the EU.
And while the details are still being pored over, there are some things that we already know will be different the next time we travel to Europe.
At the moment it’s COVID19 clipping our travel wings but hopefully before long we will be able to leave our shores and travel further afield once more.
So here are some resources, tips and things you need to do for your post-Brexit travels.
Check your passport – now!
To travel to any EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein you now need to have at least six months left to run on your passport and it must have been issued within the last 9 years and six months.
The colour of your passport is not an issue – the burgundy ones are fine as long as you have six months left on it.
The only exception to the six-month rule is if you are visiting Ireland, because it is part of the Common Travel Area.
So check your passport now. And make a diary note to yourself to renew it in good time.
No-one can be sure what the future holds but delays in processing passport applications are always possible in peak times and if we have a sudden surge of travel-hungry people once COVID restrictions are lifted, you don’t want to be stuck at home because of a delay at the UK passport office.
There is a slight catch to all this – the UK government has streamlined the renewals process which means when you renew you no longer get credited with the amount of time you have left on your old passport. This change was introduced in 2018 so it’s a bit of a balancing act – renewing too early could give you up to nine months less time to run on your passport.
You don’t need a visa for EU travel in 2021 as long as you’re going for no more than 90 days in any 180 day period.
However the EU is introducing ETIAS – an electronic authorisation to travel – for anyone outside the EU and this will come into full force in 2022.
There will be a fee for this new e-document, just as there is for the American ESTA system. Full details will be available in the coming months.
Travel and health insurance
This is a must for any travel – and worth checking the small print wherever you are going.
In Europe UK travellers can no longer rely on the EHIC card for reciprocal health care. All EHIC cards issued before the end of 2020 will remain valid until their expiry date while the UK is in the process of setting up a new card – the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
Update 12 January 2021: The GHIC card is now available, but there’s no need to apply until your old EHIC runs out.
• Apply for the new GHIC card (NHS site)
GHIC won’t cover every eventuality so it’s essential you get a good health policy with a reliable insurer.
Use comparison sites to get a good deal but don’t automatically go for the cheapest – it may not give you everything you need.
Check your mobile phone contract
Roaming charges can catch out the unwary and we’ve all read horror stories of massive bills being racked up by carefree holidaymakers.
Contracts that used to include free European data roaming will possibly no longer apply so check, check and check again.
Some legislation is already in place to safeguard consumers including:
• A £45-a-month limit on charges for mobile data abroad before having to opt in for more
• Customers to be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance
• Taking ‘reasonable steps’ to avoid accidental roaming in Northern Ireland, which could happen if a phone locked on to a signal from the Republic of Ireland.
The deal states that both UK and EU countries will encourage operators to have ‘transparent and reasonable rates’ for roaming but we’re all so reliant on our small devices these days it’s easy to slip up.
Get your pet to the vet
If you plan to travel with a pet the rules have definitely changed. The pet passport scheme is no longer available for UK citizens. Instead you will have to get an animal health certificate from a vet 10 days before you travel.
It’s impossible to predict how much this will cost as it will depend on the vetinary practice and the size of your pet.
You must also have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped, if they’re not already, and vaccinated against rabies.
Be prepared for delays at borders
Not every delay will be because of Brexit of course, we can all expect longer waits because of increased health checks, but just make sure you stand in the right queue!
We’ve got so used to swinging through the EU citizens queues at ports and airports which are usually a lot faster than the international ones, and we’ll really miss that freedom.
EU countries may start to set up special sections for UK travellers but for now remember to stand in the right place and expect more checks at customs and immigration desks.
Be prepared to show additional documentation, for example your return ticket or evidence that you have enough money for your stay.
And be careful if you’re packing a picnic for your travels – you can’t take any meat, milk or products containing these items into the EU. Exceptions are powdered milks and prepared food for babies and any special food your pet has to have for medical reasons.
And of course we’re back to the days of duty free allowances on beer, wine, spirits and tobacco.
Driving in Europe
UK residents can still drive in European countries but you will need to take your driving licence, log book (V5C) and valid insurance documents with you.
Get in touch with your insurer about six weeks before you travel to get a green card that shows you have insurance.
If you have a photocard driving licence you won’t need to buy an International Driving Permit unless your license was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.
So travel is no longer the last minute pack-up-and-go option it once was, but perhaps that’s a good thing in the long run.
Mindful travel could be the new watchword.
But that’s a whole new topic.
Welcome to travel in 2021!
More information about post-Brexit travel
This is just a brief summary of the headline changes that come into effect on 1 January 2021.
For more information we really like Money Saving Expert’s summary, which is updated as new details are announced.
• 22 Brexit Need to Knows