Way back in 2020, the UK left the EU and Brexit took effect. Since then, a hell of a lot has changed about how we travel. There’s now plenty of extra stuff to think about when planning a trip overseas to Europe (especially if it’s for longer periods). So, we’ve rounded up all the changes to the rules that we’ll have to follow, now that we’re no longer EU citizens. Here is everything you need to know.
You should probably check your passport
Up until January 2021, all UK citizens with a valid passport were able to travel freely throughout Europe. Now, though, you may need to renew your passport much earlier than you might think. On the day you travel, your passport must have at least six months left before it expires, or you might not be able to travel to any EU countries, or the EEA states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. (The old rules still apply for travel to Ireland.)
You can check if you need to renew your passport before travelling using this tool from the British government, and you can apply for a new one here. Make sure you renew it at least a couple of months before you’re planning to travel, as it may take several weeks to process applications in busy times (including right now).
You can no longer apply for an EHIC
Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will remain valid until its expiry date, but you can no longer apply for a new one. In 2021, the UK government launched a replacement scheme, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which will entitle you to necessary state healthcare for free or at reduced cost in Europe and other countries with reciprocal arrangements such as Australia and New Zealand. You can apply for one on the official GHIC website.
Free mobile roaming is a thing of the past
The guarantee of free mobile roaming throughout the EU, the Schengen area and the Norway, Iceland and Liechenstein, came to an end on December 31, 2020. It’s best to check with your phone operator to find out about any charges you may incur in the country you’re travelling to.
Border checks may feel a little different
At border control, you will now need to use separate lanes from EU citizens when queuing. Officials may also be more inquisitive than before, asking you to provide a return or onward ticket and prove that you have enough money for the length of your initial stay.
Your driving licence will still be valid – but you’ll need a ‘green card’ proving you have insurance too
Despite reports British drivers would soon have to apply for an ‘international driving permit’ before travelling to the Continent, according to the terms of the Brexit deal, UK licences will still be valid within the EU.
According to this advice by the Foreign Office, you do not need a ‘green card’ (proving you have car insurance cover when driving abroad) when driving in the EU. However, countries where they do apply include Albania, Azerbijan, Moldova, Türkiye and Ukraine.
Visas are now required for longer stays
If you’re a tourist, you won’t need a visa for short trips to most EU and EEA countries. You will be able to stay for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. To stay for longer than 90 days, or if you’re working, you will have to get a visa or travel permit.
The EU has set up this short-term stay visa calculator to help travellers calculate how much longer they can stay in Europe. Visit the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s ‘travel advice’ pages to find out the application process for each country.
These arrangements are up to date as of January 2024. They may change, so check back soon for the latest updates on travel to Europe.