Per ABTA, Europe is the number one overseas destination for UK travellers – with over 58 million trips abroad each year. The UK Government and the European Union (EU) have both said that people will still be able to travel to and from the EU after Brexit.
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Naturally, holidaymakers and business travellers have questions about what Brexit means for travelling to EU countries. While the situation is evolving rapidly, ABTA has put together the following advice, answering common questions and explaining any steps travellers may need to take to avoid any unnecessary disruption due to a no-deal exit.
Travel before 31 October 2019
The UK is still a member of the EU, which means that all existing travel arrangements still apply.
For example, you still have access to state medical care in any EU country as long as you have an up to date European Health Insurance Card and you can continue to use the EU/EEA passport gates.
If your travel to an EU country sees you depart the UK before 31 October, but you don’t return until afterwards, please read our advice about travel after 31 October as there may be some steps you need to take to avoid any unnecessary disruption in the event of a no-deal.
Travel after 31 October 2019
If the Government agrees a deal before 31 October, the UK will enter a transition period, meaning everything will continue to remain the same during that period and you can continue to travel as you do now.
With a no-deal, UK holidaymakers and business travellers have had reassurances from the UK Government and European Commission that they will still be able to travel, as there is either contingency legislation in place or the travel services are covered by international law.
If the UK does leave the EU without a deal, there will be some changes and there are some actions you may need to take in advance so that you can continue with your holiday or business trip as planned.
Common questions about travel after 31 October 2019
Will flights still operate?
If a deal is agreed then we will be in a transition period, meaning everything will stay the same until the end of December 2020 and flights will continue as normal. Under existing contingency arrangements in a no-deal scenario the European Commission has said that UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU under contingency legislation. The UK Government has offered similar assurances for EU airlines.
Will ferries and cruise ships still sail?
Ferry services and cruises will still sail as the majority of the rules under which they operate are not based on EU rules, but are international.
Will my coach journey still operate?
Coaches will still be able to travel to and from the EU, and are expected to continue to take passengers to and around EU countries as usual.
Will trains from the UK to the EU still operate?
It is expected that trains from the UK to the EU will continue to operate. Ahead of your journey, check with your travel company to see if there is any additional information you need to be aware of.
Will I need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit?
The European Parliament has confirmed that UK travellers won’t need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit for short-term business or leisure trips, even if the UK leaves without a deal. UK citizens will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa.
Should I take out travel insurance to cover Brexit?
The best way to protect your holiday is to book a package – it is then the travel provider’s responsibility to make sure your holiday is provided and to offer an alternative or refund if it cannot be delivered.
It is important that whenever and wherever you travel that you have adequate travel insurance which covers your specific needs, including any known medical conditions or activities you plan to do. It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary. You can also speak to your travel insurance provider about whether they provide any specific cover for Brexit.
Advice for travellers
This information only covers areas where you can take reasonable action or put plans into place now. Areas where the situation is still unclear are not included, but the information will be updated once clarified. The Government also has information for travellers available at gov.uk/EUexit
Check the date your passport expires. If we leave the EU without a deal, the UK Government recommends that you have six months left on your passport on the date of your arrival in an EU country. Note that the six months on your passport is only required if you are travelling after the date the UK leaves the EU.
You should also check when your passport was renewed. If you renewed a 10-year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your passport’s expiry date. These extra months over 10 years will not count towards the 6 months that must be remaining. The UK Government has published a website tool to check the validity of your passport under these rules.
You can renew your passport online or by going to a Post Office with a Check and Send service.
You may wish to renew your passport sooner rather than later, in order to make sure you have it in time for your holiday or travel plans.
Full details on renewing your passport can be found here.
European Health Insurance Card and travel insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows any EU citizen to access state medical care when they are travelling in another EU country. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK registered EHICs will no longer be valid.
ABTA has always advised holidaymakers and business travellers to make sure they have appropriate travel insurance, whether they have an EHIC card or not, as there are limitations to EHIC.
When travelling in the EU and beyond, it is important you take out travel insurance and check that it covers your current circumstances, including any medical conditions. If you have an annual policy, make sure you check the Terms and Conditions and contact your insurance provider if you’re not sure.
Advice on travel insurance can be found here.
As long as you have a full UK driving licence, you don’t currently need an additional licence to drive in the EU. This will change in a no-deal scenario for certain countries. Depending on your destination, and the length of your stay, UK licence holders looking to drive in the EU after 31 October 2019 may need to apply for an International Driving Permit.
Full details about International Driving Permits, including what permit you need for each country can be found at gov.uk
There are a number of different permits available for different countries within the EU, so you should check carefully which permit is required for each country you intend to drive within, as you may need more than one permit to comply with the law.
If required, International Driving Permits cost £5.50 and are available directly from the Post Office, you can find your nearest branch here.
The Government is also advising that you will need a GB sticker for your car when driving in the EU after Brexit.
Green cards for car insurance
If the UK leaves without a deal, UK citizens driving their vehicle within the EU would be required to obtain and carry a physical Green Card in order for your UK car insurance to be applicable in the EU. These cards would be issued by insurers and you may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs.
Speak with your insurer for more information on obtaining a Green Card for any trip on or after 31 October 2019.
The ABI – the trade body for the insurance industry – recommends you contact your car insurance company at least one month in advance of travelling.
Taking pets abroad
In the event of a no-deal, pets would continue to be able to travel from the UK to the EU, but the requirements for documents and health checks would change. If you wish to take your pet to the EU on or after 31 October 2019 pet owners would need to discuss preparations for their pet’s travel with an Official Veterinarian at least four months in advance of the date they wish to travel. Pet owners should keep an eye out for any further instructions issued by the UK Government.
More information is available here.
Under EU rules, the cost of making calls, sending messages or using the internet on your phone in the EU is the same in the UK. If the UK leaves without a deal these rules will no longer apply – however, some UK companies have said they may continue to offer this benefit to their customers. Before you travel, check with your mobile phone provider about the costs of using your phone in the EU.