What does Brexit mean for people travelling to the EU?

The Brexit transition period came to an end on 1st January and Britain finally completed the process of leaving the European Union. While issues surrounding the trade deal have dominated the news recently, Brexit will affect many different areas of life, including travel abroad. While coronavirus has restricted how, when and where we go on holiday, some of us are still travelling between Britain and the EU for essential reasons, and others are booking ahead for the summer.

We talked to Personal Travel Consultant, Tony Chant of Not Just Travel about his experiences since the referendum and what Brexit means for British people wanting to visit the EU.

Travel within the EU since the referendum

Tony explained that travellers and holidaymakers had been able to travel freely since the referendum, as restrictions were not imposed until this month.

However, during the transition period in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed both travel and Brexit, meaning that important issues were given less than full attention. The most frustrating thing for the travel industry is that because of the delay in the new rules being agreed, forward planning was impossible. Fortunately, the mists are now clearing, although the new rules may be subject to change as we see how they work in practice and what precedents are set.

Tony took us through some the key questions his customers have asked him so far.

Are our burgundy EU passports still valid?

Yes, but there are conditions. If your passport was issued recently, it will be accepted in EU countries. However, if your passport has less than six months before it expires, or it is more than ten years old, you will need to renew it before you can travel to the EU.

You can use the government’s passport checker site to see if you need to renew or not.

Has travel insurance and health insurance changed?

Yes. At time of writing, EHIC cards will still provide some health insurance cover until they expire. However, since 1st January 2021, the level of care covered by an EHIC card may reduce. In the past, an EHIC card would have entitled you to a range of treatments including surgery and overnight hospital stays. Now, the EHIC may only cover you for minimal care. Tony advises taking out separate, comprehensive health insurance to make sure you are fully covered.

You can read the government guidance on EHICs and insurance here.

Can we still drive in EU countries?

Yes, but there are some new rules around licenses and insurance that you should be aware of.

If you have a paper licence, or your driving licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man you may need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway. These are available from the Post Office.

If you are driving your own car in Europe, you will need to carry a physical Green Card for your UK insurance to be valid in the EU. You can get a Green Card from your car insurance provider. Government guidance says you should apply for this at least a month before you are due to travel. Green cards are normally valid between 15 and 90 days but some insurance companies may be able to extend this. Please check with your car insurance provider before you travel.

You will need a GB sticker for your own car when driving in the EU.

You can check the government’s guidance on driving in Europe here.

Will we be subject to data roaming charges if we use our mobile phones in EU countries?

Rules for data roaming are changing which means you may be charged when using your phone abroad. As British phones are no longer covered by the blanket EU rule, each provider will have to enter into its own agreement with EU operators. So to find out exactly what charges and limits you will be subject to, you should check with your own mobile phone provider.

Tony advises anyone travelling to EU countries to re-check the rules within the month before they travel, in case there have been new changes.

Many thanks to Tony Chant for sharing his expert knowledge! You can visit the ‘Travel Tony’ website here.

Charlotte Buchanan

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