Travelling to Europe from 1 January 2021

Travelling to Europe from 1 January 2021 container

Travelling to Europe from 1 January 2021 content

Although the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, the normal rules about travelling to Europe have stayed the same so far because there has been a transition period while the UK and EU negotiate their future relationship. However, this transition period will come to an end on 31 December 2020 and new rules affecting travel will apply – in addition to any specific rules and guidance as a result of coronavirus.

Most people aren’t travelling right now, but there are some important things you need to know if you are planning to travel to EU countries (or to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein) from 1 January 2021.

Of course, there are additional considerations connected to Covid-19, including Government rules and guidance on travel and quarantine which you need to check before travelling, but the information below outlines the key changes which will come into effect once the UK is no longer in the transition period after leaving the EU.

Before you go

Check your passport – you might need to renew it earlier because, on the day you travel, you will need your passport to have at least 6 months left and be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left) If you do not renew your passport in time, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries (or to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein) although this does not apply if you are going to Ireland.

Healthcare and Travel Insurance from 1 January 2021 - British travellers will still be able to access emergency healthcare in the EU. European Health Insurance Cards will remain valid until they expire. From 4 January 2021 a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead of an EHIC will be available for anyone who does not have one and will eventually replace EHICs. From 1 January 2021, GHICs and most UK EHICs will not cover UK visitors in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. 

It is particularly important that you get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition, because although the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions, many travel insurance policies do not.

Check you have the right driving documents - you may need extra documents from 1 January 2021. You might need an international driving permit to drive in some countries. If you’re taking your own vehicle, you might also need a ‘green card’ or valid proof of insurance and a GB sticker.

Organise pet travel - contact your vet at least 4 months before you go. From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. Instead you will need to follow a different process, which takes 4 months.

Entering other countries

Visas - if you’re a tourist, you won’t need a visa for short trips to EU countries, (or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. 

Visas will be needed for stays of longer than 90 days in the EU in a 180 day period, and there will be extra border checks for UK travellers. Short-term business visitors will not need to hold work permits or undergo economic needs tests. Managers and specialists will be allowed to stay for up to three years and trainees for up to a year. People visiting to set up businesses will be permitted to remain for up to 90 days in any six-month period.

Border control – at border control, you may need to show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay, and use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queuing.

Mobile roaming - from 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end. Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might incur. A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing - once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more.

Cash - you’ll need to declare cash of £10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you take it between the UK and any other country.

Business travel: extra requirements

As well as the things all travellers need to know, there are extra actions if you are travelling to the EU for business, including activities such as travelling for meetings and conferences, providing services (even with a charity), and touring art or music. You might need to have certain additional documents, you need to check your professional qualifications will be recognised, you might need to tell HMRC you’ll be working in the EU, you may need indemnity insurance for employees, and you need the right documentation to take goods to the EU.

For more information on all of the above, see the UK Government’s website.