Holiday planning

What could Brexit mean for our holidays?

29 November 20207 min read

A view of the colorful medieval town of Menton on the French Riviera, France, with colourful houses, the sea and palm trees

As the end of Brexit transition period hurtles closer, we take a look at how the UK leaving the EU on December 31, 2020 will affect holidays and travel in the coming years.

Will my passport still work?

Yes, but it’s important to check the expiry date well before your holiday. For travel from January 1, 2021 onwards, you will need at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival in the EU.

Also, note that as of September 2018, any extra months you may have on your passport from an early renewal will not count. Previously, you could carry up to nine months over.

What this means is Brits with carried-over months on their passports and who plan to visit Europe may need to have up to fifteen months left to travel – that's the new six-month minimum, plus any extra months. You can use this government tool to check if your passport needs renewing.

All current passports – even those with European Union wording on the cover – will remain in force until their expiry.

Will I need a visa to get into Europe?

You will not need a visa for 2021 holidays in Europe, but you are likely to need a visa-waiver in future. The EU is looking to bring in the Europe Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), an online security-checking system, by the end of 2022. The ETIAS visa-waiver is set to follow a similar scheme to the USA's ESTA pass. It is expected to cost €7 (around £6) and will be valid for multiple short-stay entries over a 3-year period.

Short-stay trips are defined as up to 90 days of travel in any 180-day period within the Schengen Area (26 European countries that have removed passport and other border controls at their internal borders). Anything different to this, such as travel for business or education, will require specific negotiation between an EU country and the UK.

In addition, the FCO has advised that Brits will be allowed 90 days of travel within a 180-day period to the 4 countries in the EU but not the Schengen zone: Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus. This is on top of your 90-in-180 days in the Schengen zone. For example, if you spent 5 days in France and 5 in Croatia, you'll have only used 5 of your 90-in-180 Schengen days.

Travel to Ireland will not change.

Will border control change as a result of Brexit?

Although the UK sits outside the Schengen Area, as members of the EU we enjoy certain freedoms when it comes to movement across Continental Europe. This includes the ability to use the EU citizen lanes at the airport for border security. This will continue until at least December 31, 2020.

But it could change in 2021, and travellers may need to use separate lanes from the EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Brits may also need to show a return or onward ticket.

Individual countries may bring in specific measures to make things smoother for UK citizens. Portugal, for example, has talked of introducing passport lanes just for the UK.

Remember, it is unlikely that the EU would want to make travel from Britain to Europe difficult as Brits spend a fortune on holidays in the EU. Norway and Switzerland are notable cases to consider. Neither are members of the EU, but both enjoy freedom of movement. In these cases, however, the countries have agreed to accept certain EU laws and legislation; it is uncertain whether Brexit will allow for similar circumstances.

Will European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) still be valid post-Brexit?

Our European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) will not be valid for the majority of travellers after December 31, 2020.

The NHS advises that only some British citizens will be eligible for a new EHIC in 2021. These include certain Brits who receive a qualifying pension or benefit and UK students still studying in the EU at the end of 2020. Students will need to apply for a new EHIC and it will apply for the country that they are studying in until the end of their studies there.

What travel insurance will I need?

We strongly recommend that you take out a fully comprehensive travel insurance policy before a holiday. Travel disruption only makes up a small part of what a policy covers. Other aspects, such as medical cover, will remain the same. The EHIC used to cover pre-existing conditions so you will need to make sure you discuss any you have with your insurer.

Consumer rights: Will I still be covered after Brexit?

Regulation EU261/2004 on Air Passenger Rights was introduced by the European Commission as a way to establish rules for passengers in the event of a long flight delay, flight cancellations or denied boarding. This regulation allows you to claim compensation should your flight with an EU airline or out of an EU airport be cancelled or delayed.

These rights are set to remain post-Brexit, with the government having already written EU261 into law.

Though Brexit is extremely unlikely to disrupt travel in the days after the transition period ends, for those who may seek flight delay compensation as a result of Brexit, EU261 will not protect travellers from so-called 'extraordinary circumstances'. That is, any set of occurrences outside of an airline's control. Under EU261, this includes everything from natural disasters and strikes to, sadly, Brexit.

If you have a package holiday, you will continue to benefit from financial and legal protection once we leave the EU. The financial protection of the ATOL scheme entitles you to a refund or to be brought home if the travel company goes out of business. Your legal rights are also enshrined in UK law as a result of the European Travel Regulations, which means that travel company is responsible for making sure that you get the holiday you paid for. And if it isn’t, they need to resolve the issue.

You’ll have fewer protections for flight-only bookings. Your best bet is to pay for it on a credit card and claim your money back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if the airline goes into administration. The flight will have had to have cost you £100 or more to be able to claim.

Will I need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU?

British drivers are currently able to hit the road in the EU, the EEA and Switzerland with their local licences with no other documentation. This will continue until the end of 2020.

After this, you may need to purchase an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU. The UK government is yet to release more details.

Should we need an IDP from 2021, be aware that there are three types available, costing £5.50 each. If you are planning to drive across multiple countries, you may need to purchase more than one IDP to legally be able to drive.

You may also need a 'green card' from your insurer to prove that you have the right car insurance. Check with your insurer at least six weeks before you go; it isn’t clear yet but there may be a small fee to pay.

You will need a GB sticker for your bumper.

Will mobile phone roaming charges increase after Brexit?

Recent benefit of being a member of the European Union has been the elimination of roaming fees and call charges when travelling in other EU countries. This will stop as an automatic right after December 31, 2020.

For now, 'roam-like-at-home' will continue until the end of 2020. After this, mobile phone companies could review surcharges and increase bills.

That said, the UK Government has brought in legislation to cap roaming charges at £45 per month, which is the current situation for travel outside of the EU. It pays to shop around if you plan to visit Europe and your current provider is introducing fees that could sting you.

Can I still take my pet away on their pet passport?

No, the pet passport scheme will no longer be in place for UK citizens, and current passports will no longer be valid. From January 1, 2021, you need to follow a process that involves microchipping, rabies vaccination and blood tests. Contact your vet at least four months before you plan to travel, and find out more on the government website.

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