This is how Brexit will affect travel between the UK and Europe after 31 January - what you need to know

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 3:34 pm
Following withdrawal from the EU, the UK will enter into an 11 month long ‘transition period’ (Photo: Shutterstock)

With the UK no longer part of the European Union as of the end of January (31 Jan), there are many changes that lie ahead for our country.

The exit from the EU has been rife with uncertainty, and questions about how travel to Europe will be impacted are among the main concerns.

Entering a ‘transition period’

Following withdrawal from the EU, the UK will enter into an 11 month long ‘transition period’, during which travel to Europe will remain the same. UK residents can continue to visit countries in the EU as they do now, up until at least the end of December 2020.

Previous guidance had suggested there could be immediate changes to passport validity and health care, while driving licences and taking pets abroad were also expected to be affected.

However, ABTA, the UK’s travel industry trade association, has said it now expects arrangements for EU travel to stay the same until the end of this year.

This means UK travellers will still be able to use valid passports and European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) when heading to European countries, and will still be permitted to use the same gates at border checkpoints.

What will happen after the transition period?

Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021, according to

From the start of 2021, travellers should expect changes to passports, travel insurance, driving documents, and pet travel.

This is what the government advises you to check if you are heading to Europe next year:


If you are travelling from 1 January 2021, you may need to renew your British passport earlier.

On the day of travel, your passport must have at least six months left and be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left). If you do not renew it, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport providing it is valid for the duration of your stay.

If you are travelling from 1 January 2021, you may need to renew your British passport earlier (Photo: Shutterstock)


European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) may not be valid from 1 January 2021, so it is important to ensure you get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you head abroad.


Depending on how you are travelling, there may be changes in store as of the beginning of next year, so it is advised you check with the company you have booked with before you leave for any delays or disruption.

From 1 January 2021, the following transport services will be able to run as before:


Ferries and cruises

The Eurostar and Eurotunnel

Bus and coach services between the UK and the EU

If you are flying, airport security procedures will not change for direct flights to and from the UK. There also should not be delays at airport security if you change flights in EU airports.


You will need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries from 1 January 2021. You can check if this is required in the country you are heading to on the government website.

If you are taking your own vehicle, you will also need:

a ‘green card’ - you should allow one month to get this from your vehicle insurance company

a GB sticker

Travel compensation

Your consumer rights will not change from 1 January 2021, meaning if your trip is cancelled or delayed you may be able to claim a refund or compensation.

However, some travel insurance policies only cover certain types of disruption. Be sure to check your provider’s terms and conditions to make sure you have the cover you need if your trip is cancelled or delayed.

Pet travel

From 1 January 2021, you will not be able to sue the existing pet passport scheme. Instead you will need to follow a different process, which you should allow at least four months to arrange. Guidance on pet travel to Europe can be found on the government website.

If you are a tourist, you won’t need a visa for short trips to EU countries (Photo: Shutterstock)

Entering other countries

If you are a tourist, you won’t need a visa for short trips to EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You will be allowed to stay for up to 90 days in an 180-day period.

If you are travelling for a longer period, to work or study, or for business, you may require a visa.

You can check each country’s travel advice page for information on how to obtain a visa or work permit.

Travel to Ireland will not change from 1 January 2021, and you will still be able to work in Ireland in the same way as you do now.

Border control

At border control, you may be required to show a return or onward ticket, that you have enough money for your stay, and use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing.

Mobile roaming

From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end. You should check with your phone operator about any roaming charges you might get next year.

However, a new law means that you are protected from landing mobile data charges above £45 without your knowledge. Once you reach the £45 limit, you will need to opt in to spend more to continue using the internet while abroad. Your phone operator will tell you how you can do this.

Travel companies

If your travel company goes out of business, you will be protected if you buy a holiday package - even if it is an EU company (providing the firm targets UK customers).

Otherwise, you can claim compensation if you paid using a credit card. You will continue to be able to claim for payments between £100 and £30,000.

Buying duty free

You will still be able to buy duty free tobacco and alcohol when travelling to the EU from ports, airports, international train stations in the UK, and on board ships, planes and trains from the UK.

This guidance does not apply to bringing goods from Northern Ireland into Ireland.

However, some rules are changing around the duty you will pay on goods brought back from the UK from next year.

Other changes

From 1 January 2021, you will 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.

If you are a business, you may need to make a customs declaration if you take goods with you to sell abroad or use for business.