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Saga’s guide to post-Brexit travel


8 January 2021

Saga's handy guide to the regulations we need to keep in mind for travel in 2021 and beyond.

Few New Year celebrations in recent memory were as symbolic as those which took place on the eve of 2021. Not only did we say goodbye to a year that many of us would rather forget but we also ushered in a new era for the UK. From the foods we see on our supermarket shelves to the way we travel with our pets, our withdrawal from the European Union will impact life at home, and away.

Now that the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme is underway and a post-Brexit trade deal has been approved we are hopeful we can all start travelling again later in 2021. Once travel restrictions are eased holiday booking will begin in earnest. Many of you will have ideas in mind – holidays that were put on ice, perhaps, or new adventures dreamt up in lockdown. Brexit will mean some changes to the way we travel. Driving and pet travel documentation, passport validity and travel insurance all need consideration.

We’ve outlined the key changes here to help you get a head start. Remember the Scout and Girl Guide motto ‘Be Prepared’ so that when the time comes all you need to do is water the plants and pack your bags. Don’t forget to read Going Places for all the latest Saga Holidays tours and destination news.

Is it just the EU member states that I need to consider when travelling?

Rules will extend beyond the 27 EU member states to the European Economic Area (EEA), which also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. New passport rules will also extend to countries that are not part of the EU or Schengen area, such as Vatican City and Andorra, but are governed by free-movement agreements.

Here is the full list: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

Check for the latest information.

Will I need travel insurance?

With more than 66 million trips in 2019, Europe is the top overseas destination for UK travellers, according to ABTA. Until now UK travellers have been eligible for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) but this has never covered any private medical healthcare, associated costs – such as being repatriated to the UK – or lost or stolen property, and neither is it valid on cruises.

Under the new EU-UK trade agreement EHIC cards issued before 1 January 2021 will be valid until their expiry date. The Government also announced plans for a possible ‘UK Global Health Insurance Card’ (GHIC) to include cover for existing illnesses. Even if the EHIC card is replaced by a new system, a comprehensive travel insurance policy is essential. ABTA spokesperson Emma Brennan says, ‘One of our key messages regarding post-Brexit travel is to make sure travellers get good medical cover and that they check all of the inclusions.’

Always read the small print, especially regarding pre-existing medical conditions, as some insurers may not provide cover for these while you’re abroad. Make sure your policy covers all types of disruption, including delayed flight cover, and that it offers a 24-hour travel-assist helpline.

If medicine prescribed to you contains a ‘controlled drug’ you will need a letter from your GP. You may also need to show this at the border when entering or leaving the UK.

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Burgundy Passport on top of a map of southern England

Can I still use my burgundy passport?

Anyone who has renewed a passport since March will have the blue and gold version. It’s fine to keep using your current passport, but dig it out now and check the expiry date. You cannot travel to the EU and some other countries (see full list, above) unless your passport has six months’ validity from the day you intend to travel. It costs £75.50 to renew online or £85 using a paper form. Leave plenty of time. It is likely any additional time on your passport (over the standard ten years) won’t count, so if it is over nine years and six months old from 1 January 2021 you will need to renew. Check your passport at

What if I take my car, or hire one when I get to Europe?

Although there is some additional red tape involved, the good news for those planning to drive abroad is that a UK photocard driving licence will suffice. An International Driving Permit (IDP) won’t be required to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein unless you still have a paper licence, or a driver’s licence that was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. Check directly with the embassy of the country you will be travelling in if this is the case. An IDP costs £5.50 at Post Office counters. Make sure your driving licence is up to date and that it shows your current address.

If you are taking your own vehicle abroad you will need to take your vehicle log book (V5C). If taking a vehicle that you’ve hired or leased in the UK, you’ll need a VE103, which proves you have permission to take it out of the country.

Finally, because the UK no longer benefits from EU’s automatic third-party insurance cover, you will need a physical copy of a ‘green card’ (proof of motor insurance) to drive in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Serbia. Additional green cards are required for caravans and trailers. You’ll be able to download a printable version or have it posted, but motorists are advised to contact their insurance provider six weeks before travelling. According to the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) there is no charge for the green card, but insurers may charge an administration fee. Saga issues these free of charge (0800 056 1472).

Remember how exciting it was in the Seventies to spot ‘GB’ stickers on cars? It’s time to go sticker shopping again. All UK-registered vehicles now need to display a white, oval GB sticker when driving in any of the 27 EU member countries, including the Republic of Ireland. The rule applies even if your car registration plate already displays the national identifier ‘GB’ against a blue background.

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Will I still be protected if my flight is cancelled by the airline?

Under EU law (regulation EU261) passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight to or from an EU destination (plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) is delayed by more than three hours, or if the airline cancels a flight. The Government says flight compensation rules won’t be impacted by Brexit.

Will I have to go through security again if I have a connecting flight in the EU?

Good news: passengers flying from the UK will continue to transfer to onward flights at EU airports without extra security screening and likewise at airports in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. Your rights as a passenger using Eurotunnel’s cross-border shuttle services won’t change.

Man with hand luggage walking through a duty free shop

Will duty-free allowances increase?

As part of an overhaul in the run up to Brexit the Treasury has decided to extend duty-free shopping to British passengers visiting the EU whilst at the same time abolishing tax-free sales of electronics and clothing for those travelling from airports to non-EU countries. Excise duty will not be due on alcohol and tobacco bought when leaving Britain for the EU, saving around £2.20 on a bottle of wine and £11.50 on a litre bottle of 40% ABV spirits.

Inbound personal allowances will increase to three crates of (pint) cans or five crates of 330ml bottles of beer, two cases of still wine and one case of sparkling wine without paying UK duties at British airports, ports, and international train stations and on board ships, trains and planes.

What about data roaming charges?

The free data-roaming guarantee ended in December, but the Government has legislated to protect travellers from unexpected charges by setting a £45 limit on mobile data usage (per monthly billing period).

This means you cannot continue to use mobile data services when roaming unless you actively choose to. None of the major providers have indicated that they plan to change their roaming policies but check your provider’s website before you travel.

What about visas?

You won’t need a tourist visa to visit most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland unless you plan to stay more than 90 days in any 180-day period. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania will not count towards the 90 day limit.

Happy Jack Russell dog leaping through a field

Can Fido come too?

Previously, owners of dogs, cats and ferrets (yes, they’re allowed) travelled to Europe using a pet passport, which contains owner details, information about the animal’s vaccinations and shows that it has been microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days ahead of travel.

Our new ‘Part 2’ listed third country status under the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) sees the pet passport replaced with an animal health certificate (AHC). The certificate will also be required for travel to Northern Ireland.

You must take your pet to a vet no more than 10 days before travel to get an AHC. Pets still need to be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and have tapeworm treatment if required. Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old to have the vaccination and owners must wait 21 days after the first vaccination before travelling. Assuming your pet’s rabies vaccinations are kept up to date repeat vaccinations for further trips to the EU or Northern Ireland aren’t necessary.

Dogs must be treated against tapeworm one to five days prior to landing in Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Norway or Malta.

Use the AHC to bring your pet back to the country (up to four months after issue). The AHC will be valid for ten days after the date of issue for entry into the EU and Northern Ireland and four months after issue for onward travel within the EU, and re-entry to Great Britain. Your pet will need a new AHC each time you travel to the EU or Northern Ireland.

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Post-Brexit travel at a glance

Check the expiry and issue dates

Essential, and with thorough medical cover

Your pet or assistance dog will require an animal health certificate in order to travel to the EU and Northern Ireland. Leave plenty of time

Changes also apply for visits to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

Additional documentation is required, and UK-registered cars will need to display a GB sticker

There will be a £45 cap on data roaming, but check your provider’s website

There will inevitably be some ‘settling’ time. Build extra time into your journey

The allowance for British travellers will increase

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Latest Covid-19 information has been provided to Saga by our carefully selected partners. Whilst every effort is taken to ensure this information is correct and is provided in good faith, this information is intended as a guide only and Saga strongly recommends all customers adhere to current Government advice, follow social distancing measures, consider their personal circumstances and use their best judgement to determine which activities are appropriate. Information, guidance and support can be found here: Saga cannot accept any responsibility in any way for the measures put in place by any of our partners in relation to the handling of Covid-19 or any risk to public health. We recommend that you check our partner websites in advance of visiting for any relevant information.

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