With coronavirus spiking and the government rushing to roll out a vaccination programme, it's difficult to think too far ahead at the moment. That said, there will be a time soon - perhaps as early as spring - when we can travel again, and Europe is likely to be an extremely popular destination when that moment comes. With that in mind, Original Travel founder Tom Barber wanted to go into the details (we love a bit of detail) of what has changed post-Brexit, and how you need to prepare for travel on the continent. After all, we've got a few long lockdown weeks ahead of us when it makes sense to get everything squared away so you can hit the ground running when we can finally go away again.
If you are a British passport holder, you will need to ensure that you have at least six months' validity left on your passport and that your passport was issued within the last 10 years. The Government's natty passport checker can help you calculate whether you need to renew your passport, and it's worth bearing in mind that there might well be a rush to renew in a few weeks' time, so it makes sense to do it now.
Driving on the Continent
The good news is that the Government reached an agreement with the EU in December that means that British citizens (except those with licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man) will not need to apply for an International Driver Permit (IDP) to drive on the Continent. Even so, if you want to go on a European Road Trip you will still need to jump through certain hoops.
You will need a physical Green Card, which is available from your car insurance provider and which proves that you are covered for driving on the Continent. You will need to have this with you when you drive, and we recommend applying for it at least six weeks before you travel to make sure it arrives in time. In addition to your new Green Card, you will need to carry your GB driver's license and your V5C logbook. You will also need to buy a GB car sticker and display this on the back of your car. You will not need a Green Card if you are renting a car in the EU.
British citizens who hold European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) can continue to rely on these until they expire. The EHICs allow you to take advantage of member countries' public healthcare systems while travelling in the EU. From now, UK citizens without a valid EHIC can instead apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which offers a similar service, so covering UK citizens visiting EU countries for the likes of chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies. If you do not have a valid EHIC or its replacement, the GHIC, you need to make sure that your travel insurance covers you for medical emergencies.
Financial Protection for your Holiday
The EU's Package Travel Regulations, which guarantee financial protection in the extremely unlikely scenario that Original Travel fails, are enshrined in British law and so will continue. In short, your consumer rights have not changed, and the ATOL and ABTA financial protection continues as before.
Travelling with Pets
Pet passports as before are now no longer valid in the EU. Instead UK citizens wanting to take their dog, cat (or ferret, apparently) to the EU need to apply for an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from their vet and meet certain criteria. These criteria include having the pet microchipped, treated for tapeworm and vaccinated against rabies. The latter must have been done at least 21 days before travel so that immunity is guaranteed. You need to enter the EU through a designated Travellers' Point of Entry, where you will need to present proof of your pet's microchip, rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment. You will also need a pet passport to bring your pet back into the UK, and one final complication is that you can only apply for your AHC within ten days of your departure date to the continent, so they know everything is up to date. There's a strong chance that there will be a future arrangement to make this process easier but at the time of going to press these were the stipulations.
Visas & Passport Control
If you're a UK citizen and travelling as a tourist, you do not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and you will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, triggered from the date of your first arrival. If you visit Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, visits to other EU countries do not count towards the 90-day total. By the end of 2021, UK citizens will need to apply for an EU visa waiver form much like they currently need to do for travelling to the USA. The details have not yet been released, but the smart money is on this waiver being priced at around seven Euros with validity for three years.
On arrival at passport control in EU countries from now on UK citizens will need to queue at separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, and you may be asked to show proof of a return ticket and to declare that you have enough money to fund your stay.