Europe is the number one overseas destination for UK travellers and many are planning to or have booked to travel there in 2021 and beyond.
But travel to Europe will be different from before, so it's important to plan early and make sure you have everything in place in time for your trip.
Here are six steps to take when travelling to Europe from 1 January 2021...
1) Check to see if your passport will still be valid when you travel
If you have a British passport, you will need to have at least six months validity left and it must have been issued within the last 10 years. NB The 6-month validity rule does not apply for travel to Ireland.
You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.
You can use the government’s passport checker to see if you need to renew your passport. If you are renewing your passport before it expires, please note that time left on your old passport will not be added to your new one.
If your passport is burgundy or has ‘European Union’ on the cover, you can still use it providing it has enough time left on it
Send your previous passport with the visa attached to it with your application. Your previous passport will be returned to you and you’ll be able to use the visa if you carry both passports.
2) Check your EHIC/ GHIC card and ensure you have travel insurance with adequate healthcare cover
EHIC/ GHIC Card
If travelling to the EU, you can apply for a free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you already have an EHIC, it will remain valid provided it is in date.
A GHIC or EHIC card gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.
A GHIC card is free. Please watch out for websites that charge a fee. For the avoidance of doubt, here's where to apply:
Remember that a GHIC or EHIC card is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. EHIC is not valid on cruises.
You should make sure your travel insurance covers your healthcare needs.
Wherever you may be travelling to, getting the right travel insurance is one of the most important things to do before you go - it could save you and your family a lot of money and difficulty if things go wrong before or during your trip.
You should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before travelling. Ensure it covers any pre-existing conditions.
Travel insurance policies are designed to provide cover for many eventualities, including medical expenses, a trip being cut short or cancelled, and loss or theft of possessions.
If you are booking an expensive holiday, you may want the security of knowing you will be able to recover the costs if unable to travel. Read through the circumstances where cancellation cover is provided, check that it meets the full cost of your holiday and look for any excesses.
If you will be taking part in certain sports or leisure activities, check your policy carefully to make sure you are covered for each specific activity. You may need to top-up your cover or buy a specialist policy.
It is recommended to take out an insurance policy as soon as possible after booking your trip, to make sure you are covered in the event of any changes before you depart.
When taking out travel insurance you should also check:
the level of healthcare cover included
the travel disruption cover included
the terms and conditions
Contact your insurer if you have any questions about your travel cover.
When you travel, make sure to take details of your insurance policy with you, including your policy number and the emergency assistance telephone number provided by your insurer. Give a copy of your policy details to the people you’re travelling with and friends or family back home, in case they need to contact your insurance company on your behalf.
3) Make sure you have all the documents you need to drive in Europe
If you are taking your own vehicle, you will need a green card and a GB sticker. You might also need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have:
a paper driving licence
a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
These are available from the Post Office.
Check with the embassy of the country you will be driving in.
A green card is proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad. Contact your insurer to get one for your vehicle. (You may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs).
post you a green card - allow up to 6 weeks
tell you how to download a green card to print yourself
You will need to carry extra green cards if:
you’re towing a trailer or caravan (one for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer or caravan)
you have two insurance policies covering your trip (one card for each policy)
you have multi-car or fleet insurance (one for each vehicle on the policy)
4) Get the necessary vaccines and certificate to take your pet abroad
Your pet passport will no longer be valid. Instead you will need an Animal Health Certificate and your pet will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.
If you wish to take your pet abroad, you should speak to your vet in advance to make sure you have these in place before you are due to travel.
Follow the guidance for taking your pet dog, cat or ferret abroad and allow at least a month to arrange things.
5) Check your mobile phone provider's policy on data roaming
The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway has ended. Rules around mobile data roaming mean you may face charges when using your phone abroad, including for making calls, sending text messages or using the internet.
Check with your provider to find out about any roaming charges you might incur.
A new law means that you will be protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without your knowledge. Once you reach the £45 limit, you will need to opt in to be able to spend further and be able to continue using the internet whilst abroad. Your provider will advise how you do this.
6) Duty Free
There is now a duty-free allowance both ways.
Allowances for travellers from the EU to the UK includes up to four litres of spirits, 18 litres of wine and 42 litres of beer, so you could stock up for a pretty decent party.
Travellers can bring home goods bought in the EU up to this maximum provided they transport and use them personally (or give them as a gift).
Other things to be aware of when travelling to Europe
Entering other countries
When travelling to the EU border control, you may have to:
show a return or onward ticket
show you have enough money for your stay
use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing
Visas for short trips are not required
Tourists do not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
You will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
Different rules apply for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, additional visits to other EU countries do not count towards the 90-day total.
You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.
Taking food and drink into EU countries
You are no longer able to take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries.
There are some exceptions. For example, certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food or pet food required for medical reasons.
Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
With so many changes to consider, please don’t hesitate to contact me for support and guidance. I am with you every step of the way...