Brexit: How it will affect travel in 2021

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The UK’s year-long period of withdrawal from the European Union will be over on January 1st 2021, with the country officially out of the bloc.

You might be wondering what that means for passports, medical insurance, driving and other issues. Here’s everything we know so far.

New passport rules

One post-Brexit change will be the additional length of time you need left on your passport if you want to travel to most EU countries (but not Ireland), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

From January 1st, there must be at least six months left until your passport expires, and the document must be less than 10 years old, even if it will not expire for another six months or more. This is the kind of thing it would be easy to forget to check, so make sure you don’t get caught out.

Travel within Europe

The change most British citizens will notice is that you may have to use separate lanes from EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens when queueing at border control.


You will not need a visa if you are travelling to any EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland for fewer than 90 days out of any six month period.

Things get more complicated if you are staying for more than 90 days or if you’re travelling for business or to study. You will now have to check the specific travel advice in the countries you plan to enter to see what specific arrangement they have made with the UK (some of which have still not been decided).

Mobile data charges

You will no longer be guaranteed free data while in the EU, so make sure you check with your mobile provider to see what the new rules will be.

Driving permits

As well as your UK driving licence, you will now need to get an international driving permit to drive in certain countries, costing £5.50. Check which countries and how to get a permit here.

You will also need a GB sticker, which you can buy online, and a ‘green card’ to prove you have insurance, which you can request for free from your insurer. You will need two green cards if you are towing a trailer or caravan.

Travel, motor and health insurance

If you have an existing travel insurance policy, check with your provider whether it will be affected by Brexit.

European Health Insurance Cards, which give you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, will no longer be valid for most UK nationals (there are a few exceptions).

From January 1st, if you’re in a car accident in the EU or EEA, any legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurer of the vehicle will need to be brought in the country where the accident happened. You might have to make your claim in the local language, and you will not get compensation in some countries if the accident is caused by an uninsured driver or if the driver cannot be traced.

Consumer rights

According to the government, you will have the same right to a refund or compensation if your flight or train is cancelled or delayed. You will also continue to be protected if you book a package holiday and the company goes out of business, even if it’s a European company, as long as it targets British travellers.


There will be new rules on bringing dogs (including assistance dogs), cats, ferrets and other animals from January 1st, though there is still some uncertainty over what they will be. Existing pet passports will no longer be valid, and it looks likely the new system will take four months to complete.

The Irish exception

It’s worth noting that almost all rules will remain the same in Ireland. For example, your passport only needs to be valid for the length of your stay, you won’t need a visa for a long stay or to travel for work, and you won’t need an international driving permit in the country.

Do you have questions about travel after Brexit? Let us know in the comments.

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