UK and EU urge holidaymakers to prepare for “inevitable changes” from 2021

Going on holiday between the UK and EU countries will require more preparation from next year.

The British government and the European Commission have urged citizens on both sides of the Channel to prepare for the “inevitable changes” that will affect their travels from January 2021, when the Brexit transition period will end.

The British government has launched the information campaign “UK’s new start — let’s get going”, which includes an online tool to highlight actions that need to be taken in a number of areas as a result of the UK decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs union.

On its part, the European Commission has published a communication on “readiness at the end of the transition period” with changes that will occur regardless of whether there will be a EU-UK agreement.

These are the major changes affecting travellers.


When they travel to EU countries (except for Ireland), Britons will need a passport valid for at least six months and be less than 10 years old, according to EU rules. At present, passports need only to be valid for the duration of the stay.

UK citizens will also have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing in airports and other terminals.

During 2021, the UK will require EU citizens (other than those with protected rights under the withdrawal agreement) to use a passport rather than a national ID card to cross the border, according to new immigration rules.


As of 1 January 2021, UK nationals travelling to the European Union and the Schengen area will be “treated as third-country nationals, and therefore subject to thorough checks,” the Commission says. Visitors could, for example, be asked to show a return ticket and that they have sufficient funds to cover their stay.

UK nationals will remain exempt from the requirement of a visa for stays up to 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area (which covers EU countries except for Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, but includes Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland). UK nationals will not have the right to work without a visa, the European Commission has specified.

The visa exemption is subject to reciprocity, so it could be suspended if EU citizens would cease to be given visa-free access to the UK for short stays. The British government has so far said that business visitors, academics and tourists will be allowed to enter the country for up to 6 months without visa.

Visa rules will also change for certain third-country nationals residing in the UK when they travel to the EU. For example, UK residence documents will no longer exempt the holder from airport transit visas.

Travel insurance

UK authorities recommend travellers to buy an insurance policy before departure, making sure it provides “the right cover”.

This is especially important for people with pre-existing medical conditions, the government says. Such conditions are covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which allows to access urgent medical treatment in participating countries on the same conditions as locals, but are not necessarily covered by private insurers.

The participation of the UK in the EHIC scheme in the future is still being negotiated.

Driving licenses

Driving licences issued in the UK will not be automatically recognised in the EU from 1 January 2021. Their recognition will be regulated at member state level. Except for Ireland, an International Driving Permit (IDP) will be necessary to drive in the EU, together with the British licence. Different EU countries require different IDP versions.

On its part, the UK does not plan to change arrangements for holders of EU driving licences who are visiting or are living in the UK: they will still be able to drive on their EU licence.

People travelling on their own vehicle will also need a “green card” or another valid proof that the car is insured for the EU too. This will be true also for people travelling between Northern Ireland and Ireland.


As of 1 January 2021, EU pet passports issued in the UK will no longer be valid in EU member states.

As the UK becomes a “third country”, the EU has to define new requirements on the “free movement of pets” based on three possible country classifications. These classifications depend on the level of health risk and the alignment of rules to manage it.

The first option is for the UK to become a “Part 1 listed country”. This applies to non-EU members of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Gibraltar, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City. The entry requirements are the same of the EU pet passport, but a different passport is issued.

The second option is to become a “Part 2 listed country”. This applies to countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan. Under this regime, pets have to be microchipped and owners have to provide an animal health certificate (AHC) proving anti-rabies vaccination plus the tapeworm treatment for the EU countries that request it. Unlike the EU pet passport, this certificate must be issued every time the pet enters the EU territory and certain travel routes must be used.

The third option is to become an “unlisted country”. This will apply if the EU and the UK do not sign a deal. In addition to the requirements for Part 2 listed countries, the animal health certificate must also show a valid anti-rabies titration test to prove the vaccine has been effective. In this case the vaccination for rabies must be done at least four months before travel and the test must be carried out in a laboratory approved by the EU or by one of the EU member states.

At present, the UK government recommends contacting a vet at least 4 months before travelling.

The UK will still accept EU pet passports issued in the EU or in the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period.

Roaming charges

From next year, UK consumers travelling to the EU and EU consumers travelling to the UK will no longer be guaranteed access to the EU’s Roam-Like-At-Home programme, which abolished mobile roaming charges.

Travellers will have to check the conditions offered by their mobile phone operators.

The UK government has introduced a law by which consumers have to opt in to spend more money once they have been charged £45 in data roaming charges.

Passenger rights

The level of protection of passengers travelling between the EU and the UK “will be affected” by changes too, the Commission says. For the time being, EU rules regarding delayed and cancelled flights or package holidays have been transferred into national legislation, and the UK government says consumers remain protected.


Depending on the new agreement, travellers might face limits to goods such as tobacco, alcohol and perfumes they can carry duty-free across borders. VAT refunds will be possible for goods purchased while travelling.

French customs have already prepared the new tax refund office at the Eurostar terminal in Paris.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Image by analogicus from Pixabay.

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