Our guide to passports

Article contents

person handing their passport to someone else

Whether you’re hopping on a quick flight or jetting off on a long haul, you’ll need your passport. Even cruises and international rail lines often require passport identification. 

Passports are a crucial part of your vacation journey, so it’s important to know the rules around them and how they could affect your insurance. 

Can you travel without a passport?

If you live in the UK, you can travel to England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland without a passport, even if you’re travelling by plane. 

However, most airlines require some form of official ID, like a passport or driving license (provisional or full) in case your identity needs to be verified. 

You’ll need to provide a passport if you’re travelling to the Faroe Islands or the Republic of Ireland. While Guernsey and Jersey don’t technically need passports from UK travellers, most airlines will now ask for passport identification, so it’s best to have it with you. 

The Shetland Islands, Orkney and the Isle of Wight don’t require a passport for UK travellers. But again, if you travel by plane, you may be asked to show your passport. 

If the country you’re travelling to requires passport identification when you arrive, there’s little to no chance that you’ll be allowed entry if you don’t have your passport. 

What happens if my passport is lost or stolen on holiday? 

If your passport is lost or stolen while on holiday abroad, you’ll need to inform the local police, who will file a police report for you. 

This report can be used either to get a replacement passport or a temporary travel document to get you home. 

You should also contact the UK Home Office or UK Embassy to tell them that you’ve lost your passport. 

Informing all the relevant authorities means your passport won’t get misused and gets you on the road to arriving back home without your passport.

You can cancel your passport if it’s lost, stolen or damaged via the official GOV webpage

What is an Emergency Travel Document (ETD)?

In the UK, a temporary travel pass is known as an Emergency Travel Document (ETD). This document can be used instead of a passport if you need to travel urgently back to the UK from abroad. 

If you’re abroad and your passport has been lost, stolen or damaged, and you can’t renew and receive your new passport before going home, you can apply for an ETD. You also need to be a British national to qualify.

You can travel back home through a maximum of five countries with an ETD.   

What happens if my passport gets damaged on holiday?

If your passport gets damaged enough that it won’t be accepted for your flight home, you’ll also need to get a replacement passport or some form of temporary travel document. 

But don’t throw the passport away while abroad; keep it with you until you get an official replacement. 

You’ll need to provide the cause of damage to your passport before the UK government can issue you a permanent new one. 

Is my passport damaged enough to need replacement?

Check whether your passport is damaged enough to be invalid before taking any further action. If your photo ID and personal details page is damaged, it likely won’t be accepted. 

But if the passport cover just has a small scratch or scuff on it, you’ll probably still be able to travel with it as normal. 

Note that only very minimal damage is acceptable on a passport. Further damage like peeling laminate plastic, loose or torn pages, stains or decorative stickers can all invalidate a passport. 

Damage to the RFID or NFC chip on your passport (the chips that let your passport be scanned at departures or arrivals gates) can also make it unacceptable when travelling. 

Will my travel insurer provide me with a new passport? 

If your passport is lost, stolen or damaged during your trip, your travel insurer should provide cover to replace it. 

Your insurer will likely also provide cover for any extra accommodation or travel fees incurred if your passport is lost, damaged or stolen. 

If you need to cancel your trip because of a lost, stolen or damaged passport, your travel insurance provider may be able to cover any costs you have to pay. 

But you may not be covered if you need to cut your trip short due to a stolen, lost or damaged passport. 

If you lose or damage your passport while in your home country, your insurance provider isn’t responsible for providing a new passport. 

Your travel insurance also doesn’t cover passports that have just expired and need to be renewed. 

Check out our guide on personal possessions and travel insurance to see what else is covered.

Does everyone need a passport? 

It isn’t illegal not to have a passport in the UK, but you can’t travel abroad without one. Some other processes also require passport details, like certain employee enrolment or work authorisation forms. 

Do children need passports to travel?

Yes. Travellers of all ages need a passport to journey abroad. 

How to apply for or renew your passport

If your passport is due to expire soon or you want to get a passport for the first time, you’ll need to renew or apply for one before you travel.  

If you are an adult, head to the official GOV webpage to renew your passport. 

There is a separate page for applying for an adult passport for the first time, and a separate page for renewing or applying for a child’s passport.

Are passports free? 

No. Passports are not free for adults or children in the UK.

The fee you pay for a new passport varies based on the type of passport, your age, and whether you apply online or by paper form. 

Check the official GOV passport fee webpage to see what you’ll need to pay. 

If you were born on or before September 2nd, 1929, you can get a passport for free.

Will my insurer cover a passport lost at home?

If your passport is stolen from your home, your travel insurance provider should provide cover for a replacement. 

But if you leave your passport unattended while in your home country outside of your home, you can’t claim if it’s lost or stolen (even if this happens in the days before you travel).

Will I be covered if my passport doesn’t arrive in time before a trip?

It’s unlikely that your travel insurer will cover cancellation costs if you need to call your trip off because your new passport hasn’t arrived in time. 

Make sure you order a new passport well before your next trip so that you have it with you in time to jet off. 

Passports usually arrive within three weeks after being ordered, so make sure you leave a minimum of a month or so between ordering your passport and travelling so that you have it with you for your trip.