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Travel in Europe from 2021

Planning to travel to Europe in 2021? Things have changed.

family walking through airport

When the UK left the EU, it entered a transition period that finished at the end of 2020. 

As of 1 January 2021, there are a number of new rules. We’re taking a look at what has changed if you’re travelling to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Passport

Make sure you check your passport in good time before you travel. 

To be able to travel, your passport must:

  • Have at least six months left
  • Be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left)

Bear in mind that, at the moment, passport applications are taking longer to process than the usual three weeks due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). The government has requested that you only apply for a passport if you need one urgently. 

Travel Insurance, EHIC and GHIC

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), if still in date, and the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) are both valid if you’re travelling to an EU country. These let you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free.

If you apply for a card now, you’ll get the new GHIC instead of the EHIC. However, the following people can still apply for a new UK EHIC to use from 1 January 2021 in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland:

  • UK students who started studying and living in the EU before 1 January 2021
  • Some British State Pensioners who started living in the EU before 1 January 2021 and their families
  • EU nationals who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021

If you’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you travel as the EHIC isn’t valid in these countries since 31 December 2020. Make sure your travel insurance covers any pre-existing conditions that were previously covered by your EHIC.

You can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway (for example emergency treatment, or to treat a pre-existing condition).

More information is available on GOV.UK.

Bear in mind the EHIC and GHIC aren’t replacements for travel insurance. They won’t necessarily cover potentially expensive costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, flights back to the UK, or lost or stolen property.

Pet travel 

Taking your pet on holiday with you will no longer be so simple as existing pet passports aren't valid. Instead, your pet will need an animal health certificate (AHC). 

The government recommends you allow at least one month to arrange this and make sure your pet has had the relevant vaccinations. Read the guidance on travelling with a pet

Visas

Tourists travelling to countries in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland won’t need a visa for short trips. This means you can travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. 

You’ll need a visa or permit if you’re staying longer or travelling for study, work or business purposes. The only exception to this is Ireland, where you’ll be able to work as you did before 1 January 2021. 

Border control

There are several things you may need to do at border control on arriving in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland:

  • Show a return/onward ticket
  • Show you have enough money for your stay
  • Queue in separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens

Mobile roaming

Free mobile roaming is no longer guaranteed in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

Your phone operator will be able to tell you if you’ll have to pay roaming charges and how much they might be.

The good news is we shouldn't see a return to the days of running up huge bills, as a new law protects you from unknowingly spending above £45 on mobile data.

Once you reach £45, you’ll have to opt in to spend more and continue using the internet abroad. Your phone operator can tell you more about this. 

Taking food, drink and plants into EU countries

You’re not allowed to take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. Exceptions include certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. 

And you’ll need a certificate to take certain plants into the EU. 

The European Commission website covers the rules for taking these items into the EU:

Stay up to date on any changes to this guidance by visiting GOV.UK and take a look at the extra requirements for those travelling to Europe for business