Travel in Europe from 2021

Planning to travel to Europe in 2021? Things are changing.

family walking through airport

When the UK left the EU, it entered a transition period that finishes at the end of this year. 

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


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 and EHIC

It’ll be even more important to have the correct level of travel insurance after 1 January 2021, particularly if you have pre-existing medical conditions. 

This is because the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is only valid until 31 December 2020. The EHIC proves you’re a UK resident eligible for treatment in a European facility with a reciprocal health agreement with the UK, and covers pre-existing medical conditions

Bear in mind that even while the EHIC is still valid, it isn’t a replacement for travel insurance. It won’t necessarily cover potentially expensive costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, flights back to the UK, or lost or stolen property.

Driving in Europe

The government has advised there may be changes to travel in 2021, but these could vary depending on how you’re travelling. Make sure you check for any disruption or delays before you leave, regardless of how you’re travelling.

If you’re driving in Europe, the government advises you may need to take some extra documents from 1 January 2021. Check GOV.UK for any updates on this. 

You may need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries, and if you’re taking your own car or van abroad, you might also need a Green Card or valid proof of insurance and a GB sticker.

Pet travel 

Taking your pet on holiday with you will no longer be so simple as existing pet passports won’t be valid from 1 January 2021. 

Instead, they’ll be replaced by a new process that will take four months and could vary depending on how the UK is categorised in the EU Pet Travel Scheme on 1 January 2021. 

For this reason, the government recommends you contact your vet at least four months before travelling to get the latest advice. Read the guidance on travelling with a pet


If you’re a tourist travelling to countries in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, you 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

As of 1 January 2021, free mobile roaming will no longer be 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. 


If you’re taking £10,000 cash (or its equivalent in Euros or another currency) between the UK and another country, you’ll need to declare it

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

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