Brexit Travel Advice
The latest advice from ABTA:
Many people are already booking their travel plans for 2019, and have questions about what might happen after 31 October 2019 when the UK leaves the European Union (EU). The political process is still ongoing and we don't yet know the final outcome, however there have been some reassurances recently around flights and visas and these are reflected in our frequently asked questions.
We have also identified actions travellers may wish to take in advance to help avoid unnecessary future disruption in the event of a no-deal scenario.
Travel before 31 October 2019
The UK is still a member of the EU, which means that all existing travel arrangements still apply.
For example, you still have access to state medical care in any EU country as long as you have an up to date European Health Insurance Card and you can continue to use the EU/EEA passport gates.
If your travel to an EU country sees you depart the UK before 31 October, but you don’t return until afterwards, please read our advice about travel after 31 October as there may be some steps you need to take to avoid any unnecessary disruption in the event of a no-deal.
Travel after 31 October 2019
If the Government agrees a deal before 31 October, the UK will enter a transition period, meaning everything will continue to remain the same during that period and you can continue to travel as you do now.
With a no-deal, UK holidaymakers and business travellers have had reassurances from the UK Government and European Commission that they will still be able to travel, as there is either contingency legislation in place or the travel services are covered by international law.
If the UK does leave the EU without a deal, there will be some changes and there are some actions you may need to take in advance so that you can continue with your holiday or business trip as planned.
Will flights still operate?
UK citizens can be reassured that regardless of the Brexit outcome planes will still fly between the UK and the EU: if a deal is agreed then we will be in a transition period, meaning everything will stay the same until the end of December 2020 and flights will continue as normal. Even if we are in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said that UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU. The UK government has offered similar assurances for EU airlines.
Will ferries and cruise ships still sail?
Ferry services and cruises will still sail as the majority of the rules under which they operate are not based on EU rules, but are international.
Will I need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit?
You shouldn’t need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit. The European Commission announced in November 2018 that, even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers can still visit the EU without a visa, providing the same is offered to European citizens visiting the UK. The European Commission has said that from 2021, UK citizens will need to pay a fee (of around 7 Euros) for this visa exemption. This is part of a new electronic travel authorisation system applying to all third country visitors to the EU, similar to the US ESTA regime.
What happens if I book to travel after 31 October 2019 and my holiday cannot go ahead due to Brexit?
There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 31 October. Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.
Customers who book a package holiday with a UK travel company enjoy the most comprehensive consumer protection: if you book a package, your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.
The UK Government has confirmed that the Package Travel Regulations will remain in the UK law when the UK leaves the EU.
Should I take out travel insurance to cover Brexit?
The best way to protect your holiday is to book a package – it is the travel provider’s responsibility to make sure your holiday is provided and to offer an alternative or refund if it cannot be delivered.
It is important that whenever and wherever you travel that you have adequate travel insurance which covers your specific needs, including any known medical conditions or activities you plan to do. It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary.
Advice for travellers
This information only covers areas where you can take reasonable action or put plans into place now. Areas where the situation is still unclear are not included, but the information will be updated once clarified.
Check the date your passport expires. When travelling to the EU after 31 October 2019, the UK government recommends that you have six months left on your passport on the date of your arrival to an EU country.
You should also check when your passport was renewed. If you renewed a 10 year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your passport’s expiry date. These extra months over 10 years will not count towards the 6 months that must be remaining. The UK Government has published a website tool to check the validity of your passport under these rules.
You can renew your passport online or by going to a Post Office with a Check and Send service.
You may wish to renew your passport sooner rather than later, in order to make sure you have it in time for your holiday or travel plans.
Full details on renewing your passport can be found here.
European Health Insurance Card and travel insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows any EU citizen to access state medical care when they are travelling in another EU country. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK registered EHICs will no longer be valid.
ABTA has always advised holidaymakers and business travellers to make sure they have appropriate travel insurance, whether they have an EHIC card or not, as there are limitations to EHIC.
When travelling in the EU and beyond, it is important you take out travel insurance and check that it covers your current circumstances, including any medical conditions. If you have an annual policy, make sure you check the Terms and Conditions and contact your insurance provider if you’re not sure.
Advice on travel insurance can be found here.
As long as you have a full UK driving licence, you don’t currently need an additional licence to drive in the EU. This is likely to change in a no-deal scenario. UK travellers looking to drive in the EU on or after 31 October 2019 may need to apply for the relevant International Driving Permit.
These cost £5.50 and are available directly from the Post Office. The Government has extended the network of Post Offices where you can apply for an International Driving Permit, find your nearest branch here.
Check carefully which permit is required for each country you intend to drive within, as you may need more than one permit to comply with the law.
More information is available here.
Green cards for car insurance
If the UK leaves without a deal, UK citizens driving their vehicle within the EU would be required to obtain and carry a physical Green Card in order for your UK car insurance to be applicable in the EU. These cards would be issued by insurers and you may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs.
Speak with your insurer for more information on obtaining a Green Card for any trip on or after 31 October 2019.
Taking pets abroad
In the event of a no-deal, pets would continue to be able to travel from the UK to the EU, but the requirements for documents and health checks would change. If you wish to take your pet to the EU on or after 31 October 2019 pet owners would need to discuss preparations for their pet’s travel with an Official Veterinarian at least four months in advance of the date they wish to travel. Pet owners should keep an eye out for any further instructions issued by the UK Government.
More information is available here.
Under EU rules, the cost of making calls, sending messages or using the internet on your phone in the EU is the same in the UK. If the UK leaves without a deal these rules will no longer apply – however, some UK companies have said they may continue to offer this benefit to their customers. Before you travel, check with your mobile phone provider about the costs of using your phone in the EU.
Please note that there is currently a Draft Statutory Instrument before Parliament which is looking to remove the requirement on UK mobile operators to guarantee surcharge-free roaming for customers in the EU after exit - further information can be found here.
From the Government's own website, travellers flying to the EU from the UK are advised to 'check online [before you leave for the airport] for the latest travel information and scheduled services from your airline.' Other guidance from the Government's website includes the following:
Airport security screening
Flights will continue and you should not experience any difference in security screening.
Passengers flying from the UK will continue to transfer to onward flights at EU airports without extra security screening. This will also be the case at airports in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
There will be no impact to direct flights to non-EU countries.
Air passenger rights
Existing passenger rights will continue for air passengers flying from the UK.
For EU registered airlines, EU law will continue to apply for flights to and from the EU.
Assistance, compensation and protection will continue for:
- passengers subject to denied boarding, delay or cancellation
- passengers with reduced mobility
- insolvency of a travel provider
Travelling by Eurostar to the EU from the UK
Your rights as a rail passenger using either domestic or cross-border rail services will remain unchanged.
The EU regulation on rail passengers’ rights is now UK law. It will continue to protect passengers on cross-border rail services.
Before you leave, check online for the latest travel information and scheduled services for Eurostar.
Travelling by Eurotunnel to the EU from the UK
Your rights as a passenger using Eurotunnel’s cross-border shuttle services will remain unchanged.
Passengers can continue to use Eurotunnel’s existing complaints procedure.
Before you leave, check online for the latest travel information and scheduled services for Eurotunnel.
Travelling by bus or coach to the EU from the UK
The EU regulation on bus and coach passengers’ rights is now UK law. It will continue to protect passengers on cross-border bus and coach services.
Before you leave, check online for the latest travel information and scheduled services for your bus or coach provider.
Travelling by sea to the EU from the UK
Passengers travelling to the EU by sea should not experience any difference to their journey.
The EU regulation on passengers’ rights is now UK law. It will continue to protect passengers on ferry services.
The EU regulation on maritime passengers’ rights is now UK law. It will continue to protect passengers who embark on a cruise at a UK port.
Before you leave, check online for the latest travel information and scheduled services for your ferry or cruise provider.
Passenger rights in regards to travelling will remain unchanged.
Learn more about passenger consumer rights when travelling to the EU after Brexit.
Updated 2 September 2019