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Brexit: How EU Travel Has Changed For British Holidaymakers

The UK has now officially left the EU and there were a few important changes that came into force from 1st January 2021 which British holidaymakers need to be aware of when it comes to European travel.

Read on below to discover what this will mean when it comes to a variety of different travel matters ahead of your next break on the continent.

What are the new changes I need to be aware of ahead of my next holiday to an EU country?


Your burgundy passport remains valid as a UK travel document, but has now lost its EU powers, despite featuring the words ‘European Union’ on the cover. Some people may hold the blue passport which is, of course, also valid as a UK travel document. You will need to have at least six months left on it and it must have been issued within the last 10 years to be used for travel between the UK and the EU.


Right now, we don’t need to apply for a visa in order to enter EU countries, however from 2022 (or possibly later), Brits will need to register and pay for an Etias permit, similar to the Esta required for entry into America. The cost is likely to be 7 euros (£6) for a three-year permit.

Border control when entering the EU

You may have previously taken advantage of EU fast track lanes when landing in an EU country that allowed us to move quickly and easily through border control, and although these are no longer open to British tourists, it has been suggested that countries which receive a high number of visitors from our shores, such as Spain and Portugal, could make special arrangements.

You may also be asked to reveal the purpose of your trip, where you intend to stay and how you will fund this as well as other deeper checks. It is also prohibited to take certain food across borders such as meat or milk, though there is an exemption for infant milk and food as well as food required for medical reasons.

Length of stay

British travellers must now abide by the EU’s ‘90/180’ rule which means that you can only stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days over a 180 period, beginning on the first day you arrive in an EU country. At the end of the 180 days (roughly six months), your entitlement resets.

If you break the 90-day limit (in general you’re likely to be given a few days’ grace), you could be handed a one year entry ban to all countries throughout the Schengen Area and not just the one(s) you visited.

There are exemptions however, as countries including Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia are not part of the Schengen Area and so visits to these countries do no count towards your ‘90/180’ quota.

Health care

British holidaymakers are still able to gain free or very cheap medical treatment in the EU, and it is believed the UK is planning to release details of a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) which is thought to cover countries in the EU and ones further afield such as Australia and New Zealand.

You may have a European Health Insurance Card (Ehic), and this is still valid for travel within Europe, though when it runs out you will need to apply for a Ghic which is essentially its direct replacement. You may also wish to take out travel insurance with sufficient healthcare cover based on any existing medical conditions, or activities you plan to undertake when abroad.


British motorists are not required to obtain an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU, though should you wish to take your car from the United Kingdom into the European Union, you will need to obtain and carry a physical Green Card for your UK car insurance to be valid in the EU, as well as a GB sticker.

Mobile phones

People with UK mobile phones are no longer able to benefit from the EU-ban on roaming charges for calls and internet usage, meaning providers are, in theory, able to impose whatever fees they wish. Many of the larger providers have however said that they will not introduce roaming fees, including O2, 3, EE and Vodafone.

The government have previously stated that they would cap mobile data usage while abroad at £49 per month should providers begin initiating roaming charges.

Business travel

Should you be required to travel within Europe for work purposes, you’ll be pleased to know you can do so without additional paperwork in most EU countries, though you should also bear in mind that trips will be included in your ‘90/180’ entitlement, as mentioned above.

For visits to certain countries however, such as Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary and Malta, you will need a business visa or work permit and others may ask questions regarding the reason for your trip.


Pet passports for UK tourists have now expired, which makes travelling with your cat, dog et al. slightly more tricky. Pets will need an EU animal health certificate (AHC) to confirm they have been microchipped and have a valid rabies vaccination.

The certificate must be issued within 10 days of entry to the EU and can be obtained from a vets for a cost believed to be around £100.

Returning home

Whilst in the past there were no limits with regards to the value of goods you could bring home from EU nations, there are now some fairly strict measures in place.

In terms of alcohol, you are permitted to bring in 4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling wine, 18 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, whilst you can also bring in a maximum of 200 duty-free cigarettes.

Should you exceed any of these limits, you will have to pay tax on everything you are trying to bring through, however unlike travelling from the UK to the EU, there are no restrictions on the amount of meat and dairy products you can bring back home.

Do you have any other questions or queries relating to how travel has changed for British holidaymakers post Brexit? Tweet @icelollyholiday and our team will be happy to assist.