Travelling in Europe post Brexit. Passports and GHIC cards
07 January 2021

Travelling in Europe post Brexit. What’s changed?

updated 15 October 2021

We understand that your travel plans may be on hold due to the Covid lockdown restrictions, but it’s best to be prepared for when you plan your next overseas trip.

Following the Brexit talks and transition period, the United Kingdom now has a new trade deal in place with the EU.  As well as trade in goods, this has implications if you’re travelling or driving in the EU and other parts of Europe. Our invaluable tips will help to ensure that you’re suitably covered on your travels, so you can concentrate on enjoying your trip in the European Union and mainland Europe.

The implications of Brexit on travelling to the EU

You may need to do extra things before you travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, such as:

  • check your passport
  • get travel insurance that covers your healthcare
  • check you have the right driving documents

Passports: Check your renewal date

You may need to renew your British passport earlier than expected. You should renew your passport if, on the day after you leave the country you’re visiting, it is either:

  • valid for less than 3 months
  • more than 10 years old (even if it’s valid for another 3 months or more).

These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.
You do not need visas for short trips.

If you’re a tourist, you do not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.

You can check each country’s travel advice page for information on how to get a visa or permit on the Government’s webpage “Foreign travel advice”.  

Healthcare: Check you’re covered

Your existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will be valid if you’re travelling to an EU country.

However after 1 January 2021 new UK-issued EHICs will only be available to UK students studying in the EU, some British State Pensioners who live in the EU and their families and EU nationals in the UK. 

The UK Government has replaced the EHIC with a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). You don’t need to apply for a GHIC if you already have an EHIC. Once your EHIC has expired, you’ll be able to replace it with a GHIC.
You can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website.  

It’s free to apply for a GHIC. Beware some websites charge to help you apply - these are unnecessary and you do not need to use them.
GHIC and EHIC cards don’t replace travel insurance.

You cannot use a GHIC or an existing EHIC in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. You’ll need travel insurance with healthcare cover.

Driving in the EU 

From 28 September 2021, you need a UK sticker instead of a GB sticker.

You must display a UK sticker on the rear of your vehicle and trailer when driving outside the UK, including in the EU/EEA.  This doesn’t apply, if you have a number plate which includes the UK identifier with the Union flag.

You might also need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have: (a) a paper driving licence, or (b) a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

You won’t need an IDP to drive when visiting Ireland if you have a UK driving licence.

More information can be found in our post: "Be Prepared for Driving in Europe after Brexit"

Entering EU countries

Be prepared at border control, you may need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • show you have enough money for your stay
  • use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing

COVID-19 travel guidance

International travel is increasingly restricted. In the UK, different rules apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Please refer to the current advice on travel restrictions during the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown rules on the government’s webpage: “Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

General travel insurance advice

Taking out suitable travel insurance is still as relevant regardless of EU membership or trade deals.

A good insurance policy will cover your organisation for cancelling or cutting a trip short under certain circumstances outside of your control, so it is best to have it in place from the outset. Therefore ensure that you organise your insurance before arranging or paying for anything else.  

Always check the conditions and exclusions of your group’s travel insurance policy.  Make sure that all the activities that your group are undertaking are included and detail these to your broker to ensure the most appropriate cover is in place. 

Pre-existing health problems can limit cover on many travel policies so also make sure that you are aware of individuals requirements and that these are detailed specifically where necessary. 

Finally, check that your organisation’s equipment is covered as well as your group’s personal belongings.

Further information

You can find more information on the following websites and webpages: 

The UK Government’s website:


Our other blog posts: