Welcome To Brexit – What The UK Government Wants UK Travelers To Know

a bridge over water with towers and towers

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The United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union (EU) at midnight Central European Time today, 31 January 2020, and it’s interesting to note that the British Government waited until approximately 36 hours before that momentous occasion before it updated its webpage setting out what effect Brexit may have on its citizens’ future travel plans….and the details don’t make for pretty reading.

The full details of what the UK government has to say about future travel to/from the EU and associated nations can be found via this link but, in brief, here’s the headline news:

  • There will be no effect on travel before 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021 this is how travel to the European Union, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway will be changing for those traveling on a UK passport:


On the day you travel, you’ll need your passport to both:

  • Have at least 6 months left
  • Be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left)

If you fail to meet these conditions there’s a strong chance that you will not be able to travel.


As things stand, all UK citizens have access to a European Health Card which shows that they are entitled to state-funded healthcare in all EU states. After 1 January 2021 this may no longer be the case and travelers should make sure that their travel insurance covers all their potential needs.

Driving In The EU

Select countries will no longer recognize the validity of a UK driving license and UK citizens will need to make sure they have an International Driving Permit if they are to drive in these countries (you can check which countries require an IDP via this link)

UK citizens who choose to drive their own vehicle into the EU will need to make sure that the car clearly displays a “GB” sticker and they will need to get a “green card” certificate from their insurance company showing that their insurance has been extended to include the countries they’ll be visiting.

Ferries, Cruises, Bus/Coach services Eurostar & Eurotunnel

All will operate as before.

Flights & Flyers

Flights will operate just as they have been operating while the UK was a member of the EU and the government says that passengers will still be able to claim compensation if their flights are delayed or canceled.

What hasn’t been made clear is if the compensation will continue to work in the same way as EU261 or whether the rules will be weakened.

Entering Other Countries

For short trips, there will be no need for a visa if you’re traveling to the EU, Norway, Lichtenstein, Iceland, or Switzerland and travelers will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180 day period…but a visa or permit may be required for longer stays, for work trips, for study or for business travel.

**Travel to/from the Republic of Ireland will not be changing**

Where things will be changing more noticeably is at border control where UK citizens looking to enter the EU may need to show a return or onward ticket, show that they have the financial means to support themselves during their stay and will have to use non-EU passport control lanes at all points of entry.

Customs Changes

  • Travelers will need to declare cash of £10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if they’re moving it between the UK and an EU country
  • Businesses may need to make a customs declaration if they’re bringing goods into an EU country to sell or to use for other business reasons (this may include samples).


As of 1 January 2021, the “pet passport scheme” will no longer apply and UK citizens wishing to travel with their pets will need to apply for permission for their pet to travel – this process takes 4 months so advance planning will be required.

Mobile Phone Roaming

From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway will end. All UK mobile phone providers will be within their rights to introduce roaming/data charges for customers traveling in the EU.

Quick Thoughts

Out of all these negatives, 4 things stand out above the others:

  1. UK citizens will now almost certainly spend a lot more time in immigration lines as they will no longer be able to use the quick EU immigration lanes.
  2. UK citizens traveling in the EU will no longer get state-funded healthcare should something go wrong during a trip – good travel insurance will be much more important.
  3. Mobile phone bills may be about to get a lot more expensive for UK citizens traveling to the EU.
  4. UK citizens who have vacation homes in the EU may need visas if they’re to stay in these homes for more than 90 days in any 180 day period.

From a travel hacker’s perspective, the one big takeaway from all of this information is that UK flyers will need to factor in a lot more time at stopover airports when taking positioning flights to link up with whatever great fares they’ve found that originate somewhere in the EU.

With airlines like Qatar Airways frequently offering amazing Business Class fares to Asia from cities like Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsinki and select Italian cities, UK flyers looking to make the most of these fares can no longer assume that their passage through immigration in those cities will be as smooth as it has been in the past.

More time will have to be left in between flights and, ultimately, that could mean the need for an overnight stop…and that may make these trips noticeably more expensive.

A Glimmer Of Light

You’ll notice that there’s still a good degree of ambiguity in what will/will not be changing from 1 January 2021 (the phrase “may change” is used a lot in the government information) and that’s probably because there’s a chance that new deals will be reached (between the UK and the EU) which may alleviate some of the issues that are less than a year from becoming reality.

I highly doubt whether much will be achieved in 2020 so it’s unlikely that we’ll see all the bad news disappear before 2021 comes around but, assuming the UK government and the EU can both see reasons to make travel as smooth as possible, there’s a chance that some of the new annoyances will be negotiated away….eventually.

From A Purely Personal Point Of View…

On the one hand, I feel incredibly sorry for the millions who voted against Brexit and now have to put up with longer immigration times, potentially more expensive mobile phone bills and all the other negative things that Brexit will bring with it.

On the other hand, I cannot wait to see the reaction of the stereotypical Brexiteers when they realize that they have to queue up with people of all the nations their bigoted minds dislike when they want to pass through immigration in France, Spain and most other European nations.

There’s something mildly amusing about the fact we’ll soon get to watch Brexiteers who were so passionate about ending the freedom of movement between the EU and the UK now coming face to face what that really means – the new rules don’t just limit the rights of people who wish to enter the UK, they also limit the rights of UK citizens who wish to travel in the EU.

I may offer a prize to the first person who sends me a photo of MP Mark Francois stuck in a horribly long immigration line somewhere in Europe 🙂

Bottom Line

In an ideal world, sense will prevail and we’ll see a variety of agreements reached which will mean that UK citizens will be able to travel to (and around) Europe without too many issues…but those agreements may still be a few years away (if they happen at all).

In the short-term, people traveling on a UK passport are going to have to get used to having a few more inconveniences to deal with when traveling to and from the EU and a little more advance planning may be required (especially if you’re traveling with a pet).

In the long-term things may get better but, if they don’t, Brexieers will only have themselves to blame and everyone else can go on wondering how on earth things were ever allowed to get this far.


  1. Not a wise move to get political and alienate your readers. This is a travel blog. I do respect everyone’s right to an opinion (if done respectfully and in the right place). Labeling people (who voted democratically on a matter that you personally disagree with) as ‘bigoted’ shows very poor judgement and a lack of respect to your readers.

    • I didn’t label everyone. I was very careful to specifically identify “stereotypical Brexiteers”.
      There’s a huge difference between a stereotypical Brexiteer and others who happen to have voted the same way – I happen to have quite a bit of experience of that difference so I’m comfortable making it

  2. Ziggy isn’t wrong though – a lot of Brexiteers voted for quite frankly, racist and/or idiotic reasons and with little knowledge or awareness of the likely effects on manufacturing, food and medicines and not least, travel abroad. And he’s right that they will be the first to complain about longer queues at airports and losing their roaming, etc. Utter madness…

  3. Love the analysis! Not just Mark Francois but also Jacob Rees-Mogg, although I doubt he has opened his mind to travel and the wealth of experience it brings.

  4. “Stereotypical Brexiteers” do not exist apart from perhaps in the minds of “Stereotypical Remainers”. The majority of Brits voted for control and choice. Individual European countries who know what side their bread is buttered on will make life easy for the income generating British tourists and others may not. This time the Brits will vote with their feet.

  5. Oh dear , never mind , what a shame. A childish winge from an individual who has very limited travel experience ( probably not yet old enough to shave) and only travels to Europe. Needs to get a life.

    • Just thought I’d check exactly who that comment was aimed at before I comment on it further – care to clarify? (I’m assuming it’s aimed at me but I thought I’d make sure)

  6. Could have been aimed at me for questioning the accuracy and use of stereotypes which often leads to hostility and prejudice.

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