How has Brexit affected travel insurance?

Travelling to Europe is different now the Brexit transition period has ended. From passports to airport queues, see what’s changed and find out what you need to do to be prepared.

Travelling to Europe is different now the Brexit transition period has ended. From passports to airport queues, see what’s changed and find out what you need to do to be prepared.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
15 JUNE 2021
7 min read
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How has Brexit affected travel?

Now the Brexit transition period has ended, the UK has a different relationship with the EU, which affects how we travel to and from our nearest neighbours. We don’t have the same freedom of movement between countries, so you’ll need to do a bit more than just booking tickets and picking up your passport.

And it’s not just the EU countries. Travel to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein has also changed since 1 January 2021.

So what do you need to do differently? You’ll have to:

  • Check your passport well in advance because you’ll need at least six months left on it. And make sure it’s less than 10 years old – even if it has six months or more left.
  • Make sure you have the right driving documents if you plan to drive your vehicle in Europe.
  • Organise pet travel if you plan on taking your cat or dog with you. You can no longer use the pet passport scheme, and will need to get an Animal Health Certificate instead.
  • Have a return ticket or an onward ticket that you can show when you arrive at the border.
  • Show that you have enough money to cover your trip. It’s also possible that you may be asked to prove you have somewhere to stay.

Customers with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, your travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. Whatever happens, don’t lie to an insurance provider, because this could mean your claim is rejected. When you declare any medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show you quotes from insurance providers who will cover them, with no exclusions.

If your condition is more serious, MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone. You can call them on 0800 138 7777.

Can I still go on holiday in Europe after Brexit?

Yes, of course, provided you follow the passport rules – otherwise you might find yourself being turned back.

But, during the pandemic, you should keep an eye on the rules around travel, self-isolation and quarantining on your arrival or return. These may depend on where you live in the UK, as the devolved nations can have different rules. Check the latest travel information on the government website and importantly the latest FCDO guidance for your chosen destination and where you are travelling from.

It’s also worthwhile to check the requirements of your transport provider or travel company, to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their rules.

How long can I spend in Europe after Brexit?

If you’re a tourist, you can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. You don’t need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. However, it’s likely that a fee will one day be introduced for a visa waiver – so that’s something to watch out for.

Visits to countries that aren’t in the EU’s free-movement Schengen area, like Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, don’t count towards your 90-day period.

If you’re going to an EU country for work, you’re likely to need a work permit. Check with the embassy of the country you want to work in to see what you have to do.

It’s always worth checking the UK government’s travel advice early so that you have time to complete any requirements before you set off.

Has Brexit affected air travel?

You can no longer use the EU queue when you arrive so, depending on how airports are staffed, you may have to wait longer.

Because many passenger rights were incorporated into UK law in the European Union Withdrawal Agreement, air travellers are still protected in a similar way as in the past for things like flight delay compensation. You don’t need to be an EU citizen to claim compensation so, if you fly between two European countries, you’ll still be covered under EU261.

Has Brexit affected the Eurostar?

Eurostar is advising people to arrive at the station a little earlier than usual to make sure you have plenty of time to get through passport control and security. Plus, check that your passport meets the new requirements.

What’s happened to duty-free limits because of Brexit?

There are changes to what you’re able to bring duty-free into any country and on your return home, bringing the rules in line with travel to the rest of the world. You can buy duty-free to take out with you, and the amount that returning passengers can bring back with them from non-EU countries has also been significantly increased and extended to EU countries. See what you can bring into the UK duty free.

Has there been travel disruption due to Brexit?

Everyone involved in the travel industry is working hard to try to minimise any potential disruption, but there have been reports of long queues at airports.

However, with COVID-19, it’s hard to tell what’s due to the pandemic and what’s because of Brexit. And as everyone gets increasingly used to the situation, travel insurance after Brexit will evolve to suit the new circumstances both from Brexit and from COVID.

Has medical cover been affected by Brexit?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives you the right to receive medical attention under the same conditions as citizens of the EU country you’re visiting, is being phased out. If you already have an EHIC, you can carry on using it until it expires. If you don’t have an EHIC, you’ll need to apply for its replacement - the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This works in a similar way, but doesn’t cover Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. You can use your passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.

Neither the GHIC or the EHIC is a substitute for travel insurance, and the government says you should make sure you have both before you travel. The cards only give you access to state-provided healthcare that can’t wait until you get home, and they won’t cover getting you back to the UK for treatment.

Find out more about how the GHIC works.

Will my travel insurance cover me if extra checks mean I miss my flight?

You may well not be covered if you miss a connection because of extra checks, or are turned away at the border because your passport doesn’t meet the new requirements or you can’t show you have enough money for your stay. It’s important to make sure you understand all the rules before you set out on your trip and get to the airport or station in good time. Also check your travel insurance policy so you know what you’re covered for.

How has Brexit affected business travel?

Business travel covers things like attending conferences and going to business meetings. You also count as a business traveller if you’re providing services, or touring as a musician or with art.

You need to do all the things required for tourists detailed above, plus some additional things. You need to check the entry requirements of any country you’re visiting and make sure you have the right documents necessary.

If you’ll be earning money in the EU, you’ll need to consider your tax liability and inform HMRC. You’ll also have to work out if you need to pay social security contributions (the equivalent of National Insurance) in the country you’re working in and if you should continue to pay it in the UK.

If you’re taking samples or work equipment, you’ll also need to make sure you have the right documentation to take goods to the EU.

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