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Government ads to warn Brits of Brexit travel changes – what you need to know

Changes to travel rules that will come in next year as a result of Brexit are being highlighted by a new Government ad campaign – with travellers warned there are major implications for passports, driving documents, taking pets abroad and more. 

Not much changed for travellers when the UK left the European Union earlier this year, as most laws and rules are remaining the same during this year's transition period. But when the UK leaves the single market and customs union on 31 December 2020, there will be a major shake-up – for example, you may need to renew your passport earlier and if you want to take your pet abroad you may need to plan months in advance. 

Adverts launched by the Government with the theme "The UK's new start: let's get going" will run on TV, radio and online, while info will also be sent to people via text message.

See 20 Brexit need-to-knows for full info on what's changing when, and what you need to do.

How will travel rules change next year?

The changes outlined in the Government's ad campaign are generally ones we knew about already.

The Government's full guidance for individuals and businesses can be found on the website, but here are the need-to-knows for travellers on the rules from 1 January 2021:

  • You may need to renew your passport earlier. We've been saying this for a while here at MSE, and now the Government's saying it in its adverts: you may need to renew your British passport earlier if travelling from 1 January 2021. On the day you travel, you'll need your passport to have at least six months' validity left AND be less than 10 years old. If you do not renew your passport, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

  • Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance – especially as you may no longer be able to use an EHIC. The Government is reminding travellers that Brits may no longer be able to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme from next year (this is free and gives free or discounted medical care in all EU countries – see our Free EHIC guide for more info). There will be some exceptions (highlighted in our 20 Brexit need-to-knows), and negotiations about reciprocal healthcare are still ongoing.

    But from the end of the year, the Government says it is particularly important to make sure you have appropriate travel insurance – however, even when the EHIC is in operation, it's important to have travel insurance too. The Government also says those with existing medical conditions should particularly take note and make sure their insurance covers their needs, as the EHIC scheme covers existing conditions but many travel insurance policies do not. See Travel Insurance For Pre-Existing Conditions for more help. 
  • Check if your insurer covers cancellation. The Government says some travel insurance policies only cover certain types of disruption. Check your provider's terms and conditions to make sure you have the cover you need if your travel is cancelled or delayed. Your consumer rights will not change from 1 January 2021. 

  • You may need extra paperwork if driving. You may need extra documents from 1 January 2021 – for example, an international driving permit may be required to drive in some countries. If you're taking your own vehicle, you might also need a green card or valid proof of insurance and a GB sticker.

  • If you're travelling with a pet, leave four months to arrange this. From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. The Government's detailed guidance on this still isn't clear and says "Pet travel requirements will change depending on what category [of country] the UK becomes on 1 January 2021." But it's warning travellers to contact their pet's vet at least four months before travelling to get the latest advice.

  • You may have to pay mobile phone roaming charges. From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end. The Government advises travellers to check with their phone operator to find out about any roaming charges they might get from 1 January 2021.

For more info on all this – plus other key help on what Brexit means for you – see our 20 Brexit need-to-knows.

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