Travel Post-Brexit - What Brexit means for British Travellers


Many of us are itching to go away on holiday again just as soon as it is safe to do so. However, during the pandemic British travellers have seen the UK cross the Brexit finish line. Pre-Brexit, British travellers could essentially travel, go on holiday, work and live anywhere within the EU without any special permits or visas. As of 1 January 2021, many British travellers will be wondering what Brexit means for them as travel within the EU will be different in the post-Brexit era.

Is my passport still valid?

Where British travellers could previously travel within the EU so long as their passport was valid for the duration of their trip, they will now need to make sure that their passport is less than 10 years old and has at least 6 months left before expiring. This rule does not apply when travelling to Ireland as Ireland is part of the British Isles’ Common Travel Area.Any British national applying for a new passport post-Brexit will notice that the new design reverts to the traditional blue design originally introduced in 1921.

How long can I stay without a visa?

One of the big questions on British travellers’ minds has been whether lengthy visa applications would be a standard part of travelling within the EU post-Brexit. Fortunately, for short stays to most EU countries, this is not a requirement and British travellers can continue to enjoy their annual holiday within the EU without a visa. British travellers can visit any of the 26 Schengen nations for up to 90 days collectively in any 180 day period. This rule does not apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, where British travellers can stay for up to 90 days without using up their 90 day allowance for the Schengen nations. 

Do I need a visa?

British travellers travelling to EU countries will not need a visa to use their 90 day allowance. However, they will need a visa for any stay beyond this allowance. From 2022, the EU plans to introduce the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) visa waiver scheme for travellers entering Schengen nations. The system will be rolled out to all travellers visiting Schengen nations from non-EU countries and will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks. The system will be similar to the ESTA scheme in the United States.British travellers will have to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver when travelling to a Schengen nation. The waiver will cost €7 for those between the ages of 18 and 70 and will be valid for three years or until expiry of the traveller’s passport, whichever comes first.

What happens if I need medical assistance whilst in the EU?

Pre-Brexit, British nationals would need to pack their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in with their sun cream. Any EHIC issued before 2021 will still be valid until its expiry date. British nationals can now apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies whilst abroad. However, the GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and does not exempt travellers from medical treatment fees. Under the GHIC scheme, you will have to pay the same as a patient from that country for medical treatment and not all health systems include the same scope of cover provided here by the NHS. All in all, most British travellers will not be adversely impacted by Brexit. Although we have provided a brief overview of the key points, it is important for all travellers to check the requirements carefully for the country they plan to visit.

Head to our Brexit Exchange where you will find all the latest updates and developments from our experts, regarding Brexit and how that affects businesses and individuals in a range of areas.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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