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12th January 2021

EU Exit: Advice for Northern Ireland Travellers

Advice for Northern Ireland consumers who are travelling to Europe after EU Exit. It includes the latest information for British passport holders, travelling through airports and driving in Europe.

Last updated: 7 January 2021

Driving in Europe

Will I need a driving permit to drive in Europe?

Yes – if you plan to drive in Europe, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for the areas you plan to drive excluding the Republic of Ireland. You may need more than one depending on where you are visiting. Each permit costs £5.50 and is available from certain Post Office branches.

Drivers must be aged 18 or over to get an IDP and hold a valid UK driving licence.

Check if you need an IDP for the EU country your are driving in on the Post Office website.

Will I need a green card to drive in Europe?

Yes – you will need an insurance green card to drive in Europe including the Republic of Ireland. This document proves you have the necessary motor insurance to drive in the EU. If you are towing, you will also need a green card for your trailer or caravan.

If you don’t already have one, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. They are usually free but you may be charged an administrative fee.

Will my current UK passport still be valid?

Possibly – if you have a British passport you will need to have at least six months left on it and it must have been issued less than 10 years ago, even if it has six months left on it.

You will not need a passport to visit the Republic of Ireland.

Check if you need to renew your passport on website.

Will there be any changes for pet travel between Northern Ireland and the EU (including Republic of Ireland)?

No – EU pet travel rules will continue to apply to Northern Ireland. This means if you are travelling with your pet dog (including assistance dog), cat or ferret between and into the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, the following requirements will continue to apply:

  • A microchip;
  • A rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination will not count) - the dog must be at least 12 weeks old before vaccination and the vaccination must be in date at the time of travel;
  • To wait 21 days from the date of the rabies vaccination before travelling;
  • A valid EU pet passport*; and
  • Tapeworm treatment (dogs only) (except when travelling from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Finland, and Malta).

*Current EU pet passports issued in NI and GB up to 31 December 2020, will not be valid for travel to the EU (including NI) after the 31 December 2020. Interim measures have been put in place. If you are travelling in early 2021, you should contact your vet who will arrange to update your pet passport appropriately to allow travel. A new style UK (NI) branded EU Pet Passport will be available shortly and these will be distributed to veterinary practices in due course.

For more information visit the DAERA website.

You can get a Pet Passport from one of the veterinary practices taking part the scheme.

Will there be any changes for pet travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

Travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

No there are currently no requirements for pets travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

Travelling from (including returning from) Great Britain to Northern Ireland

Yes – there are changes and your pet or assistance dog needs:

  • A microchip;
  • A valid EU pet passport, or EU animal health certificate confirming microchip and vaccinations (valid for 10 days from issue to entry of an EU Member State (including NI) and for 4 months onward travel within the EU);
  • A rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination will not count) - the dog must be at least 12 weeks old before vaccination and the vaccination must be in date at the time of travel;
  • To wait 21 days from the date of the rabies vaccination before travelling;
  • Tapeworm treatment (dogs only) administered between 1 and 5 days before entering NI; and
  • Entry to NI must be through a Travellers’ Point of Entry.

EU regulations will require checks in respect of pet movements for pets entering the EU (including Northern Ireland) from Great Britain.

Pets travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will not be subject to routine compliance checks until 01 February 2021. However, officials will reserve the right to undertake checks should there be a suspicion of illegal activity or welfare concerns.

On arrival if you don’t have the correct documents or your pet hasn’t been properly prepared it may be licensed into quarantine until it fully meets the entry requirements or be sent back to the country it travelled from.

For more information visit the DAERA website.

Will I be kept waiting in long passport queues?

Possibly – if you travel with a British passport it is possible that border controls will take longer than they did. As a British passport holder you will now need to use separate lines from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queuing. You may also need to show your return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay.

You should allow more travel time to ensure you do not miss your flight, train or ferry as border checks may take longer.

Will I need a visa to travel in Europe?

No – you will not need a visa when going on short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This means you will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Trips to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are different. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries from there will not count towards the 90-day total.

You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study. You can read more on business travel on the website.

Can I still use my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

Yes – you can continue to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or get a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) if you need treatment and do not have a card.

If you apply for a card, you will get a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead of a EHIC. The GHIC covers fewer countries than the EHIC.

Your EHIC will still be valid in the EU until it expires. You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a EHIC. Once your EHIC has expired you will be able to replace it with a GHIC.

Any specialised treatment, such as dialysis or cancer treatment, "must be subject to a prior agreement between the insured person and the unit providing the treatment," to ensure the treatment is available.

Even with ongoing EHIC and GHIC cover, it still advisable that you buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go on holiday.

Find out more on the website.

Will I have the same passenger rights if my travel is delayed or cancelled?

Yes – your consumer rights will not change. Current UK government advice is that air, rail, bus, coach, ferry and cruise services will continue to be protected by current passenger regulations after leaving the EU. This means that if your travel is cancelled or delayed, you may be able to claim a refund or compensation.

It is recommended to have travel insurance that will cover you for different types of disruption caused by events outside of the airline’s control, such as extreme weather or strike action. Always check your provider’s terms and conditions to make sure you have the cover you need if your travel is cancelled or delayed.

Read our Plane Facts guide.

Will I be covered for EU Exit related travel disruption?

Possibly – some travel insurance policies do not cover EU Exit related travel disruption including cancellations and delays.

If you do want cover for EU Exit related travel disruption, we advise you to speak to your insurance provider as soon as possible to give yourself peace of mind.

Will my package holiday still be protected after EU Exit?

Yes – you will continue to have the same rights and protections on your package holiday unless the government decides to change the law in future.

If you book your package holiday to the EU with an Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) member, your rights will not be be affected.

Holidays booked with ABTA members provide financial and legal protection and means the travel company is responsible for making sure passengers get the holiday they paid for.

The UK Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) scheme provides protection for travellers who book a holiday to the EU that includes a flight. Your rights will not be be affected.

If an ATOL licenced travel company collapses, it ensures that your money is protected and you can get home.

The majority of bookings made directly with airlines will not be covered by ATOL.

Check that your package holiday is ATOL or ABTA protected and take the booking terms & conditions with you on holiday in case something occurs whilst you are away.

Will I be covered if I buy a package holiday from an EU company?

Possibly – if it is an EU company selling package holidays, you will still be covered as long as the company has advertised to UK customers. If you purchase a package holiday from an EU based trader that does not advertise to UK customers, you will not be entitled to the same protection.

Read the UK Government's advice on passenger consumer rights when travelling to the EU.

Will I be able to sail by ferry or cruise ship as before?

Yes – when you travel to the EU by sea, you should not experience any difference in your journey.

Will I be able to travel by train cross-border the same as before?

Yes – your rights as a rail passenger using either domestic or cross-border rail services will not change and you will continue to be protected on cross-border rail services.