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17th June 2022

EU Exit: Advice for Northern Ireland Travellers

Advice for Northern Ireland consumers who are travelling to Europe including the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. It includes the latest information for British passport holders, travelling through airports, driving in Europe, and travelling with pets and animals.

Last updated: 17 June 2022

Driving in Europe

Will I need a green card to drive in Europe?

As of 30 June 2021, Green Card insurance documents which have been required for UK motorists in the European Union since exiting the EU will no longer be required, under an agreement between the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) and the EU Commission.

The agreement means those travailing from the UK to the EU, including those travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, will be able to avail of the general exemption afforded to EU-based motorists.

This exemption allows motor vehicles to travel freely between other EU countries without requiring supplementary insurance documentation.

Will I need a driving permit to drive in Europe?

You do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you have a photocard driving licence issued in the UK.

However, you might need an IDP to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have either:

  • a paper driving licence
  • a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

You need to be over 18 years of age and have a valid Great Britain (GB) or Northern Ireland driving licence to get an IDP.

Check if you need an IDP for the country you are driving in by checking with the country’s Embassy. A list of Embassies can be found on the website.

If you do require an IDP, you may need more than one depending on where you are visiting. Each permit costs £5.50 and is available over the counter from certain Post Office branches. Visit the Post Office website to find the branch nearest to you that issues IDPs.

More information on IDPs is available on the website.

Will my current British passport still be valid?

Yes, your British passport will still be valid for visiting EU member countries provided you can answer yes to both of the following questions:

  1. Was your passport issued in the past ten years?
  2. Does it have three months validity remaining after your intended return date?

However, there is some uncertainty from airlines as to the validity of some British passports.

If you renewed your British passport before September 2018 (when British passport regulations changed) and before the previous one expired, it may have had up to an extra nine months added to its expiry date.

The UK government is asking the European Commission for clarity on the ten year rule and until then, the issue date is what you should be looking at when travelling to EU countries.

For EU countries your passport may need to be less than ten years old (from date of issue) during your whole visit, and have three months left within those ten years at the end of your trip.

The UK government’s passport rules for travelling to the EU can be found on the website, where you can also check if you need to renew your passport.

The EU’s passport rules can be found on the European Union 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.

Your EHIC will still be valid in the EU until it expires. Once your EHIC has expired you will be able to replace it with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

With the new GHIC and your current EHIC, you will be entitled to healthcare in any of the 27 countries in the EU apart from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

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

The new GHIC card is free from the official NHS website. You should apply at least 2 weeks before travel to make sure the card arrives on time. Beware of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.

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.

Transporting Personal Belongings to Northern Ireland from Great Britain

If I am moving home from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and I’m personally moving my own personal belongings, do I need to fill in any paperwork?

No - if you are personally moving your own personal belongings, you are able to make a “declaration by conduct”. This means that you can carry the belongings into Northern Ireland or transport them in a vehicle you are travelling in.

When you arrive at the point of exit from Great Britain, you can do this by:

  • walking through a customs control point (this can be a green channel signed ‘nothing to declare’) with the goods, if you’re an individual on foot;
  • driving (or being driven) past a customs control point with the goods inside your vehicle, if you’re in a vehicle; or
  • continuing your onward journey, if there are no customs control points.

When you arrive in Northern Ireland, go through the ‘green channel’ at your port of entry or, where a green channel does not exist, drive across the boundary of the port.

If you are moving through the ports at Belfast, Larne or Warrenpoint, your carrier (e.g. ferry company) may ask you for a goods movement reference (GMR) when you are booking your passage or checking in. If they do, you should confirm with them that you are a private citizen moving your own personal belongings which does not require a GMR.

You will not need to complete a safety and security declaration (also known as an entry summary declaration).

More information on moving your home from GB to NI can be found on the website.

What if a removal company is moving my personal belongings from Great Britain to Northern Ireland?

If you are using a removal company or someone else is moving your personal belongings, make sure they have completed all the appropriate documentation before asking them to move your belongings. Removal companies who perform home moves to and from Northern Ireland should have completed these already, but check with them in advance.

They need to be registered on the Government’s goods vehicle movement system. This will allow them to apply for a goods movement reference for bringing your belongings into Northern Ireland.

They’ll also need to make a declaration. If they are new to customs processes, they can sign up for the free Trader Support Service. The Trader Support Service will guide them through any changes due to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and can complete declarations on their behalf without the need for specialist advice or software.

They may also need to make a safety and security entry summary declaration.

Pet travel

Travelling with your pet

From 1 January 2021, Great Britain (GB) has become a ‘Part II Listed’ Third Country, for the purposes of pet travel and is therefore no longer a member of the EU Pet Travel Scheme.

This change in GB country status means there are additional documentary requirements, health preparations and checks for travelling with a pet from GB to Northern Ireland (NI), including a rabies vaccination and an EU pet passport for NI travellers or a single use EU Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for GB travellers.

However, On 15 September 2021, The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots MLA announced that checks on all pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from GB to NI would be suspended indefinitely while negotiations between the UK government and EU continue.

If you’re planning a trip to the EU (including the Republic of Ireland), dogs, cats and ferrets need to have up-to-date vaccinations, including a valid rabies vaccination. They will also need a new or updated EU Pet Passport (UK style EU Pet Passports issued in GB or NI up to 31 December 2020 are no longer valid) or an AHC.

In order to get a rabies vaccination, you will need to provide your pet’s vaccination history and proof that they have been microchipped. The first rabies vaccination lasts for three years, but yearly boosters should be administered.

A Pet Passport is valid for the life of your pet as long as your pet’s rabies vaccination is kept up to date and recorded in the passport.

Pet Passports, AHCs and rabies vaccinations can only be administered by authorised vets, and you will normally have to book an appointment for these in advance. We would, therefore, advise you to do this in plenty of time. If necessary, plan to get your rabies vaccination and pet passport or an AHC at the same time.

DAERA has a list of authorised vets on its website.

If your pet needs its first rabies injection, this must be administered no less than 21 days before travel, so bear this in mind when planning your trip.

Our advice is to plan well in advance to make sure you have time to get all of your pet’s necessary paperwork and vaccinations for travelling.

Travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

There are currently no requirements for pets travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. If you are travelling to Great Britain on holiday from Northern Ireland, your pet does not require a pet passport, or vaccinations of any sort. Though there is a legal requirement that dogs are microchipped at eight weeks old.

Travelling to Northern Ireland from Great Britain (including a return journey)

NI remains part of the EU Pet Travel Scheme, although GB (England, Scotland and Wales) does not. EU regulations now technically require checks for pets entering NI from GB.

However, On 15 September 2021, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA announced that checks on all pet dogs, cats and ferrets travelling from GB to NI would be suspended indefinitely while negotiations between the UK government and EU continue.

Officials reserve the right to undertake checks in the interim should there be a suspicion of illegal activity or welfare concerns. This applies to all journeys, irrespective of origin or destination.

For more information visit the DAERA website.

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

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

  • A microchip (registered with the correct details);
  • A rabies vaccination administered by an authorised vet (make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination will not count) - the pet 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 or an EU Animal Health Certificate; and
  • Tapeworm treatment (dogs only) (except when travelling between NI and Republic of Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway).

From 1 January 2021, UK style EU Pet Passports issued in GB or NI up to 31 December 2020 are no longer valid. You can get your pet passport updated, or buy a new one directly from one of the authorised Private Veterinary Practitioners participating in the Pet Passport Scheme.

For more information visit the DAERA website.

Where can I get a pet passport and how much will it cost?

From 1 January 2021, UK style EU Pet Passports issued in GB or NI up to 31 December 2020 are no longer valid. You can get your pet passport updated, or buy a new one directly from one of the authorised Private Veterinary Practitioners participating in the Pet Passport Scheme.

The price of consultation and advice, any necessary vaccinations (including rabies) and the issuing of documents is set by each individual vet. Please speak to your vet about the cost in advance and shop around if you can.

How do I get an EU Animal Health Certificate?

You need an EU Animal Health Certificate (AHC) for your dog, cat or ferret if you’re travelling from Great Britain (GB) to NI or an EU country.

They can also be used for travelling within the EU (including from NI to Republic of Ireland) instead of an EU Pet Passport. However, they are only valid for 10 days from issue which means you’ll have 10 days to enter your EU destination. In addition, it will be valid for four months onward travel within the EU and for four months re-entry into GB.

They are single use, so you’ll need a new AHC for each trip you want to make.

To get an AHC you need to take your pet to an authorised vet participating in the Pet Passport Scheme. This must be done no more than 10 days before you travel. GB residents should contact their vet to see if they are able to authorise an AHC.

You’ll need to take proof that your pet has been microchipped, as well as its vaccination history. Your vet may have these details on file, so just ask.

Will there be any changes for equine travel between Northern Ireland and the EU?

No  equine travel from Northern Ireland to EU member states will not change.

Equine will require;

  • A passport; and
  • Veterinary Health Certification provided by an Authorised Veterinary Inspector.

For more information visit the DAERA website.

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

Travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

No – equine travel from Northern Ireland (NI) to Great Britain (GB) will not change. NI resident horses entering GB will need evidence of the date of leaving NI to benefit from the Export Health Certificate. This allows re-entry back into NI within 30 days after temporary export without needing blood testing (i.e. entering GB for racing or competition).

Equines leaving NI via Belfast and Larne Ports must:

  • Check in at the relevant Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) facility for portal inspection and issue of exit declaration.

Equines leaving NI via Dublin Port must:

  • Submit a pre-import notification via the DEFRA import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFF’s); and
  • Have a DAERA issued export health certificate (EHC).

Registered horses will not need to be tested for certain diseases and will not have to meet any isolation or residency requirements before they are imported into GB from NI via the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

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

Yes – equines will require:

  • An Export Health Certificate completed by an Official Veterinarian in Great Britain; and
  • pre-notification and upload of supporting documentation in advance to Northern Ireland Points of Entry at Larne or Belfast Ports (via TRACES NT).

To meet these requirements you will need to:

  • Book an appointment with an official vet so you can get blood tests taken in time;
  • Contact an agent or transporter and tell them when you plan to travel;
  • Get equines tested for certain diseases. You’ll need tests for equine infectious anaemia and equine viral arteritis;
  • Meet isolation and residency requirements;
  • Apply for an export health certificate (EHC); and
  • Check you have the right equine identification (ID).

For more information visit the DAERA website.