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Transport

Michael
24th September 2021

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: 22 September 2021 

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 GOV.uk 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 GOV.uk website.

Will my current British passport still be valid?

Yes, but there is some uncertainty from airlines as to validity dates of British passports.

European Union rules for travellers visiting member countries from outside the EU (including UK) state that:

  • You will need a passport valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting; and
  • Your passport must have been issued within the previous 10 years.

However, UK government advice contradicts this at the moment. If you have a British passport, it will need to have at least six months left on it to travel as the airline may not allow you to fly. Some airlines are sticking with the UK government advice while others are changing their policies to respect the EU rules. Therefore, it is important that you check with your airline well in advance to see what their policy is on this.

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. For example, a passport issued on 30 July 2011, could show an expiry date of 30 April 2022, which in total is 10 years nine months.

When the UK was part of the EU those passports over the 10 year expiry date would have been valid for travel to EU countries up to 29 April 2022, as they were to simply prove your identity. However, since EU Exit, British passport holders are now classed as non-EU nationals and the new EU rules apply. 

The UK government’s passport rules for travelling to the EU can be found on the Gov.uk 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 Gov.uk 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.

Pet travel

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

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

However, routine compliance checks for pets travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will not take place until further notice. Although, officials will reserve the right to undertake checks should there be a suspicion of illegal activity or welfare concerns.

When checks start, 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.

This is what your pet or assistance dog will need to travel from GB to NI when checks start:

  • 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
  • To enter into NI through a Travellers’ Point of Entry.

 

For more information visit the DAERA 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).

*Since 1 January 2021, UK style EU Pet Passports issued in GB or NI up to 31 December 2020 are no longer valid. As an interim measure, NI pet owners can contact their private vet, who will update their pet passport appropriately to allow travel.  A new style UK (NI) branded EU Pet Passport 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 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.