Driving Abroad from 2021

For UK residents who are intending on driving abroad or drive outside of the UK from the 1st January 2021, we have pulled together the important information which will hopefully help you to understand what you may be required to take with you or steps you might need to undertake.

This information has been gathered from the UK Government website and other sources on 30 December 2020. Please check the links for up to date information as details may change.

Check how long is left on your passport

You will need at least six months left on your passport before it expires, and it will need to be less than 10 years old or you might not be able to travel. The new rules do not apply when travelling to Ireland. Read more on travelling to the EU after Brexit here.

Driving abroad on holiday

You will need:

Driving Licence

You need to take your Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving licence with you to drive abroad. Check yours is still valid and renew your driving licence online if it’s expired or about to expire. You’ll need to apply to renew your licence at least a week before you travel.

Log Book (V5C)

If you’re taking your own vehicle, you also need to take your vehicle logbook (V5C) and you should carry it with you when driving. If the original has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, you will need to get a replacement. The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will be able to assist you.

If you’re taking a vehicle abroad that you’ve hired or leased in the UK, you’ll need a VE103 certificate.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

From 1 January, most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving licence to drive in the EU for short visits.
There are some exceptions and what is called an International Driving Permit (IDP) will be needed to drive in some European countries.
The exceptions are people who only have a paper licence, not a photocard one, as well as those with licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.
An IDP can be bought at Post Offices for £5.50.

Check your vehicle insurance if you’re taking your own vehicle

Your UK vehicle insurance gives you a minimum of third-party cover to drive your vehicle in EU countries. Check with your insurer if your policy covers extra things like theft or damage.

Green Card

  • A Green Card is an International Motor Insurance Certificate which evidences that your current insurance policy provides the necessary minimum level of cover for driving in the EU country you are travelling to or through. A Green Card is personalised with your UK vehicle registration details, and will need to be carried with you when driving in the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA). In addition to the basic cover which the Green Card gives you, your insurance policy should provide you with full insurance cover for up to 90 days. Please check your policy documents for more information on your specific cover.
  • From 1 January 2021, you need to carry a physical copy of a Green Card for the vehicle you’re driving in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland. In other countries, you may need additional insurance and a green card to show you’re covered. Check the travel advice for the country you’re driving in.
  • Motorists should contact their insurers six weeks before travelling to ask for a Green Card.
  • The Green Card system has existed for over 50 years and, traditionally, it has always been printed on green paper.  However, in July 2020, the law changed to allow Green Cards to also be valid if printed in black text on white paper.  Therefore, it is now acceptable for a Green Card to be printed on white paper. This change will also enable you to easily print your Green Card at home, if you wish to. Currently, a Green Card must be a paper document and cannot be presented digitally.
  • A Green Card is evidence that you have valid Insurance that covers you in the event of an accident whilst driving in that country.  If you are not carrying a Green Card when it is required, then you will not legally be able to drive.  If you do attempt to drive in the EU without holding a Green Card while it is mandatory to do so, you may be accused of driving without valid insurance and could be subject to a fine, having your vehicle seized or be prosecuted.
  • The Green Card is only proof of a minimum level of third-party cover – it will not necessarily match the level of cover that you pay for in the UK. You would have to check with your insurer to find out what level of cover you would receive.
  • If you intend travelling to the EU when your policy is due for renewal, please ensure that you have insurance in place that covers you for the full duration of your trip. You will also need to ensure that you have a Green Card for each insurance policy, your current one and the one which will renew.
  • All drivers named on your policy, who hold a full UK/EU Licence, are covered and will be named on the Green Card.

GB Stickers and Number Plates

You should display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle, if driving in the EU after 1st January 2021. Even if you currently have a number plate which includes the GB and/or EU symbol identifier, we would recommend that you still place a sticker on your car. These stickers may be obtained from several outlets such as Amazon, Wilko or Halfords.

Healthcare

Take out travel insurance

If you had European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued before the end of 2020 it will be valid until the expiry date (the expiry date will be on the front of your card). The government said it will launch a new scheme called the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), but it has not said when.

The government says it will issue a new card, called the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Like EHIC, it will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity care and emergencies. However, there are no further details yet on when it will start.

The government’s advice is to take out travel insurance which includes health cover – especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

You can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway (for example emergency treatment, or to treat a pre-existing condition).

If you’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you travel. Make sure it covers any pre-existing conditions that were previously covered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

You can read advice on buying travel insurance with the right cover.

UK-issued EHICs after 1 January 2021

Some people can apply for a new UK EHIC that they can continue to use from 1 January 2021 in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. People who can apply for the new card include:

  • UK students studying in the EU
  • some British State Pensioners who live in the EU and their families
  • EU nationals in the UK

Entering other countries

Border control: you may have to show your return ticket and money

At border control, you may need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • show you have enough money for your stay
  • use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing

Visas for short trips: you will not need one if you’re a tourist

If you’re a tourist, you will not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.

You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.

Check each country’s travel advice page for information on how to get a visa or permit.

Travel to Ireland will not change from 1 January 2021. You’ll also be able to work in Ireland in the same way as before.

From 2022, UK nationals will have to pay for a visa-waiver scheme in order to visit many European countries.

Mobile Phone Charges

From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end.

You should check with your mobile provider to see if you’re likely to face extra charges. The four main UK operators have said they have no plans to reintroduce roaming fees.

A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing. Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.