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Be prepared for renting a car in Europe from 01 January 2021

Now that the UK has left the EU and the transition period has expired as of 31 December 2020, it’s important that those travelling to and renting a car in Europe are fully aware of the implications of Brexit and what that means for British passport holders whether you have a trip booked or are just planning ahead.

prepare for renting car in eu brexit

We’ve set out some key points you need to consider when renting a car in Europe as well as links to the UK Government website for more information.

Will I need an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

Generally speaking no, a full UK driving license (photocard and license check code) is still valid for use in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. You may need an IDP if you still have an old paper style licence, however you may wish to update your license to the current photocard format to avoid the need for an IDP.

You may still require and IDP to drive in some EU countries if your license was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/driving-in-the-eu

Is my passport valid after Brexit?

You will need to renew your passport earlier than before if travelling to Europe. On the day that you travel your passport will need;
  • At least 6 months to the expiry date
  • To be less than 10 years old (regardless of the expiry date)

(this is not applicable for travel to the Republic of Ireland)

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/visit-europe-1-january-2021

If your passport is the old burgundy version or has the wording ‘European Union’ on the cover, it is still valid for use after 1 January 2021 provided it has the minimum required expiry date as shown above. Travel to all EU countries (excluding Ireland) and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are all affected by the changes.

If you need to renew your passport, visit https://www.gov.uk/renew-adult-passport/renew

Is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still valid?

The UK and EU have agreed that the EHIC card will remain valid until the expiry date on the card, even if that is beyond 1 January 2021 (with exception of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who are not part of the EU where the EHIC card is no longer valid).

For anyone needing to renew or apply for a new EHIC card, the process is the same, however the name has changed to a GHIC (General Health Insurance Card), which offers much the same protection as the former EHIC for travel to EU countries and some other overseas territories.

As before, EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance, you should always ensure you have adequate travel insurance to meet your needs.
For more information and to apply for a GHIC see https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/

Can I still use my mobile data in the EU?

Yes, at present all of the UK’s major mobile operators are continuing to offer free data roaming where your data allowance from your UK tariff can be used when travelling throughout Europe. You should check your mobile provider tariff and small print as not all tariffs include free data roaming in Europe as standard.

Will I need a visa when travelling to the EU?

For the most part, British visitors to the EU will not require a visa. Travel of up to 90 days in a 180 day period are permitted (approx. 3 months of a 6 months period). For stays (including work / study) longer than this, a visa will be required. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are exempt from this where no restrictions are currently in place. It’s important to note that this is the situation as of January 2021 and this is likely to evolve, always check before you travel.

What line should I use at passport control?

As the UK is no longer a part of the EU, you’ll of course need to use the non-EU passport control line at passport control when arriving at your destination and return airports.

What about Duty Free purchases?

British travellers will be able to take advantage of the often cheaper ‘non-EU’ duty free at the airport, often representing savings of up to 20% over EU prices. You should always check the personal allowances for alcohol / tobacco products before purchasing.

Travelling to the EU during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Aside from the practical considerations when travelling to the EU above, the current Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the way we travel. You should check the Foreign Office Travel advice before you travel.

We hope the above information is useful and wish you a safe 2021 wherever your travels take you.
Phil Partridge
Posted: January 04, 2021 by Phil Partridge
About the Author -

Travel writer, car rental guru, Phil has rented cars all over the world and shares his knowledge and experience on the Rhinocarhire.com Blog. Favourite country to visit: France.

Last updated: Monday, January 4, 2021
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