As Brexit Looms What's in Store for British Holidaymakers?

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Brexit, referring to Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union (EU), has left many British holidaymakers wondering what will be in store for them once the UK leaves. Britain’s exit from the EU, brought about by the 2016 referendum and the subsequent triggering of Article 21 by parliament, is scheduled to occur on the 29th of March while a short transition period is due to follow the withdrawal event. Those who wish to travel to the EU after Brexit may have anxieties about whether or not they will need visas, new passports, and whether the healthcare status quo will be retained.

In this article, we’ve joined forces with travel website Best at Travel to take a look at how Brexit might affect British holidaymakers in the event of a ‘no-deal’ future.

Girl looking at departures board
Girl looking at departures board

Passports and Visas

Britain’s decision not to join the Schengen Area, which abolished internal border checks and is comprised of EU as well as non-EU states, means that UK nationals have always needed a passport to travel to other EU countries. Leaving the EU means that British holidaymakers will still need to possess a valid UK passport in order to travel, but the rules for visa-free travel will depend on the deal, or the lack thereof, that is struck between the UK and the EU. Theresa May’s deal, if accepted by the Houses of Parliament, is designed to provide safeguards to UK nationals who travel to the EU.

A no-deal Brexit, resulting in the UK’s immediate withdrawal from the EU, will mean that certain rules will apply to British passports in order for them to be valid. British holidaymakers, traveling to the Schengen Area in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will need to possess a passport that has at least six months left before it expires while the extra months that were added to the expiration dates of renewed passports may not count towards that mandatory figure. Those who wish to visit EU states that are outside of the Schengen Area, such as Cyprus or the Republic of Ireland, could find that those countries have different passport rules.

The European Commission (EC) has stated that British holidaymakers, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will not be required to travel with a visa when visiting EU countries. Instead, a new document, costing around €7 and valid for up to three years, will be required by those who wish to travel to EU member states and will allow British nationals visa-free access to the Schengen Area. The European Travel and Authorisation System (ETIAS), introduced in the November of 2016, will provide electronic authorization to UK nationals who wish to visit EU member states in a post-Brexit environment and will allow them to reside in those countries for a period of ninety days.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal arrived after a series of negotiations that lasted from the June of 2017 until the December of 2018, allowing both EU citizens and UK nationals to travel freely between one another’s countries during a transitional period that lasts from 2019 until 2021. Once the transitional phase has passed, the EC states, UK citizens will be permitted to travel to the EU without visas if the British government allows EU citizens to do the same. British holidaymakers who visit the EU may only notice minor changes in the next three years but, in the years following the expiration of ETIAS, the nature of travel will depend on the mutual agreements made between Britain and the EU.

Health Care

Person getting a blood pressure test
Person getting a blood pressure test

Traveling abroad carries certain risks, such as contracting an illness or sustaining an injury, and British holidaymakers may wonder what will happen to them if they require medical attention while abroad. The availability of medical care to UK nationals visiting EU member states, like so many aspects of post-Brexit travel to EU countries, will depend on whether the UK parliament accepts or rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal. UK travelers may be able to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), covering medical emergencies and pre-existing health conditions, if the Prime Minister’s deal is accepted while a no-deal Brexit could leave British holidaymakers without health coverage. For more information about the future of EHIC, Eurotunnel has written an in-depth article that can be found here.


Flights and ferries to EU member states as well as to non-EU countries in the Schengen Area, such as Norway or Iceland, may be delayed or canceled in the event of a no-deal Brexit and UK holidaymakers may be interested to know if their transport fares will be compensated if travel complications arise. The Association of British Transport Agents (ABTA) has stated that ferries, being subject to international maritime conventions, will compensate their passengers as usual if boarding problems occur. British travelers who are unable to use the Eurostar, regulated by EU laws regarding the rights of rail passengers which are being incorporated into UK law, will also be compensated.

Driving Permits

British holidaymakers who wish to drive while in an EU country may need to acquire, in addition to a valid UK passport, an International Driving Permit (IDP) if they want to hire a car or operate a vehicle during their holidays abroad. Whether or not UK holidaymakers will need to acquire an IDP will depend, however, on whether Britain leaves the EU with or without a deal. IDPs, costing around £5:50, can be purchased from certain branches of the Post Office as well as the from the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Limited or from the Automobile Association (AA) public limited company.

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Jeffrey Valencia

Jeffrey is our content and customer relations manager here at Backpacker Travel. He looks after most of the new information that appears on the site including guest posts.

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