Brexit travel: everything you need to know about passports, trains, flights and cars next week and beyond
Ordinarily, holidaymakers a week away from going on holiday would be letting the milkperson know they will be away and plotting a shopping trip for a new swimming costume. Instead, we at Which? Travel have been inundated with questions about passports, insurance and flight cancellations. With Brexit now potentially set for 12 April – and the possibility of leaving with no deal on 29 March still in play – travellers’ main concern is whether their holiday will go ahead.
Given the increasing risk of a no deal, there are steps you should take immediately to prepare for and protect your holiday against disruption.
If you haven’t already, take out travel insurance – today. Many people purchase cover a day or two before they travel, but if a Government or EU announcement on Brexit causes disruption or cancellations to your trip before then, you would not be covered. Always take out travel insurance the day you book.
You also need to make sure that the insurance you take out includes travel disruption cover, as it is not included as standard in cheaper policies. An agreement has now been struck to allow flights to continue between the EU and UK regardless of no deal, which has reduced – but not removed – the risk of disruption. Longer queues at passport control due to extra checks being carried out on UK nationals in the event of no deal may cause significant delays. Ultimately, it is possible this will lead to cancellations as planes, ferries and trains stack up.
Strikes and cancellations
We have already seen evidence of this on Eurostar, where striking French border control staff are carrying out extra checks to demonstrate the potential impact of Brexit. This has led to Eurostar cancelling services and asking ticket-holders not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Cancellations caused by Brexit are almost certain to be classified as extraordinary circumstances, so ordinary routes of compensation, such as EU261 for flight delays, may not apply. You’ll need the right type of travel insurance.
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That might also mean taking out enhanced medical cover. The European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) won’t be valid after Brexit. It allowed UK residents to access emergency healthcare in most European countries for free. While this was always a companion rather than a replacement for travel insurance, you will now need to make sure that your policy has enough cover for medical emergencies. Treatment for a broken ankle or hip can quickly run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Check your passport
You should also check your passport today as well, because rules will change if we leave with no deal. If you’re travelling to Schengen zone countries, such as France, Spain and Italy, it is likely that you will need six months validity on your passport. More worryingly, up to three-and-a-half million UK passports which had extra validity added to them when last renewed won’t be accepted for travel, because of existing Schengen travel rules.
If you aren’t able to travel because your passport isn’t valid, you won’t get a refund or be able to claim with travel insurance. There is still time to act, however. Check your passport’s validity on passport.service.gov.uk and renew, if necessary, using the two-day premium service. It costs £177.
Those planning to drive will need an international driving permit (IDP). These cost £5.50 and can be purchased over the counter at some Post Offices. If you are driving your own car, you’ll also need to get a Green Card from your car insurance provider when driving in Europe, including Ireland. These cards are free, although it may be too late to obtain one if travelling immediately after we leave. Your best bet, in that case, would be to hire a car instead.
Of course many holidaymakers have played it safe, not booking until a deal has been struck. But both 12 April and the suggested extension date to Brexit of 22 May unhappily plot the next deal/no deal scenario right before the Easter and summer holidays. If you don’t want to wait any longer to book, you will get the best protection with a package holiday. Your travel agent will then be responsible for getting you to your destination – or refunding the full cost of the holiday if that’s not possible. That should leave you with just the milkperson and the swimming costume to sort out.
Rory Boland is editor of Which? Travel
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