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Travelling to the EU from 1 January 2021

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. The agreed transition period ended on 31 December 2020, and the UK is now not subject to EU rules and regulations. This has important implications for UK travellers to the EU.

The European Commission EU has not yet made a decision on the UK’s continued participation in the Green Card Free Circulation Zone, which was separate from the main negotiations. UK citizens must therefore carry a Green Card when driving a UK vehicle in the EU.

A decision has been reached on medical cover for UK citizens travelling to the EU (EHIC scheme).

It will be necessary to ensure that you make the necessary preparations and have the correct paperwork before you travel. Please see below for guidance for UK citizens travelling to the EU after 1 January 2021.

This information may change and we will keep these pages updated. 

Taking your vehicle to the EU

There is currently no agreement on the UK’s participation in the Green Card Free Circulation Zone, which means that anyone taking their vehicle to the EU will be required to carry with them a Green Card.

This is an international certificate of insurance, issued by insurance providers in the UK, guaranteeing that the motorist has the necessary third-party motor insurance for the countries they are driving in.

This includes motorists in Northern Ireland driving to and from the Republic of Ireland.

A Green Card is usually free (there may be an administrative charge) and you should contact your insurer to obtain one. We would suggest doing this a month before you plan to travel.

If you travel without a Green Card, you will be breaking the law; risking a fine, seizure of your vehicle, or prosecution.

Driving in Europe FAQs

  •  If I have comprehensive motor insurance, will this automatically cover me if my car is damaged or stolen abroad?

    All UK motor insurance providers will continue to provide the legal minimum motor insurance cover for travel to EEA countries if the driver is carrying a valid Green Card. You will, therefore, not need to purchase additional third-party motor insurance cover when travelling to these countries with a UK-registered vehicle.

    Fully comprehensive motor insurance provides coverage for you and your vehicle as well as other people – this is more than is provided by third-party policies.

    Not all insurers will automatically extend fully comprehensive cover for travel abroad, so it is advisable to carefully read your policy documents and contact your insurer to check what aspects of your policy apply while you are driving abroad.

  • I drive in the EU regularly in my own private car. Will I need to tell my insurer every time I travel?    

    A Green Card will automatically provide you with a guarantee of insurance for a minimum of 15 days. Insurers can also specify that it covers a longer period if this is required, so ask for this if you need it.  

    However, at the point at which you renew your motor insurance policy, you will also need to ensure you have a new Green Card for your new policy (even if you are still abroad on the date your original policy expires). If you decide to switch to a new insurer, you will need to request a new Green Card from that insurer as well.

  • Do I need to tell them what countries I will be visiting? Are the rules different depending on where I intend to travel?

    Travelling to EU member states only – the Green Card document itself is designed so it can be used in the same way across every EU member state. The Green Card will specify which countries you are allowed to drive in. Under the current rules, it will always cover you for each EU member state. However, your insurer may still ask you to confirm which countries you intend to travel to.   

    If travelling to a Green Card country that is not an EU member state then you will need to inform your insurer which countries you will be visiting as you will not automatically be covered for driving in any country outside the EU, even if they are part of the Green Card system.

  • I run a business where I employ drivers who regularly cross the border into the EU. Can I arrange their insurance for them or will they need their own documents?  

    As an employer, you will be able to arrange insurance cover on behalf of your employees, as you do today.  

    However, each of your employees will have an individual legal responsibility to carry these documents. Driving for employment or business purposes would not exempt anyone from needing to carry a Green Card.

    A Green Card is required to cover the registration number of the individual vehicle, so a Green Card will be needed to cover each vehicle insured under one policy when being driven in the EU.

    If your employees change vehicles, they will need to carry the Green Card that is registered to the registration of the vehicle they are driving.

    If the vehicle is towing a trailer, you will also need a separate green card for that trailer.

  • Can I obtain a Green Card to cover my fleet of vehicles?

    A Green Card is required to cover the registration number of the individual vehicle, regardless of whether it is part of a fleet. One Green Card will be needed to cover each vehicle insured under one policy when being driven in the EU. 

    Most commercial fleet motor policies will have been purchased through a broker.  If this is the case then businesses should speak to their broker about issuing Green Cards. Some brokers may have the ability to issue green cards on behalf of the insurer, others will go via the insurer.

    If your employees change vehicles, they will need to carry the Green Card that is registered to the registration of the vehicle they are driving.

    If the vehicle is towing a trailer, you will also need a separate green card for that trailer.

    It may be the case that the insurer/broker doesn’t have the detailed registration of each vehicle within your fleet.  You may need to provide this information to your insurer or broker if requested.

  • My business has vehicles regularly driving across the Northern Irish border. Do those vehicles require a green card?

    Yes. It is particularly important to ensure that any vehicle driving across the Northern Irish border has a Green Card.

  • Can I use the documents insurers provide to rent or borrow a vehicle while I am in an EU member state? 

    No. If Green Card documents are provided, this will only apply to your own UK-registered vehicle.  If you want to rent or borrow a vehicle, you will need to arrange insurance separately and your Green Card will not cover this.  

     

  • What happens if I am involved in an accident abroad that I may be wholly or partly responsible for – do I need to contact my insurer? 

    Yes. You will need to contact your insurer as soon as possible. You will also need to ask for the insurance details of the other driver and we would also strongly recommend you gather as much evidence as you can about what happened in the accident, including taking photos if possible.

  • Do I need a European Accident Statement?

    No. The European Accident Statement is a standardised document to make it easier for drivers involved in an accident to exchange facts, but you are not required to carry a copy of the European Accident Statement in your car. Your insurer may provide you with a copy alongside your Green Card. 

     

  • What help will I receive if I am involved in an accident that was not my fault while driving in the EU?  

    Through the Green Card scheme, the UK has well-established relationships with motor insurers in each member state to facilitate the settlement of claims for any incidents involving cross-border drivers.  

    The UK has now been withdrawn from the ‘Protection of Visitors Scheme' which allows victims of road traffic collisions in EEA countries to make compensation claims in their own country and language.

    However, the Motor Insurance Bureau has been working closely with the Bureaux and Guarantee Funds of EEA states to sign bilateral Protection of visitors agreements to facilitate the exchange of information, to enable the MIB and EEA counterparts to assist victims in obtaining the information they may need to make a claim. At present, agreements have been reached with most EEA states, but a full path to compensation has not been established for Poland and Romania.

  • If I do not intend to use my car in another EU member state and only plan to drive in the UK, will this have any impact on my car insurance?  

    No. If you do not intend to use your car outside of the UK, you will not need to arrange for your insurer to issue you with a Green Card and there will not be any impact on your insurance cover.  

  • Will the rules for driving abroad change when the UK-EU transition period comes to an end?

    In addition to the potential changes to insurance rules, there will be a number of significant changes to driving rules and licensing requirements. You will need to comply with all these requirements under the terms of your motor insurance policy.

Travel insurance and the EHIC

The new GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) provides you with the same medically necessary state-provided healthcare that you were able to access with an EHIC when travelling to the EU.

EHICs already issued remain valid until they expire, at which point UK residents can apply for a GHIC card under the new regime announced by the Government in January 2021.

It is important to remember that the EHIC/GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance as it will not cover you for all medical costs or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK.

Travel Insurance FAQs

  • What is GHIC?

    The new GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) provides you with the same medically necessary state-provided healthcare that you were able to access with an EHIC when travelling to the EU. Necessary healthcare includes treatment for a pre-existing or chronic condition – some treatments will need to be pre-arranged with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you're visiting, for example kidney dialysis or chemotherapy. It does not include healthcare that you travel specifically to receive.

    GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance as it will not cover you for all medical costs or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK.

    All UK residents are eligible to apply for a GHIC, and it is valid in all EU countries.

  • Is my EHIC card still valid?

    Your EHIC card will be valid until it expires, and you can continue to use it when travelling to the EU. Your current EHIC will no longer be valid in EFTA countries: Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Some UK residents will be eligible to apply for a new EHIC card, which is valid in EFTA countries. Please see the NHS web page for more details on who is eligible.

  • How can I get a GHIC?

    The new GHIC card is free to obtain from the official GHIC website. It is recommended that you apply at least 2 weeks before you plan to travel to ensure your card arrives on time.

  • Is the GHIC valid globally?

    No. The GHIC is only valid in the EU.

    The UK is looking to agree new arrangements with the EFTA countries that would further extend reciprocal healthcare cover. An agreement with Norway has already been reached, and UK citizens ordinarily resident in the UK can use a UK passport to access state-provided medical treatment that becomes necessary during a trip to Norway.

  • What is a new EHIC card?

    The UK will continue to issue new EHIC cards to eligible UK residents. These new EHIC cards will continue to be valid throughout the EEA and Switzerland. Those eligible include certain UK/EU dual nationals, and certain UK residents who have been in the EU for work or study since before 1 January 2021. Please see the NHS website for more details.

  • What about travel to Ireland?

    Under existing Common Travel Area arrangements with Ireland, UK residents will continue to be able to access necessary healthcare in Ireland by showing proof of residency documentation (such as a UK driving licence, a biometric residence permit, or a Northern Irish medical card) or EHIC or GHIC as used elsewhere in the EU.

  • Will insurers be changing their terms and conditions to accommodate this?

    For many travel policies in the market, the change from the EHIC to the GHIC is unlikely to lead to a meaningful change to terms and conditions; any reference to the EHIC would simply be irrelevant and customers would still be able to make medical claims.

  • I have retired/am planning to retire in France. What access to healthcare will I get?

    Travel insurance will only cover temporary stays abroad, for periods not exceeding the trip duration you have chosen. It does not cover those who are living abroad on a permanent or semi-permanent basis and most travel policies require that, to be eligible for cover, customers have their main home in the UK and are registered with a doctor in the UK.