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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

  • Will I still be able to use my insurance to drive in other EU member states after 31 December?

    Yes. All UK motor insurance providers will continue to provide the legal minimum motor insurance cover for travel to European Economic Area countries (EEA - all EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein). 

    If you are a UK motorist, you will, therefore, not need to purchase additional third-party motor insurance policy cover when travelling to these countries with a UK-registered vehicle. You would continue to hold the same third-party cover that you do now. 

  • Does this apply for driving across the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border?

    Northern Ireland residents driving to the Republic of Ireland:

    Yes. You should contact your insurer to arrange for the appropriate Green Card documents.

    Republic of Ireland residents travelling to Northern Ireland:

    No. Valid Irish insurance discs will be accepted as proof of insurance for Irish vehicles.

  • Do I need to carry any additional documents if I am driving with a caravan or trailer?

    Yes. If your vehicle is towing a trailer or caravan, you will need two Green Cards. One for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer, or caravan.

  • If I have a multi-car policy will I need a Green Card for each vehicle insured?

    Yes. 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. 

  • Do I need to tell my insurer I plan to drive in another EU member state?

    Yes. You will need to contact your motor insurer in advance of any trip to arrange for Green Card documents to be provided. We would suggest you contact them about one month in advance. This will apply to any motor vehicle and to all forms of motor insurance – including commercial and motor fleet policies.  

    Private motorists are already advised to contact their insurer in advance of overseas travel (including within the EU) to arrange for other aspects of their cover to be extended to the period while driving abroad (including cover for accidental damage to the vehicle). The exact arrangements for this will depend on the level of cover taken out when you bought the policy. 

  • Will there be any additional charges?

    It is possible that there may be a small administrative charge associated with the provision of Green Card documents.  

    In addition, if you have fully comprehensive insurance, you will need to contact your insurer to check what aspects of this apply while you are driving abroad. Some insurers will allow you to purchase additional cover for when you are driving abroad.

  • Is my insurer ready to issue Green Cards?

    Yes. Insurers have been preparing for this and will be able to issue Green Cards in time for your trip. We recommend that you contact your insurer around one month before you plan to travel.

  • If I have to tell my insurer in advance, how much notice will I need to give?

    In order to allow sufficient time to process documents, you will need to give your insurer sufficient notice of your intention to travel in advance. So, it is best to contact them about one month in advance.  

    It is a requirement that your Green Card document covers a period of a minimum of 15 days. Therefore, if your motor insurance policy is due to expire less than 15 days after the date of travel, you will need to ensure you have confirmed your renewal before you depart (even if your trip is less than 15 days in total).  

    As is the case with other forms of travel documentation, you may also need to allow additional time if you are travelling at a busy period, such as during the summer or around a Bank Holiday.  

  • What happens if I have not received a Green Card?

    If you are not carrying a Green Card when it is required, then you will not be able to drive legally in any EU member state. If you do attempt to drive in the EU without holding a Green Card, you may be accused of driving without insurance and could face a fine, having your vehicle seized, or prosecution.  

    The only other legal option available would be to purchase insurance locally when you arrive in the country (often known as ‘frontier insurance’). However, such insurance cover may not be widely available and may be more expensive than UK-issued policies. 

  • Do I need to have a paper copy of a Green Card when I travel or will a digital version be ok?

    You will need to have a physical copy with you when you travel – your insurer can either send you a physical copy of the green card, or can send you a digital copy which you must print out – either will be acceptable.

  • Will a digital version be acceptable?

    No, you will need to have a physical copy. A digital copy stored on a mobile device, such as an iPhone or tablet, will not be accepted.  You can either request for your insurer to post you a hard copy of the document, or they can send you a digital version which you must print out.

  • Do I need to print my green card on green paper or card?

    No, there is no longer a requirement for the green card to be printed onto green coloured paper.  Printing the green card document onto white paper will be valid.  However, you must have a physical copy of the green card as a digital version will not be accepted.

  • What if my policy is due for renewal when I am abroad?

    You will need two Green Cards - one for each policy. If you change insurers, ask both your existing and your new insurer to provide you with a Green Card.

  • Will I need to show my insurance documents when I cross the border into the EU? Will I also need to show the documents when I move from one EU member state to another? 

    You may be required to show documents at the border when entering the EU, but this will be a decision for the border authorities to take. You may also be subject to police checks while driving abroad and you will also need to be able to present the document at the scene if you are involved in an accident.

      

  • Will authorities in EU countries recognise the documents – or could I still be told I need to buy cover from a local insurer while I am driving abroad? 

    EU member states will all recognise the Green Card document. Provided you have these documents, you will not need to purchase additional insurance from a local insurer.   

    The Green Card system has a standardised format that has been agreed by all EU member states (including the UK) and is currently used for travel outside the EU to other Green Card member countries (you can find a full list of Green Card member countries here.)  

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.