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Travelling in Europe

This advice applies to Wales

If you’re planning to travel in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein you should:

  • check the latest travel advice on GOV.UK - there might be extra rules because of coronavirus
  • check your passport is valid for the dates you’re travelling
  • get travel insurance
  • find out if you’ll be charged more to use your mobile phone
  • check you’ve got everything you have to take if you’ll be driving, for example a UK sticker for your car
  • check you’ve got the right documents if you’re taking your pet

Check your passport is valid for the dates you’re travelling

You’ll need to renew your passport if either:

  • there’s less than 3 months left on your passport when you travel
  • your passport is 10 years old or more the day after you leave the country - count this from the date your passport was issued

You can check if your passport will be valid for your trip on GOV.UK. 

Apply for your passport as early as you can - it can take several weeks to process in busy times. If you need to renew a passport urgently, you can book an appointment for the 1 week fast track service on GOV.UK.

Get travel insurance

If you're a UK resident and have an existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can still use it to get state provided healthcare in EU countries until it expires. You can also use an existing EHIC in Switzerland if you’re a UK national, Swiss national or EU citizen.

You can’t use an existing EHIC in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein - you’ll need to get a new one instead.

You might be able to apply for a new EHIC if before 1 January 2021 you started being one of the following:

  • an EU citizen living in in the UK
  • a Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtenstein or Swiss national living in the UK
  • a UK student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland
  • a UK state pensioner living in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland

You might also be able to apply for an EHIC if you're a family member or dependant of someone who’s eligible.

You can apply for a new EHIC for free on the NHS website - you can apply up to 6 months before your existing EHIC expires. You should be careful if you see other websites offering EHICs, they’ll usually try to charge you.

You might be able to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead if:

  • you don’t have an EHIC
  • your EHIC has expired
  • you’re not eligible for an EHIC

You might also be able to apply for a GHIC if you're a family member or dependant of someone who’s eligible.

You can use a GHIC to get ‘medically necessary’ healthcare in EU countries at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. Medically necessary healthcare means any treatment that can’t wait until you get back to the UK. You can also use it in Switzerland if you’re a UK national, Swiss national or EU citizen. If you’re travelling to Norway, you can use your UK passport for medically necessary healthcare.

You can apply for a GHIC for free on the NHS website.

You should still get travel insurance before your trip - even if you have an EHIC or GHIC. An EHIC or GHIC won’t cover the cost of travel back to your own country if you’re ill - this is known as ‘repatriation’. Repatriation can be very expensive.

If you have an existing illness or health issue

Most travel insurance won’t cover you for any illnesses or health issues you already have. If they do, you'll usually have to pay more money.

It’s important to tell your insurer if you have any existing health issues before buying insurance. If they can’t cover you, they should recommend a specialist insurance company that can.

If you have an EHIC or GHIC, it might allow you to get routine medical care for existing illnesses or health issues. You should check with the healthcare provider in the country you’re travelling to first. Some treatments might need to be arranged before you travel.

Find out if you’ll be charged more to use your mobile phone

You might have to pay more to use your mobile phone in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Before you go, ask your mobile phone service provider what the charges will be for using your mobile phone abroad.  

Make sure you understand how to turn off mobile roaming on your phone if you’re worried about extra charges. This is usually in the phone’s ‘settings’ menu under ‘mobile roaming’.

If you want to use data abroad, check with your mobile provider to see if you have a data bundle that can be used abroad. If you don’t have a bundle or you’ve used it up, you’ll be charged for data. Once you’ve used up to £45 of data you’ll get a warning message - you’ll need to reply to the message if you want to pay to use more data.

If you’re driving abroad

If you’re planning to drive in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you'll need to take:

  • your driving licence and vehicle log book – you should check they’re up to date first
  • a UK sticker for your vehicle
  • a hired vehicle certificate – if you’re hiring or leasing your vehicle
  • an emissions sticker if you’re going to a European city that needs one - you might need to apply a few months before you travel

You might also have to take other things like a reflective jacket or a warning triangle sticker – it depends where you’re going. Check what else you need to take if you’re driving abroad on the AA’s website.

Check your driving licence and vehicle log book are up to date

You’ll need to take your driving licence with you. If it’s about to run out, you’ll need to renew it at least a week before you travel. You can check if your driving licence is still valid and order a new one on GOV.UK.

You’ll also need to take your vehicle log book (V5C) with you. If you don’t have one, you can order a replacement log book from DVLA. Ask for it at least 6 weeks before you go. You’ll have to pay a fee.

Check if you need an international driving permit (IDP)

You might need to get an IDP to drive in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland if you have a paper driving licence. You don’t need one if you have a UK photo driving licence. You might need more than one IDP if you’re driving in more than one country.

You can check if you’ll need an IDP for the countries where you’ll be driving on GOV.UK.

You can get an IDP at the Post Office. You’ll need:

  • a full valid UK driving licence - photocard or paper
  • a passport-sized photograph
  • £5.50 application fee - for each IDP
  • your passport if you’re taking a paper driving licence

You must be 18 or over to get an IDP.

Get a UK sticker

You’ll need either:

  • a number plate that includes the UK symbol
  • a UK sticker on the back of your vehicle - you can buy this

You must use a UK sticker if you’re going to Spain, Cyprus or Malta - even if your number plate includes the UK symbol.

Check your insurance

You’ll need the right insurance to drive abroad. Check with your insurance company that your policy covers you and how long you can drive outside the UK. You might need to pay extra to drive abroad.

Check if you need a hired vehicle certificate

If you’re taking a hired or leased vehicle abroad you’ll need to take a VE103 vehicle on hire certificate with you to show you’re allowed to drive it. 

You can get a VE103 from your rental or lease company. You can also find other organisations where you can get a VE103 on GOV.UK. You might have to pay a fee for a VE103.

If you’re hiring a car abroad

You might have to share your online licence information when you pick up the car - this is information that isn’t on your photo licence. You can get a ‘check code’ to share your driving information with someone on GOV.UK. The code is valid for 21 days.

Insurance is usually included when you hire a car, but you should check it’s enough for your needs. You can sometimes pay more for extra cover.

Travelling with your pet

If you have a UK pet passport it won’t be valid anymore. 

Your pet or assistance animal will need:

  • a microchip
  • a rabies vaccination
  • an animal health certificate - unless you have a pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland
  • tapeworm treatment for dogs - if the country you’re going to requires it

Talk to your vet at least 10 days before you plan to travel for advice on what you need to do and how much it'll cost. Prices can vary between vets so it's a good idea to contact other vets to compare costs. You can also check what to do when taking your pet dog, cat or ferret abroad on GOV.UK.

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