It seems a lifetime since I last travelled in Europe. Looking back it was a very different time. Brexit had yet to happen and a global pandemic wasn’t even a consideration.
Some travellers did manage to get onto the continent in the short period between lockdowns. All I managed to achieve was a shelved plan with cancelled ferry and accommodation bookings.
Now that we are moving forward to some kind of stable normality I can dust off those plans once again. However while my past focus had been creating the route I have yet to take a detailed look at how Brexit had changed travel requirements.
The new rules have had a significant and negative effect to businesses who transport unaccompanied motorcycles. In such a situation the vehicles are considered goods and could incur duties. While this situation remains unresolved at the time of writing, I would be travelling over to Spain together with my bike on the ferry.
Despite all the negatives of having to jump though hoops its nothing I haven’t previously experienced. I’ve always had to ensure correct documentation on my US trips and I’m only subject to some requirements faced by my American friends when travelling to the Alps.
It’s just important to know and understand the requirements so to ensure there are no nasty surprises.
So, what are the requirements when travelling from the UK?
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must meet the Schengen area rules.
Your passport must meet 2 requirements. It must be:
- less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
The rules for travelling or working in European countries changed on 1 January 2021:
- you can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training
- if you are travelling to and EU country and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through the EU country as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
At the border control, you may need to:
- queue in separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens
- show a return or onward ticket
- demonstrate that you have enough money for your stay
- have proof of accommodation for your stay
While there some exceptions, you cannot take the following with you into the EU:
- meat or products containing meat
- milk or dairy products
- fresh fruit (apart from bananas, coconuts, dates, pineapples and durians)
While the requirements for a green card were waived you should carry a paper copy of your insurance certificate and check that the insurance has the cover you need.
Number Plate Sticker
I have seen references to the requirement of a GB sticker but I think that there was some fluidity in this post Brexit. Looking at the Gov website the requirements are of a UK identifier and a Union flag to be displayed.
A pink card driving licence should be sufficient without the need for an International Driving Permit
You might also need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have:
- a paper driving licence
- a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
- Original V5C vehicle registration certificate
- Ensure your vehicle’s tax and MOT are valid and up-to-date
A breakdown can ruing a trip so I would always recommend that you take out European breakdown cover. If you have cover from the manufacturer make sure that it’s sufficient and hasn’t expired.
Either way make sure you have the European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents
While you can use a valid EHIC or GHIC (you can apply for the latter for free) these only cover the basics so it recommended to have a travel insurance policy in place. Bear in mind that you will probably be on a ‘big’ bike so a standard travel insurance policy will be insufficient as in the case of an accident they only cover use of 125cc and below. Look for a specialist insurance package. I’ve found these to be inexpensive for the peace of mind they provide.
Mobile phone roaming charges
The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway has ended.
Only Virgin Mobile and O2 have stated that they are retaining free roaming charges at the time of writing.
Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you may have to pay.