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How easy will EU travel really be from March?

EU travel from March will be easier than before because all fully vaccinated travellers to EU countries will be allowed to visit without requiring COVID-19 tests. Once this goes to plan, we’ll have the opportunity to book a last-minute holiday in time for the Easter holidays – hooray! As the UK removes the last of its COIVD travel restrictions and we start living with the virus, it appears that life has retreated back to normal.

However, to make our lives even easier, we need to be organised. When you decide to visit the EU, refer to the latest European travel restrictions. Most of which were put in place post-Brexit. Some of which, may not have crossed our minds. Therefore, how easy EU travel will really be, while we live in both a COVID and post-Brexit world, is what we aim to answer…

 

EU Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions across the EU have always been around to allow the free movement of people, goods, and services while respecting health and safety measures.  Since the pandemic, they’ve been in place to control the spread of Coronavirus. With other variations of the virus likely, remember that the EU will bring back its own travel restrictions when needed.

The latest EU travel restrictions and COVID

  1. Children (six to 18), who’re not fully vaccinated, will have the freedom to travel. As long as they have a negative pre-departure PCR test.
  2. Not fully vaccinated? You’ll be treated as unvaccinated when travelling around Europe. Follow each state’s isolation rules. You can find the latest EU travel rules and restrictions for the country you wish to visit by viewing the Euronews web page.
  3. All UK travelers need an EU Digital COVID Certificate, which is the EU equivalent to the COVID passport.
  4. Passenger locator forms (PLFs) are now simpler in the UK. Whether they’re present or not for Easter is still being discussed by the UK Government. However, they’re likely to be kept in the EU. We recommend visiting the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website for up-to-date travel advice on this subject, as well as ABTA.

A quote from a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has said:

‘ABTA believes that all COVID restrictions introduced on international travel, including the passenger locator form, should be kept under review and removed as soon as this can be delivered in line with the Government’s public health objectives…simplifications to the PLF are a step in the right direction, but the UK’s system for collecting passenger data remains much more complex than that used by many other countries, especially competitor markets in Europe.’

The exemptions from restrictions on travel to the EU

  • EU citizens and nationals from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the UK and their family members
  • Third-country nationals, who’re long-term residents under the Long-term Residence Directive, or developing their right to reside from other EU Directives or national law, or who hold national long-term visas and their family members.

Although temporary, these EU travel restrictions do not apply to people with an essential function or need, such as passengers in transit or passengers travelling for imperative family reasons.

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EU Digital COVID Certificates

Since July 2021, EU digital COVID Certificates have been in use by EU residents and citizens across Europe. Like the UK’s COVID Vaccine Passport, it’s an app that lives on your phone, which proves you’re fully vaccinated to travel.

On balance, EU states can only accept vaccination certificates for nine months after the date of the last dose of primary vaccination. That’s 270 days from the first or second shot. However, this does not apply to certificates of the booster shot. All EU states have been invited to follow this travel rule. Plus, no additional restrictions, such as COVID tests or quarantine measures, (regardless of their place of departure in the EU) need to be adhered to. In essence, EU travel should continue throughout the continent. Face masks are no longer mandatory either.

On the other hand, whether all EU members follow this travel rule is another question. For instance, Italy still requests its visitors to have a negative lateral flow or PCR test. Will they have a rethink and boost tourism, after a slow ski season? Time will tell. However, this is why it’s important to refer to up-to-date FCDO travel advice for the country you’re visiting beforehand.

How to get an EU Digital COVID Certificate

With EU travel achievable, how UK travellers can get the certificate is simple. As the UK is a third (non-EU) country, the UK government has joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate system, based upon EU equivalence decisions.

How to apply for an EU travel certificate? Prove your COVID-19 vaccination status

There’s no need to apply but we advise you to download the NHS App, to prove your COVID-19 vaccination status before travelling or registering for an NHS login to obtain a paper copy.

Overall, if you have one of the following, you’ll be accepted into the EU, under the same conditions as an EU citizen, who has an EU Digital COVID Certificate.

For travel to the EU you need:

Next, you’ll need to refer to the EU Travel restrictions post-Brexit…

 

Passports and EU travel post Brexit

It doesn’t matter if it’s red or blue. Make sure your passport has been issued within the last 10 years and it has six months validity before its expiry date. You want to ensure your travel plans can take place right? If it’s not valid and you only notice when reaching the boarding gates, you’ll be left at the airport. Also, you may even be refused a refund.

passport for EU travel

This is because UK passport holders are now classed as “third-country nationals”. So, to travel to most EU countries, our passports must have been issued within the last 10 years.

What EU travel rules are there on UK passports?

  1. A passport must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter an EU country.
  2. A passport must be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave.

On balance, always check your airline’s travel rules to the EU. You can find these by reading their terms and conditions. Or, contact the embassy of the country you’re visiting.

EU Travel within the Schengen Area

So, your passports are valid and you have the freedom to travel outside the UK. However, travel within the Schengen area (which is a zone of over 20 European countries) is now set to 90 days only, within a 180—day period. Plus, if you’re planning on visiting one of the popular Schengen countries (such as France, Greece, Italy, Spain, or Portugal), from the end of 2022, you’ll need to pay for an ETIAS visa waiver under the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System(ETIAS).

Another item you need to ensure is in date are your EHIC/GHIC cards

 

Healthcare in the EU

During the Brexit agreement, the UK and EU ensured that a reciprocal healthcare arrangement would stay be in place. Although, the only change is that no healthcare arrangements are in place – for anyone travelling to Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. This remains true if you hold a current EHIC or a new GHIC.

To review all the Brexit travel rules that came into place for travel to the EU read our previous blog – Brexit travel.

 

Thinking of travelling to the EU?

Here are some ideas to inspire you to leap over the channel:

eu travel Italy

 

EU Travel Insurance with Free Spirit

As always, when travelling to Europe you’ll need a travel insurance policy that meets all your wants and needs. Take Free Spirit travel insurance for a single or an annual multi-trip to the European Union and Coronavirus cover will also be included to give you the confidence to travel when you wish.

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