Driving in the EU after Brexit – everything you need to know

Driving in the EU after Brexit – everything you need to know

In December 2020, the EU and UK came to an agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal.

To help our members, we have provided an overview of what you’ll need to do if you’re planning on driving in EU or EEA countries.

Please note that this advice is correct as of 31st August 2021

European Breakdown Cover

The RAC will continue to provide breakdown cover through our partners operating within the European Union, either on an annual basis or just for a single trip.

With our comprehensive plus European breakdown cover, there is no limit to the costs to get your vehicle home. If repairs cost more than £500 you can choose to have your car brought home instead of having it repaired in Europe, providing the vehicle is not beyond economical repair.

It is vital that you also have the correct documentation with you after the UK leaves the EU. Read on for more information on International Driving Permits and Green Card insurance.

European Breakdown Cover

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7.*

European Breakdown Cover

Passport validity

For travel to Europe, UK passports should: 

  • have at least 6 months validity left
  • and, be less than 10 years old 

UK passport holders should check its validity using the Government’s online passport checker.

If required, apply for a new passport in good time – it may take up to 10 weeks to renew online. It may take longer for a first adult passport. 

Burgundy passports, whether with “European Union” on the cover or not, remain valid alongside the new blue passport.

International Driving Permits

If you have a photocard driving licence, an International Driving Permit (IDP) will not be required for short visits to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. However, there are some exceptions.

For example, people who only have a paper licence, not a photocard one should purchase an IDP. Those that have licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man may also need an IDP.

All types of IDP are available over the counter at most Post Office branches. The RAC no longer issues IDPs. It is important to ensure you have the right IDP for the EU country you are travelling in - the GOV.UK website has the most-up-to-date information.

An IDP will cost £5.50, however if you are travelling to multiple countries where different IDP versions are required, you would need to purchase the correct IDO for each country.

Read our guide to IDPs for more information.

Green Card insurance

From 2nd August 2021, motorists will no longer require an insurance green card to drive their vehicles in the EU (including Ireland). The same applies in Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia, and Switzerland. 

You may need to carry a green card in some other countries, which you can find here.

Green Cards are an international certificate of insurance issued by insurance providers in the UK, guaranteeing that the motorist has the necessary third-party motor insurance cover for travel in the country being travelled to. The UK Government advises that you can now print green cards yourself. They no longer need to be printed on green paper.

Motorists should contact their vehicle insurers to obtain a green card both for their car and, if they are towing, for their trailer or caravan as well. There may be an administrative cost involved.

As of December 2020, the UK Government advises that if you need a physical copy of a green card, you will need to contact your vehicle insurance provider at least 6 weeks before you travel.

You may need to show green cards at police checks and at the border when entering the EEA or moving between EEA countries. This is likely to depend on the authorities at the border of each country.

Keep up to date here.

GB stickers post-Brexit

From 28th September 2021, the distinguishing mark (or national identifier) displayed on vehicles registered in the United Kingdom that are driven abroad will change from GB to UK.  

This means that vehicles registered in the UK must display the letters “UK” when driven in the EU.   

The identifier can be incorporated in vehicle number plates (along with the Union Flag) or as a separate sticker. Note that vehicles featuring the letters GB together with the Council of Europe golden stars are no longer valid for driving abroad.

If your vehicle does not have the UK identifier within the number plate, you will require a UK sticker. GB stickers will no longer be valid from the end of September.

Taking your pets abroad

Pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. You’ll need a pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland, instead.

Before your dog, cat or ferret can travel to the EU or Northern Ireland, you’ll need an animal health certificate (AHC) instead of a pet passport. Government guidance states:

  1. You must have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped.
  2. Vaccinate your dog, cat or ferret against rabies – your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated.
  3. Wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel.
  4. Visit your vet to get an AHC for your pet around a month before your travels and no more than 10 days before travel to the EU.

Further guidance on the process can be found here.

UK nationals living in Europe

If you live and drive in the EU or in an EEA country, Government guidance says you should consider exchanging your UK driving licence for a local one.

The deadline for this depends on which country you live in. The Government’s advice lays out the situation depending on which country you live in. 

Road traffic accidents in Europe

In the event of a road traffic accident in an EU country you should in the first instance contact your insurer.

In the event of an accident in an EU or EEA country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation. Contact your insurer for more information.

This scenario could differ depending on the country.

Taking food and plants into the EU

Be aware that you cannot take the following with you into the EU:

  • meat or products containing meat
  • milk or dairy products

You cannot take the following into the EU unless you pay to have them inspected before you leave and get a ‘phytosanitary certificate’:

  • fresh fruit (apart from bananas, coconuts, dates, pineapples and durians)
  • vegetables
  • plants
  • plant products

Find out more here.

Vehicle registration documents

If you are taking your vehicle to the EU for less than 12 months, you should carry one of the following documents with you:

  • your vehicle log book (V5C), if you have one
  • a VE103 to show you’re allowed to use your hired or leased vehicle abroad

Vehicle on Hire Certificate

UK motorists travelling abroad in a UK registered vehicle must carry its original Vehicle Registration Document (VRD). If your vehicle is hired or leased, the hire/lease company will not usually release the original VRD. The Vehicle on Hire Certificate is the normal alternative, which can be carried by the driver in lieu of the original VRD.

To find out more information including how to get a Vehicle on Hire Certificate, read our guide.

Find out more

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*Based on 1 day cover in Zone 1, max 9 people in a vehicle up to 1 year old.