What changes has Brexit made to European travel from the UK? How can you keep up with changing Covid travel rules? What other precautions should you take? We’ve put together ten tips to help you have a safe and successful trip abroad.
1. Buy the right travel insurance policy
Buy travel insurance that covers you for (at the very least) emergency medical treatment overseas, including cover for pre-existing medical conditions, repatriation and lost possessions. Make sure your policy dates align with the dates you’re travelling. And, if you want to be covered for COVID-related cancellation or sickness, check that it includes this. Don’t forget to make sure that every activity you plan to do is also included in your cover: from cycling to scuba diving. Then, once you’re abroad, remember to carry your emergency assistance number and insurance details with you, so you can get help quickly, if you need it. Without the right insurance, an emergency abroad could set you back tens of thousands of pounds.
2. Check your passport validity well in advance
Brexit changes now mean that British passport holders travelling to Europe need to have at least three months left on their passports on the day they leave. British passports must also be less than 10 years old (sometimes they will have been issued before the old one expired, which could make them older than 10 years). For more information, visit GOV.UK.
3. Be risk-aware
Situations abroad can change quickly, so keep up with the latest government travel updates and Covid testing, vaccination and entry rules for the country you’re visiting on GOV.UK. Bear in mind that travel to some countries may be advised against at short notice (not just because of Covid) and you could invalidate your travel insurance if you ignore this advice. Once you’re abroad, stay safe by following local authority guidance about wildfires or other dangers.
4. Do your research
Find out about the area where you’re staying; for instance, about essential shops like pharmacies, phone numbers for emergency services and safe transport options if you’re planning to stay out late at night.
5. Check your vaccinations
Covid aside, before you go to any country, make sure you’ve had the right vaccinations to meet entry regulations and protect yourself. It’s also important to ensure sure you’re up-to-date with routine vaccinations like measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). For more information, see Travel Health Pro.
6. Look after your general health
Pack a first aid kit with essential medication (take extra in case you’re delayed coming home), insect repellent, sunscreen, antiseptic and plasters. Then, if you’re travelling somewhere hot, drink plenty of (bottled) water, slap on the sunscreen regularly, especially after swimming, and stay in the shade to avoid heatstroke, particularly in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. If there’s a risk of mosquito-borne diseases, cover yourself up with loose clothing, use insect repellents and, if possible, sleep in a room with screened windows or a mosquito net.
7. Travelling to Europe? Remember Brexit changes to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
For most people, the EHIC has been replaced by the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which gives UK citizens free state-provided healthcare in EU countries, but not in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. Travellers from the UK are being asked to apply for the free GHIC when their current EHIC expires. Remember, the GHIC or EHIC aren’t a substitute for a good travel insurance policy as they don’t cover every emergency.
8. Copy important documents
Before you set off abroad, e-mail yourself images of essential documents: not least your passport, credit cards, driving licence and travel insurance policy. Then you’ll be able to access them remotely if they’re lost or stolen and replace them more easily. It's also a good idea to take photos of your prescription if you’re taking regular medication, and your optical prescription if you wear glasses or contact lenses.
9. Travelling to a developing country?
It’s not just the tap water that may give you diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis or other diseases, but also any fruit, salad or vegetables that have been washed in water and then eaten without any cooking - and even ice cubes in drinks. You can avoid food and water-borne diseases by washing your hands regularly, drinking bottled water and sticking to piping hot, cooked food or peeling fruit and raw vegetables before you eat them.
10. Be careful
Keep an eye on your bags, make sure zips are closed, and leave valuables locked up. Avoid walking around alone at night and, if you’re mugged, don’t put up a fight - it’s just not worth it. If an area feels risky, use ATMs inside shopping centres and banks, rather than on the street. And don’t swim, drive or do any adventurous activities if you’ve been drinking alcohol. You can stay cyber safe too by avoiding public Wi-Fi, especially if you’re using apps for online banking. Last but not least, avoid posting photos on social media that reveal too much personal information, and choose your selfie spots carefully - well away from dangerous cliff edges or other hazards.
If you have a medical emergency abroad and haven’t got travel insurance, or find it doesn’t cover you, get in touch with our 24/7 global medical repatriation service.