Post-Brexit rules for school trips to Europe 2021
30 Nov 2021, 21:33 by Kate Moore
Now that school groups are able to travel abroad again, we’ve sifted through the rules to explain how Brexit will impact your school trip to Europe and what actions are required in the short, medium and long term.
Preparing for a school trip to Europe in 2021 - top tips for organisers
Everyone in the group needs to check their passport’s issue and expiry date and allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required
Students and teachers will either need a valid EHIC card, or apply for a new GHIC, before travel
Ensure the school trip has adequate travel insurance with medical cover
Remind students to check their mobile phone provider’s roaming charges for your school trip destination
When crossing the border, the party leader should carry the group’s return tickets and accommodation details with them
From the end of 2022, everyone will need to apply for a digital ETIAS pass to enter the EU
Will anyone need a new passport?
Before Brexit, you could travel to EU countries on your passport right up to the point it expired. Now you should have at least 6 months left on your UK passport and it needs to be less than 10 years old, or you may not be able to travel. Allow plenty of time to apply for your new dark blue passport (which will replace the burgundy-coloured EU document).
The only exception to this six-month rule is for school trips to Ireland which is part of a Common Travel Area with the UK.
Do school groups need a visa to travel to the EU?
The good news is that while there is considerable impact on people who travel a lot or spend a significant amount of time outside the UK, teachers taking school trips to an EU country (plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland) will see little difference.
Under the current rules, UK passport holders can enter the EU Schengen Zone for a school trip without needing a visa and visitors can spend up to 90 days in the Schengen zone during any 180-day period. This means that a teacher can take a school ski trip to Italy at Easter, followed by a French trip to Normandy in June, and still take an extended summer break in Spain under the 90-day limit.
At the end of 2022 UK nationals will also need to apply online for an ETIAS to enter the EU Schengen Zone. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System and is designed to keep track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the EU, such as the UK. The EU’s ETIAS system is similar to the ESTA permit required to visit the US.
The ETIAS will be valid for 3 years and costs €7 per adult. Under 18’s in your group are exempt from any application fees but will still need a valid ETIAS to travel.
The UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland which allows unrestricted travel between the two countries.
Are EHICs still valid?
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland. Though not a substitute for school travel insurance, the EHIC can help reduce out of pocket medical expenses in the event that someone falls ill or has an accident while on a school trip to EU.
The good news is that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You’ll be able to replace your EHIC with a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) up to 6 months before it expires.
Applying for a GHIC is free of charge on the NHS website. Beware of unofficial websites that charge you a fee to apply.
Do we need school group travel insurance?
Whether or not you have a GHIC or EHIC, your group will need travel insurance to cover emergency healthcare costs. All Voyager School Travel’s European school trips are fully protected by our specialist School Trip Insurance which includes enhanced COVID-19 medical and cancellation cover.
What about mobile roaming?
The guarantee of free roaming throughout the EU ended on 1 January 2021. This means that if your operator has reintroduced roaming charges you may now be charged more for using your mobile device in the EU, Switzerland or Iceland.
The UK and EU have agreed to cooperate on “fair and transparent” rates for mobile roaming and the government has passed laws to protect customers including:
- A £45-a-month cap on using mobile data abroad (then you must opt in to use more)
- Requirements for customers to be informed when they've reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance
Will things be different at the border?
Yes. Firstly, you may have to queue in separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
Also, when you arrive in an EU country (except Ireland), be prepared to show your return ticket and proof of accommodation for your stay. We will provide these documents in your travel pack. You may also be asked to show that you have enough money for your stay.
Can I take food into the EU after Brexit?
You are not allowed to bring any dairy or meat products into the EU from the UK and so don’t be tempted to pack chocolate, biscuits, Bovril or any other products that contain prohibited ingredients. The only exception is powdered infant milk and special foods required for medical reasons. Read more on the EU website.
What about COVID-19 travel restrictions for school trips to Europe?
These requirements relate to school trips to EU countries following Brexit. For up to date COVID-19 school travel advice, please visit our COVID-19 Travel hub.
More school trip planning advice from Voyager School Travel:
- The difference between ABTA & ATOL and how your school trip is protected
- How to ensure you have sufficient financial protection for your school trip
- Essential guide to restarting school trips