What are the rules for travelling to Europe?


If you’ve been looking to travel to Europe this summer, you may have come across terms like ‘ETIAS’ or ‘Schengen Area’. A lot has changed for European travel since the UK left the EU in January 2020, and there are more changes to come. We’ve put together a simple guide to the current rules for European travel to get you through the planning stages of your next continental jaunt.

Do I need a visa to travel to Europe?

In short, probably not. If you’re travelling to one of the 27 countries in the Schengen area, which covers all of the EU countries (except Ireland) plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, you don’t need a visa.

There are still certain rules that apply for UK citizens travelling to Europe since we left the EU. The GOV.uk website has some useful information on the specifics for both travel within the Schengen area, and travel in wider Europe, but the most important points are as follows:

  1. A visa is not required in EU or Schengen area countries if the travel is for 90 days or less in a period of 180 days.
  2. The purpose of your trip needs to be tourism, short-term studying, business related to a UK employer (such as an overseas conference), or media and journalism.

The 90 days that you’re free to travel do not limit you to one single country. During that time you can travel to as many countries in the Schengen area as you like, as long as you’re there for 90 days or fewer within the 180-day period.

What is the Schengen area?

The Schengen Area is the world’s largest visa-free zone, and is made up of 27 countries in Europe. All of these countries have agreed to a principle of free movement, and citizens are able to cross borders between these countries without many of the border restrictions seen elsewhere in the world. The Area is named for the Schengen Agreement, which was signed in 1985 by five of the ten members of the EC, in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg.

Since then, more EU member states have signed the Schengen Agreement, and it was incorporated into EU law. Because the UK is no longer part of the EU, we are no longer part of the Schengen Area.

If you are travelling for work, or plan to stay for longer than 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, a visa may be required. If you’re unsure, check in good time  before you travel for the country or countries you’re travelling to.

These rules will be valid until the ETIAS scheme comes into play, which will most likely be in 2024.

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How do I work out how many days I have left to travel?


Since you are only permitted to travel for 90 days within a 180-day limit, a little maths is involved to work out when you can travel, and how long for. The GOV.uk website has outlined the following steps to work out your eligibility:

  1. Check the date you plan to leave the Schengen area at the end of your next trip.
  2. Count back 180 days from that date to get the start of the 180-day period.
  3. Add up the number of days you have already spent in the Schengen area in that 180-day period
  4. Work out how many days you will spend in the Schengen area on your next trip. Add this number to the number of days you worked out in step 3.
  5. Check that the total number of days is not more than 90.

What is ETIAS?

The ETIAS scheme, first proposed in 2016, is an online system to confirm your eligibility for travel to a specific country. It will be needed for countries which have a visa waiver for European travel, and the UK is one of those countries.

If you have travelled to the USA then you may be familiar with the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation).  ETIAS will work in the same way.

When will ETIAS be live?

The ETIAS was due to come into force for travel in the Schengen area in 2023, but it has now been pushed back to an unspecified date in 2024. When it comes into force, travellers will need to use the ETIAS travel authorisation in order to cross EU borders. This is in addition to having a valid passport.

The ETIAS will cost around 7 euros (£6) for adults, and will remain valid for three years. It will be free of charge for people under the age of 18.


The main difference that the ETIAS scheme will bring is that it will allow for multiple periods of travel of up to 90 days, and it will work by photo identification and fingerprint scanning upon arrival and departure from the Schengen area.

If you’re looking to go to Europe in 2023, you don’t have to do anything differently. No matter where you’re planning to go, always make sure to follow the rules for your chosen country, and make sure you have at least 3 months left on your passport validity before you set off. If you’re driving in Europe, be sure to check your insurance to make sure you’re fully covered for overseas adventures.

It’s also a good idea to take out travel insurance for your holiday to cover you for any unexpected events.

Get in touch with our team using the form below to find out more about our travel insurance for Europe.