Riding in Europe in 2021

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Published on 14 April 2021 by Mike Waters

BMF Political and Technical Services Director Anna Zee has a handy guide on getting to and from the continent now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union 

If you're thinking of taking a holiday in Europe later this year, there are a number of things you might want to consider before you go due to the changes prompted by Brexit.

This document does NOT cover travel for work or trade or countries outside the EU and EEA, and does not take account of any restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Links to relevant official webpages are included to make it easy to check for up-to-date information. This is recommended because the advice may change.

The basics
Generally, what applies to EU countries also applies to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, henceforth referred to as EU+4.

Your passport must have at least six months left AND be less than 10 years old if you are going to EU+4 countries. This is except for Ireland, where your passport only needs to be valid for the whole length of your stay. 

You do not need a visa for EU+4 countries, provided you are not staying for more than 90 days in any 180-day period. In 2022, you will have to pay for a visa-waiver scheme – no further details are currently available. However, different rules may apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania.

The latest official information is here.

As before, you should take the bike's logbook/V5C.

You need to display a GB sticker, except in Ireland.

None of the four biggest mobile phone operators currently plan to introduce roaming charges.

Make sure your travel insurance includes appropriate health cover. It's also worth checking that it covers you if you are riding a motorcycle – free travel insurance provided by your bank (for example) may not. 

Under the agreed trade deal, EHIC cards will be valid until they expire. The UK is bringing in the GHIC card to replace it. Note that your current EHIC card and the new GHIC card cover EU countries only. The EHIC and GHIC cards cover pre-existing medical conditions and maternity care, but many travel insurance policies (by default, at least) do not.

You can use your UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.

The latest official information on EHIC cards can be found here.

The NHS guide on applying for a GHIC card can be found here.

The government’s advice says that you may need to show a return or onward ticket and show that you have enough money for your stay at border controls. Remember that you are no longer eligible to join the queue for EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, if there is one. 

By default, your bike insurance included the legally necessary cover for EU+4 countries in 2020. Check your policy for 2021 and, if in doubt, call your insurer. You will probably need to get a 'green card' and it may cost extra. If your insurance policy renewal occurs while you are away, you will need a green card for each policy.

If you have a photocard driving licence, you don't need an IDP for any EU+4 country or San Marino. However, if I read the advice pages correctly, apparently you do need the 1968 IDP to drive in Monaco and the 1949 IDP for Vatican City. If you don't have a photocard licence, then you had better get an IDP.

The latest official advice on driving licences can be found here.

The latest official advice on international driving permits can be found here.

Taking food and drink
You are not allowed to take meat, meat products, milk or milk products into EU countries. (Hmm, does that mean that if I buy an M&S roast beef sarnie and a bottle of chocolate milk before getting on Eurostar, I have to eat them before we come out of the tunnel?) 

The latest official advice can be found here.

You need a phytosanitary certificate to take certain plants or plant products into the EU. This can be found here.

If you want to take the dog, you will need to think about this four months ahead. More information can be found here.

Duty free
The amount of duty-free goods you can bring into the UK from the EU is now limited, which will probably not make that much difference when you're on a motorcycle. However, the limits are higher than they used to be back in the day. You can bring back: 

-        up to 42 litres of beer

-        up to 16 litres of still wine (the equivalent of 24 standard bottles)

-        up to four litres of spirits or other liquor over 22% ABV or up to nine litres of sparkling or fortified wine or other liquor up to 22% ABV. You can split this e.g. two litres of spirits and 4.5 litres of champagne.

There are also limits on tobacco products, which can be found here.

You can bring in other goods up to a value of £390 duty-free. If you bring back more than that, you pay duty on the whole amount.

You can bring animal products in from EU+4 countries, except Iceland.

The rules are different if you are coming from the EU to Northern Ireland (See webpage above).

Transporting bikes in a van or on a trailer

At the time of writing, the best solution is not to bother – just ride the bike all the way.

It is probable that, if you and a mate are taking your own bikes in a van and travelling together, then you only need to make sure you have all the documentation in order as outlined above. I have no information on whether that has actually been done yet.

If bikes are being carried without the riders, about the only thing that is clear is that some form of bureaucracy must be involved. However, it was not defined in the trade agreement with the EU. 

I checked whether you might need to register a trailer but, for non-commercial trailers, this only applies to trailers over 3,500kg gross weight and I don't think even a Gold Wing owner would go that far.

COVID-19 restrictions
This webpage may be useful as a starter if you have to travel while there are still restrictions. 

You can join the BMF and help us protect the rights of motorcyclists for just £28 a year. Find out more here