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Riding in Europe in 2021

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, i.e. the V5C. Until September 28th you should use a GB sticker on the bike except if you’re going to Ireland, but from September 28th you need a UK sticker instead. (No, I don’t know what you should do if you’re leaving before then and coming back after). Initially the four biggest mobile phone operators said they would not introduce roaming charges but EE has since done so. Any operator may impose ‘fair use limits’ – you might want to check before you go.

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. The European Commission announced in June 2021 that green cards would not be necessary. The cover provided by your bike insurance will be at least the minimum 3rd party insurance legally required but remember it won’t necessarily cover you to the same level as in the UK.

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 (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.

Transporting bikes in a van or on a trailer
The one guaranteed way to take your bike into Europe is to ride it there. You might be ok if you and your mate travel together in his van with your bikes in the back but I don’t guarantee that. There is currently no recognised procedure/documentation for shipping an unaccompanied road-registered bike to your destination via 3rd parties by road – by air would work. That’s one of the things that got left out of the trade agreement with the EU. It has now been recognised as an issue and the NMC is working with a unit in the Cabinet Office to sort it out but it won’t be quick.

Written by Anna Zee, BMF Political and Technical Services Director

updated 26/07/21 AZ

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