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Ferry industry gets Brits “shipshape” for EU travel

  • Operators urge travellers to check passports now for European trips in 2021
  • New guide cuts through confusion on EU travel requirements
  • Only a fifth* of the public know duty-free shopping is back

25 November 2020: With just a few weeks to go before the end of the UK’s transition period for leaving the EU, research1 from Discover Ferries reveals that the vast majority of UK consumers are unaware of the changes that affect travel to the EU and the Republic of Ireland after 31 December 2020. To cut through confusion, the ferry industry has launched an EU travel guide, so Brits are ready to take much-anticipated holidays in 2021. The check-list also clarifies travel requirements for the Republic of Ireland. Although a member of the EU, the country is part of the Common Travel Area, which allows freedom of movement between the Republic of Ireland and the UK and offers reciprocal emergency health benefits.

Only 36% of consumers say they feel confident2 that they know what travel changes will be in place at the end of the transition period for exiting the EU. However, the industry body reveals almost all (94%) respondents failed to identify all of the changes to travel that will apply when travelling to the EU in 2021, only 3% of consumers are aware of all of the changes that will apply when travelling to the Republic of Ireland.

  • Over half (54%) of people aren’t aware they need at least six months validity on their passports when travelling to the EU
  • 78% of people aren’t aware they need to visit their vet four months prior to travel with a pet
  • 62% of people don’t know they may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive a vehicle in the EU
  • 70% of people aren’t aware they need a Green Card from their motor insurers when driving in the EU
  • 80% of people don’t know they need a Green Card to drive their vehicle in the Republic of Ireland
  • 43% of respondents don’t know they can travel to the Republic of Ireland without a passport

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents also believe they need a travel visa when visiting the EU, which is unnecessary for stays of less than 90 days. Furthermore, 31% of people believed they would need to update their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will no longer be available to UK citizens.

With a fifth of people planning to travel to Europe for their 2021 summer holiday3, ferry operators want to make sure changes to travel document requirements won’t affect travel plans. Discover Ferries’ EU Travel Guide encourages passengers to allow enough time to organise the necessary documents and comprehensive insurance, particularly if they plan to travel with pets or assistance animals.  

Abby Penlington, Director of Discover Ferries, comments: “2020 robbed many people of the chance of travelling abroad. With news of successful vaccine trials and improved testing to reduce quarantine periods for holidaymakers, travel opportunities are once again on the horizon. We want to make sure travellers are ready to visit favourite destinations such as France, Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“It is easy and inexpensive to obtain the documents required, and in the case of Ireland, not necessary at all. With a bit of preparation, long anticipated travel plans will be smooth sailing. Following travel uncertainty in 2020, operators are expecting passengers to book closer to their departure date than usual, which allows less time to renew passports, update insurance and pet travel documents and organise an International Driving Permit if needed. Equally if your car or travel insurance is up for renewal, it is important to check you have the right cover in place for potential trips.”

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has the biggest influence on consumers travel plans in 2021, with 69% of people citing ‘Covid safety’ as an important factor4 in their decision making. Ferry travel is considered the safest form of public transport compared to planes, trains and coaches5. To support industry recovery and restore consumer confidence, ferry operators have already introduced social distancing measures and heightened cleaning on board and want to further reassure holidaymakers keen to visit the EU.

Penlington adds: “Amidst UK lockdowns and the festive period, updating travel documents may not be at the forefront of the public’s mind. But spending a little time planning now, will mean people are ready to rearrange postponed holidays and book visits to see loved ones as soon as they are able to.”

Duty-free is back

Ferry passengers have long since enjoyed the luxury of unlimited luggage and the freedom of travelling with their own vehicle. 43% of Brits agree being able to take as much luggage as they want is an important consideration6 when deciding on future holidays and, with the reintroduction of duty-free, car boot space will continue to be valuable. From the New Year, passengers can take advantage of duty-free and tax-free shopping on board ferries to the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, and bring home a generous allowance of alcohol, tobacco and other goods from their holiday without paying additional duty in the UK.

Penlington continues: “To help Brits continue to enjoy trips to Europe and Ireland stress-free, we have developed an EU Travel Guide. It answers the most common questions about visiting the EU and Republic of Ireland including the documents required for driving and details of duty-free allowances to ensure people are ready to travel.”

For the latest guidance on travel to the EU and Republic of Ireland after 31 December 2020, access Discover Ferries’ EU Travel Guide: discoverferries.com/traveltoEU


* 20.8% of respondents were aware they can take advantage of duty free when travelling to the EU after the end of the Brexit transition

 1 Research for Discover Ferries was carried out online by Censuswide on 11th to 13th November 2020 amongst a panel resulting in 2,005 responses from general consumers in the UK. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.

2 Combination of ‘Very confident’ and ‘Somewhat confident’ responses

3 Research for Discover Ferries was carried out online by Censuswide on 3rd to 6th September 2020. Survey asked ‘Where do you plan to go on your 2021 Summer Holiday (1st June – Mid-September 2021), if anywhere?’ Statistic is calculated by combining of responses including ‘Europe’.

4 Combination of ‘Very important and ‘Somewhat important’ responses

 5 Research for Discover Ferries was carried out online by Censuswide on 3rd to 6th September 2020. Combination of ‘Very safe’ and ‘Somewhat safe’ responses when asked how safe or unsafe from Coronavirus infection people felt about travelling on a list different forms of transport including: Train, Ferry, Aeroplane, Car, Motorhome / Campervan, Coach, Motorbike / Moped / Scooter, Cycle.

6 Combination of ‘Very important and ‘Somewhat important’ responses