Article 50 has now been triggered, and so begins the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union. But what does this mean for your travel plans? Can you still travel within Europe? Do you need a visa for that city break now? We've put together this no-nonsense guide to current EU travel regulations and where to go to experience the best European holidays.

What happens after the government passes Article 50?

The Article 50 process will take place across 2 years and until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. If Article 50 is triggered by the end of March 2017, as currently scheduled, then Britain should officially leave the EU no later than April 2019. Still not entirely clear what this means? Here's a short video from UK Parliament entitled 'What is Article 50?' that should help:

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has confirmed:

  • British nationals can continue to travel freely within the EU using a UK passport
  • There will continue to be no visa requirements for British nationals entering another EU country
  • British nationals can continue to access healthcare during temporary visits to EU countries using the European Health Insurance Card

What are the rules on travelling in the European Union as a UK citizen?

At the moment, the border-free Schengen Zone in mainland Europe means that it's possible for EU citizens to travel, live and work freely in some - not all - European Union countries, without a visa or passport. In addition, EU nationals are entitled to free emergency healthcare in all EU countries, as long as you carry the (free) European Health Insurance Card.

Following the results of the EU referendum, no changes have been announced to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) service. The NHS Business Services Authority is continuing to provide the EHIC service as usual, and you can apply for and use your card as before.

Where is the Schengen Zone?

This border-free zone includes the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

It's still advisable to have some form of ID (such as a driving license or passport) on you when travelling in Europe, as you may be asked to verify your identity at border checkpoints or by police, for security reasons.

Do I need a passport when travelling to EU countries to and from the UK?

Yes. The Schengen Zone is not the same thing as the European Union and the following EU members, including the UK, still require that UK citizens show their passport when entering or leaving these countries:

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Ireland
  • Romania
  • United Kingdom

How would Brexit affect travelling to Europe?

No one knows at the moment, as deals would have to be negotiated with different countries in and outside of the EU. Former PM David Cameron suggested that exiting would increase the cost of holidays, however, this is open to debate. It has also been suggested that the UK might retain its access to the free aviation market by negotiating participation in the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA), an agreement which allows Norway, Iceland, Croatia and other states equal access.

Will flights to Europe cost more post-Brexit?

Right now it’s impossible to predict the change in air fares. Whilst there is speculation that air fares may increase there are a number of factors that can contribute to a change in air fares, such as the price of oil, changes in currency and competition, not to mention demand.

Thanks to open skies, EU airlines have been free to fly between any two points in Europe since 1994. This has caused air fares to become more affordable. Part of the ongoing Article 50 negotiations will be to try and keep these skies open, no doubt.

Will British citizens need new passports?

As it stands, British nationals will be able to continue to travel freely within the EU using their existing UK passports which state ‘European Union’ on the cover. This may change as negotiations progress and there has been speculation around bringing back the original navy blue passports (which were switched to burgundy in 1988), but for now you are free to continue travelling with your current passport.

Best of Europe holiday ideas

Here's a multi-stop travel itinerary through Europe we prepared earlier, before the EU referendum potentially changes the rules. Fly to one destination out of this list, or take advantage of the Schengen Zone and move freely between several countries - our multi-flight search tool will help you plan your perfect route.

Best of both worlds in Germany

From boisterous beer halls to the romance of the Black Forest or the urban sprawl of modern German cities, you could have a completely different holiday wherever you land here. Berlin is an essential stop, for a lesson in recent history at the site of the former Berlin Wall, before finding out what makes today's city tick once the sun goes down and the super-clubs fire up their sound systems. Check out big names like Sisyphos and the nightclub that could only have been born in the noughties, About Blank, and give yourself a few days to recover before continuing your European trip. Get an utterly different experience in the Saxony heartland of Dresden, a two hour train journey south, its iconic skyline of belltowers and restored facades sitting tranquilly on the banks of the River Elbe. Discover more of Deutschland, with our guide to the highlights of Germany.

How to get to Germany: Fly into capital Berlin directly from many London and regional UK airports including Manchester and Glasgow. If you want to go on to other EU countries, the Eurail pass is handy for both getting around Germany and cross-border travel into Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands and France.


Picture book perfect Czech Republic

A land of Gothic spires, turreted castles, and pine-clad hills, Czech Republic is much more than its famous capital. The pretty Bohemian town of Hřensko is just across the river from Germany and just under two hour's drive or bus ride from Prague, but a world away amidst the rather confusingly named Bohemian Switzerland National Park, said to have inspired Hans Christian Andersen. Still, you'd be hard pushed to resist the charms of Prague, with its medieval Old Town, twinkling riverside and cheap beer - we've got the full lowdown on top Prague attractions here. If you're heading south towards Austria or Hungary, make a stop at popular backpacker haunt Český Krumlov, for fun tubing trips down the river and the kind of quaint village architecture you usually only see on the cover of a storybook.

How to get to Czech Republic: To get here from Germany, catch the train from Dresden to Schona (around 50 minutes) before jumping on the three minute ferry across the border to Hřensko - it's as easy as that. Just make sure you change some of your euros into Czech koruna before you leave Dresden to pay the ferryman! Alternatively, since direct flights to Prague are still very affordable from the UK, the city could easily be your gateway to the rest of the country, and the rest of the Schengen travel zone.

Český Krumlov

Scenic Austria

Next stop: Austria. The former crowning glory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna is every bit as elegant as you might expect, while still retaining the feel of a 'real' city, where people work, live and head to the beerhall at the end of the day. It's worth exploring the city's suburbs like the Outer West, around the Schönbrunn Palace (catch the subway U4 from the city centre) to find local taverns with hospitality as warm as the roaring fires. Then there are the coffee-houses, ranging from grand, ornate buildings that resemble the State Opera to little hideaways that still smell divinely of coffee beans and centuries of history. Café Central is a must, just to say you've hung out in the old literary haunt of Trotsky and Adolf Loos. Naturally, you can't miss the stage-set city itself: Salzburg. Skip through the gardens at Mirabell Palace in the shadow of the Hohensalzburg Castle, just like the Von Trapps, or take a day trip to Wolfgangsee Lake and recreate your own 'hills are alive' moment in the beautiful green countryside where the opening scenes of The Sound of Music were filmed. If you stay at Yoho International Youth Hostel not only will you be minutes walk from the Old Town, but you'll be treated to the movie on repeat every night in the lounge. If you don't know every word of Do Re Mi when you arrive, you will by the time you leave.

How to get to Austria: Vienna flights are available direct from London, Edinburgh and Manchester. Rail is a quick way of getting between Vienna and other cities like Salzburg and Innsbruck, as well as moving between other Schengen countries like Switzerland and Germany.


Wallet-friendly Hungary

Perhaps Central Europe's friendliest and cheapest destination, any Hungary trip has to begin at Budapest. You'll get the best views of both halves of the city from the River Danube; crumbling old Buda with its castle perched high on the hill, and busy, sprawling Pest, home to good budget eats and accommodation. Peppery goulash is the order of the day at most inns and restaurants, although the local cuisine is more varied than you may think. Hungarikum Bistro does simple, home-cooked Hungarian fare very well. Squeeze in half a day at the beautifully Baroque Széchenyi Baths in Pest, just one of the city's indoor and outdoor thermal pools, before travelling onwards. Lake Balaton is a local holiday favourite and Hungary's 'seaside' resort, great for some chill-out time. Keszthely city on the north western shore is the biggest hub on the lake and a good stopping point for getting over the border to Croatia or Slovenia.

How to get to Hungary: Make a grand entrance into Hungary from Austria by way of the Danube, and drift into Budapest by hydrofoil ferry (leaves Vienna on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday), with no complicated visa forms or border procedures. Starting out in Budapest? You can fly from Nottingham East Midlands, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool from as little as £35*.


Coastal beauty in Croatia

Croatia is becoming a more desirable holiday spot each year, thanks to its beautiful Adriatic coastline, paradise islands and er, Game of Thrones. Get there while the going's good, pausing at capital Zagreb for a day or two to see the Croatian History Museum, with its moving exhibits on the recent Croat-Bosnian War. Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park as early in the morning as you can, as this gorgeous waterfall wonderland two hours down the road from Zagreb gets understandably busy during the warm summer days. If you're going the distance all the way to the medieval UNESCO site of Dubrovnik, at the very southern tip of Croatia, travel by ferry from the Roman port of Split, or get the bus via the winding coastal route - the views are spectacular but this is only recommended for those with strong stomachs!

How to get to Croatia: If you're doing our suggested route the other way around, you can fly into Dubrovnik and make your way leisurely up the Dalmatian coast, or take the Dubrovnik-Šipan ferry to start island-hopping from Lopud or Korcula. Remember, Croatia is in the EU but not the Schengen Zone, so make sure you have your passport with you.

Croatia coastline

The Great Outdoors in Slovenia

Slovenia may be modest in size but its scenery is easily as epic as Switzerland, and a darn sight less expensive to get around. Start in capital Ljubliana, with its skyline of rusty red roofs contrasting the greenery and shimmering waters of the Ljublianica winding through the city centre. Boat down the river with a a glass of Lasko but enjoy the peace while you can, as the rest of the country is dedicated to outdoor adventures. Hiking around Lake Bled, rafting on the Soča river, exploring the ethereal Škocjan Caves: you'll be lucky if you have time to pause for breath, but when you do, you'll find the local people more than pleasant company. The country's southwestern corner, Slovenska Istra, is right next to Italy and has definitely borrowed a few Mediterranean influences, including a climate well-suited to olive trees, vineyards and informal 'tourist farms' where you can stay for the night and get fed on bountiful produce from the land, often picking the fresh fruit and veg yourself. Just outside the town of Izola, Farm Medljan offers activities like horse-riding and archery as well as traditional outdoor games for visitors to try. See more of Slovenia with our rundown of the best places to visit.

How to get to Ljubliana: Flights to Ljubliana are now regular from regional airports like Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as London airports. Bus travel in Slovenia is a low-cost way to get around, with cities like Piran well-connected to the capital (under three hours journey time). You can also get international coaches to Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy - Trieste is just over the border, about an hour's ride away from Izola.


This way for more travel advice and top destinations for holidays in Europe:

Secret beaches in Europe: where the locals go

A glorious picture gallery of 20 secret beaches across Europe that you've probably never heard of...

Top budget hostels in Europe

There's a new wave of hostels in town (well, Europe), with not even a hint of the bad old days: instead, you'll find friendly service, good safety standards and even premium facilities like swimming pools and barbecue terraces.

Unknown Eastern Europe: 10 beautiful cities off the beaten track

If Prague is a bit passé, then how about trying out an unsung eastern European city? We’ve got ten you may not have heard of, but really should visit.

*Published March 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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