0 In Organising/ Travelling

Important documents when traveling through Europe: a checklist

(Disclaimer: please note this post was written in July 2023 and updates to documentation and traveling to the UK or to Europe is updated from time to time. Please always check the specific country your leaving from and going to government websites to check if this information is still up to date at the time of reading)

I’ve recently written a post on The art of long drives with kids: my top tips, and if you’re driving from the UK to Europe these are the documents I consider essential.

Some (or all) of the following information probably goes without saying, but with so much to think about when planning a trip, I’ve created this list and you can use it as a checklist to ensure you have all you need.

Most likely you already know all of this as I believe I have the most up to date info on each of the items. If you find anything that needs updating or is slightly incorrect, please let me know asap!

Passport (obvious start)

Look, I know it goes without saying and no more info is needed on this as it’s essential to travel, but again look at this from the checklist perspective. Once in Europe you don’t need it on most borders, but you will need it to leave the UK and to return (whether you’re British or European – or any other nationality).

At the time of writing this post you don’t need a Visa to travel to Europe from the UK, but if you’re a European living in the UK you do need to have your passport details updated in your Settled and Pre-settled status. I prefer to take a printed version of our emails with the number of the application, should it be needed. Although not valid to get through, your number might be handy to have should something go wrong at the border. But ideally check your passport details are up to date online before leaving.

If you’re a EU national with a National ID card don’t forget to take that with you too as in Europe they are valid and take less space on a day to day basis.

Pet Passport or/and Health Certificate (if you’re bringing a pet)

If you’re traveling with your pet, they need paperwork too.

If your pet is British, you will always need to get this annoying and expensive paperwork done at the vet before leaving the UK. It’s called a Health Certificate and it’s annoyingly expensive and it’s valid for 10 days from the date on it. So, if you go back and forth several times in 10 days, it’s valid for every exit. For us, it’s a single use expense.

In some vets it’s cheaper if it’s requested a minimum of 10 business days in advance. Last minute ones will very likely cost you from £200 onwards anywhere, and in a lot of places in London it will always be that price.

If your pet has a European Passport, there’s one of two situations. If the pet’s vaccines are always updated in Europe and their timing is valid for travel, you don’t need anything else. BUT (and I need to stress this), if you had to do a rabies vaccine in the UK to make sure it’s timing is valid on the Passport, because the UK is no longer part of the EU, they cannot update that vaccine on your passport. So, if your pet has had vaccination in the UK, you will always also need a Health Certificate, because technically they don’t have their vaccination up to date on the passport.

You can see all the government guidance here.

Upon return to the UK you always need to stop at a European vet to get a tapeworm treatment done and have it recorded by the vet it in the pet passport or health certificate on a minimum of 24 hours before departure to maximum of 5 days max. Detailed info here for returns.

GHIC and EHIC (European Health Insurance card) or Insurance

My youngest daughter has a British passport and doesn’t have her Portuguese nationality yet (we’ve been too disorganised to change that) and trips to A&E during our stays abroad having been painfully expensive (always £80 plus in public hospitals). It would cost nothing if we had a GHIC or a EHIC. So writing this post has been really handy because I’ve just applied for cards for everyone in out household on the NHS website (you can also do it through here).

Even if you are a European national with European ID/Passport, I’d suggest you get one. As the address on your Passport should be your British address (change it if it isn’t yet or else you might have issues when it comes to retirement and taxes in your home country), some public hospitals abroad might make you pay if you don’t have one of these cards. And if you have a British passport you’ll always have to pay for treatment (even though you can reclaim it afterwards).

You can always get a receipt and try to get the money back upon returning, but I personally have struggled to organise myself enough to get it sorted, so if you’re like me you might be losing money unnecessarily.

Hopefully you’ll never need it, but with kids and their endless bugs it’s more likely of a scenario than not.

As a British national, I would also recommend getting some insurance to some European countries though, as some European countries are not part of the European Union and different rules to non EU countries will apply. More guidance here.

Driving license

Again, obvious. But if you’re renting a car abroad, and you usually don’t carry it with you, you might forget.

Note that in some cases and some countries you will need international driving permits. Check if it applies to you here.

Get a Revolut card (or similar)

This is not a sponsored post at all (I wish!) but if you don’t already have a Revolut card you most likely need one. Or a similar brand that offers the same product (for example Transferwise). It makes paying for everything in the foreign currency you’re dealing with at the time so much easier.

As a suggestion, if you’re driving always check how much you have in that currency in the morning to ensure you don’t run out of money whilst paying for a toll in the middle of the motorway – you can always use your standard card, but it adds unnecessary stress to that moment. I’ve learnt from experience.

And to be safe, get some cash on your first “pit stop” in the country you get to, so you can pay in cash should the machines not accept your card. We’ve had instances in which the card was not accepted and having Euros in the wallet was helpful.

Credit and Debit Cards

Always check whether your bank needs to be communicated when traveling abroad. My husband says this is no longer needed but with Lloyds they used request the information of where we were going abroad and they were annoying to the point of wanting to know the city and timings for each city (which was always a big fight to fight with them as most times we wouldn’t know in advance AND it felt extremely intrusive). You know, I didn’t have to tell my mum where I was traveling to on which day, but I needed to tell my bank. Ultra frustrating.

But even more frustrating when we forgot to let them know that we were traveling abroad and they blocked our credit card for 24h on the moment of renting a car. That rental was being done in this one city, we need it to get to another city, there weren’t any trains going to the other city 2 hours away and us having pre-paid that car, paid for the hotel in the next city and needing that car for 2 weeks. Oh, and we had no other credit card and they wouldn’t accept debit cards. I was lucky to have a friend living nearby that came to pick us up, or else, we would have lost quite a bit of money.

Also, with Brexit, check what fees are in place for each transaction. They can easily add up if you use your card with the same ease you use in the UK. It can easily become a steep extra expense. A Revolut with money exchanged in the local currency will always be a cheaper option. I think some of the UK banks offer this though (not sure).

Bonus item: Roaming

I know this is not a “document” but it just came to my mind and as this is a “checklist” I think it’s important to add it here.

For now there still is some Roaming available for UK phones in Europe. BUT it’s way less what you have on your usual plan. And if like me you’re a big scrolling person, what’s available in roaming disappears real fast. Last time it disappeared in 4 DAYS for me (out of a month and a half trip planned). And it’s no fun when you need to check hotels or services close by and there isn’t internet available (which you also need if you want to add extra internet to your roaming).

So do check roaming limits before leaving the country, check what apps are using your internet on the background (my roaming kept being used without me touching the phone) and control your standard use to ensure you have enough for the whole length of the trip. And don’t forget to sign in to every safe WiFi possible.

If you’re driving through Europe you might find the following posts useful too (please note some of these are a work in progress at the time of posting this, so if you find the link is not yet active either sign up for the blog updates or save it and come back to it later – I intend to finish them very soon):

  1. The art of long drives with kids: my top tips
  2. Best travel toys for toddlers & older kids
  3. Tips for driving through France
  4. Tips for driving through Spain
  5. Tips for driving through Portugal

I hope these tips are useful to you!



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