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Travel documents

The rules for travel documents vary from nation to nation, and it is important to know exactly what kind of documentation you’ll need to bring well in advance of travel, or you could be refused entry to the country. Here is a list of the most common UK travel documents, although it is best to check with the UK border agency for specific entry requirements before you go.

What travel documents do I need to take?

A longer trip spanning several countries can require an overwhelming variety of visas, tickets and itineraries. You can keep all your papers from getting lost or damaged in a zippable folder, although try to keep separate photocopies of the most important ones. Here’s a checklist of the most important documents to consider.

  • Passports and Identity Cards
  • Entry visas
  • European Health Insurance Card (E111)
  • Emergency travel document
  • Tickets
  • Itinerary
  • Health and Travel Insurance documents

Read on for more information about when and how these documents should be used.

Passports and Identity Cards

It’s important to keep your passport up-to-date, as some countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months after your date of travel. You may also need up to 3 blank pages in your passport in order to travel, even if you’re only making a short trip.

Remember to fill out the emergency contact details and sign your passport before you travel. It’s also worth taking a note of your passport details, and making a photocopy – though remember to keep this in a separate place.

You’ll also need to allow for up to 6 weeks for passport renewal, although if your passport request is urgent, the Passport Customer Service Centre also provides daily and weekly premium services, although these may be subject to delays if applications are missing information or incorrectly filled out.

To make an appointment with the Passport Service Centre, call the Passport Advice line on 0300 222 0000. You can also find more information on passport renewal on the UK Government website.

For travelling within the European Union as an EU national, many countries do not require proof of identity, as stipulated by the Schengen Agreement. Countries to which this agreement applies include:

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

However, as the United Kingdom is not covered by the Schengen Agreement, you must still present a valid ID card or passport when travelling to or from the UK. European nations not covered by the Agreement include:

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

Even if you are travelling within the Schengen area, it is always best to carry a passport or ID card with you, in case you need to prove your identity – for example when stopped by police, or boarding a plane.

Other documents, such as driving licenses, European Health Cards and bank cards are not valid as travel documents. Although, in order to reduce the risk of losing your passport, it’s best to take along and alternative form of ID to use on day-to-day basis.

Entry Visas

Entry visas are not required for UK citizens travelling to other countries within the EU. There are also many countries outside of the European Union, in particular Commonwealth nations, for which a visa is not required for shorter visits – generally for stays between 30 days and 6 months.

The type of visa you will need depends on the length and nature of your travels. When applying, you need to think about how long you are planning to stay, if you are going to be entering and exiting the country more than once, and whether you are going to be working or studying whilst abroad.

Remember to leave plenty of time when applying for your visa – applications can take anything from 3 weeks to 3 months. If you are running out of time to complete your visa application, there are services which will handle the process at short notice, for a fee.

To check visa requirements for your trip, see the Foreign and Commonwealth website.

European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card, also known as E111, allows UK citizens to receive free or discounted medical care in all EU member countries. It does not however, cover private medical care, or mountain rescue in ski resorts, and it may still be worth purchasing Travel Insurance for peace of mind.

Emergency Travel Document

If you are a British national and your passport is lost, stolen or expires whilst you are abroad, you can apply for an emergency travel document. You should only request an emergency travel document if you are unable to replace your passport before you travel.

It costs the local equivalent of £95, and must be requested in person at the nearest British Embassy, high commission or consulate. In order to apply, you will need:

  • A completed emergency travel document application form
  • A passport photo of yourself
  • Proof of your travel plans – e.g confirmation of flight or hotel bookings
  • A police report if your passport has been lost or stolen

An emergency travel document allows you to travel to your destination via a maximum of 5 countries. It can also be used for a return journey to the country you lost your passport in if you are a resident there.

Tickets and itinerary

Nowadays, most tickets can be displayed at a click of a button, with internet cafes and wifi available at most destinations. However, for those ‘just in case’ moments, it’s best to print out copies of:

  • Travel tickets and booking receipts
  • Your itinerary
  • Hotel contact numbers and addresses
  • Emergency contact numbers, such as nearby banks, embassies etc.

You might also want to leave contact numbers and your itinerary with friends and family members in case of an emergency.

Health and Travel Insurance documents

It’s useful to carry a copy of your Travel Insurance policy, and contact information for your insurance company should something go wrong.

Some visas also require that you travel with health documents that detail any medical conditions. You may need to speak to your GP before you go, and research any restrictions on travel for passengers with certain conditions – such as infectious diseases, including HIV. For more information on caring for your health abroad see our health and travel section.

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The content of these pages are for general information only, They do not constitute advice and must not be acted or relied on as being so.