Time for a change from the relentless COVID news – what about holidays (in due course)?

When the time comes, what is changing about travel to Europe?

by Martin Malone

I could have given you the latest COVID stats this evening, particularly for our area (they’re very high) but I think it’s time for a change from that.

I’m sure that most of us who can afford it are missing the opportunity for a weekend break, or that perfect family holiday with almost guaranteed sunshine and relaxation. In the midst of what is frankly a pretty miserable winter I suspect that, like me, you often think at this time of year about having something to look forward to, like a holiday abroad.

Those who know me will be aware that I am a committed Francophile. I love my visits to south west France and haven’t been able to go there, or anywhere, for a long time (last visit October 2019). I particularly enjoy driving there and taking the Portsmouth to St Malo ferry and bringing back some local wine and charcuterie so that I can enjoy the gastronomic highlights of the area when I get home.

With vaccinations on the way, we can hopefully look forward to a resumption of something similar to how things were before too long. I’m realistically aiming for an autumn trip while realising that this is far from guaranteed. But will it be the same or are there changes in store?

Well, post-Brexit, there will definitely be some big changes. You may have read about the lorry driver who, on arrival in Holland, had his foil-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches taken away from him, with the border official stating, when the driver asked whether he could keep the bread, “No, everything will be confiscated – welcome to the Brexit, sir. I’m sorry.”. The border official was quite right – post Brexit the consumer transport of any products containing meat or dairy products are banned. You may call me parochial but my first thought about this was, let alone bringing home gastronomic delicacies from the region, I won’t be able to take bacon and sausages to France and, presumably, businesses that provide Brits with their staples (such as in Eymet in the Dordogne and Marbella in Spain) will face significant new challenges.

On arrival, we can all expect delays. Perhaps the most important precaution is to ensure that you have at least six months’ validity remaining on your passport. Without this, you are unlikely to be admitted. You must also ensure that you are not staying for more than 90 days, in any 180 days. Otherwise, you will need a visa or confirmation of residence in the country that you are visiting.

On arrival in the destination country, as well as having your passport checked and waiting in the non-EU queue, you may need to prove that you have enough money for your stay, as well as getting your passport stamped and showing a return or onward ticket.

Taking pets to the EU is extremely complicated and will need planning at least four months in advance.

You will enjoy basic (broadly equivalent) health care cover until the expiry of your EHIC card (mine is thankfully valid until December 2023) but you should take out top up or alternative insurance.

So, what about when I get there? Like many visitors, as well as enjoying the local facilities, I have enjoyed getting home (from home) and watching UK TV on Sky, including sports such as Premier League football. However, Sky has cut off the European coverage for UK broadcasts in Europe so that’s done for (what about all those “Irish pubs” that have relied on this?).

Well, I can at least count on internet access? Maybe. In my holiday home, which is in the deep countryside, there is no meaningful ADSL access, so I switched to 4G access in 2019. That may now be subject to roaming charges although, thankfully, the main providers have said that they are not going to be reintroduced in the near future. I remember that, back in 2006, I enjoyed listening to Radio 5 Live at the poolside but was bemused when I received a phone bill for £1100 for a month!

What about bringing back some wine? I am very lucky to have a local wine supplier, Chateau Laulerie, which has been my source for winter and particularly Christmas wine for many years. I enjoyed visiting the vineyard and buying wine from the source, at about 5 euros a bottle. It’s not a complete bar but the new limits are:

  • 42 litres of beer
  • 18 litres (24 standard bottles) of wine
  • 4 litres of spirits OR 9 litres (12 bottles) of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22% ABV

I suppose that I can live with that!

A bizarre twist is that the EU’s Cross-Border Enforcement Directive, covering drivers caught on speed cameras, has been allowed to lapse. British drivers were by some margin the greatest international offenders in France with 440,000 fines. Now, automatic speed traps will be unenforceable. However, beware, you could have your car seized for travelling at 50km/hr over the applicable limit and you could be taken into custody for travelling in your car without a green card (insurance), as well as your driving licence and logbook (or authority to drive the car if it’s on a lease).

Well, it’s going to be different but let’s hope that it can resume as soon as possible!