House sitting after Brexit – what we know so far

What Brexit will mean to UK House Sitters

​What Brexit might mean to UK House Sitters

For some of us it is the end of an era and a sad day for the freedom of travel in the European Union. For others it's a happy outcome, but we aren't here to discuss the politics of Brexit. What we are doing is recognizing that it may present some changes to UK citizens who house sit and travel in Europe.

Ultimately it will also affect Europeans wanting to house sit in the United Kingdom, but we are focusing here on information issued by the UK Government.

Brexit and Euro travel

There's still a lot of confusion about what Brexit will mean ​for travel in Europe, and you'll find lots of "mays" and "mights" as you read this article. That's because nothing much yet has been agreed in stone. There are however a number of considerations that are likely to mean changes to the way you travel, so we think it's good to start getting prepared.

It is now a certainty that as Britain leaves the EU we will enter a transition period that expires on December 31st 2020. From now until then, for British passport holders travelling in the EU, nothing will change. From 1st January 2021, however, there will be more to ​think about if you are leaving the UK to house sit in Europe.

We are keeping abreast of all the changes, as our plans involve some longer term travel and house sitting in both Europe and non-European countries from November this year. We will be travelling in a campervan (owned and registered in UK), ​and need to know how Brexit will affect our future travel plans.

So, to help all of us affected, with our preparations and plans for future house sit travel, we've compiled a summary, sourced from the official UK Government website in order that you can see what is known so far about travel to and from Europe. As with everything Brexit, agreements can change on a whim​, so we would urge you always to check both the UK Government website (link below) and the government travel advisory information in your home country.

UK Gov Link -  Visit Europe 1st January 2021 

We will indicate at the top of the article, when we last updated the information, but will aim to make changes as soon as we receive notifications from relevant official bodies.

​Know your EU countries

​For a full list of current European member states go to the official site of the European Union. ​They also have updated information about the UK and Brexit at the top of ​the page

Visiting Europe from 1st January 2021

​Information as of 31 January 2020

Things will be changing for those of us who plan to travel and/or house sit in Europe after the transition period ends. There are 4 main things you'll need to keep checking before leaving the United Kingdom when travelling to Europe or Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. These include:

  • Your passport
  • Travel insurance
  • Driving documents (if taking your own vehicle)
  • Pet travel (if travelling with your own pet)
  • Entering European countries
  • Mobile phones and roaming in Europe

​Gov.UK email notifications

​​As the deal is yet to be confirmed, this information could change, so keep up-to-date on the official websites. If you go to this page on the Gov.UK website, you can sign up for notifications as they happen, or once a week.

British ​passport requirements

Your passport should have 6 months left to expiry from the first day of your travel in the EU AND it must be less than 10 years old.

If you are travelling to Europe on 1st January 2021, check to make sure your passport doesn't need to be renewed earlier than you thought - allow at least 3 weeks for renewal unless using the premium service. More information here - renew adult passport

​Gov.UK says - "If you do not renew it, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay".


You may not be able to rely on your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from January 1st 2021. Instead you should ​get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad.

​As your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card might not be valid, you should maybe prepare by looking at travel insurance alternatives to cover your health care whilst abroad. The current EHIC scheme covered pre-existing conditions, whereas many travel insurance policies do not, or they charge a premium.

As full-time house sitters, we've decided to use SafetyWing, which has been created by nomads, for nomads and allows much more long term flexibility than some other policies. It does only cover travellers up to age 69.

Driving in Europe with your own vehicle

No-one really knows yet exactly what changes will come into play after the Brexit transition period, and much will depend on your mode of travel. Current suggestions are that you will need extra documentation, akin to the way we used to travel with our cars abroad, before we entered the EU.

This means that you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive your vehicle in some countries. In the UK you can ​easily obtain a​ 1-3 year IDP from major Post Offices. We suggest getting one anyway. Here's a link to the Post Office website where you'll find all the information you need:

If you are travelling your own vehicle, you’ll also need:

  • a "green card" from your vehicle insurance company (current suggested wait times are 1 month)
  • a GB sticker to attach to your vehicle (available at Post Offices)

​​Up-to-date info about driving in EU after Brexit

​You can keep up-to-date about this at this link here: Driving in the EU after Brexit

What you need to get an International Driving Permit

IDPs are valid for 1 to 3 years depending on the type required for your destination country. Whilst valid it can be used in multiple countries as long as you have the correct version. In Japan, for example, you can only drive for one year regardless of the length of validity - so make sure you check this.

  • ​valid UK driving license - photocard or an older paper license*
  • Standard Size Passport Photograph​
  • The £5.50 application fee by cash or debit / credit card (as at 31.1.2020)

*Original valid passport as proof of ID (if presenting an older paper version license)

Travel with your own pet

The existing pet passport scheme will no longer exist and you will need to prepare for a different process, which takes at least 4 months to organize.

Action - If you are travelling on 1st January 2021 you will need to have applied for the new process of pet travel 4 months or more, earlier. It will involve having your pet micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies and your pet's blood will be sent to an EU approved testing laboratory. After a successful blood test you must wait 3 months before travel.

​​​Pet travel - action may be needed now

Follow the guidance about pet travel to Europe from 1 January 2021 - you may need to start the process of registering your pet in 2020, four months before the transitions period ends.

Good News?

You'll be able to buy duty-free alcohol again when travelling to the EU, and with all the initial headaches these new rulings add to our travel plans, that could come as a welcome change! Remember to check the different duty-free limits. Don't forget though, that the duty you pay on some items you bring back to the UK could change too. More on that here.

Entering European countries from the UK

Visas for short trips

This information has come directly from the Government website, and should be checked for latest information.

"At the moment, as a tourist staying 90 days or less in EU countries, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, you'll be able to stay 90 days in any 180 day period. Beyond that it's not certain what system will be adopted. Travel to Ireland will not change from 1 January 2021. You’ll also be able to work in Ireland in the same way as before."

Somewhat confusingly, it should be remembered that the ETIAS system (European Travel Information & Authorization Scheme) also begins in January 2021. As a British passport holder you will need to apply online for an ETIAS travel authorization if you plan to enter a Schengen member country from 2021. NOTE: This is not linked with Brexit changes.

​Understanding Schengen and ETIAS

​The list of Schengen member countries is different to that of the European Union countries - so you may need to get some research done about both. More information can be found on the official ETIAS site here

Border control

From 2021 it may be necessary to show a return or onward ticket, something that nomad travellers have been encountering more and more regularly in other countries around the world. You might also be asked to show that you have enough money for your stay. It remains to be seen how much extra questioning will occur at borders and immigration, so this is something we'll be monitoring carefully, as people travel in the EU after the transition period.

Mobile roaming in Europe after Brexit

This most recent update from the UK Government suggests that "From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end".

However, it seems that this decision lies with the phone operators, and the main four providers in the UK are keen for this NOT to happen. So for the moment… watch this space.

A new law is however being implemented which means that you will be protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 GBP without you knowing.

UK House Sitters - Get Prepared

  • Does your house sit in Europe span the end of the transition date? Have you discussed with the home owner an emergency plan, should you need to leave the country unexpectedly? This will happen in reverse as well - so as a European in the UK on a sit, do you have a Plan B in place should you have to leave in 2021?
  • Check your passport renewal date and make sure your passport is less than 10 years old at beginning of your planned travel date
  • Make sure you are up-to-date with your understanding of the differences between EU member countries and Schengen member countries
  • ​Make sure you understand the process for applying for your ETIAS visa
  • Sign-up to notifications at the Gov website to stay up-to-date with changes
  • Consider your medical health care options
  • If renting or driving a car in Europe, consider whether to get an International Driving Permit in advance as a precaution just before leaving the UK

Things to consider ​for a 2021 European house sit

  • ​Changes will ​particularly affect house sitters who travel as nomads, sit full-time, or prefer house sits of 3 months and over.
  • Long Term Sitters - It may be prudent, at least until a deal is procured, to limit your booking in a European county to 3 months maximum, allowing time for travel, to and from, your assignment.
  • If you are offered a car for use at your house sit, find out if you'll need an International Driving Permit. Not having one may invalidate insurance cover.
  • Remember that you may need additional health care insurance cover, and check that your passport meets the necessary criteria at least 6 months before you travel to allow time for delays. There is likely to be a last minute rush of passport renewals and International Driving Permit requests, as the transition period comes to an end.
  • You may find some home owners nervous of taking on house sitters from the UK during the first few months of January 2021 - they may need more reassurance about your understanding of travel requirements and compliance to the new rulings.

Well, that's about it for now - a summary of the information we've been reading and digesting over the past few days. If you have any questions, or have other verified information you think should be included... please let us know in the comments below.

Remember this information is for British Passport holders and UK citizens, and the best place to get information about visas and specific immigration advice is your home country's government or office travel advisory websites. 

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Last updated on March 6th, 2020

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