OPINION: Travelling to Spain after Brexit will be more complicated and costly

Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain takes a look at the changes ahead for those travelling to Spain after Brexit, including second-home owners.

OPINION: Travelling to Spain after Brexit will be more complicated and costly
Photo: AFP

As part of the ongoing ‘Check, Change, Go’ offensive, the British government has launched a public information campaign, aimed at British tourists heading for Europe.

The campaign is designed to “help British travellers prepare for changes when visiting Europe from January 1st 2021”. The campaign asks if you are “Going to Europe next year?” then proceeds to explain – not always clearly – the issues awaiting our friends and families that want to visit after Brexit.

Topics covered include passports, health insurance, driving documentation and travelling with pets.

The imminent changes will affect British tourists to Europe, as well as our travel arrangements when visiting the UK. They will certainly impact those with a toehold in both the UK and Spain, limiting the time that second homers can spend here.

The rules regarding passports – such as that we must have six months remaining to travel – are merely a slight inconvenience. Other changes will prove considerably more cumbersome and costly.

On arrival in Spain, or any other EU country, visitors from the UK will need to prove they have enough money for their stay. As EU visits will be time-limited, travellers will also need to produce a return ticket to prove their departure date.

It will only be possible to stay for 90 days in any 180-day period – that’s 90 days in Europe in total, not 90 days in Spain alone.


So, those with second homes won’t be able to spend half the year in their Spanish bolthole if they also want to visit any other EU country in the same year. Problems will also be faced by “swallows”, who fly into Spain for the winter, frequently for more than three consecutive months.

Additional inconvenience and expenses will be generated by health insurance and driving permits.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) only remains valid for British citizens until the end of 2020. Despite several assurances from the UK government, the Brexit negotiations have thus far failed to guarantee that the current EHIC is protected.

Suggestions that a similar scheme could be implemented “unilaterally” have seemingly disappeared. With the Brexit negotiating deadline looming, it’s unlikely that the EHIC card is high on the government’s priority list, so private medical insurance will surely become the norm.

Older travellers, and those with pre-existing medical conditions, may be priced out of travel between the UK and Europe.

Thanks to the Withdrawal Agreement, legal British residents in Spain who qualify for the S1 – e.g. pensioners – will keep their existing EHIC rights. Likewise, people working in Spain who qualify for a Spanish EHIC will retain their access to healthcare cover in the EU and UK, even after the end of the transition period.

Driving between the UK and Europe will present additional challenges, especially for those who want to visit more than one EU country, as different permits may be required.

The current UK government advice is ambiguous – you “may” need extra documents, you “might” need an international driving permit, a green card or a GB sticker, so it’s a case of ‘watch this space’ for further information.

Many that choose to travel by car do so to facilitate travelling with pets. The EU pet passport scheme will be replaced by a new process that applies to dogs, cats and – weirdly – ferrets.

Until the Brexit negotiations are concluded, the final details are unclear. These largely depend on which category of “third country” the UK becomes. However, the process will certainly include a blood test, vaccination and inserting a data chip, which will take several months. Thankfully, quarantine will not be necessary for your pet, although it could be for you!

Mobile phone roaming charges will no longer be free for British tourists in Europe, who will end up hunting for the nearest venue with free WiFi or buying a cheap pay-go SIM in the destination country. Although other additional travel costs will be known upfront, unexpected phone charges could be a nasty surprise upon returning home. Those of us with Spanish mobile phone contracts will only lose this facility in one country. Our visitors from the UK, however, will lose it throughout Europe.

Thanks to the pandemic, international travel in 2020 has been significantly reduced. The Spanish tourism industry has suffered huge losses that are already hurting the economy, even before Brexit has a real impact on the travel sector.

It’s safe to say that the rhetoric about “sunny uplands”, and how nothing would change after Brexit, has been proven entirely false.

The cost to the UK of the failure to deliver Brexit has already exceeded years of EU contributions, with the worst yet to come.

The cost to Spain of making it more difficult and expensive for British travellers to visit will become clear over time.

The cost to us of having our family and friends visit less often will be the hardest price to pay of all.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain



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Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.


Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account