The vast majority of UK consumers are unaware of the changes that affect travel to the EU and Ireland after December 31, according to new research.

As many as 94% of people are unaware of all changes to EU travel in 2021, while 97% are unaware of the changes that apply when travelling to the Republic of Ireland, trade body Discover Ferries found.

A fifth of Britons plan trips to Europe next year, with many more expected to take advantage of travel opportunities thanks to reduced quarantine and vaccine news.

Only 36% feel confident that they know what travel changes will be in place at the end of the transition period for exiting the EU.

Covid-19 has the biggest influence on consumers’ travel plans in 2021, with 69% of people citing ‘Covid safety’ as an important factor in their decision making.

The ferry industry has produced an EU travel check-list to help cut through the confusion.

The guide also clarifies travel requirements for Ireland.

Although a member of the EU, the country is part of the Common Travel Area, which allows freedom of movement between Ireland and the UK and offers reciprocal emergency health benefits.

The poll of more than 2,000 people found:

  • Over half (54%) of people are not aware they need at least six months validity on their passports when travelling to the EU
  • 78% of people are not aware they need to visit their vet four months prior to travel with a pet
  • 62% of people do not know they may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive a vehicle in the EU
  • 70% of people are not aware they need a Green Card from their motor insurers when driving in the EU
  • 80% of people do not know they need a Green Card to drive their vehicle in the Republic of Ireland
  • 43% of respondents do not know they can travel to the Republic of Ireland without a passport

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents also believe they need a travel visa when visiting the EU, which is unnecessary for stays of less than 90 days.

Furthermore, 31% of people believed they would need to update their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will no longer be available to UK citizens.

With a fifth of people planning to travel to Europe for their 2021 summer holiday, ferry operators want to make sure changes to travel document requirements won’t affect travel plans.

From the new year, passengers can take advantage of duty-free and tax-free shopping on board ferries to the EU, including Ireland, and bring home alcohol, tobacco and other goods from their holiday without paying additional duty in the UK.

Discover Ferries’ EU Travel Guide encourages passengers to allow enough time to organise the necessary documents and comprehensive insurance, particularly if they plan to travel with pets or assistance animals.

Director Abby Penlington said: “2020 robbed many people of the chance of travelling abroad.

“With news of successful vaccine trials and improved testing to reduce quarantine periods for holidaymakers, travel opportunities are once again on the horizon.

“We want to make sure travellers are ready to visit favourite destinations such as France, Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“It is easy and inexpensive to obtain the documents required, and in the case of Ireland, not necessary at all. With a bit of preparation, long anticipated travel plans will be smooth sailing.

“Following travel uncertainty in 2020, operators are expecting passengers to book closer to their departure date than usual, which allows less time to renew passports, update insurance and pet travel documents and organise an International Driving Permit if needed.

“Equally if your car or travel insurance is up for renewal, it is important to check you have the right cover in place for potential trips.”

She added: “Amidst UK lockdowns and the festive period, updating travel documents may not be at the forefront of the public’s mind.

“But spending a little time planning now, will mean people are ready to rearrange postponed holidays and book visits to see loved ones as soon as they are able to.

“To help Brits continue to enjoy trips to Europe and Ireland stress-free, we have developed an EU Travel Guide. It answers the most common questions about visiting the EU and Republic of Ireland including the documents required for driving and details of duty-free allowances to ensure people are ready to travel.”