Which travel documents do I need to take with me on vacation?

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ID card, driving license, or passport? The travel season has begun – and with it, questions about the required travel documents arise every year. Yvette Polasek, the travel expert at ÖAMTC, dispels a few myths.

Croatia is part of the EU and has been part of the Schengen area since 2023. There are no more border controls – so I can leave my passport and ID card at home, right? Wrong! Border crossings without identity checks do not mean that you can travel without a valid travel document. Travelers must always be able to identify themselves in the EU and also within the Schengen area with a passport or valid ID card.

I’m only going to Slovenia, which is in the EU. Isn’t a driver’s license enough?
No. Although the driver’s license is an official photo ID in Austria, it is not a recognized travel document abroad. “There is a persistent myth that a driving license is sufficient for a short trip to neighboring countries, but this is simply wrong. A passport or identity card may also be required within the Schengen area,” says Polasek. Only these travel documents prove citizenship and identity.

You don’t need a passport for a short trip to Germany, do you?

Yes, you do: “Even a short trip to a neighboring country – whether it’s to go shopping or across a small German border – is a border crossing. Therefore, a passport or identity card is also required for this”, says the ÖAMTC expert and adds: “Crossing the border without a suitable document is an administrative offense and therefore even punishable by law.”

The identity card is accepted everywhere as a travel document.

Wrong. The ID card is only automatically valid proof of citizenship and identity in Austria and within the EU. Around 40 European countries currently accept the ID card as a travel document for entry. In addition, the ID card must always be valid.

Can you enter and leave the EU anywhere with an expired passport?

Wrong! “Contrary to many opinions, you are not allowed to travel anywhere with an expired passport,” says Polasek. However, there are exceptions to the rule: Austria has an agreement with some European countries that allows you to enter the country with a passport that has expired for up to five years. These include Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary. Attention, in Spain the passport may only be expired for one year!

However, the ÖAMTC expert warns: “Both airlines and cruise ships require a valid passport in the transportation regulations. It can therefore happen that transportation is refused with an expired passport. Problems can also arise when checking into hotels with an expired passport.”

Does a child need a passport?

Yes, the entry in the parent’s passport no longer exists since 2009. The security passport is valid for ten years for all persons aged twelve and over. Up to the age of two, a passport with a two-year validity period is issued. From the second birthday, a passport with a five-year validity period is issued.

“If minors are traveling without a legal guardian or with only one parent, we advise them to take a power of attorney, i.e. a declaration of consent from their legal guardian. Preferably in the respective national language,” says the ÖAMTC expert. Because in some countries there are always problems when entering the country.

Can a child’s passport be expired?

No, under no circumstances. A child’s passport must always be valid. In principle, Austria has an agreement with some European countries that allows you to enter the country with a passport that is up to five years old – but children’s passports are exempt from this.

Everyone in the family has valid travel documents, but we also take the dog with us on vacation. Surely he doesn’t also need a passport? Yes, dogs and cats also need a “passport”: the EU pet passport for all trips abroad is available from the vet.

My passport has been stolen. What is the best way to proceed?

If your passport is stolen abroad, you must report the loss or theft to the local police. The nearest Austrian representation authority will then immediately issue an emergency passport for the return journey. In the event of theft in Austria, a theft report to the local police is also required for a new passport to be issued. If the passport is lost in Austria, it is sufficient to inform the passport authority verbally. A report of loss is not required in this case.

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