Travelling without a passport – what you need to know!

With international travel security measures becoming more stringent every day, I have grown accustomed to taking my passport everywhere with me when I travel. If you were born in the UK and are a UK citizen however, then there are times when travel is possible without a passport – even by plane! For UK citizens waiting anxiously on passports during this busy time of year, this may be welcome news!

Travel within the UK

If you are travelling by aeroplane within the UK (yes – even including Northern Ireland) then you do not need a passport. You will however usually be asked for reliable photographic ID such as a current photographic driver’s license. Children under 16 accompanied by an adult who can vouch for them are not required to hold any id for domestic flights.

I regularly zipped up and down to Scotland as a student using just my driving license and we were not asked for any ID when flying with Roo last year between London and Edinburgh. Please do be aware though that you may be asked for a birth certificate for infants – see more on this below.

Travel within the Common Travel Area

The Common Travel Area is a travel zone made up of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man between which border control checks are relaxed for citizens belonging to and travelling between these countries.

In theory, any of these locations should let in citizens of another member of the Common Travel Area without a passport, although other documents will be required. Each travel company differs as to its exact requirements and some are quite relaxed. Aer Lingus for example, state that they accept a bus pass with photo or photographic work pass as ID and Fly Be accept passports that have expired within the previous two years. On the whole though, airlines require a government issued photographic ID document such as your passport or a driving license.

Children under 16 again do not require photographic ID but do be aware that if you are travelling with an infant on your lap, you may be asked for proof that they are under 2 years old and therefore do not require their own seat. A birth certificate should suffice.

Ferry companies seem to be a little more relaxed in terms of what they accept as ID. We travelled to Jersey last year with Condor Ferries and didn’t need anything for Roo, and our driving licenses were not asked for (although we were waving them about in our hand so maybe that was all that was needed). As well as a driving license, other possible forms of ID include college ID passes, NUS cards, bank cards, birth certificates and utility bills. Irish Ferries even told me they accept photocopies of a drivers license or utility bill!

Children travelling by ferry with a parent or guardian do not require photo id. Some companies such as Stena specify a child will require a birth certificate as ID whilst others e.g. Irish Ferries, say that no ID is required for minors, although you might want to take a copy of the birth certificate in case of any problems. As with airlines, exactly which documents are accepted differs from company to company though.

The only time with ferries you need to be really careful is if you are travelling on a service that stops off within the Common Travel Area but whose ultimate destination is an international port. e.g. travelling to France via the Channel Islands. Some companies require a passport on these kind of routes, even though theoretically you shouldn’t need it.

Travel restrictions are changing all the time so please do not rely on the information here alone – always check what documents are required with your travel operator before setting off, preferably by phone or email. This is true particularly for children as I find the guidelines on this to be often vague on company websites. 

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    • Elizabeth power on January 7, 2016 at 06:50
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    Hi my mum come from Ireland when she was 17 she wont’s to go back and see her family she is 75 one of her sisters are ill she hasent seen them since they was Young we won’t to take her back but she has no birth certificate because I’m Ireland the the place where they kept them got burnt down years ago so they can not give it her and have no record because it went in flames so we can not get a passport so what can we use or her photo ID she has lost her identy because of this I think the Ireland ambassador should do some thing she’s very upset

    1. Hi – I’m no expert in the specifics here but if it were me I’d get in touch with the Irish government and order a replacement copy of the birth certificate. So long as her birth was registered this should be easy enough. Try this website for ordering online Unfortunately and for necessary security purposes it is pretty much impossible to do much these days without ID as no doubt she is already aware – not least for travel. Good luck getting it sorted out. You could also try contacting Citizen’s Advice if you have trouble finding a solution through the regular channels.

    • Mohamad on September 10, 2016 at 16:12
    • Reply

    Hi I have new born baby 7 months only can she travel with me with ferry from uk to France with birth certificate?its really important for me please reply.thanks

    1. Hi, the only way you can get the exact details on what you need to travel with your baby is by contacting the ferry company directly. It is normal to need a passport for your children, especially where baby is not travelling under special circumstances e.g. born in another country and returning soon after birth to home country but the ferry company you choose will be able to give you exact details of what they require.

      • Mohamad on September 13, 2016 at 16:50
      • Reply

      Thanks For your email the problem is she is don’t have live to remain yet.she only got birth certificate.can she travel with birth certificate only?

    • Evija on September 12, 2017 at 10:29
    • Reply

    Hi,,i’m european and my girls have European passport ,very soon they traveling to Scotland from Northern Ireland ,but passport expired ,can they travel?Appointment available only next year.

    1. Hi, You need to contact the company who are operating the ferry or plane service directly as they all slightly differ over what they require. In the UK at least, if you need a passport quickly you can arrange an emergency appointment at fairly short notice. Is it worth finding out if something similar exists for your country or if you can contact the embassy in the UK?

    • tino on November 3, 2017 at 02:09
    • Reply

    my baby have only birt certificate but i want to flight from angland to north ireland whit my baby

    1. Hi – you need to get in touch with the travel company you plan to use for specific details. The information on this page is for general guidance only – requirements change too often and can vary slightly from company to company.

    • Delila on January 4, 2018 at 22:43
    • Reply

    Hi my husband has french shcangai visa can he treavel to northern ireland with it?

    1. Hi – you need to contact your airline or ferry company. Details change often and I am not able to help with specifics. Good luck!

    • Shane Dempsey on June 19, 2018 at 14:45
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    Hia, just to let folks know RYANAIR refused our family carriage on a flight from London to Cork. As we only had a full birth certificate for our new-born baby. I am trying to get this information out to as many people as possible as it was incredibly stressful for us to have to return home and miss his first trip back. RYANAIR do not make this clear so please learn from our lessons. Best of luck. Shane

    1. Thanks for the update on this. Yes- airlines and ferry companies do not have to request these items but it is down to them if they choose to do so, especially as travel alerts fluctuate so much. That’s why it’s always best to get in touch with your travel company first. What a nightmare for you. Hope this is useful for others.

    • TJ on July 14, 2018 at 10:59
    • Reply

    Hi, my mother and younger brother plan to fly back to Ireland from Gatwick to attend a funeral.

    My brother does not have a passport only a birth certificate and a few other non photographic documents, he is 17 years old. Will he be able to fly?

    1. Hi – you really do need to contact the company you are intending to travel with to check on their latest requirements. Details do vary from company to company. That said, it’s unlikely he would be able to fly without any photographic ID.

    • Nazan on May 30, 2021 at 13:01
    • Reply


    I am a British Citizen, my baby was born in Turkey this year. Can I take her with me to UK without a passport but only with a local birth certificate ?

    thank you & regards

    1. Hi, this blog was intended largely for travel within the different islands and nations of the UK when travelling by ferry or plane. You would need to contact the airline or embassy to get information on travel internationally. I wish you well with your travels.

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