Can you travel from Northern Ireland to Britain without a passport or driver's license? In theory there are no border checks but ferries seem to demand photo ID.


The principles:

  • There is no border between NI and England, therefore there are (in theory) no border checks.

  • As a UK citizen in the UK, there is no obligation to carry any form of ID.

However, in practice there may be officers checking people and asking for ID as they disembark. If you had none, then they could reasonably detain you for a short time while verifying your identity in some other way. Therefore it is advised to carry some form of ID (I used a railcard, but a bank card should suffice).

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    But can you actually get on a ferry or aeroplane without the id? – eleanora Mar 28 '18 at 9:05
  • Not sure about an aeroplane, but there are no ID checks before boarding the ferry. – Mark Perryman Mar 28 '18 at 10:02
  • Interesting. So for the ferry you are checked as you disembark and non photo id such as a bank card will do? (A bank card is not really a form of id so I find this surprising. A utility bill even less so.) Does this mean that people too young to have bank cards/utility bills can't travel on their own from NI to Britain? – eleanora Mar 28 '18 at 10:04
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    @eleanora Then you either show your evidence, or are grossly inconvenienced while it's checked you aren't involved in people trafficking. In the worst case, both. Note that the same kind of thing applies when you get a job or rent property. – origimbo Mar 28 '18 at 10:14
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    When I travelled it was just three policemen standing in a corridor. Gives them something to do I guess. – Mark Perryman Mar 28 '18 at 10:23


https://www.stenaline.co.uk/faqs/passports-and-visas/im-a-british-irish-citizen-do-i-need-a-passport-to-travel https://www.stenaline.co.uk/faqs/passports-and-visas/im-a-citizen-of-a-non-eu-country-is-there-anything-else-i-need-to-do

Non-UK and non-Irish nationals require a passport, according to this web page at Irish Ferries.

Stena Line, which sails from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, is somewhat more vague about requirements (see links above).

Identification is required even on Northern Ireland to Great Britain ferries, such as:

  • passport
  • driver's license
  • European identity card
  • bank cards
  • photo ID (school or college)
  • utility bills
  • birth certificate

So, strictly speaking, it appears as though photo ID is not required, but some sort of verification of your identity is.

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    Can you really travel just with your credit card as id? I don’t really understand it as you would need a passport to know if you are non-uk/non-Irish or not. – eleanora Mar 27 '18 at 21:38
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    @elanora you've stumbled on the great paradox of ID requirements that apply only to certain people. How can those to whom the requirement does not apply prove it without ID? We have a similar problem here in the US. – phoog Mar 27 '18 at 21:51
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    @origimbo I thought I saw that they sailed NI-GB as well, but perhaps I was mistaken. I added citations from Stena Line and they are somewhat vaguer. I suspect the requirements are similar to Irish Ferries in practice. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 27 '18 at 23:02
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    @JimMacKenzie, In practice I've taken Irish Ferries from Holyhead to Dublin and back with a car twice without ever being asked for personal ID at all. They used the car's registration plate to find the booking (a walk-on passenger might need something with their name on it for the same purpose). I understand they sometimes run immigration spot checks at the arrival end, which is when a passport becomes relevant, but I've yet to see one on my trips to the Republic and I don't know if they do that for ferries to/from Belfast. – Dennis Mar 28 '18 at 1:24
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    @Dennis this makes sense. No private company will want to get into the business of judging whether people who can't show a passport or national ID card are in fact Irish or British citizens. – phoog Mar 28 '18 at 4:29

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