How a no-deal Brexit will affect travel bookings, currency exchange and insurance

Linda J. Dodson

Travellers may be facing further disruption come January when Britain’s transition period leaving the European Union comes to an end. 

Until then Britons travelling abroad will continue to have the same rights and benefits as when the country was still part of the bloc.

What happens after that will depend on what kind of agreement – if any – is reached between the two sides. Ministers had hoped to come up with a deal by now but, as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, a disorderly exit is looking increasingly likely. 

So what will the departure mean for your travel plans?

Will flights be taking off?  

Even in a no-deal the British government has suggested that flights, ferries and rail services will continue to operate and you won’t immediately need a visa to travel to the EU – however this is far from guaranteed. 

Sarah Coles of stock broker Hargreaves Lansdown said: “The longer we wait for an agreement, the higher the risk of disruption as airlines rush to adapt to any new rules.”

Airlines are obliged to refund passengers if the flight is unable to go ahead because of Brexit-related issues unless they have terms and conditions stating otherwise. It’s important to remember that any separate bookings (including hotels and car rentals) will not be covered by this refund policy.

Once Britain leaves Europe, new air service agreements might have to be negotiated, competition could be reduced and fares could rise.

What about other types of transport?

The British government has confirmed that ferries, cruises and Eurostar services will continue to run if Britain leaves Europe without a deal. It has also said that British drivers will be able to pass through the Eurotunnel. 

Bus and coach services between Britain and the EU should still run, however there may be disruption to services to non-EU countries, such as Switzerland or Andorra. 

Will I need a visa?  

The process of travelling to Europe is likely to get more complicated and involve more checks at the border. However Ms Coles said it was unlikely travellers would need a visa if they were planning to stay for no more than 90 days in any 180 day period.

They should ensure they have at least six months’ validity left on their passport. Those who need to renew should do so soon, as the Passport Office is already facing backlogs. 

Those with holiday homes in the EU who plan to stay longer will likely need a visa.

You may also need to show a return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay when passing through EU border control. 

What documents will I need to drive abroad?   

You’ll need an international driving permit, which cost £5.50. The exact permit will depend on the country you’re travelling to.  

For some EU countries drivers may need to apply a “green card” permit, which acts as proof of insurance. A GB sticker or GB logo on your license plate may be required.

Will we still have protection against delays and cancellations?

The amount of compensation that British passengers can receive is currently dictated by an EU directive that sets out relatively generous terms. For flights you are entitled to compensation of up to €600 (£521) for delays of more than three hours, cancellations or not being allowed onto flights due to overbooking by the airline. 

If the Government wishes to water down these protections it will have to change the law, which seems unlikely. 

Will my EHIC card still be valid?   

EHIC cards will become invalid from 1 January. “Brexit negotiators have been working towards agreeing some kind of replacement, which would allow access to healthcare for travellers, but nothing has been set up yet,” Ms Coles said. 

That means it is more important than ever to buy insurance before you travel to cover the cost of any medical emergencies.   

For people with a pre-existing medical condition, cover is even more vital. While the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions, many insurance policies do not.

Will the cost of my insurance go up?   

Many insurers have stopped selling policies that would cover you if you had to cancel your holiday because of Covid-19. Even so it is still important to buy insurance before travelling, particularly after 1 January 2021. The Government has advised people to buy comprehensive cover. 

Antony Martin of Insurefor.com, an policy provider, warned that prices could rise by 15pc after Brexit. “It’s hard to know exactly at this stage because we don’t know by how much the costs will change,” he said.   

What will happen to foreign currencies?   

Currencies tend to react badly to uncertainty and the value of the pound plummeted following the announcement that Britain had voted to leave the EU in 2016. 

“Recent concerns of a no-deal Brexit have seen the value of the pound drop again, and if we get to the end of the year with no deal at all, we can expect further falls.

“However, we’ve seen the pound respond positively to any kind of a deal, so if anything at all can be negotiated, it should help to support the currency,” Ms Coles said. 

A fall in the value of the pound will be bad news for travellers, as their money will have less spending power abroad. It may be worth staggering purchases of holiday currency to ensure you are not buying all of it at the worst possible time.  

Will I have to pay to use my phone abroad?  

Since 2017 Britons have not had to pay roaming charges when using their phone in the EU. If no agreement is reached to continue this, it is likely that charges will return. The cost will depend on your phone network provider and its overseas data plan. Some have said they will not reintroduce fees even if no deal is agreed.   

The Government has said it will cap automatic data charges at £45 a month for operators that do not continue free roaming. However if your provider charges a high rate that could mean you reach the limit quickly and have to stop using your phone or purchase more data. 

Will I be able to take my pet on holiday?   

In the event of a no-deal current EU pet passports issued in Britain will no longer be valid.   

If you plan to travel with a pet to Europe in 2021 make sure to contact your vet at least four months beforehand to get the latest advice. You will also need to get a health certificate for each animal you travel with. 

Will there be duty free shopping?  

Since 1999 Britons have no longer had the right to buy duty-free goods when travelling to or from another EU country. The Government has not said whether this will change after Brexit. 

However until now we have been able to bring back almost unlimited amounts of alcohol and cigarettes from Europe without having to pay tax. Once we leave the EU presumably Britain will be limited to the same duty-free allowances as other non-EU countries: 200 cigarettes, 16 litres of beer and four litres of wine. 

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