7 Things Every Traveler Must Know About Brexit
A travel primer on what to expect following Britain's vote to leave the EU.
Travelers can score cheap airfare and lodging in the wake of Britain's surprising EU exit.(Getty Images)
In a landmark decision, Britain has voted to withdraw from the European Union. While it's unclear how the vote will affect the political climate and volatile markets across Europe, one thing is certain: Now is the time for savvy travelers to take advantage of the strength of the U.S. dollar against the sinking value of the British pound, which has fallen to a 31-year low. And though Brexit's long-term implications for the remaining countries in the EU are still shaking out, according to experts and seasoned jet-setters, here are the key changes travelers should expect.
The Terms Aren't Certain … or Clear-Cut
"The key thing to understand about Brexit is that we don't know what's going to happen. We're beyond the point of 'known unknowns' and into the realm of radical uncertainty," explains Gary Leff, author of frequent flier site View from the Wing. Since the vote to leave the EU was from a slim majority of voters, the timing of when and under what conditions Britain will leave could take years to be worked out, he adds. But while the terms are hazy, there are likely to be a few more hurdles for European visitors. "There may ultimately be more challenges with visas, especially work visas, for Europeans looking to go to work in or remain in Britain. But for U.S. visitors there's very little impact, at least in the near term," he says.
You Can Score Cheap Flights Across the Pond
Flight fares are likely to fall to a seven-year low this summer, according to the airfare estimator and booking app Hopper, and right now you can clinch some great deals to Europe. Leff attributes the reduced flight cost for trips to Europe and the U.K. "as a result of low fuel prices, too much capacity and low-fare competition from the likes of Norwegian [Air Shuttle] and Wow Air." And though flight prices will increase or decrease based on demand and changing schedules, now is a great time to land a bargain, he says.
A couple of years ago, summer flights to Europe were around $1,800, explains George Hobica, founder of booking site Airfarewatchdog.com. But these days, you can snag flights from Miami to Copenhagen, Denmark, for as low as $395, he says, pointing out that with fewer Europeans coming to the U.S., partly due to a strong U.S. dollar prior to Brexit, airlines aim to fill seats with attractive prices. And now, with economic fluctuation overseas, it's even easier for Americans to get a great price.
You Can Snag Reasonably Priced Hotel Rooms
"While some economists expect inflation to hit the U.K. following the EU exit, for now prices remain unchanged," explains Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of the points- and miles-advising site The Points Guy. The result: You can enjoy favorable rates in the U.K., even in expensive destinations like London. As Honig puts it, "while you'll be paying the same hotel rate in British pounds, your actual cost will be dramatically lower due to the exceptional exchange rate we're experiencing now."
What's more, with fewer business travelers heading to the U.K., hotels will need to fill empty rooms and will likely offer reduced rates. "Ultimately, if Brexit leads to less travel, especially business travel, then lower demand for rooms will translate into lower prices because hotel rooms aren't as easily or quickly taken off the market as airline seats," Leff says. Hobica also points out that with London potentially losing much of its corporate business, that likely means hotel prices will decrease.
Many European Locales Will Offer Favorable Exchange Rates
Expect deals to crop up beyond Britain and the U.K. "It's not just the pound that has depreciated against the dollar," Leff explains. "The euro has as well, making it a great time for Americans spending dollars to travel across the continent," he adds, highlighting Eastern Europe as an ideal place for frugal travelers. Honig also points to London, Edinburgh, Scotland, Manchester, England and destinations in Northern Ireland for the best value, noting that they're "far less expensive today than they were before the Brexit vote." And though the euro hasn't declined as steeply as the pound against the U.S. dollar, "you'll pay less overall when visiting some European destinations in France, Italy, Spain and other countries," he adds.
You Can Use the Currency Conversion to Your Favor
With the currency fluctuations, it's easy to find cheap rates. "You can get a better deal buying tickets on Norwegian's U.K. website (in British pounds) than you can on the U.S. website, in part because of currency conversion issues," Leff says, cautioning that it's essential to buy with a credit card that doesn't tack on foreign transaction fees. Honig also suggests seizing the low exchange rates when booking international flights. "Flights booked in British pounds are considerably cheaper than their USD counterparts, and once you arrive in Europe, you can expect to find a much more favorable exchange rate, particularly when traveling to the U.K." he says.
Entering the U.K. and Other European Countries Will Remain the Same … for Now
"The U.K. already had border checks for travel to and from Europe. That's because it wasn't part of the Schengen Agreement," Leff says, pointing out travelers shouldn't expect the process to change, with Britain remaining one of the few countries (along with Canada and the U.S.) that does not impose outgoing immigration checks. U.S. citizens will need to present a valid passport when entering Britain and countries within the EU. That said, no one has quite worked out what will occur "once the divorce happens," Hobica says. The process at border control may change if Scotland and Northern Ireland decide to stay in the EU or band with Britain, for example.
The Political Climate May Impact Future Travel for Americans and Europeans
With cheap travel costs for international visitors, now is the time to act. "Over the next few years, it seems likely that the U.K. will experience inflation, so while tourists may find value now, that might not last," Honig cautions. What's more, the political climate could change rapidly. If the political situation takes a turn, "protests, government strikes and other disruptions could be a possibility," he says. Plus, there may be an added visa requirement down the road, though this is less likely to be enforced for U.S. visitors, Honig adds.
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