How will Brexit affect your travel plans?

Whether the UK exits the EU with a deal or not, Brexit will affect the way we travel to Europe. Lots of issues are still up in the air (no pun intended) but there are things you can do now to prepare for post-Brexit travel.

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Don’t worry – you’ll still be able to use your current passport after 31 October, 2019 (the date we’re now expected to leave the EU). But you won’t be able to use the EU passport channels at airports – so expect bigger queues and factor in more time to get past the border.

Another thing that will change post-Brexit is the status of UK travellers within Europe. Instead of enjoying free movement within the EU, we’ll become “third-country nationals” and subject to the standard rules of admission for citizens of countries such as the US, Japan and Australia.

Some of these rules aren’t particular onerous. For example, you’ll need to have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival in Europe. This is the case when we travel to many countries outside the EU anyway, so it’s not a massive deal.

A bigger issue is that after 31 October, 2019, British visitors to the EU will be limited to a stay of 90 days in any 180-day period. You might be asked more questions at the European border such as how you’ll support yourself during your trip, where you will stay, and whether you have a return ticket home.

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)

Once we leave the EU, there will be a transition period during which Brits won’t need a visa to go to Europe. But that will change when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is implemented in 2021.

From 2021, British travellers will need to complete an online ETIAS application form before going to Europe. It will cost €7 to register for three years and you’ll need to do it 72 hours before you want to travel.

The ETIAS isn’t a visa – it’s a visa waiver and will work in a similar way to the ESTA visa-waiver scheme in the US.

Flights between the UK and Europe

There have been plenty of scare stories around about flights grinding to a halt the minute we leave the EU  – but that’s unlikely to happen.

In short, airlines need permission to fly over other countries’ airspace. The UK government has said it would envisage granting permission to EU airlines to carry on as normal and would expect EU countries to reciprocate.

However, experts have warned about flight delays and disruption at airports in the days immediately after we leave the EU.  To be on the safe side, it might be best to avoid travelling around this time and see how things settle down.

Flight compensation

Under the current EU regulation EC 261, passengers may be entitled to compensation of up to €600 for any flight delay of three or more hours, a cancelled flight or if they’re denied boarding. These rules apply if the departure airport is within the EU, or the flight lands in the EU, and is operated by an EU-based carrier.

At this stage we don’t know if the UK would apply to remain within the EC 261 jurisdiction. This would be the most desirable option for air passengers as compensation rules would stay as they are now. Another possibility is that the UK could introduce a modified version of EC 261 after Brexit – this could have lower compensation limits.

Protect yourself with a packaged holiday

Some transport providers have added “Brexit clauses” to their terms and conditions. These generally state that they will not be liable for “consequential losses” (such as hotel bookings and car hire) if travel plans are disrupted.

Travellers can protect themselves by buying a packaged holiday as Package Travel Regulations will remain in place. These ensure you get a refund if Brexit (or anything else) results in your package holiday being cancelled by the tour operator.

Another option is to only book hotels with free cancellation – then you won’t be liable for your room costs if travel delays result in you abandoning your trip.

EHIC and travel insurance

Currently the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles all EU citizens to public healthcare on the same basis as local people in all EU nations. 

This has proved a handy benefit for many and in an ideal world EHIC benefits would carry on post-Brexit. But savvy travellers should have travel insurance anyway – a good policy covers a wide range of situations such as delays, lost luggage, stolen possessions and repatriation.

If the EHIC card goes, travel insurance premiums are likely to rise as insurers would have to cover the cost of Brits having medical treatment abroad.

Driving in Europe

At the moment UK drivers don’t need any additional documentation to drive in Europe. But this could change after Brexit. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, motorists driving their own car or a hire car are likely to need an International Driving Permit (IDP) which costs £5.50 from select Post Offices. There are two different IDPs used in various EU states so check which one you need before you set off.

There might be changes to insurance too. Currently car insurance policies issued in the UK are valid throughout the EU as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

But post-Brexit motorists are likely to need a “green card” from their insurance company to prove they have third party insurance (the legal minimum level of cover to drive abroad). There may be an admin charge for green cards – we don’t know yet and it could vary between insurers.

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