Markets tumbled, the British pound plunged and uncertainty soared as the world learned of Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. In the midst of it all, there’s one thing that travel experts agree on: Now is a good time to book that trip to Britain.
“The British pound has already tumbled 10 percent,” said Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer’s guidebooks and its website. The last time the pound was seen at this level was 1985. “In terms of your buying power, this is good news,” Frommer said. (Disclosure: This writer has authored Frommer’s guides in the past.)
Frommer said travel could also get more inconvenient — people traveling from North America can probably expect longer customs lines when flying into Britain. “Right now, when you go to, say, London, you arrive at Heathrow, there’s one line for everyone in the E.U. and there’s one line for everyone else,” she said. “The ‘everyone else’ line is going to get much bigger, which is bad for us North Americans.”
Joel Brandon-Bravo, U.K. managing director of Travelzoo, said that with the initial shock to currency, travelers should book their travel when they think the British pound has reached its low. He suggests purchasing currency online or buying a prepaid card to avoid charges on every transaction abroad. “If you think it’s bottomed out, buy your pounds now. It could fall further or recover,” he said. “Same applies if you haven’t booked your hotel. Right now, your dollars buy more pounds than yesterday, so watch the currency and prepay the hotel if you think the pound has bottomed out against the dollar.”
George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog, said that he’s already seeing airfare fall. “The day after the Brexit vote, we saw airfares to London on Virgin Atlantic and other airlines for fall travel reduced to $500 round-trip,” he said.
For those who booked a trip before the recent vote, Hobica suggested reaching out to hotels, tours and other agencies to see whether you can re-book at a better price, now that exchange rates have fallen.
Hobica added that border control could also change in coming years. “Beyond the immediate effects of Brexit, the future looks murkier, but once border controls are put in place it will become harder to move between countries,” he said. “If Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U., becomes a separate country, you’ll need to go through border controls and show a passport between London and Edinburgh.” The same could ring true between Northern Ireland and Ireland, since Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom while Ireland is a part of the European Union.
Britain’s exit from the E.U. is expected to take at least two years, and experts say that in coming months there may not be any significant changes. For now, that means it’s a great time to take advantage of the exchange rate — as long as it lasts.
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