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Brexit: What Does it Mean for Travel?

The United Kingdom has voted to leave the 28 member European Union and British Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down. There's quite a bit of turmoil across the pond right now. So, what does this mean for the average American? To be honest, the Brexit will likely save us money, at least in the short term. Long term? No one knows. It's an extremely complex issue that will likely have unpredictable results.



Overnight, the British Pound (GBP) is already down 9% compared to the US Dollar, and is at it's lowest point against the Dollar since 1985. This means travel to the UK is now cheaper if you're an American, which is a nice change since the UK was one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe. The Euro also is down 3%, which also results in cheaper travel for us to the majority of Europe. Both the UK & Europe were already on our list of the cheapest places to visit in 2016, and are now even cheaper. Safe to say it's good to be American if you're a traveler. Just don't tell Europeans you're a Trump supporter. 😉


British Pound to US Dollar over the past 5 years
British Pound to US Dollar over the past 5 years


Border Checks

The UK opted out of the Schengen Agreement so border checks have always been required, unlike the open borders across mainland Europe. The Brexit will likely result in longer lines as you enter the UK. Travelers from EU member countries will no longer be able to use the expedited customs entry, which is common across Europe. This will have little impact on the average American as we always had to use the normal customs lane, but in general border checks could take longer.

London Heathrow Customs
London Heathrow Customs



It will be interesting to see what impact the Brexit will have on UK-based budget airlines such as Easyjet. All UK based airlines will now have to negotiate with the EU, which could result in higher airfare. Budget airline Ryanair is based out of the Ireland (not UK), so there should be no impact. Flights departing London already have extraordinarily high taxes and fees, but I imagine those won't be changing much.

EasyJet is based in the UK
EasyJet is based in the UK


Cellular Coverage

Finding a foreign SIM card after landing in London is incredibly easy. All you need to do is a find a vending machine. The plan was for all EU countries to abolish roaming charges by 2017, which obviously won't include the UK now. If you planned to pick up a SIM card in the UK next year and roam at no extra charge across the continent, you're now in trouble. Luckily, most US providers are improving their service and offering free international data for many plans, especially on T-Mobile.

SIM Thrifty traveler
SIM vending machine at Heathrow (AWESOME)


Bottom Line

The US stock market is going to be on a wild ride in the short term. I'd avoid looking at your 401k balance and focus more on taking advantage of the incredibly strong US Dollar. Europe is on sale and transatlantic flights have never been cheaper! I've always complained about how expensive travel to the UK is, but after seeing the currency dip almost 10% overnight, I'm more apt to visit. Let's just hope the Brexit doesn't splinter the rest of the European Union, and result in the disintegration of the Eurozone. Open borders and a common currency are incredible for the average traveler. It would be sad to see it disappear.


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