With 2018 drawing to a close, many of us are starting to think about our travelling plans for next year. Apart from deciding where to go next, one of the hottest topics in the UK at the moment is (unfortunately) Brexit. Specifically, we’re wondering if leaving the EU next March and the possibility of a “no deal Brexit” will affect Interrail trips and European holidays.
If you’re panicking right now, take a deep breath – the world of travel will not stop on March 30th! BUT Brexit will affect Interrail in some respects, and there will be some extra things to think about.
Using our expert knowledge and some reliable sources, we’ve put together the main points to consider when planning your Europe trip in 2019!
At the moment, all British citizens need to travel in Europe is their passport. You don’t have to tell anyone where you’re going or why, or apply for a visa. You can just your backpack and passport, hop on the Eurostar and off you go.
However, the EU are in the process of rolling out a new online travel authorisation system for third (non-EU) countries. Once we leave the EU, this system will also apply to Brits looking to visit the continent. We expect that this will be a similar kind of system to the USA’s ESTA Visa Waiver.
The new ETIA system will require visitors from outside the EU to register their personal details before entering the EU. You will also have to register your reasons for travelling.
Your details will then be checked against international security databases. An approved ETIA will be needed to travel to any country within the EU. That includes popular destinations like Spain, Germany and France. There will probably be a small fee to pay during the application. Note that an approved ETIA will not 100% guarantee entry – travellers may be subject to further checks at the border.
This scheme is actually nothing to do with Brexit – it was already in progress before the referendum. However, it does affect British passport holders post-Brexit, as it means we will no longer be able to travel freely in the EU. This will probably be the biggest way that Brexit will affect Interrail.
The ETIAS scheme will also come with some further rules and regulations. You’ll need to take these into consideration when planning your European travels. One of the most important changes is that your passport will probably need to have at least 6 months validity remaining on it at the start of your trip. At the moment this isn’t necessary. In addition, passports more than 10 years old will be invalid. That means you will need to renew it if you’ve had any extra months added on.
Post-Brexit, you’ll need to show proof of your approved ETIA before you’re allowed to board your plane, train, bus or ferry to the EU. The responsibility for checking these will now lie with the companies operating the travel routes. That means airlines, train operators (like Eurostar) and ferry companies. You can expect longer queues to check in for your flight, ferry or train, as everyone will need to have their ETIA checked as well as their passport. Especially at first, there will inevitably be people who don’t realise they need an ETIA, or who haven’t brought the correct documents. As a result there will probably be delays getting everyone checked in and on-board.
You might also be questioned on your reasons for travelling etc by border guards. These extra checks will have a knock-on effect as border control try to get everyone through (or not as the case may be!). To combat these issues, we would definitely recommend allowing plenty of extra time for your journey to allow for disruption and avoid disappointment!
Apart from longer waiting times at check-in, if Britain crashes out of the EU with no deal agreed then there could be disruption for flying in general, as UK airlines will no longer be part of the ‘open skies’ agreement. This is the agreement gives our flights the automatic right to enter EU airspace. Until a new agreement over access to airspace can be reached, we could see flight cancellations and potentially even temporary airport closures.
Chances are that flying will become more expensive after Brexit, as budget airlines rely on free access to EU airspace to keep their operating costs down. Once they no longer have this their costs will increase, and it’s likely that these costs will end up being passed on to the customer.
Despite the worries, it’s unlikely that flights will be more expensive forever. Given the huge volume of tourists that travel between the UK and EU countries every year, it wouldn’t make sense for the UK and the EU to allow air travel to come to a stand still. The UK relies on cheap flights to bring tourists into the UK, as well as to send Brits abroad!
It’s in everyone’s best interest to agree a new airspace deal quickly to allow tourism to continue. We hope therefore that prices will come down again in the long run.
On the plus side, Euroventure hopes that rail travel prices won’t be affected as much as the open skies agreement. It only applies to flights, so hopefully Eurostar prices will remain similar throughout the process! This could mean that Brexit will affect Interrail less severely than other types of travel.
We’ve already seen this since the 2016 referendum. In 2016 £1 used to equal around €1.30, whereas in 2018 £1 is around €1.10. Political uncertainty often causes currency exchange rates to go up and down, meaning buying foreign currency costs you more. This can sometimes work in our favour, but in the case of Brexit it’s most likely that the value of the pound will drop against the euro – especially in the event of no deal. This uncertainty will make it harder to budget for your trip, as you might get fewer Euros to spend than you were expecting!
To combat this when planning your Interrail trip, we recommend getting a currency card well ahead of time (ideally pre-Brexit!!) and loading it with currency. This way you’ll know exactly what rate you are getting and how much it’s going to cost you!
On the subject of things costing more, the price of travel insurance is also almost certain to go up after the UK leaves the EU. Travel insurance providers are already increasing their premiums to cover themselves. They are anticipating lots of people trying to claim for disruptions to travel – which are more likely to happen post-Brexit.
Make sure you check your policy closely. Any travel insurance that you take out well in advance of travel occur should cover you for any disruption. However, if you try to buy travel insurance after disruption is publicly announced (e.g. airport strikes or closures), and then claim afterwards, you won’t be covered.
As always, it’s best to take out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, just in case something unexpected happens! Looking for a quote for your backpacking trip? Get one from specialist backpacking insurers World Nomads here!
Currently, we enjoy the benefits of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card means we have the right to medical treatment in the EU in the same way as citizens of that country. However If the UK does end up leaving the EU, then it’s unlikely we will continue to receive this benefit. Hopefully it’s unlikely, but hospitals could refuse you medical attention while abroad unless you can pay for it. Make sure you’ve saved up some cash – or can ring up a friend/relative – in case of an emergency!
In June of 2017, roaming charges were scrapped by an EU law which banned mobile phone companies from charging customers extra to use their phone abroad. It’s likely that after we leave the EU, this law will no longer apply. The UK government would have to decide to make it law in Britain too.
Either way, it will take a while for the UK government to sort through all the EU rules and work out what it wants to keep. This means there could be a ‘black hole’ period in-between – during this time it will be up to British mobile phone providers to decide if they want to charge you extra to use your phone abroad. It’s best to be prepared – we’re lucky to have free wi-fi widely available in hostels, hotels, and some public spaces across Europe. Make use of this to be safe!
In summary, there are a few things that are likely to change after we leave the European Union. However, it’s in everyone’s interest to keep things running. With a bit of planning there’s really no reason it should mess up your plans to travel Europe!
The network and the Interrail ticket itself is not going to be affected by Brexit. If you’re coming from outside the UK there won’t be much difference for you at all, and even if you’re from the UK you will still be able to buy a rail pass to travel Europe.
In the coming months we’ll see how the situation shapes up. Keep an eye out for updates, but it’ll only really be after March 29th that we’ll see the impact of Brexit. We think the best solution is to continue as normal – you certainly shouldn’t give up planning an Interrail trip! Using our tips, you’ll be able to minimise any possible disruption to your travels!
Check out Ultimate Guide to Travelling Europe here for all the advice you need! We’ve got guides on planning train travel, picking your destinations and choosing the best accommodation for you too. Once you’re ready to get planning, use our custom route builder tool to map out your route and work out how much your trip will cost.