How To Travel-Proof Your Finances Post-Brexit

How To Travel-Proof Your Finances Post-Brexit

For many, this summer will be the first time they’ve left the UK since Brexit. With that in mind, it’s worth knowing some of the changes that have come into play, and which ones might affect your holiday finances in 2021. From travel money to roaming charges, here are the main points to bear in mind.


Exchange rates have not changed significantly since the Brexit trade deal was agreed on 24th December 2020, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to approach currency exchange differently as a result. “You should still be able to use your debit card or travel credit card in the EU,” adds the team from Nerd Wallet. “Any existing charges will still apply, and you’ll be able to find these out from your bank/card provider if you are unsure.” The team at Barclays expands: “Retailers in the EU now face a new higher so-called ‘interchange’ fee from payment service providers – and could decide to pass this onto customers who use their bank card in the form of higher prices.” Finally, if you’re concerned you’ve been a victim of fraud while abroad, the usual procedure still applies, with customers encouraged to contact their card provider as soon as possible.


"When you leave the UK to go to an EU or non-EU country, you will be able to buy duty-free goods at airports, ports and international rail stations once you have gone through the security checks,” explains the team at Nerd Wallet. “This means you won’t need to pay UK tax or excise duty on alcohol and tobacco goods that you buy and take with you. However, the EU sets limits on how much you can bring into a country without paying tax or duties. These are: 16 litres of beer; 4 litres of still wine; 1 litre of spirits over 22% ABV or 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine. Individual EU countries set different limits for tobacco products, which can range from 40-200 cigarettes and 50-250g of tobacco. You can carry other goods worth up to €300 per person, or €430 if you travel by air or sea.”

Exchange rates have not changed significantly since the Brexit trade deal was agreed on 24th December 2020, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to approach currency exchange differently as a result.


When you return to the UK from the EU, you will no longer be able to bring back unlimited duty-paid goods. “Since January 2021 there are limits on how much you can bring back to Great Britain without paying any extra tax or duty, as long as they are for personal use or a gift,” explains the Nerd Wallet team. “Items you are allowed to bring back tax and duty-free include: 42 litres of beer; 18 litres of wine (not sparkling); 9 litres of alcoholic drinks (including fortified and sparkling wine) up to 22% ABVl; 4 litres of spirits and liquors over 22% ABV; 200 cigarettes; 250g of tobacco. Other than alcohol and tobacco, you can bring up to £390 worth of items without paying tax or duties.”

There are also controls on the amount of cash you can bring from the EU to the UK (excluding Northern Ireland). “You will need to declare if you are carrying more than £10,000,” the Nerd Wallet team explains. “If you go over these allowances, you will have to declare your goods online before arriving in the UK and pay the required tax and duty on all your goods, not just the amount that goes over the allowance limit. You won’t need to declare your goods if you’re travelling between Northern Ireland and the UK, as long as you’re a UK resident and you paid the necessary taxes and duties at the time of purchase (i.e., you didn’t buy them in a duty-free store).” You can bring back unlimited goods from the EU to Northern Ireland as before, as long as you have paid tax and duty in the country you purchased them from, and they are for personal use.


After leaving the EU, UK residents are no longer guaranteed free mobile phone roaming when they visit the EU. “Network providers can theoretically now add roaming charges for using your mobile in the EU, although most have said they will not reintroduce them so you should not see your phone bill rocket when you next go on holiday,” the Nerd Wallet team says. “The UK has also adopted the EU law that aims to protect individuals from incurring large data charges unknowingly while abroad. It sets a £45 monthly limit that UK citizens can be charged for using additional data abroad. After this, providers must contact you and ask if you want to opt in to continue using data.” If in doubt, check with your provider to find out more about any roaming charges they may introduce. “Make sure you understand how to turn off mobile roaming on your phone if you’re worried about extra charges,” adds the Citizens Advice Bureau team. “This is usually in the phone’s ‘settings’ menu under ‘mobile roaming’.”


It might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but post-Brexit you will need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland if you have a paper driving licence – and it costs money. You can get an IDP at the Post Office and you’ll need to present a full valid UK driving licence – photocard or paper – a passport-sized photograph; a £5.50 application fee; and your passport if you’re taking a paper driving licence. “You’ll need to display a GB sticker on the back of your vehicle, unless your licence plate includes the GB symbol,” adds the team at the Citizens Advice Bureau

“A green card also proves you have the right insurance to drive abroad. You’ll need one if you’re hiring a car or driving your own car. You can get a green card from your car insurance company. Ask for it at least four weeks before you go and be aware you might have to pay a fee,” says the Citizens Advice Bureau. Finally, if you’re taking a hired or leased vehicle abroad, you’ll need to take a VE103 certificate with you to show you’re allowed to drive it – and you’ll also have to pay a fee.

After leaving the EU, UK residents are no longer guaranteed free mobile phone roaming when they visit the EU.


Passengers on flights, trains, ferries or other modes of transport shouldn’t experience any change in their rights or eligibility for compensation if their journey is cancelled or delayed, explains the Nerd Wallet team. “Even though the UK has left the EU, the UK has adopted the laws on compensation and other related issues so existing rights have been carried over. The UK compensation laws will cover flights that are departing the UK, arriving in the UK with an EU or UK airline, or arriving in the EU with a UK airline. If you fly to/from a country in the EU or EEA and/or on an EU-regulated flight, you will still be able to claim compensation under the EU261 regulation as this is not limited to EU citizens.

“You will also continue to have protection if you purchase package holidays from a travel firm that then goes bust, whether you buy from a UK-based company or from a firm outside the UK that specifically targets UK travellers and holidaymakers. However, if you buy a holiday from an EU business that isn’t targeting UK customers then you may not have the same protection.”


Even with a GHIC – the UK Global Health Insurance Card that replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in January 2021 – and your compensation rights intact, you should not forget to take out travel insurance before travelling abroad. Make sure you have sufficient protection – which covers as much Covid-related activity or incident as possible – and check what types of disruption are covered. “Most travel insurance won’t cover you for any illnesses or health issues you already have,” adds the Citizens Advice Bureau. “It’s important to tell your insurer if you have any existing health issues before buying insurance. If they can’t cover you, they should recommend a specialist insurance company that can.”


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*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice and entry requirem

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