Big Ben sounded at midnight last night to mark the completion of Brexit, signalling a host of changes for travellers visiting Europe.
With the country now having completed the transition phase for leaving the EU, holidaymakers heading to the Continent are now potentially faced with longer wait times at airports, curbs on duty-free imports, and the return of data roaming charges.
From today, Britons will be met with additional checks at EU airports, which the European Tourism Association has said could lead to an additional 90 seconds per passenger at passport control – or an extra five hours per planeload.
UK travellers are also faced with a raft of new fees and charges, including higher travel insurance premiums to cover the outgoing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, larger mobile phone bills (although some networks have pledged to continue offering free roaming for the time being), and more costs and complications for those travelling with pets.
However, there are still a number of aspects of European travel that have not changed: financial protection against the failure of holiday operators will continue to be offered by the UK government, and British motorists are still allowed to drive without applying for an International Driver Permit.
The effect of the new travel arrangements is unlikely to be felt for the next few weeks, with many European countries having barred entry for UK travellers due to the new strain of coronavirus discovered last month.
Last night saw a number of European countries – including Italy, Portugal, Norway and Poland – place new restrictions on travellers arriving from the UK in effect from January 1, with exemptions only for those with essential reasons to travel. These changes come because the UK now falls outside the EU, and is therefore no seen as an international destination under the EU-wide Covid-19 restrictions.
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