What Brexit means for Australian travellers: Top tips for holidays to Britain after Brexit

When Britain's voters in the June 23 referendum narrowly advised they wished to leave the European Union, Brexit was here for the long haul. 

But despite having time for things to calm down and settle into shape, little clarity on what Brexit means for Britain – and everyone else – has emerged.

For Australian travellers to Britain only one result really matters – the dollar to pound exchange rate. And that favours Australian visitors. On June 22, a dollar would get you £0.51. Six months later the dollar was getting you 17 per cent more pound for your buck. It's now it's about £0.61 and that makes a trip to Old Blighty considerably more affordable than it has been for some time.

But will it get even cheaper? Well, that requires a look into a chipped and murky crystal ball. Before the referendum, the general consensus on the Leave side was that there would be some short-term pain, but medium to long-term gain. This view seems to have miraculously disappeared beneath an avalanche of chest-beating designed to get the exit pushed through as quickly as possible.

On the Remain side, the questions were largely about whether the medium to long-term gain would happen. The short- term economic hit was taken as a given – it was just a case of how big that hit would be.

In the time since the referendum, the economic signals have been mixed. Each side has leapt on every sliver of data that supports their viewpoint, and entirely unconvincingly. The only clear, undeniable signal has been that the pound has dropped significantly on the two occasions when Brexit has become significantly more likely.

For Australian travellers, Brexit could be good news.  The inflationary costs of a dropping pound are yet to kick in – and imported food in particular is going to have to cost more soon. Such costs will almost certainly filter through to hotels, so a stay will be cheaper in Australian dollar terms, but not necessarily as cheap as the exchange rates would suggest.

Conventional wisdom, however, has it that Brexit's economic impact will be a boon to the British tourism industry. But it's a bit too soon to tell – not much relevant data has been published. The International Passenger Survey, which collects the figures on the number of global air passenger arrivals, shows there was a year-on-year increase of 2 per cent between July and September. How much of that can be attributed to the Brexit vote is near impossible to work out, and it is not broken down into country of origin.

The British Hospitality Association's Travel Monitor paints a mixed picture, stating that arrivals were down in July and August, but up in September. Anecdotally, however, tourism authorities believe visits from Australia are up now that word of Britain being cheaper has filtered through.

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One key area where any changes are most likely to be felt is among working holidaymakers. In time, the rules could change – with restrictions likely to be relaxed if Britain pursues closer ties with Australia. For now, though, the lower earnings potential is an issue.

British relocation specialist, 1st Contact, which provides services such as opening bank accounts and obtaining National Insurance numbers, says the uncertainty is weighing on the minds of many of its clients.

Sam Hopwood, managing director of 1st Contact Australia, says: "Since Brexit we have seen some types of clients become wary of relocating to the UK. These are mainly the more mature clients with families and homes to relocate. The typical backpacker under 31 years of age doesn't seem to be bothered by Brexit.

"Many are saying that they are 'just going to wait and see'. This is a very similar expression used in 2008 around the time of the GFC. We feel that similar to back in 2008, once the media attention to Brexit dies down and people can see that it is business as usual in the UK, those people who were wary will see that the UK still offers great opportunities."

Alana Deghelli, from gap year specialists the Global Work and Travel Company, says the main change has been in British citizens looking to move overseas, and that there have been queries from Australians holding dual passports. "They were worried that they wouldn't be given the same access into European countries as before," she says. "This is a major selling point for the UK as our customers use the UK as their base to continue their travels in the surrounding areas."

Complicating matters is the emergence of Berlin as a lower-rent, hipper alternative base – particularly for those wanting to work in the creative and tech industries. But the German capital isn't just pulling Australians away from London – it is attracting young Brits, too. If hostility towards immigration continues to dominate the Brexit debate, then Berlin's welcoming embrace could become a bigger drawcard.

For now though, there is a risk of overanalysis. Sydney-based fashion illustrator Sara Gilbert nails the attitude most will have when talking about her trip in July. "I did notice a difference in the pound since my trip in April," she says. "But truthfully, I wasn't there to shop, save, or enjoy the financial benefits. I guess I was a tad more inclined to shout an extra round, or get an Uber without paining over the cost too much, but that's about it ..."

Making it easier for Aussies to buy a Pom a pint – now there's a Brexeffect that both Remain and Leave voters can get behind…

TOP POST-BREXIT TIPS FROM TRAVELLER'S BRITISH CORRESPONDENTS

NAME Steve McKenna

BORN Manchester

LIVES London

Best post-Brexit bargain sterling's dip against the Aussie dollar means there are superb accommodation deals to be had, especially with the Landmark Trust, which has an amazing portfolio of historic, quirky properties for rent (imagine staying in castles, follies, lighthouses and cottages). You'll get particularly good bang-for-your-buck if travelling as a family or group. For example, West Blockhouse, a modified Victorian fort on Wales' gorgeous Pembrokeshire coast, sleeps eight, and costs $719 for four nights – about enough time to explore the region's treasures on foot and by car; landmarktrust.org.uk

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

SWITCH HOUSE

Unveiled days before the shock Brexit result, Tate Modern's new 10-storey Herzog & de Meuron-designed wing is an eye-catching spectacle packed with thought-provoking contemporary art; tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern–

BIRMINGHAM

Keen to hear both sides of the Brexit story? Chat with the Brummies of Birmingham, a buzzing multicultural metropolis that polled 50/50 (bar a few thousand votes) in the referendum. The city centre's Old Joint Stock pub is usually a hive of conversation; visitbirmingham.com

DOVER CASTLE

Perched above the famous white cliffs, Dover's magnificent 12th-century castle has historically protected England's south coast from foreign invaders. Today's visitors, however, are welcome to roam its labyrinthine tunnels and medieval interiors; english-heritage.org.uk

NORTH COAST 500

Starting and finishing in Inverness, this awe-inspiring touring loop weaves through the myth-riddled highlands of Scotland, a mostly pro-EU nation. Swaths of tarmac on this 830-kilometre route were, incidentally, funded by EU grants; northcoast500.com

BOROUGH MARKET

Brexit may mean Brexit (according to the British prime minister), but this vibrant market on London's South Bank remains resolutely cosmopolitan. It's a hub of European languages from traders and punters – and food and drink from across the continent and beyond. See boroughmarket.org.uk

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Rail fares are a snip – if booking in advance. You can travel from London to Edinburgh for as little as $42 one way. Pay $94 and go first-class, and you'll get surprisingly tasty meals, free soft drinks and alcohol, and extra comfort on a journey that takes four and a bit hours and whizzes past some of Britain's most entrancing scenery. See virgintrainseastcoast.com

NAME Sue Williams

BORN Basildon, Essex, once voted the "naffest" (most bogan) place in Britain

LIVES Kings Cross, Sydney

Best post-Brexit bargain ... Book a three-hour tour around London in an old (decommissioned) black cab. It's extraordinary, and you get to see all the big sights – think Buck Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London and so on – in comfort, with the taxi able to drive, and park, where ordinary cars can't. With the pound's slide it's more affordable than it's ever been – up to six passengers from just $313. Tours include Classic London, Royal London, Beatlemania, even Jack the Ripper's London, and they're also very happy to take special requests. See blackcabheritagetours.co.uk

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

STONEHENGE

This has always been a personal favourite; the only problem is the crowds in a post-Brexit Britain where so many are choosing to holiday at home. Skip the queues with, for instance, a small-group Viator tour that gives you exclusive access to the site, and then bypass queues to Windsor Castle for $80. See viator.com

RIVER THAMES

Release your inner James Bond, the ultimate cool Brit, with a ride on a new superfast speedboat up the river from the London Eye. Exhilarating. And only $66 for 50 minutes for adults, $43 for kids. See londonribvoyages.com

SCOTLAND

Europhiles will be warmly welcomed since every Scottish council voted to Remain. So take this moment to explore one of the most underrated cities in Britain – historic, colourful, wild and wonderful Glasgow.

FOUNTAINS ABBEY

Gorgeous ruins of a 12th-century monastery near Ripon in north Yorkshire which were laid waste by Henry VIII – the man who was once constantly in conflict with his European neighbours. Not much has changed.

PEOPLE LAUGHING

As gloom descends on Britain, why not make a real effort to understand the British sense of humour? Take a half-day stand-up comedy workshop at The Comedy School in London for $126.  You even get a cup of tea and a cake. See www.thecomedyschool.com 

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Once, you avoided talking about The War. Now it's The Referendum. Passions still run high on both sides. Stick to discussions about the lousy weather.

NAME Keith Austin

BORN A Cockney born and bred, from Bethnal Green, East London, and passionate Remainer.

LIVES Sydney, Australia

BEST POST-BREXIT BARGAIN

Given that actual Brexit is several years and a High Court challenge away, we have no idea whether it's going to look like a fairy on top of a Christmas tree or a pug-ugly troll lurking under a bridge. Best guess? European holidays from Britain are going to be a whole lot more expensive, which means Butlin's Holiday Camps (all three of them) are going to start looking a whole lot more attractive. Book a bargain now at butlins.com/index.aspx

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

On a clear day you can see France. Take a picnic and remember the old days when the Brits could work over there without hassle and good smelly cheese didn't come with a mortgage attached.

BOGNOR REGIS

Officially the sunniest town in Britain though no one can predict when that day arrives. There's a Butlin's there. See butlins.com/index.aspx

WISBECH

A lovely market town in Cambridgeshire and the "capital" of the fens. More than 71 per cent of voters here chose Leave. Visit the town but don't spend anything.

GIBRALTAR

So 95.9 per cent of voters in this British Overseas Territory on the Spanish coast voted Remain. Go visit them and spend up big. They are likely to be depressed and will need some Aussie larrikinism to cheer them up.

THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

(Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and the like) aren't actually part of the EU anyway but they have intimated that they might, depending on the eventual Brexit terms, break away from the mainland. Prime Minister Theresa May won't let that happen without a fight. Join the rebels. If it all goes pear-shaped the French mainland is a short ferry ride away.

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Be extra careful in the City of London business district at night. What with all the companies decamping to Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris, it will be like a ghost town. If someone called Farage sidles up to you and whispers "change money, change money?" run like the wind.

NAME Rob McFarland

BORN Brighton

LIVES Sydney

BEST POST-BREXIT BARGAIN

London. With the pound significantly weaker against the Aussie dollar, this is the time to splurge on those bucket-list London experiences. Have afternoon tea at The Ritz, stay a night at The Savoy and splash out on dinner at three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. See visitlondon.com

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

EDINBURGH 2017

Marks the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival, which means there has never been a better time to head north of the border and check out the city's 12 annual celebrations. See edinburghfestivalcity.com

BRITISH LIBRARY

Harry Potter fans will want to plan their visit around the British Library's new exhibition, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of the first book (October 20, 2017-February 28, 2018). See bl.uk

LIVERPOOL

In February 2017, the British Music Experience opens in the historic Cunard Building in Liverpool with more than 600 artefacts and 90 hours of digital content. See britishmusicexperience.com

NOBU

Master sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa will open his first European hotel in London's Shoreditch in the first quarter of 2017. The 150-room property will feature a dramatic three-storey restaurant with a food and drinks menu developed by Matsuhisa himself. See nobuhotels.com

HULL

It's the British City of Culture in 2017, which means a year-long celebration that includes 25 festivals, 12 artists' residences and 1500 special events. See hull2017.co.uk

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Eventually, Heathrow will have to close its EU immigration channel, which means queues for everyone entering the country will probably increase. Consider flying into a quieter London airport such as Gatwick or fly to France or Belgium and take the Eurostar across the channel. For the ultimate in leisurely arrivals, cruise into Southampton.

About the author

Traveller's resident Brit David Whitley would be someone else's token Australian were it not for love. Just before his Australian residency came through, he met a girl in a pub, and the rest is history. He's now settled in Sheffield ("the start of the north" in his now-wife's terms), and has taken the unexpected series of events as a chance to get to know his own country. And now, after a long period of being puzzled about why it's such a great tourist draw, it makes sense. The history, the spikily individual small cities, the countryside and coastline are the ingredients, and the dish as a whole is … home.

See also: 10 London highlights most visitors miss

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to the UK

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