Can I travel to Spain? And will it open in time for summer holidays?

Hazel Plush
·7 min read
Spain is likely to welcome British holidaymakers from June - Getty
Spain is likely to welcome British holidaymakers from June - Getty

Spain is set to be placed on the "amber list" when the UK's international travel ban is lifted on May 17, meaning Britons will be able to visit the country, but will be subject to a 10-day quarantine on return.

Under the new ‘traffic light’ system, which is set to replace the current blanket travel restrictions, those travelling to the UK from amber-listed countries will have to take a pre-departure PCR test, then self-isolate for 10 days on arrival. It will be possible to leave quarantine on the fifth day, provided a "test to release" returns negative.

Spain, for its own part, will welcome British holidaymakers from June, as part of an EU-wide project to reopen for the summer season.

It is likely that holidaymakers will need to arrive with some kind of Covid certification. Fernando Valdes Verelst, the Spanish tourism minister, said that a ‘vaccine passport’ will allow Britons to travel to the country for holidays this summer.

Those who have not received two doses of a vaccination will likely either need to take PCR tests prior to arrival, or have certification to prove their immunity to Covid-19.

Can I visit Spain now?

You can still travel to Spain for essential reasons, but you must self-isolate for 10 days on your return to the UK. Essential reasons include work that cannot be done from home, or emergency medical treatment – not holidays.

In England and Wales, travellers arriving from Spain must self-isolate either at a private address or (if they prefer) in rental/hotel accommodation. In Scotland, all travellers must isolate in a government-mandated quarantine hotel.

What does the ‘amber list’ mean?

As of May 17, anyone travelling from Spain to the UK will have to take a PCR test within 72 hours before departure. They will then have to quarantine at their home or place of accommodation for 10 days, with additional tests on days two and eight. They will also be allowed to pay for an extra test on day five, with the option to leave quarantine early if it comes back negative.

When in June will we be able to visit Spain?

The Spanish tourism minister has not given a specific date as to when, in June, the country will welcome British holidaymakers. Thomas Cook CEO Alan French said on May 3 that he expected Spanish holidays to be back on by the end of June.

How are case numbers looking in Spain?

Cases have crept up in recent weeks, with Spain recording 94.7 cases per 100,000 over the last 7 days, which is high compared to the UK’s current rate of 21 cases per 100,000.

Is Spain in lockdown?

Spain is not in national lockdown, but it is under a 'curfew' – limiting travel to work purposes, education, care reasons or medical treatment. Face coverings are compulsory in indoor spaces, and in some outdoor places (including beaches but not while swimming or sunbathing) too – as well as on public transport nationwide.

The restrictions will last until May 2021, at least.

What are the current testing rules in Spain?

UK citizens arriving in Spain must complete a ‘Health Control Form’, confirming that they have undertaken a PCR, TMA or LAMP test within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, have tested negative for Covid-19, and have evidence (eg a test certificate) to support this. It is possible some kind of testing regime will continue, when holidays reboot in June.

Will I need to quarantine on arrival in Spain?

There is currently no requirement for travellers from the UK to self-isolate on their arrival in Spain. Additional rapid tests may be conducted at hotel check-in, or as a follow-up request by border control within 48 hours of arrival. For the full entry requirements, including those for citizens/residents of Spain, see the FCDO's Spain guidance.

When returning to the UK, travellers must take a Covid test within three days of their departure date. In line with UK legislation, passengers will be prohibited from boarding any ferries or flights without proof of a negative result. In addition, all travellers destined for England or Wales must book a travel test package (£210), which includes tests to be taken on days two and eight of isolation.

If destined for Scotland, travellers must see out their isolation period in hotel quarantine, at a cost of £1,750 per individual traveller.

Will Spain open up in time for summer holidays?

Yes. According to both the European Commission and the Spanish government, holidays to Spain will be allowed by June.

After the lifting of the ban on British arrivals in March, Madrid has been under immense pressure to welcome holidaymakers – particularly from leaders in the Balearics and the Canary Islands, which rely heavily on overseas visitors.

Will I need a vaccine passport?

Yes. Spain said visitors will need to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or immunity. Grant Shapps suggested on Wednesday that proof of vaccination could be a feature on the NHS app.

Spanish ministers have joined calls for an EU-wide vaccine certification. This comes after the country controversially announced it would be compiling a database of vaccine refusers, which it would share with the European Union.

“Vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably,” Gonzalez told RNE radio station. “It will be a very important element to guarantee a safe return to mobility.” She said that the document should be coordinated at a European or even global level, and predicted that the certificate could enable people to travel into different countries – as the PCR tests do now.

The Balearic islands hope to conduct a trial run of any new vaccine passport scheme, which would enable fully inoculated travellers to visit the archipelago without restrictions.

Speaking to Telegraph Travel, the Islands' Minister for Tourism, Iago Negueruela, said: "The Balearic Islands has proposed to Spain’s central government that the archipelago becomes one of the first places where the vaccine passport is trialled.

"In 2020, the Balearics pioneered a safe tourism initiative called the Pilot Plan; a test project which launched in June 2020 to bring visitors back to the Balearic Islands in a controlled and safe way. This Pilot Plan helps to illustrate our capacity to trial these kind of initiatives before they are rolled out on a wider scale."

Are flights and ferries still operating?

Yes, airlines are still operating flights between the UK and Spain – though at a far reduced schedule than pre-pandemic. Passengers must adhere to all of the border requirements (see 'What are the border restrictions?', above).

The same applies to ferries between the UK and Spain, which continue to run at a reduced capacity. Brittany Ferries' Santander-Portsmouth service is twice-weekly, for example, while its Portsmouth–Bilbao and Plymouth–Santander services are suspended until mid-May 2021.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

Face masks on all forms of public transport, and in crowded spaces, are obligatory for anyone over the age of six, and in some parts of Spain – Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and parts of the Basque Country – they must be worn in all public settings.

Face masks are mandatory in crowded outdoor spaces - Getty
Face masks are mandatory in crowded outdoor spaces - Getty

The FCDO says: “Most regions in Spain have now made the use of face masks obligatory in both indoor and outdoor public spaces, even when social distancing of 1.5 metres is observed. Penalties may be imposed if you do not comply.

“Those with respiratory problems or those unable to wear a mask due to other health conditions or disabilities are exempt from this rule.

"While not mandatory, the use of face masks on children between 3 and 5 years of age is recommended."