First came the lockdowns and travel bans. Then came the travel rules and restrictions – a hotchpotch of entry requirements, forms to fill in and hoops to jump through that differed from country to country, as nations sought their own solutions to the sticky problem of how to restrict the spread of COVID-19 from infected travellers. Over the course of the summer, one by one most countries in Europe have now dropped those restrictions. Vaccinated or unvaccinated, British holidaymakers can now head to most places on the continent without the need to take a COVID test, without filling in any forms detailing any history of having the virus – just like old times. One of the standout exceptions is Spain – which, from a UK perspective, just happens to be the most popular holiday destination for British tourists. Spain has now lifted all its border controls for EU visitors, but not for anyone travelling from a non-EU country – the UK included.
If you’re planning a trip to Spain, it’s therefore important that you don’t get caught out assuming that there are no longer any COVID controls in place. Here’s what you need to know.
To gain entry to Spain, British tourists need to present one of three documents on arrival:
- A valid vaccination certificate
- Proof of a negative COVID test
- A certificate of recovery from COVID.
Previously, Spain would only admit visitors from non-EU countries who had been fully vaccinated, but that has now been eased. If you haven’t been vaccinated, you will need to take either a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, or a rapid antigen test 24 hours before arrival.
Results can either be registered to the NHS COVID Pass, which is accepted by Spanish authorities for entry purposes, or uploaded using Spain’s Health Control Form. Once the form is completed, you are sent a QR code that is scanned at the airport so the authorities can check the results.
Alternatively, if you have had COVID-19 in the past six months, you can use a certificate of recovery in place of a test. Certificates of recovery are available as part of the NHS COVID Pass scheme. To get one, you have to have had COVID confirmed by a PCR test and logged against your personal record.
Rules in Spain state that your certificate of recovery has to be dated at least 11 days after the date of your positive test. This means the latest you can have a positive test and still be allowed to travel to Spain is 11 days before departure.
If you plan to use proof of vaccination to gain entry to Spain, bear in mind that Spanish authorities only accept immunity for 270 days after your second dose. However, booster jabs are accepted as providing permanent immunity for travel purposes.
What this means in practice is that the initial course of two jabs alone is probably not enough to get you into Spain. Most people vaccinated in the UK received their second shot well over a year ago. If you haven’t had a booster jab since, you should either consider getting one at least two weeks before you travel, or take a test.
The obvious risk if you have to take a COVID test before you travel to Spain is that the result comes back positive, and then your plans are scuppered. This isn’t just inconvenient and deeply disappointing. It can end up hitting you hard financially, too.
The fact that a COVID test has to be taken so close to departure probably means you’ll fall outside the window of being able to claim a refund for cancelling your flights, or at least change the booking for a fee. The same could well apply to your accommodation booking, your car hire, and then all the other additional costs like travel to and from the airport. It’s therefore strongly advised that you prioritise buying travel insurance for Spain when you plan your trip, making sure you choose a policy with a high level of protection for COVID-related cancellations.