Spain travel: Am I allowed to visit, are hotels and restaurants open and what rules are in place?

Is a Spanish sojourn on the cards this summer?

Playa de Formentor, Mallorca, Spain
Playa de Formentor, Mallorca, Spain

As countries around the globe tentatively begin to relax restrictions on travel, the promise of tapas al fresco and long, lazy sun-filled days beside the sea come top of the travel wish-list for many tourists.

Spain has long topped the list as one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations, with more than 18 million British tourists visiting in 2019 – a fifth of the country’s overall total of nearly 84 million visitors, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics.

But can British holidaymakers get there? And will we be welcome?

Here’s all the information you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Spain from the UK?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel in March, but this has now been lifted for 67 destinations as of 4 July.

Spain was originally on this list of exempt countries, and many Brits happily trotted off there on holiday – but the advice was suddenly changed on 25 July as the country reported a surge in new cases of Covid-19. Now, only the Balearic and Canary Islands are included on the low-risk” FCO list.

The warning doesn’t make travel to mainland Spain “illegal” as such – but it does invalidate your travel insurance if you head there now. Travel insurance for British holidaymakers already in Spain will remain in effect; UK travellers in Spain are not being advised to leave.

How could I get there?

The quickest and easiest way to reach Spain is by air. Budget airlines such as Ryanair, Jet2 and easyJet have resumed flights – and there are some excellent deals to be had. We found a good selection of Ryanair flights to Barcelona, Seville, Malaga and Palma for just £10 in July, for example. EasyJet, which is resuming 50 per cent of its routes this month, has launched a summer sale with flights from the UK to Spain for under £20.

Reluctant fliers may be able to opt for a slower way of travelling: the train. Eurostar is currently running three daily services from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Prior to the pandemic, travellers could choose from a range of onward services on 200mph trains across the border into Spain, with a journey time of around 6 hours and 30 minutes from the French capital.

According to the Renfe website, the 9713 service from Paris to Barcelona, departing at 10.14am, will run from 1 July to 30 August, alongside the 9731 service from Marseille to Barcelona, departing at 8.02am. For more information, visit the Renfe website.

Pre-lockdown, Brittany Ferries operated three services a week, departing Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao. Passenger services resumed operation on 29 June.

The Eurotunnel is still open for you to drive from Folkestone to Calais, subject to the completion of an online form and health declaration.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

On 21 June, the State of Emergency declared in Spain on 14 March came to an end. From this date, Spain re-opened its borders to European Union and Schengen-area countries (excluding Portugal) – including travellers from the UK.

Travel is permitted to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) as well as mainland Spain. Providing you don’t have coronavirus symptoms, there should be nothing stopping you from being permitted entry.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

No. The Spanish government confirmed that as of 21 June Brits are allowed in on the same terms as visitors from countries in the Schengen free travel zone .

Arancha González, the Spanish foreign minister, said: “We will allow British visitors to enter Spain, just like the rest of the European Union or Schengen areas, as from the 21st of June freely and without the need of a quarantine.”

Can I travel within Spain?

Yes, British travellers should be free to move throughout the territory and travel between provinces.

Are hotels open?

Hotels and campsites were permitted to reopen in mid-May, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stating that “some restrictions” were in place, such as limited or no access to communal facilities. Low demand meant many remained shut, but this has started to change, with plenty of empty rooms available. The FCO advises travellers to contact their accommodation provider prior to booking for further information on possible restrictions.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced his plans to transition the country towards a “new normality” at the end of April. Currently, this is taking place over four phases and differs from region to region.

At phase three, bars can open inside with a maximum capacity of 50 per cent, a number which changes to 75 per cent on bar and restaurant terraces.

The number of people allowed to meet socially has risen to 20 people and groups sports, including exercise classes, can be practised between up to 20 people.

Tour groups can resume guided tours with up to 20 people and casinos can open with a reduced capacity of 50 per cent and a maximum of 50 people.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can all open but with 50 per cent occupancy and a chair’s space between each person not from the same household, with up to 80 people indoors and 200 people outdoors.

Museums and exhibition spaces can welcome 50 per cent of the usual capacity.

Beaches re-opened across Spain on 1 June, but local authorities are taking measures to ensure social distancing and hygiene regulations are observed.

Major attractions such as the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Seville and Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum have re-opened to the public, with Granada’s Alhambra Palace following on 17 June.

All non-essential shops were allowed to re-open in Spain on 4 May, with indoor malls and department stores following on 8 June. Similarly to the UK, restrictions on the number of customers in a store at any given time are in place, alongside a social distancing rule of two metres.

The Spanish government has decided that regional authorities will be given the responsibility for deciding when their provinces can transition from phase three to the “new normal”, with many choosing to do so from 21 June.

Although restrictions have been gradually easing across the country, new flare-ups of coronavirus cases are leading to local lockdowns in certain destinations.

The town of Totana in Murcia in southeastern Spain has been shut off after 55 people tested positive. It’s the first place in Spain that has been forced to return to Phase 1 of the country’s road map out of lockdown.

What rules are in place?

People aged six years or over are required to use face masks outdoors, on public transport and in enclosed spaces. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to €100. Exceptions are made for those with disabilities or respiratory illness, as well as when eating or playing sport.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

Yes.

Although the government implemented a blanket two-week quarantine for all inbound arrivals on 8 June, from 10 July this was lifted for certain countries.

Countries regarded as “low-risk” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – are now exempt from mandatory self-isolation.

Spain was one of the exempt destinations for travellers entering England, Wales or Northern Ireland. However, the Department for Transport announced on 25 July that the country has been removed from the “low-risk” list after a spike in Covid-19 cases. All those entering the UK from Spain will have to self-isolate for 14 days – including those returning from the Balearic and Canary Islands.

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