Having widely opened to British travellers over summer 2021, Spain is once again tightening its travel restrictions in the face of the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
Spain and its islands have long been a favourite destination for Britons, with more than 18 million holidaymakers visiting this Mediterranean hotspot in a normal year. However, the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the travel industry.
The country spent much of the 2021 holiday season on the UK’s now-defunct amber list, meaning travellers were subject to heavier testing and isolation rules than those returning from green list countries.
The amber list was scrapped in October 2021, but now several countries worldwide, including Spain, are adding travel restrictions due to the emergence of the omicron variant in several African countries, as well as cases being detected within the UK.
The country is also upping its domestic restrictions to cope with surging cases, affecting the atmosphere on the ground.
So can you book a Spanish getaway this winter – and what are the current rules on travel? Here’s everything you need to know.
Are British holidaymakers allowed to travel to Spain?
Yes - but only the fully vaccinated.
From 1 December, unvaccinated Britons will be banned from entering Spain, in new rules announced on Sunday 28 November.
Previously, anyone with a negative PCR test result from within the previous 72 hours or proof of full vaccination could enter Spain for work or leisure purposes.
But from 1 December onwards, travellers into Spain from the UK will need to show proof of a full course of a Covid-19 vaccination, with the second dose given 14 days before travel, in order to enter the country.
“The appearance of new variants … obliges an increase in restrictions,” for arrivals from the UK and Northern Ireland, said a Spanish government bulletin.
“This will affect British residents but not British people who are resident in Spain,” said a spokeswoman for Spain’s Industry, Trade and Tourism,
Non-resident travellers from the UK must be double jabbed with a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organisation in order to gain entry - but booster shots are not currently included in the requirements.
A valid, in-date NHS Covid Pass will suffice as proof of vaccination.
It must be an in-date Pass, too: downloaded versions of the NHS Covid Pass are dated and expire after 30 days.
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Before travel to Spain, all passengers must also complete and sign an online Health Control Form no more than 48 hours prior to travel, declaring any known history of exposure to Covid-19 and giving contact details.
Anyone who has not completed this form electronically via the Spain Travel Health website or app may submit it in paper format prior to boarding.
Certificates of recovery - a medical document certifying that you have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months prior to travel - are not currently accepted for arrivals from the UK.
Further rules may apply if you have travelled to a country on Spain’s changing list of “risk” countries in the 14 days prior - the list valid until 5 December includes Austria, the Netherlands and Germany, among others.
Depending on which region you’re travelling to, you may need to show your proof of vaccination to enter accommodation or local venues while in the country.
Are unvaccinated children allowed into Spain?
Only those under 12 years old.
Children aged 11 and under are exempt from the proof of vaccination requirement, but must still be accounted for in a Health Control Form filled in within the 48 hours before travel.
Unvaccinated aged 12 and above will not be allowed into Spain from 1 December.
What are the UK rules when I return from Spain?
As with all countries not on the red list, fully vaccinated travellers returning from Spain must have a “day two” test booked to take within the two days after arrival, and must self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
They must also complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within the 48 hours before returning to the UK, for which you must have an order number for your day two test.
Since 30 November 2021, day two tests must also be a PCR test, not a lateral flow.
This has changed from the brief period where lateral flow tests were permitted, from October to November - now, ministers say the omicron variant means that PCR tests are needed to sequence test results.
Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for 10 days after the test result.
As o f 22 December, if you test negative on day six and day seven of isolation, you may leave isolation, while still taking extra precautions when in public.
Unvaccinated people (who may have travelled to Spain prior to the 1 December rule change) must take a pre-departure PCR test before travelling to the UK, self-isolate for 10 days after arrival, and pay to take a “day two” and “day eight” PCR test.
How long will the new rules be in place?
Documents from the Spanish government indicate that the ban on unvaccinated Britons aged 12 and over will last until at least 31 December 2021, at which point the rules will be reviewed.
In terms of the UK’s new rules around PCR testing, the government has not set an end date on PCR tests being required.
While England’s rules on PCR tests for vaccinated travellers returning to the country apply across the UK for now, the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, want tougher travel rules.
They have called on the UK government to bring in eight days of mandatory self-isolation for all arrivals to the UK, with a PCR test at the end.
It remains to be seen whether the UK will tighten restrictions for vaccinated arrivals from countries such as Spain.
What restrictions are in place in Spain?
Restrictions vary from region to region in Spain.
On 22 December ministers announced that mask rules would likely be tightened again for the first time in six months, with masks needing to be worn by everyone in outdoor spaces.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is holding a meeting on 23 December in a bid to pass a degree-law that makes it mandatory to wear masks outdoors at all times, amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases.
Mr Sánchez told regional leaders the mask measure would be put to ministers - if successful, it will be signed into law before Christmas.
Everyone over the age of six must already wear a face mask in enclosed public spaces, on public transport, and in crowded outdoor areas where it is not possible to socially distance.
Many sights and museums have limited capacity or now require visitors to book a time slot online in advance.
Some regions have their own restrictions, so you should check the rules for the region you are visiting before you travel - the Spanish tourist board’s Travel Safe website has an interactive map you can consult for regional rules.
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