UPDATE: What are the new rules on travelling between Spain and the UK?

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
UPDATE: What are the new rules on travelling between Spain and the UK?
Photos: AFP

Much of the UK is now under a second lockdown while Spain is under a state of emergency that allows each region to impose their own set of restrictions. Plus there are new rules on quarantining in the UK and compulsory PCR tests for arrivals in Spain.


UPDATE: The Spanish Health Ministry has changed requirements for compulsory testing for arrivals by sea and air and from December 10th will accept a negative TMA test as well as a PCR. READ MORE HERE

So when it comes to travelling between the two countries, what's allowed?

Here’s what you need to know:

Spain has no national lockdown in place yet but since a state of emergency was declared last month there is a curfew in place (everywhere except the Canary Islands) and each of Spain's regions have the power to impose their own restrictions on movement.

The UK lockdown which is due to be lifted on December 2 requires people to stay at home as much as possible and limit outings to essential trips only - and also have restrictions on travel across the borders while in Spain most regions have now closed their borders as well as imposing perimeter confinements around municipalities with high infections rates.

But things changes fast. England will come under "toughened" three-tiered regional restrictions after December 2and across Spain the restrictions in place within regions and municipalities can change from day to day.

Keep up to date on restrictions in Spain by checking in regularly with our Essential Coronavirus Info section.


Quarantine rules change in UK.

Since July people arriving in the UK from any country not a “travel corridor” list - and that means Spain – have been required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days after their arrival.

But that is changing from December 15th in England (Not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as yet) when new arrivals or those returning from abroad can be released from quarantine if they test negative to a PCR test on day 5.

Results will normally be issued in 24 to 48 hours. This means people could be released from quarantine six days after arrival.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic."

The tests must be PCR (Antigen tests) and must be carried out by private firms to protect the NHS. They currently cost around £120.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock explained:  “This will be done at the cost of the traveller to protect the capacity of NHS Test and Trace and ensure that any UK resident who has symptoms is able to get a test.”

Those choosing not to take a test when arriving from a non-exempt country must continue to follow the current self-isolation requirements  of two weeks. Failure to comply to self-isolation rules can lead to a fine of £1,000

You are permitted to enter the UK for a stay shorter than 14 days, but must self-isolate for the whole of that period.

The British government says that it will publish a list of approved providers of PCR tests so that people can book one five days after their arrival in the UK, but that list hasn’t yet been published.


Spain now requires PCR test

Since Monday November 23 Spain has required travellers from high risk countries arriving by sea or air to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. Failure to present this proof of a negative test on arrival could result in a €6,000.

The PCR tests must be done privately as the NHS will not carry out tests for the purposes of travel alone and should be CE-marked, so they meet European standards for medical testing and are approved for sale in the UK.

There are various options for getting tests done but check that they will guarantee results in time for your departure to Spain.

Such tests are already available through Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy and private health clinics as well as home test kits that are sent via Royal Mail and processed in a lab. READ MORE HERE.

READ ALSO: Which travellers must show negative Covid-19 test on arrival in Spain?

Here's what the rules say:

If you're in Spain

If you're in a part of Spain which has a perimetral confinement and you want to go to the UK you can only do so if you meet certain criteria. The criteria for international travel are the same as the criteria for any trip outside the confined area of Spain.

In Spain each region has set its own rules but they broadly that you are only allowed cross confinement zones to go to work, for the purposes of study, to seek medical care or because you have to care for dependents (children, disabled or elderly).

Rules also allow exceptions for a legal process, administrative appointment and there is also a "force majeure" clause.

In addition to these, people who are permanent residents in the UK can return home. So people who live in the UK but were caught in Spain are able to go home.

If where you are in Spain is within a municipality or region that has perimeter confinement restrictions in place then you will need to be able to prove a justification for crossing borders.

There is no official government form as such but you must be able to show proof that you are returning to your primary residence. This could be proof of address in another country, passport, and travel documents (airline tickets or ferry tickets).



Can I drive from Spain through France to catch the Eurotunnel or ferry to England?

Yes. The borders are open and even though France has been on a national lockdown since October 30th you are able to transit the country to your place of residence.

It is advisable that if you are driving to or from Spain through France, which is currently in lockdown then you will need to have proof that you are transiting through the country such as an onward travel booking. 

If you are returning to the UK, you will also need to fill in the quarantine locator form before you re-enter the country, and then quarantine for 14 days once you arrive (or are released by a negative PCR test taken after 5 days) find this form HERE.

The British government has clarified that people out of the country on holiday do not need to return immediately but can stick to their original travel plans.

If you're in the UK

The UK is telling people to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, and  those reasons are the same whether you are travelling within the UK or leaving the country.


These reasons are;

  • travelling to work where this cannot be done from home
  • travelling to education and for caring responsibilities
  • to visit those in your support bubble - or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • to buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail
  • to spend time or exercise outdoors - this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

Again, people who are permanent residents in Spain can leave the UK to come home - even if they are not Spanish citizens.

There is no form required for travelling within the UK or leaving the country but you may need to prove to the Spanish authorities that your trip to a confined region is justified.

You will need to take a PCR test within 72 hours prior to your arrival in Spain and your airline or ferry company will require this before allowing you to check in.

On arrival in Spain you will need to present a passenger locator form, and may be subject to a basic medical check including temperature check but there are no quarantine requirements.

If you arrive in a place that is within a confinement zone but need to travel onwards, that is also allowed under the rules providing your purposes for travel are justified.

It's worth pointing out that the UK is currently advising against all but essential travel abroad, which can invalidate your travel insurance policy, so check with your insurance provider before you travel.

What rules are there about flying into Spain?

Spain's international borders are not closed which means you can fly in even to an airport that is within a region with perimeter confinement in place.

For example, you can fly into Barcelona's El Prat airport drive and then travel to another part of Spain where different restrictions are in place if you have justified cause for that journey.

Can I get the ferry to Bilbao or Santander or drive through France into Spain?

Again, Spain has not closed its borders, airports or ports. So as long as the ferry companies are running services you can arrive in Spain but need a justified reason to be travelling across confined regional or municipal borders.

If it is to return to your primary residence (if that is within a restricted zone) or for leisure purposes if it is in a zone where there are no perimeter restrictions in place.

Both Cantabria and the Basque Country have perimeter confinements around the region itself and municipalities within it but you will be allowed to transit through without stopping (you are allowed to stop at service stations for the purposes of refuelling).

Make sure to have your travel tickets available to show at any checkpoints and can explain why you are travelling to your final destination.




As discussed above, if you are travelling in or out of a confinement zone you will need to be able to prove that your trip is justified but Spain doesn't have a standard permission form in the same way as France does.

To avoid problems at checkpoints, always carry some form of photo ID (which is required by law in Spain) and if that doesn't have your current home address on it then carry something that proves your place of residence, such as ‘padron' certificate or at the very least an official letter with your address on it (such as utility bill or bank statement).

If you are not going home to your primary residence within a restricted area but entering one for another purpose then there are various documents that can help prove it.

Have at hand (either printed out on your phone) any evidence that you are travelling for the purposes allowed, such as a statement from your work explaining your trip, enrolment on a course if you are travelling for the purposes of study, or proof that you have an appointment at administrative or legal offices.

The force majeure clause could cover you to travel if you are moving to a new home, or selling or buying property, so carry proof of the appointments in case you are required to show them at a checkpoint.

Travel within the UK does not require paperwork, but if you are entering the UK you will need to fill out the contact locator form - you can find that HERE.

Curfew and other restrictions

Remember there is a nightly curfew in place across all of Spain apart from the Canary Islands that means people must be at  home and not on the streets either driving or walking unless they have a justified reason to do so.  The curfew starts at wither 10pm, 11pm or midnight depending on the region's rules. 

The other restrictions that may be in place differ from region to region, from the closure of restaurants and bars to the limits on social meetings. 

For the latest travel advice on Spain issued by the FCO click HERE:

Canary Island exception

Spain's Canary Islands appear on the list of safe travel corridors and therefore there is no requirement to self-isolate on your return to the UK from the islands. 

However, in addition to the nationwide requirement to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR (swab) test on entry to Spain, all travellers aged 6 years and over to the Canary Islands must present a negative Covid-19 test when checking-in to regulated tourist accommodation.

READ MORE:   What we know about Canary Islands' compulsory Covid-19 tests for tourists




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