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TRAVEL NEWS

Spain remains on amber list but new test recommendations apply for travel to UK

Despite prior speculation, The British government announced on Wednesday night that Spain will remain on the UK's amber list, allowing fully vaccinated people to continue to avoid quarantine when travelling to the UK.

Spain remains on amber list but new test recommendations apply for travel to UK
Spain to remain on UK's amber list. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP

The changes to the UK’s travel lists will come into force on Sunday, August 8th at 4am and were announced by Britain’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. 

Reports in the British press had previously hinted that Spain was set to go on the UK’s red list or new “amber watchlist”, which would have meant travellers arriving from Spain had to stay at a government-run quarantine hotel for ten days and pay £1,750 (€2,046) per person.

The latest announcement by UK authorities rules this possibility out, meaning that fully vaccinated people travelling from Spain to the UK will not have to quarantine upon arrival. The UK updates its traffic light travel list approximately every three weeks.

However, the Department for Transport has now said that “arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible” instead of the cheaper lateral flow antigen tests.

“The additional precaution of a PCR test as passengers’ pre-departure test is being recommended for travellers from Spain given the risk to the UK of importation of variants of concern, specifically the B.1.621 and Beta variants, as well as traveller volumes and positivity rates in Spain,” the UK government wrote in a statement.

Previously, travellers heading to the UK from Spain were advised to choose between taking either an antigen or PCR test before departing.

The UK government’s wording does suggest this latest testing update is a recommendation rather than a requirement, which leads to the question of what happens if passengers arriving in the UK from Spain present an antigen test rather than a PCR from August 8th. 

“Positive samples from PCR tests can be genomically sequenced, allowing us to detect and understand more about variants of concern”.

“UK clinicians and scientists will remain in close contact with their counterparts in Spain to keep abreast of the latest data and picture of cases in Spain,” they added. 

Note that your vaccine must be approved by the European Medicines Agency or US Food and Drug Administration. These include Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (also known as Janssen).

You also have to have received your second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, no earlier than 14 days before travel.

Even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, travellers to the UK will still need to take a PCR test before departing and another one on the second day after they arrive.

The test for arriving in the UK has to meet the performance standards of ≥97 percent specificity, ≥80 percent sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. 

Unvaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Spain still do have to quarantine for ten days and must also carry out a Covid test before travel, as well as on day two and day eight of quarantine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we’ve made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world”. 

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REMINDER: What are the new rules for travel between Spain and the UK in August 2021?

Member comments

  1. Can you/anyone tell me if I (British citizen, living in Malta), can enter the UK via France, having travelled from Spain, having been fully vaccinated (Pfizer x 2) in Malta, but due to my ID card still pending, without a vaccination passport? I have the hospital card showing my vaccinations only.

    Many thanks,
    Erica

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TRAVEL NEWS

What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.

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For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each. 

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