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TRAVEL NEWS

How to book a ‘Day Two’ Covid-19 test if you’re travelling from Spain to the UK

The UK government recently announced a relaxation of its travel rules for fully vaccinated travellers, but unfortunately this baffling and expensive system remains in place.

Travellers wearing face masks arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The UK government says that in the future, Day 2 tests can be the cheaper antigen tests rather than PCR tests, but there is no start date for that policy. Photo: Niklas HALLEN / AFP

Since the end of the UK government’s ‘amber plus’ list, fully vaccinated arrivals from Spain no longer need to quarantine, provided they meet the UK government’s definition of vaccinated (more on that below). 

And from October 4th, fully vaccinated travellers will not need a pre-departure Covid test.

READ MORE: What travellers from Spain to England should know about the UK’s new Covid border rules in October

They will, however, continue to face the infuriating and expensive world of ‘Day 2 testing’.

The UK government says that in the future, Day 2 tests can be the cheaper antigen tests rather than PCR tests, but there is no start date for that policy.

While broadly similar, Covid-19 travel, quarantine and testing rules are slightly different if you’re heading to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland

What it means

All passengers, including children, have to take a test on or before ‘Day Two’ after their arrival in England, in addition to the pre-departure test, which you take in Spain if you are unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: Where can tourists and visitors in Spain get a PCR test and how much does it cost?

But – crucially – this Day Two test must be booked before you leave Spain.

The passenger locator form, required for all arrivals into England, cannot be completed without a reference number from a test, booked through one of the UK government’s approved list of suppliers.

For fully vaccinated travellers, the Day Two test marks the end of their Covid travel requirements, assuming it comes back negative.

Unvaccinated travellers from Spain, however, must quarantine for 10 full days and take another test on or before Day Eight of their stay.

It is important to note that for test and quarantine purposes, the day of arrival is counted as Day Zero. The following day is Day One, the day after that Day Two, and so on.

Proof of purchase of the second test must be included on the passenger locator form, which everyone over age 18 must complete and submit within the 48 hours before they travel. Anyone who fails to take this Day Two test faces a fine of up to £2,000.

A tourists uses his mobile phone at a beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca in Spain.

Crucially, this Day Two test must be booked before you leave Spain. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

How to book a test

Covid tests in the UK may be carried out at home, or by going to a clinic. Prices vary based on how many tests you require and how quickly you need the results – and many clinics offer a range of packages.

According to the government website, you’ll have a wait of 24 to 36 hours to get your test result.

However social media and the British media are awash with stories of people waiting considerably longer than that, never receiving their results or never receiving the tests in the first place.

The cost of individual PCR tests varies between £50 and £250 – though many providers offer a range of packages at different prices based on the number of tests required, where you are coming from and how quickly the results are needed, according to the Covid Testing Network website.

You’ll find that companies offer packages depending on the status of the country you are travelling from, in other words green or amber. Even though the tests are the same. Some companies confusingly list products only for “UK vaccinated”.

Some we found appear to have minimum spends so even if you find a cheap test you can’t buy it, while others seem cheap, but once you get through the final ordering stage extra charges bump up the total.

What’s a real pain is that you also have to book individually for each passenger who requires a test – so if you’re travelling as a family of four you will have to go through the booking process four times.

READ ALSO: What happens when tourists get Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain?

Confusing official list

The Westminster government lists test providers in England and Northern Ireland here.

But it is long and bewildering, and many firms listed are new and relatively unknown reflecting the rapidly shifting Covid-19 market. Unhelpfully, there’s little indication of where clinics are located, even after a search is regionalised: Yorkshire and the Humber, for example, covers quite a large area.

The government is quick to insist it does not endorse one test provider over another – but it does say that it ‘closely monitors’ performance. All private providers of Covid tests are required to meet certain standards. If they fall short they can be removed from official lists.

Better to look elsewhere

Travel firms and airlines, eager for your business, are increasingly offering discounted tests to customers who use their services, and may include links to certain suppliers on their website. They are worth a look as this may help you find a cheaper test.

It may also be worth checking the Covid Testing Network’s price comparison site, which shows provider prices for at-home and in-clinic tests within a radius of your location in England. Helpfully, it also includes a customer satisfaction score, as well as price, allowing users to make a reasonably informed decision.

Short stays

So what if you’re staying in the UK for less than two days? You still need the Day 2 test, because the passenger locator form cannot be completed without the booking reference, and you cannot enter England without the form.

So you must pay for a test even if you will no longer be in England when the time comes to use it.

Fully vaccinated

Also be aware that the UK government’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is not the same as the Spanish government’s.

You need to have been vaccinated with a UK approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson – and be at least 14 days from your final dose.

After much confusion, the UK has finally agreed to recognise as vaccinated people who had a ‘mixed dose’ – ie one AstraZeneca and one Pfizer.

But while in Spain, people who previously had Covid are counted as fully vaccinated after a single dose of the vaccine, this is not the case in the UK.

Member comments

  1. Interesting article.
    So what is the situation for people, like myself who have had bad covid in the UK, (hospitalised), 1 dose of Pfizer in the UK and a dose of Pfizer in Spain… therefore, I am fully vaccinated, but in two different countries…

    Q. how can this be reflected in the UK NHS application, (I’m still sorting out the EU digital cert.. a mine field etc.)

    Any ideas?

    Andy Jones

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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