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EXPLAINED: What changes about life in Spain in December 2021?

A more expensive Christmas, extra travel restrictions, new Covid health pass rules, more booster vaccines, extra pay and public holidays are just some of the changes to expect this December in Spain.  

EXPLAINED: What changes about life in Spain in December 2021?
More Covid health passes, fewer domestic restrictions over Christmas than last year, new travel rules and a new edition of the Christmas lottery are all changes happenig this December. Photo: Francois Lo Presti, Josep Lago, Spencer Platt, Oscar del Pozo/ AFP

Covid health passes becoming more common

A growing number of Spanish regions are seeing their high courts approve the use of the Covid certificate for people to gain access to the inside of hospitality establishments, large events or health centres.

So far, its presentation is mandatory in six autonomous communities and more are pushing for their local judges to approve its implementation. 

With Spain’s rising infection rate and the emergence of the Omicron variant putting authorities on alert, it could well be that having to show your Digital Covid Certificate on your phone to go to a restaurant or event could be the norm in most of Spain this Christmas.


Public holidays before and during Christmas 

Ahead of the Christmas period, there are two public holidays in Spain: Constitution Day on Monday December 6th and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday December 8th.

As these two public holidays are so close together, many people in Spain will be doing a ‘puente’ (bridge) and take the whole week off. 

Aside from that, Christmas Day is the only other official public holiday in December, which this year unfortunately falls on a Saturday.

December 28th marks Holy Innocents’ Day in Spain (not a public holiday), a day of practical jokes among Spaniards which paradoxically has a very macabre origin.

READ MORE: Why Spain turned a child massacre into its April Fool’s Day

Will rising infections mean more restrictions?

Aside from the introduction of the Covid health pass in a growing number of regions, will there be more of the old Covid limits on crowds and customers per table as seen at earlier stages of the pandemic?

Overall, it seems unlikely. When asked on Tuesday if there could be any further lockdown or states of alarm in Spain as cases continue to rise day by day and the Omicron variant worries health experts, Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said such measures were “a thing of the past”. 

Spain also recently raised the bar of what constitutes high risk in terms of the infection rate. Apart from mask wearing in interiors and possible measures to avoid large crowds, the old Covid restrictions are unlikely to reappear in most places.

Spain’s focus is on continuing to encourage more vaccination (including booster doses) and keeping hospitalisations and deaths low, all of which it’s currently doing. 

UPDATE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

New international travel restrictions 

Unfortunately, even if Spain’s epidemiological situation is more favourable than other nations’, it doesn’t mean the country won’t be affected by wider travel restrictions affecting Europe as a whole, or that it won’t introduce its own tougher measures. 

The emergence of the Omicron variant has already seen Spain’s Health Ministry draw up a high-risk list of countries in southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Flight connections with these nations are being suspended and passengers who do manage to reach Spain from southern Africa will have to present a Covid-19 test if they’re fully vaccinated and quarantine for ten days.

If other countries register a notable increase in the number of Omicron cases and the strain is indeed “of concern” as it’s been classified, other nations could be added to the list. 

On the other hand, if Omicron isn’t found to pose a big risk to vaccinated people, the measures could be lifted. For more detailed information on the rules for travel to and from Spain this Christmas, click on the link right below. 

READ MORE: What are the new international rules for travel to and from Spain this Christmas?

New UK-Spain travel restrictions 

From Wednesday December 1st 2021, it will no longer be possible for unvaccinated UK tourists to visit Spain – even if they supply a negative Covid test.

Only those that can show proof of being fully vaccinated will be allowed in.

Up to now, Spain had made an exception for the UK.

The UK’s status as a third country and its high infection rate should have meant non-essential travel for unvaccinated travellers was not possible. 

But the appearance of the new Omicron variant has forced the Spanish government to introduce further restrictions for its primary tourism market. 

The rules for travel from Spain to the UK also changed on November 30th. 

These affect travel to England and Wales only although it’s expected Scotland and Northern Ireland will follow suit.

From Tuesday, a new requirement will apply for all vaccinated arrivals (including UK citizens and residents). They must take a PCR test for their Day 2 test (antigen tests are no longer accepted) and they must self-isolate until a negative result from the test arrives.

READ MORE: What are the new Covid travel rules between Spain and the UK?

More snow 

Spain may not get a white Christmas but there’s certainly more snow forecast for early December. 

After the first Arctic front brought snow and heavy rain to much of Spain in the final third of November, Storm Arwen has again put most of the country on alert for snow and rainstorms for the first week of December.  

Unfortunately, this episode of freezing and unfavourable weather is likely to stick around for the public holidays on December 6th and 8th.


Extra salary payment in December 

Workers in Spain have the right to 14 annual salary payments or more in some cases, with the two extra ones known as pagas extraordinarias

These extra wages are either incorporated into the normal monthly salary or are paid separately, usually during the summer and at Christmas. If they’re prorated this should be clearly stated on your nómina payroll slip. If it isn’t and you’re employed in Spain, then you should expect an extra salary payment between December 20th and 25th. 

Christmas lottery 

If you didn’t know already, Christmas lotteries are a big deal in Spain.

Every December 22nd the streets of the country are silent as everyone huddles round their televisions to watch the El Gordo lottery draw, an affair which begins at 9am and can take over three hours. It’s called El Gordo (the Fat One) in reference to how much the total prize money is. 

One ticket (billete) costs a whopping €200, but many people choose to buy a tenth of a ticket (un décimo) for €20. Even smaller portions of tickets are sold: it is common for businesses to buy a ticket then sell small portions, or ‘participaciones’, of that ticket to their patrons for €1.

The jackpot prize of the 2021 amounts to the figure of €4 million for the ticket, which is equivalent to €400,000 per décimo or €20,000 for each euro invested. 

READ MORE: El Gordo – Everything you need to know about Spain’s Christmas lottery

Vaccines for children under 12?

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias announced on Tuesday that the first batch of Covid vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old will arrive in the country in the second half of December.

This however does not mean that Spanish health authorities have approved their use, even though the EMA has and the doses have a third of the strength of those for adults. 

The country’s Vaccine Committee and Public Health Commission first have to give their verdict on the matter before young children become eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine in Spain, something you can read about in more detail in the link right below. 

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s traffic authorities recommend buying new car device

One of the changes to Spain’s Traffic Code in 2021 was the introduction of a new device as part of any car’s accessory kit.

Called la luz de emergencia V-16 (V-16 emergency light) in Spanish, it’s a pocket-sized light which is meant to be kept in the glovebox and when there’s a breakdown or emergency forcing the vehicle to stop, it’s placed on the roof of the car.

This allows drivers to alert others that they are stationary without having to get out of their vehicles and place a warning triangle behind and often in front of their car on the road, or put on a reflecting yellow vest before getting out.

This device won’t be compulsory until January 2026 but Spain’s DGT traffic authorities have said that if drivers do want to get their hands on of them beforehand, December is a good month to do so. 

That’s because by then all V-16 lights sold in Spain must contain a geolocation device (although it’s probably worth checking the package just in case). 

Perhaps it could serve as a practical Christmas gift if you’re out of ideas.

READ MORE: The new device traffic authorities want you to keep in your car 

Fruit and veg in season in December 

Choosing fruits and vegetables in season is one of the best ways to take care of the planet whilst saving on your grocery bill.

Persimmons, kiwis, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, chard, celery, broccoli, spinach, endives, leeks and carrots are all in season in Spain in December, so they’re all worth adding to your shopping trolley this month. 

Booster vaccines for those in their sixties 

December will be the month during which most people in their sixties in Spain are notified to get their Covid-19 booster shot, or can book an appointment to do so. 

It all depends on your region, as each of the country’s 17 regional health departments has their own way of organising the vaccination campaign. 

For now Spain’s health authorities don’t seem to want to approve this reinforcement dose for people below that age, but with the emphasis still on continued vaccination and the Omicron variant and rising infections being of increasing concern, more age groups could be called up for the booster jab over the course of December.


Can tourists in Spain get the Covid-19 booster vaccine?

What you need to know about getting the Covid-19 booster shot in Spain

Christmas markets 

They may not have the prestige of their Central European counterparts, but Christmas markets are becoming more and more popular across Spain from smaller craft markets to the vast collection of stalls in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.

Some of the best are in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Seville, Bilbao, Granada and San Sebastián. 

If you want to find out more about opening times, dates and other information, this article has everything you need.

New cheap train from Madrid to Galicia 

It’s been sixteen years in the making but as of December 21st 2021, there will finally be a high-speed train which links Madrid to Galicia.

Spain’s public rail provider Renfe has put thousands of €15 tickets on sale for the this highly-anticipated AVE route between the Spanish capital and the green northwestern region, so if you’re looking to spend Christmas in either place, now is the time to buy.

It will take approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes from the Spanish capital to Ourense rather than the current four hours, which is the fastest stretch of the route on which the new AVE train will be able to reach speeds of 300km/h. 

READ MORE: Spain to launch €15 high-speed train between Madrid and Galicia

More expensive Christmas food and present shopping 

It’s a well-known fact that popular food products go up in price ahead of the festive period. 

But this year Spain’s dealing with the problem of rising energy prices, driver shortages and the highest inflation figures in three decades so this year Christmas shoppers may have to work that bit harder to tighten their belts. 

Cochinillo (roast piglet), seafood and fish have already gone up 30 percent ahead of Navidad, leading many to take advantage of Black Friday offers. 

The same goes for presents, especially for toys, for which some shortages are also expected. 

Spaniards will spend 7 percent more overall on buying presents for their loved ones this Christmas, taking the total to an average €258 per person. 

READ MORE: Turrón or tangerines? What Spaniards really eat and drink during Christmas

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Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it’s second hand

A combination of supply and demand problems caused by the pandemic and a lack of microchips is making cars much harder to come by in Spain. Here's why you should perhaps consider holding off on buying that vehicle you had in mind for now.

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it's second hand

Getting your hands on a car – new, second hand, or even rental – is becoming much harder and more expensive in Spain.

The car industry has been hit by a perfect storm of conditions that have made new cars harder to come by and, as a result, caused prices to rapidly increase. 

According to Spain’s main consumer organisation, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), the microchip crisis affecting the entire globe, combined with an overall increase in the price of materials needed for car manufacturing and increased carbon emissions legislation has created a shortage of new cars in the country.

New cars

With less cars being manufactured, prices of new cars have gone up: a recent OCU report reports that new car prices have increased by 35 percent, higher even than Spain’s record breaking inflation levels in recent months. 

READ ALSO: Rate of inflation in Spain reaches highest level in 37 years

It is a shortage of microchips and semiconductors – a global problem – that has caused car production in Spain to plummet. In the first eight months of 2021, for example, production fell by 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

This is not a uniquely Spanish problem, however. The entire world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, something essential to car manufacturing as each car needs between 200 to 400 microchips.

France’s car exports, for example, have fallen by 23.3 percent, Germany’s by 27 percent, and the UK’s by 27.5 percent.

Simply put, with less cars being produced and specialist and raw materials now more expensive, the costs are being passed onto consumers the world over.

Equally, these industry-specific problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.The average wait for a car to be delivered in Spain is now around four months, double what it was before the pandemic, and depending on the make and model you buy, it can be as long as a year.

Car dealerships across Spain were forced to sell cars during the pandemic to stay afloat, and now, when consumers want to purchase new cars, they don’t have enough to sell and can’t buy enough to keep up with demand due to the materials shortages that have kneecapped production.

Second-hand cars

With the scarcity and increased prices in the new car market, the effect is also being felt in the second-hand car market too. With many in Spain emerging from the pandemic facing precarious financial situations, then compounded by spiralling inflation in recent months, one would assume many would go for a cheaper, second hand option.

Yet, even second-hand prices are out of control. In Spain, the price of used cars have risen by 17 percent on average so far in 2022.

Cars 15 years old or more are 36 percent more expensive than they were in the first half of last year. The average price of a 15 year old car is now €3,950 but in 2021 was just €2,900 – a whopping increase of 36 percent.

As production has decreased overall, purchases of used models up to three years old have declined by 38.3 percent. Purchases of cars over 15 years old, on the other hand, have surged by 10.4 percent.

If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car in Spain, keep in mind that the reduced production and scarcity of new models is causing second-hand prices to shoot up.

Rental cars

These problems in car manufacturing have even passed down to car rentals and are affecting holidaymakers in Spain.

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this summer, unless they book well in advance and are willing to fork out a lot of money.

Over the past two years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

READ ALSO: Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have a scarcity 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.

End in sight?

With the microchip shortage expected to last until at least 2023, possibly even until 2024, it seems that the best course of action if you’re looking to buy a new or used car in Spain is to wait, let the market resettle, and wait for prices to start going down again.

If you’re hoping to rent a car when holidaying in Spain, be sure to book well in advance.