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What are the travel rules between Spain and Portugal this December?

Portugal has announced that it has changed its entry requirements for Spain this December, so if you are planning on visiting before or during the Christmas period, these are the new rules you need to know about.

You will now need to show a negative Covid test to enter Portugal
New entry requirements for Portugal. Photo: Tim Chelius / Pixabay

The Portuguese government has declared a “state of calamity” as of December 1st, which will last until March 20th, 2022. This comes as scientists have identified a new Covid-19 variant of concern named Omicron.

As part of their tightening restrictions, the Portuguese government has also changed its entry requirements.

This means that if you plan on arriving in Portugal from Spain by air or sea you will be required to show a negative Covid-19 test, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, from December 1st 2021 to January 9th 2022.

Accepted tests include the RT-PCR test (or similar NAAT test), 72 hours before entering Portugal, or a rapid antigen test 48 hours before.

Self-tests are not valid and children under the age of 12 do not need to present any proof.

Initially, this was thought to be for land border crossings too, but on Wednesday December 1st, the Portuguese government clarified that if you’re entering Portugal by road from Spain, then you only need to show your Digital Covid Certificate and will not need a negative test. 

All travellers will also need to fill out a Passenger Locator Card before arrival in Portugal.

According to the Spanish government, travellers arriving in Portugal by air and sea from Spain are exempt from the need to show a negative Covid test if they have an EU Digital Covid Certificate of recovery from Covid-19, issued less than 180 days before travel.

However, if you come from a region classified as high risk (red or dark red in the classification established by the EU) which is updated weekly here, the certificate will not be sufficient and you must present a mandatory negative test. 

If you arrive in Portugal without a valid negative test result (and you are not exempt), you will need to take a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test on arrival at your own expense. If you test positive, you will need to complete mandatory isolation in a suitable location identified by the authorities.

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

Travel to Portugal’s islands

For travel to Portugal’s islands, you can find out specific information from the relevant websites. For the Azores Islands, you will need to fill out the form here and if visiting Madeira and Porto Santo Islands, you will need to fill out the form here

What are the current restrictions in Portugal?

Like in Spain, masks are mandatory in indoor spaces. A Digital Covid Certificate is also required to access restaurants, hotels, tourist establishments and certain reserved events, as well as nightclubs and cocktail bars and gyms.

Be aware that if you’re planning on visiting in the New Year, nightlife venues will be closed from January 2nd to the 9th, 2022. You may also require a negative Covid-19 test (even for those who have been vaccinated) to access patients in health establishments, large events without marked seats or in improvised sports venues.

What do I need to know about returning to Spain?

On your return to Spain from Portugal, there are no land border checks in place, but you should still be able to show a Digital Covid Certificate, a certificate of vaccination or certificate of recovery if stopped. If travelling by plane, you will also be required to show one of these three things.

In addition, all travellers entering Spain must fill out a Spain Travel Health form and download a QR code to present to the authorities. 

READ ALSO – MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs? 

Will other EU countries announce similar measures?

The idea of the EU Digital Covid Certificate was that those travelling between member states would not have to show a separate negative Covid test, as well as having the certificate, but Portugal is now the first country to change these requirements since the certificate was introduced this summer.

“In principle, member states should refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on holders of the EU Digital Covid Certificate, in particular on holders of vaccination and recovery certificates,” said a European Commission spokesperson on Monday afternoon.

So far, no other EU country has told Brussels it would follow in Portugal’s steps, the spokesperson continued.

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Ryanair strike in Spain kicks off with hardly any cancelled flights

The first of the six days of strike action called by Ryanair’s cabin crew in Spain began on Friday with a much smaller impact than expected for travellers, as only a handful of flights from Belgium were cancelled.  

Ryanair strike in Spain kicks off with hardly any cancelled flights

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair on Friday decided to operate 100 percent of its scheduled flights to and from Spain, considering all of them protected by the minimum services decree approved by Spain’s Ministry of Transport.

The only flights which could not take off were those heading to Spain from Belgium, where the work stoppage led Europe’s biggest budget airline to cancel some of the 127 flights to and from Charleroi airport (near Brussels) that are scheduled from Friday to Sunday.

Spain’s Transport Ministry has argued there needs to be a balance between the “right to strike” and the “interest of travellers”.

However, it only ordered 73 to 82 percent of domestic flights to and from Spain’s mainland and its two archipelagos – the Canary and Balearic Islands – to be kept, and between 53 percent and 58 percent of its internal mainland flights to go ahead.

Unions said Ryanair went beyond what was required and forced staff to maintain 100 percent of flights, adding that they would take Ryanair to court as a result.

They also reported that the budget carrier summoned 80 percent more workers than on a normal day to carry out “imaginary” shifts.

“The company informed staff that all flights were subject to the minimum service, and threatened them with disciplinary action,” Ernesto Iglesias of local USO told reporters at Madrid airport.

The airline was not “respecting the law,” he added.

Security officers stand guard as Ryanair employees gather during a strike at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport Madrid on June 24, 2022.  (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been dismissive of the strikes. “We operate two and half thousand flights every day,” he said earlier this month in Belgium.

“Most of those flights will continue to operate even if there is a strike in Spain by some Mickey Mouse union or if the Belgian cabin crew unions want to go on strike over here,” he told journalists.

Ryanair cabin crew unions in Portugal and Belgium have also called a three-day strike starting on Friday, and in Italy and France on Saturday.

The strikes come as air travel has rebounded since Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

But many airlines, which laid off staff during the pandemic, are having trouble rehiring enough workers, forcing them to cancel flights. That includes easyJet, which has been particularly hard hit by employee shortages.