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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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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.

READ ALSO:

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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