Is it safe to travel to Spain this summer? Latest Foreign Office advice and restrictions

Playa de Formentor, Mallorca, Spain: istock
Playa de Formentor, Mallorca, Spain: istock

As countries around the globe tentatively begin to relax restrictions on travel, the promise of tapas al fresco and long, lazy sun-filled days beside the sea come top of the travel wish-list for many tourists.

Spain has long topped the list as one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations, with more than 18 million British tourists visiting in 2019 – a fifth of the country’s overall total of nearly 84 million visitors, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics.

But can British holidaymakers get there? And will we be welcome if we do?

Here’s all the information you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Spain from the UK?

At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against all non-essential international travel – including to Spain.

The ban doesn’t make travel abroad “illegal” as such – but it does invalidate your travel insurance and means you may find it tricky to get help from the embassy or consulate if things go wrong.

However, the government is expected to announce that this blanket warning will be relaxed from 6 July, alongside the ditching of compulsory quarantine for inbound travellers from countries deemed “safe” according to a new traffic light system that grades countries red, amber or green.

Experts seem to think Spain is a dead cert to be on the “green” list, meaning the FCO travel ban would be lifted and travellers returning to the UK from Spain would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine period.

How could I get there?

The quickest and easiest way to reach Spain is by air. Budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet have announced plans to resume flights – and there are some excellent deals to be had. We found a good selection of Ryanair flights to Barcelona, Seville, Malaga and Palma for just £10 in July, for example. Elsewhere, easyJet, which plans to resume 50 per cent of its routes in July, has launched a summer sale with flights from the UK to Spain for under £20, while British Airways aims to resume 50 per cent of its flights to Spain from July.

Reluctant fliers may be able to opt for a slower way of travelling: the train. Eurostar is currently running one service a day, departing London St Pancras at 10.24am and arriving in Paris Gare du Nord at 1.49pm. Prior to the pandemic, travellers could choose from a range of onward services on 200mph trains across the border into Spain, with a journey time of around 6 hours and 30 minutes from the French capital.

All train services between Spain and France were suspended until 21 June. According to the Renfe website, the 9713 service from Paris to Barcelona, departing at 10.14am, will run from 1 July to 30 August, alongside the 9731 service from Marseille to Barcelona, departing at 8.02am. For more information, visit the Renfe website.

Pre-lockdown, Brittany Ferries operated three services a week, departing Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao. Passenger services were suspended but resumed operation on 29 June.

The Eurotunnel is still open for you to drive from Folkestone to Calais, subject to the completion of an online form and health declaration.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

On 21 June, the State of Emergency declared in Spain on 14 March came to an end. From this date, Spain re-opened its borders to European Union and Schengen-area countries (excluding Portugal) – including travellers from the UK.

Travel is permitted to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) as well as mainland Spain. Providing you don’t have coronavirus symptoms, there should be nothing stopping you from being permitted entry.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

No. For a while it looked like Spain might implement quarantine measures for UK tourists following the UK’s blanket 14-day quarantine on all incoming arrivals from 8 June. But the Spanish government confirmed that as of 21 June Brits are allowed in on the same terms as visitors from countries in the Schengen free travel zone .

Arancha González, the Spanish foreign minister, said: “We will allow British visitors to enter Spain, just like the rest of the European Union or Schengen areas, as from the 21st of June freely and without the need of a quarantine.”

Can I travel within Spain?

Yes, British travellers should be free to move throughout the territory and travel between provinces.

Are hotels open?

Hotels and campsites were permitted to reopen in mid-May, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stating that “some restrictions” were in place, such as limited or no access to communal facilities. Low demand meant many remained shut, but this has started to change, with plenty of empty rooms available. The FCO advises travellers to contact their accommodation provider prior to booking for further information on possible restrictions.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced his plans to transition the country towards a “new normality” at the end of April. Currently, this is taking place over four phases and differs from region to region.

Around 78 per cent of regions have now moved into phase three, with the exception of Madrid – one of the hardest hit areas – Salamanca, Segovia, Ávila and Soria in Castilla y León, which currently remain in phase two.

At phase three, bars can open inside with a maximum capacity of 50 per cent, a number which changes to 75 per cent on bar and restaurant terraces.

The number of people allowed to meet socially has risen to 20 people and groups sports, including exercise classes, can be practised between up to 20 people.

Tour groups can resume guided tours with up to 20 people and casinos can open with a reduced capacity of 50 per cent and a maximum of 50 people.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can all open but with 50 per cent occupancy and a chair’s space between each person not from the same household, with up to 80 people indoors and 200 people outdoors.

Museums and exhibition spaces can welcome 50 per cent of the usual capacity.

Beaches re-opened across Spain on 1 June, but local authorities are taking measures to ensure social distancing and hygiene regulations are observed.

Major attractions such as the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Seville and Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum have re-opened to the public, with Granada’s Alhambra Palace following on 17 June.

All non-essential shops were allowed to re-open in Spain on 4 May, with indoor malls and department stores following on 8 June. Similarly to the UK, restrictions on the number of customers in a store at any given time are in place, alongside a social distancing rule of two metres.

The Spanish government has decided that regional authorities will be given the responsibility for deciding when their provinces can transition from phase three to the “new normal”, with many choosing to do so from 21 June.

What rules are in place?

People aged six years or over are required to use face masks outdoors, on public transport and in enclosed spaces. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to €100. Exceptions are made for those with disabilities or respiratory illness, as well as when eating or playing sport.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

For the moment, yes. When you arrive back on UK soil, you’ll currently have two weeks of mandatory quarantine to look forward to.

The policy was implemented on 8 June and put in place indefinitely.

However, on Wednesday, 1 July, the government is expected to say that the current rules will be relaxed from 6 July for a range of destinations.

Countries regarded as “safe” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – will be exempt from mandatory quarantine.

The centre is categorising countries with a “traffic light” system. Each country is rated green, amber or red, depending on the prevalence of coronavirus, the trajectory of the disease and the centre’s assessment of the data’s reliability.

Quarantine will apply only to nations rated red.

While a full list has not yet been confirmed, Spain is being touted as one of the key destinations likely to be given the green light, meaning those returning from a holiday there would not be subject to current self-isolation rules.

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