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July 27, 2020
By Lottie Gross
It has been a rollercoaster of emotions for those dreaming of a summer holiday in Spain this year. After a months-long travel ban by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), freedom was finally granted on 4 July.
But it didn’t last long – on 26 July, the FCO revised its position, advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain (the Canary Islands and Balearics are remain exempt). The kicker, though, is that anyone returning from both mainland Spain and the islands will need to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.
This puts thousands of travellers already in the country in a very difficult position, and thousands more who have holidays booked are justifiably concerned. The main question on many travellers’ lips is:
Can I go on holiday to Spain?
Yes, is the short answer. But the FCO is only allowing travel to the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) and the Canary Islands, so trips to mainland Spain are out. If you choose to take your holiday in the Canaries or Balearics, you’ll have to self-isolate on your return to the UK.
While the FCO warning means tour operators are likely to cancel immediate trips to mainland Spain, trips to the islands will likely go ahead. If self-isolating at home doesn’t appeal and you no longer want to travel, get in touch with your holiday provider – you may be able to change the dates of your trip.
However, if you do choose to visit Spain knowing you’ll need to self-isolate on your return, there are some key things to know before you go. From wearing masks to contact tracing, here’s what you need to know about your Spanish summer holiday.
With the Covid-19 outbreak slowing but far from stopped, there’s really no predicting what your holiday might look like. Spain’s incredibly strict lockdown began easing in early May, but since then new hotspots for the virus have popped up – namely in the northern regions. The situation is incredibly fluid, with local lockdowns being imposed when cases spike in certain areas.
In Barcelona, for example, residents received another ‘stay at home’ order from the authorities and have been forbidden from gathering in groups of more than ten people. In Murcia, the town of Totana was recently plunged back into a lockdown as cases surged. With such a fast-changing situation, it’s essential to keep on top of the FCO’s travel advice.
One thing is certain for your Spain holiday: you’ll need to fill in some forms before you’re allowed to enter. The Spain Travel Health form is part of the country’s attempt at contact tracing, and it’s mandatory for all travellers to complete the paperwork before arrival.
Once you’ve filled in the form online, you’ll get a QR code via email, which you can either screenshot on your smartphone or print off before departure. On arrival in Spain, you’ll need to show the code at the health checkpoint, then have your temperature taken with an infrared scanner before you can collect your baggage.
While in the UK we have a “one metre plus” rule, in Spain, it’s recommended to keep 1.5 metres away from those not in your household where possible. Where that distance can’t be kept, you absolutely must wear a face covering – even outside. That means if museums, for example, get busy, you might have to wear a mask while you browse.
You don’t have to wear a face covering when eating, drinking, playing sports or sunbathing, though, so you can still enjoy your cañas (beers) and pintxos (snacks) at aperitivo hour.
Fail to wear a mask when it’s required and you could be faced with a hefty on-the-spot fine of €100 (£90).
While there’s general guidance from the Spanish government, certain regions have created stricter rules regarding social distancing.
The Balearic Islands, for example, have imposed slightly different rules on face coverings, and in mid-July, Magaluf’s infamously boozy ‘strip’ of bars and clubs was closed down after reports showed crowds of inebriated travellers not adhering to social distancing.
At the beginning of July, as tourists from the UK were welcomed to Spain for the first time since the pandemic hit, the country’s famous Costa del Sol filled up with sun and sand seekers. But it was all too much for the authorities, and across the country over 50 beaches were forced to close due to overcrowding fears.
In the Balearics, the city of Palma’s government is using a brand new app to keep up-to-date with visitor numbers to the region’s beaches, and they have said they will restrict access if authorities deem the spaces unsafe.
It’s always worth checking local news or asking at your hotel before hitting the beach, just in case things are already closing down.
While you might not have to wear a mask everywhere, it’s likely you’ll see them on hotel reception and waiting staff all over the country.
The vast majority of hotels are enforcing mask-wearing by their staff, and some are even asking guests to wear masks when in public areas inside the property, such as reception or in the queue for the restaurant or bar.
Rocking up to a ready-made breakfast at whatever time you like is one of the simple pleasures of any hotel stay. In Spain, platters of gorgeous fresh fruit, manchego cheese and authentic chorizo are the mainstay of the breakfast buffet. But this summer, your experience might be a little different. Lots of hotels are still serving buffet-style, but instead of helping yourself, you’ll have to ask a server to actually fill your plate.
You might also be required to book your table for breakfast, or you may be simply allocated a time slot. Larger hotels in particular are enforcing time slots to help with social distancing.
If for any reason you do need hospital treatment while on holiday in Spain, whether COVID-related or not, it will come at no cost in the public hospitals as long as you’ve got your EHIC card. If you don’t have your EHIC card, you won’t be denied treatment but you might have to pay upfront for the cost, and then claim for reimbursement on your return to the UK.
While the European Health Insurance Card scheme is in its final year for UK travellers, your card will still be valid until December 31, 2020.
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that you can still enjoy so much of what Spain has to offer. Museums, galleries and major attractions all over the country are still open, and with social distancing in place, it means you probably won’t have to contend with the crowds of a usual peak summer season.
Wherever you choose to go, respect the rules and wear your mask, and you’ll still have a brilliant Spanish summer holiday.