Last Updated on February 15, 2022
Brits love a holiday in Spain. Prior to the pandemic, between 18 and 19 million UK residents travelled to the Iberian country every year. That’s more than a quarter of the entire population.
Those numbers have of course plummeted in the wake of COVID-19. But there are hopes – fingers crossed – that things might get back to somewhere near normal again in 2022.
We probably won’t see the number of Brits taking a holiday in Spain push the 20 million mark just yet. But forecasts are that the figure will be up on 2021’s numbers.
If you’re one of the many looking forward to a proper summer holiday on the Costas, the Balearics or the Canaries again, great. You no doubt deserve it. But a little caution is advised. COVID-19 is still a thing. And as things stand, Spain still has some travel restrictions in place. Especially for visitors from the UK.
In 2021, the Spanish authorities were very keen to open the borders to capitalise on the lucrative summer tourist trade. The country’s ‘state of emergency’ COVID restrictions were lifted in May, and the government made a point of imposing minimal border restrictions. Especially for holidaymakers from the UK.
But then along came Omicron. Spain imposed tighter travel rules again in December, and that’s where we are now. As fears of a devastating new wave of global infections caused by Omicron start to ease, there is optimism that restrictions could be lifted by the summer. But we just don’t know.
If you are planning a holiday to Spain this year, it is therefore well worth familiarizing yourself with the travel rules as they stand. You just can’t bank on when they might be eased, so to be on the safe side, you should plan for these being the rules when you go.
The other option is, of course, to delay booking a holiday until the last minute, when you will know with greater certainty what the rules are when you travel. But if, like many people, you like to get your holiday booked nice and early, here’s what you need to know right now.
Unvaccinated Brits are not allowed to travel to Spain
As Omicron cases rose sharply in the UK in late 2021, the Spanish government classified it as a high-risk country. In doing so, it also took the decision to ban all but fully vaccinated tourists from the UK.
That means that unless you can present evidence of having had both jabs – not just one – you will be denied entry on arrival in Spain. This doesn’t include booster jabs. Anyone who has had the initial two vaccination doses but not a third booster can still travel.
To prove you have been double jabbed at the Spanish border, you will have to present an NHS COVID Pass. This can be done by downloading it through the NHS app on your phone, or through the online NHS COVID Pass service. Alternatively, you can send off to get a paper copy sent through the post.
The vaccination rules apply to children over 12
This is a big one for families. Under current rules, children over the age of 12 must also have had two vaccination jabs in order to travel to Spain.
This will cause a lot of worry for parents because the vaccination roll-out for 12 to 18 year olds is still ongoing. Although a total of 47.9 million Brits have now had two vaccine jabs, this is heavily weighted by age. The proportion of double jabbed over 50s is much higher than young adults and teenagers because they were prioritised first.
Many school children over the age of 12 have now had their first jab. But that is not enough to be allowed entry into Spain. With several weeks required between jabs, some families will face a race against time getting their teenagers fully vaccinated if they want to take a holiday to Spain.
Testing is not mandatory – but you could still be asked to take one on arrival
Unlike in many countries, taking a COVID test before you board the plane to Spain is no longer mandatory. For British tourists, at least. You also won’t be asked to take a test a couple of days after arriving, as is now the case in many places.
However, every visitor to Spain has to complete a health control form before they arrive. This includes providing details of any previous COVID infections or any contact with people who have had the virus. If the border authorities decide your bout of COVID or contact with an infected person was recent enough, you could be asked to take a test.
The Spanish border force is also carrying out temperature checks and visual assessments for symptoms when people arrive. If you are suspected of having COVID symptoms, you will be asked to take a test.
If you test positive, you could land in quarantine
The rules for what happens if you test positive for COVID while in Spain vary across the different regions. You could be asked to self-isolate in the accommodation you booked, or you could be moved to a ‘quarantine hotel’. The mandatory isolation period for anyone testing positive in Spain is seven days.
Quarantine could cost you
Being asked to self-isolate for seven days in your booked accommodation is bad enough. That could be your whole holiday spent cooped up inside. There’s also not much clarity about what you do about food and supplies, especially in self-catering accommodation.
To make matters worse, if you get moved to a quarantine hotel, you will have to pay for it. That is potentially a major additional expense on top of the rest of your holiday. Whether you will get any money back on the accommodation you booked but don’t use will depend very much on the cancellation policies of the company you booked with. Most shut their cancellation windows a couple of days before travel at the latest.
It’s therefore a very good idea to take out travel insurance for your holiday in Spain this year. Pick a policy with a good level of cancellation cover, and look out for what insurers call ‘curtailment’ – paying out if you have to cut your holiday or stay in accommodation short, for example because of a positive COVID test.
Travel insurance is the only way to be sure of being able to claim back expenses arising from positive tests and possible quarantine. This could include missed flights home, if you or a family member develops COVID symptoms during your holiday and the seven days self-isolation takes you past your return date. Click here to find out more about COVID cover for Spain.