From sun worshippers on the Costa Brava to city break fans enjoying the cultural delights of Barcelona, Spain has traditionally been a popular overseas destination with UK travellers.
Along with 120 or so other countries and territories, Spain is currently categorised as an amber list destination according to the UK government’s pandemic traffic light system.
Note that this system is set to change from Monday 4 October 2021, when, according to the government, it will be replaced “with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world”.
The colours ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ currently relate to a country’s perceived level of risk in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. The government, for example, currently advises against travel to red list countries.
Previously, when returning from amber list countries, Brits were required to self-isolate when they arrived home.
Now, however, fully vaccinated travellers and children under 18 can return from amber list countries without the need to self-isolate unless they test positive for Covid. They are required to take a test before returning and another on day two of their return.
The government has also announced that, from 4 October 2021, fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from a non-red list country will not require pre-departure tests before arrival into England. Read more here about the government’s intended overhaul of its international travel rules .
Welcome news, for sure, but don’t forget that’s only half the story. Each country also has its own entry rules for would-be travellers to follow.
So, if you’re jetting off to Spain for a late summer holiday (or for work), here are the rules for your trip as they stand until 4 October, plus tips when taking out all-important travel insurance.
Entry to Spain
According to the UK government, all UK passengers aged 12 or over arriving in Spain are required to present, on entry, a pre-travel declaration form as well as one of the following:
a negative Covid-19 PCR test
proof of being vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival.
Travellers from England and Wales can use an NHS Covid Pass as evidence of vaccination. From Scotland, NHS letters are permitted as evidence of proof, while a Covid certificate is available to travellers from Northern Ireland.
Before setting off for Spain, all passengers (including children under the age of 12) travelling by sea or air must complete and sign an online Health Control Form no more than 48 hours prior to travel. This declares any known history of exposure to Covid-19 and also provides contact details.
On arrival into Spanish ports and airports travellers should be prepared to present evidence of:
a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival
being fully vaccinated.
Spain’s land borders are open, but note that travel restrictions, border controls and testing requirements may be in place depending on the country from which you are travelling.
Once in Spain
A nationwide state of emergency existed in Spain between 25 October 2020 and 9 May 2021. Although that status is currently lifted, some restrictions and curfews remain in force, but these vary between regions. Beach rules may also differ depending on the part of Spain that’s being visited.
Rules covering hand-washing hygiene, air ventilation and the use of face masks in enclosed public spaces and certain outdoor scenarios must continue to be observed at all times.
Within their boundaries, regional governments have legal powers to ease or tighten restrictions (including imposing partial lockdowns) as is deemed necessary. The use of face coverings on public transport continues to be mandatory for anyone over the age of six.
Return to the UK
Last month, the UK government changed its rules for double-jabbed, fully NHS-vaccinated UK travellers who return from destinations on its amber list such as Spain.
The regulations now mirror those for travellers returning from green list countries. On arrival back in the UK, neither set of travellers is required to quarantine.
Travellers who are fully NHS-vaccinated and are currently returning to England from Spain must:
take a Covid-19 pre-departure test up to 72 hours before leaving Spain
take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after arrival in England (arrival day is day 0). Tests must be booked and paid-for before travel
Unless the day two test is positive, there is no need to quarantine. Returning passengers from different parts of the UK can prove their vaccination status by presenting a NHS Covid Pass (England), NHS letters (Scotland), Covid certificate (Northern Ireland).
Travellers due to return to the UK who develop symptoms of Covid-19 while still in Spain are advised to remain in their accommodation and to contact one of the country’s regional hotlines (often staffed by English speakers).
On arrival in England from Spain, travellers who are not fully vaccinated must:
quarantine at home or another location for 10 days
take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and another one on or after day eight. These must be paid for before travel.
Also permitted by the rules is a ‘Test to Release’ scheme that provides returning travellers with the option of paying for a private Covid-19 test on day 5. If that result is negative and the result of a day 2 test was negative or inconclusive, the need to quarantine is lifted.
Taking out travel insurance
Whether you’re off to Spain on holiday or for work, no one wants an unexpected emergency – medical or otherwise - to ruin their trip abroad.
Should the worse come to the worse, travel insurance provides a financial backstop if something goes wrong while you’re staying overseas.
Unfortunately, the UK government’s traffic light system, reviewed every three weeks, has made arranging travel insurance more confusing than it was pre-pandemic.
Whether you’re considering a trip to Spain, or any other overseas trip, here are the essentials that you need to bear in mind when looking to buy cover.
A comprehensive travel insurance policy should cover you for all sorts of eventualities - from emergency medical costs you rack up abroad, to stolen items, lost luggage, or for a trip that gets cancelled.
Ideally, take out travel cover when you arrange your trip. An important component of travel insurance is cancellation cover. Buying a policy early can provide financial peace of mind should an unforeseen event (such as illness or bereavement) spoil your plans before you even leave UK air space.
Travel policies vary amongst insurers. But standard products should at least cover you for:
Medical expenses if you become ill or get injured while you’re away, plus potential repatriation costs
Lost or stolen possessions eg, money, personal belongings, luggage
Cancellation costs where you’re forced to cancel a trip because of events beyond your control
Personal liability if, while away, you accidentally injure someone, or their property
It’s vital to check the details and understand what is and isn’t included in your policy before taking out the cover concerned. Exceptions and limitations regarding potential claims vary from one provider to another, so it’s important you understand what you’re buying.
Also bear in mind that insurers will not cover for cancellation if there is no advice against travel to your destination, but because you change your mind about going on a trip after having made a booking.
Insurers price their policies based on the likelihood of a would-be customer making a claim. They take into account factors such as age, destination, duration of stay, activities likely to be undertaken, the level of cover required, plus any pre-existing medical conditions.
When considering a policy, it’s important to answer an insurer’s questions honestly. Failure to do so could risk a future claim being rejected.
What about Covid-19?
Understandably, the pandemic remains uppermost in the minds of many travellers currently. As such, travel insurers usually include some form of cover against Covid-related risks as part of their policies.
This could include cover for medical expenses and the costs of travel should you go down with the virus while you’re abroad and need to return home early.
Several insurers provide extra layers of Covid-19 protection that allows travellers to make cancellation claims in connection with the virus.
For example, should you, or a travelling companion, fall ill with Covid prior to departure, and has to go into quarantine before the departure date.
As with all forms of insurance, not just potential Covid-related claims, it’s essential that you check specific policy details before buying cover. Definitely make sure you’ve done so before heading off on your travels.
Don’t cut corners
It’s also tempting to pick a travel policy based solely on price and how cheap it is. But try looking beyond this to take out a policy that best suits your specific needs. A cut-price policy won’t be much help if it comes up short should you need to make a claim.
When comparing policies, consider other factors such as the ‘excess’. This is the amount the customer agrees to pay towards a claim. Agreeing a higher excess could lower your premiums, but it’s only worth considering if you’re able to afford the outlay should it be called into play.
Check, also, whether different items on your policy are limited to different excess amounts. And ask whether every person listed on a policy needs to pay the excess each time a claim is made. This can make a big dent in what you receive in a pay-out, but the premiums might be lower as a result.
Some policies feature an ‘excess waiver’ option whereby, for the payment of an additional sum (for example, a third of the original premium) you can remove the excess requirement completely.
For lost possessions, check whether your policy allows you to claim for several items, such as baggage that’s gone missing as well as cash that’s been lost. Also establish whether there’s a single item limit. This is the amount you can claim for an individual item, no matter how much the overall claim limit is.
When it comes to personal liability cover, the Money Advice Service recommends looking for policies offering cover of a minimum of £2 million.
Standard policies should cover the essentials as outlined above. But you may also wish to bolt on cover for added extras.
End supplier failure, for example, or scheduled airline failure, provides financial protection in the event a travel company or airline goes bust. This is useful where you’re not travelling as part of an ATOL-protected package holiday.
If your trip aboard includes risky sports and activities such as rock-climbing or quad biking, you’ll probably need to take out extra cover.
Note that one way of having a travel insurance claim turned down is to ignore government travel advice. There are other ways, too, including where claims are declined on the back of incidents involving alcohol or drugs, not taking reasonable care of your possessions, and not following an insurer’s claims procedure.
If your gripe is with an airline, tour operator, or accommodation provider, talk to them about securing a refund before claiming off your insurer. Providers will expect you to have done so.
Finding the right policy
Always shop around for travel insurance. As well as making sure you’re adequately covered while abroad, the aim is to end up with a competitively-priced policy that’s best suited to your particular needs.
Consider using a comparison service to help inform your decision. By plugging in your details you’ll be able to see a range of policies side-by-side before making a choice.