Spain reopened its borders to global travelers on Monday, and tourists from any part of the world will be able to visit the country during the summer high season. That was the announcement made by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on May 21 at the Fitur tourism fair in Madrid – but there is plenty of small print for those traveling to Spanish shores, depending on who they are and where they are coming from. There are different requirements according to the reason for the trip – essential travel or for leisure – the place of origin – from inside or outside the European Union – and even the type of tourist – whether or not they have been vaccinated.
The new measures are aimed at facilitating international mobility now that the coronavirus vaccine campaigns are progressing across the world. The EU’s Digital Covid Certificate will also assist with this process, a scheme that will be fully in force by July 1 but is already being used in a number of member states (the majority of Spanish regions are already issuing them, for example).
Below are the main questions and answers for tourists who want to visit Spain in the coming months.
Can you visit Spain for a leisure trip from other EU countries?
Yes, you can. This kind of travel, in fact, was only restricted during the toughest part of the pandemic – the three-month lockdown that began in March 2020. After this phase, once the internal borders of the EU were reopened, they have not been closed again apart from a few exceptions. That led to a paradoxical situation that lasted for months, whereby a German national could travel to the Balearic Islands or Andalusia, while residents of Spain could not leave their own region due to the perimetral lockdowns in force.
Are there any restrictions for these European travelers?
It depends on the case. From the green-light areas designated by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) you can travel without any barriers – but in practice there are few European territories that are on this level. The majority – except some zones in Finland, Norway, Iceland and Malta – will have to present an additional requirement for entry: a vaccination certificate, a negative PCR or antigen test carried out in the 48 hours prior to arrival, or a certificate showing the bearer has contracted, and recovered from, Covid-19. Any of these documents should be in Spanish, English, French or German, or alternatively translated into Spanish by an official body. Minors under 12 are exempt from these requirements.
Are any vaccines accepted, and is one dose enough?
No. Firstly, the vaccines administered must have been approved by either the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) – i.e. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm or Sinovac-Coronavac. What’s more, proof of vaccination will only be valid once 14 days have passed since receiving the full doses required for the vaccine to offer full protection – two doses in all cases but the Janssen medication, which only requires one. The vaccination certificate must have been issued by the appropriate authorities in the country of origin and must include name and surname, date of vaccination (indicating the day the last shot was administered), type of vaccine, number of doses, country of issue and the details of which body issued the certificate.
How do you prove that you have had and overcome Covid-19?
In this case, the recovery certificate must be issued by the competent authority or by a medical service at least 11 days after the first positive PCR test has been carried out. These natural antibodies against the virus are considered to be valid for 180 days, which is the time that this certificate will allow people to travel within the EU. The document must include the bearer’s full name, the date the test was taken, the type of test and the country of issue.
From which non-EU countries can you travel without restrictions?
There is a list of countries whose residents are not affected by the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the European Union. That’s to say, areas from which you can travel with no barriers due to their current control of the pandemic. These countries or territories are: Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Macao. In these cases, it is not necessary to present evidence of a negative coronavirus test, vaccination or having overcome the disease. It should be noted that in the case of the United Kingdom, Spain remains on the government’s “amber list.” This means travelers returning to the UK from Spain must take a coronavirus test before travel, quarantine for at least 10 days on return, and take two home PCR tests that must come back negative before quarantine can end.
And from the rest of the non-EU countries, can people visit Spain for tourism?
The reopening of the country on Monday was designed for these countries. Specifically, all travelers who have been fully vaccinated with one of the medications approved by the EMA or the OMS two weeks prior to arrival. Tourists who cannot prove they are immunized under these conditions are excluded, even if they have a negative test, have been vaccinated with a different medication, or can prove they have overcome Covid-19.
What about minors who have not been vaccinated?
The under-12s who are traveling with an adult who has had a vaccine that’s been approved by the EMA or the WHO can enter Spain with no restrictions.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. The government has kept an ace up its sleeve for when new variants of the virus emerge and can thus exclude countries where these strains are circulating out of control. For example, the government order specifies that risk countries are subject to quarantine. Currently, only India is in this situation, meaning that tourists cannot come from there to Spain even if they are fully vaccinated.
In practice, arrivals from Brazil and South Africa are also barred. The exceptions are for Spanish or Andorran nationals, residents of those two countries, or passengers in transit to a non-Schengen area country with a layover of less than 24 hours (without leaving the airport transit area), as well as airline personal necessary for air transportation activities.
Are there any ways you can travel to Spain from outside the EU if you are not vaccinated?
Not if the trip is for leisure or tourism. There are only a few exceptions that can justify the journey: if you are a habitual resident of the EU, Schengen-associated states, Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican or San Marino and you are traveling to that destination; if you are the holder of a long-term visa issued by a Schengen member state or associated state and are traveling to that country; healthcare professionals, including researchers and professional senior carers who are returning to their jobs; transportation, marine and aeronautical personal who are needed for air transportation activities; diplomatic and consular staff, as well as personnel from international, military or civil protection organizations, and members of humanitarian organizations who are working; students who are studying in Schengen member states and associated states and have the corresponding permission or visa for a long stay, provided they are traveling to the country where they are studying, and that they enter during the academic term or during the 15 days prior to its commencement; highly skilled workers whose work is essential and cannot be postponed or done remotely, including high-level sportsmen and sportswomen taking part in high-level sporting competitions in Spain; people who are traveling for essential and documented family reasons; and people who can provide evidence of force majeure or essential need.
If you have any doubts about these requirements, the full text of the Official State Bulletin (BOE) can be read here in Spanish.
Is there any official documentation to be filled out?
Yes, in all cases independently of origin, whether you arrive by air or sea, and for the under-12s too. All travelers must fill out a health control form, which can be found at www.spth.gob.es or the Spain Travel Health app. The QR code that will be created on filling out the form must be shown before boarding, as well as on arrival.
Do passengers on cruise ships have to fill out the same obligatory documentation?
Passengers on international cruises should not use the Spain Travel Health application. In that case, the necessary information is collected via the EU Digital Passenger Locator Form.
What controls are there when you arrive in the country by land?
When entering by land from risk zones in France, travelers should carry one of the aforementioned tests: vaccination certificate, negative coronavirus tests or a certificate of recovery from Covid-19.
English version by Simon Hunter.