Travelling abroad is not as simple as it used to be.
Since international travel reopened in May, passengers have had to adapt to a new set of rules and regulations, both when travelling to your destination and when returning to the UK.
Last month, we travelled to Barcelona, Spain for 16 nights. This was our first time travelling under all these new rules and, although it took us some time to make sure we had all the documentation we needed, the process actually ended up being quite smooth.
So, in today’s post, we’ll be discussing all the steps we had to take to travel to Spain from the UK in 2021.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is based on our personal experience travelling to Spain from the UK. Travel requirements for both the UK and Spain are subject to change at any time. Make sure you check the UK government website for the latest travel guidance.
A Bit of Background Information
Before explaining all the steps we took before, during and after our holiday, it is important to point out that all members of our party were fully vaccinated. Different rules relating to testing and quarantine apply to those who are not fully vaccinated.
When we travelled, and as of the time of writing, Spain is on the UK’s amber list.
For fully-vaccinated travellers, this means that there is no isolation period on return to the UK. Self-isolation is still required for non-vaccinated travellers returning from amber-list destinations.
Summary of Steps
In order to travel abroad, there are a number of steps you need to take to gather the correct documentation.
Some of these steps need to be taken before you travel, some whilst you are on holiday and others upon returning to the UK.
Below is a summary of all the steps we took before, during and after our trip. We will explain all these steps in more detail throughout this post:
Whilst in Spain
- Book your Pre-Departure Test
- Go for your Pre-Departure Test
- Access and Download your Pre-Departure Test Results
- Fill in and Download your UK Passenger Locator Form
When Back in the UK
Before Leaving the UK
The exact steps you will have to take before you leave the UK will depend on two factors:
- Which country you are travelling to
- Whether everyone in your travelling party is fully vaccinated or not
At the time of writing, Spain is open to UK visitors. All travellers need to fill in Health Entry form and show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Booking Day 2 Test
It is currently a requirement for everyone returning to the UK from Spain to take a COVID test 2 days after travel, no matter your vaccination status. If you aren’t fully vaccinated, you will also have to take an additional test on day 8 and you will have to quarantine for 10 days after returning to the UK.
Although you will not be taking this test until after your holiday, you need to book it and receive confirmation of this booking before you travel. This is because you will need to show proof of your day 2 test booking when filling in your UK Passenger Locator Form.
You can choose to book a test at a testing centre or have one delivered to your house, which you will then post to a laboratory.
We chose to order our day 2 tests through Boots, who sent the packages to our house. Each test came with an individual reference number, which is the piece of information you need to take with you for each traveller so that you can fill it in on your UK Passenger Locator Form.
One thing to note here is that, although we had to fill in our return travel date when ordering these tests, extending our stay in Spain didn’t seem to affect the process. We ended up staying in Barcelona for 2 extra days and so we ended up taking and sending off our Boots COVID tests 2 days later than expected. The processing of our tests was very smooth and there seemed to be no issue with changing our travel dates.
Proof of Vaccination
Everyone entering Spain is required to show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in the country.
In the UK, your proof of vaccination is a document with two QR codes, one for each of the vaccine doses you received. This document can be accessed and downloaded via the NHS app.
Please note that the vaccine card filled in at the vaccination centre DOES NOT count as proof of vaccination. The only accepted proof of vaccination is the QR code document from the NHS app.
To download your proof of vaccination, you need to:
- Go to the NHS app and login using your details
- Click ‘Get your NHS COVID Pass’
- Select the ‘Travel’ option
- Download and/or print your document
We printed our proof of vaccination document and downloaded a copy to our phones.
Once downloaded and/or printed, that particular version of the document is only valid for 1 month. You can see the expiry date for your proof of vaccination document next to each QR code.
So, make sure you don’t download your proof of vaccination too early. To make things easier for yourself, you also want to make sure your proof of vaccination document is valid for both your outbound and inbound journeys, so that you don’t have to download a new version before returning home.
You will see that your proof of vaccination document contains several pieces of information about the particular vaccine you received, including the manufacturer and dates you received your first and second dose. You will need this information when filling in your Spanish Health Travel Form.
You may notice that your proof of vaccination document does not show your middle name. We were a little concerned about this as we had read that the name on your proof of vaccination has to match the one shown in your passport.
However, this did not seem to be a problem for us. Anecdotally, it seems that a matching first and last name and date of birth are enough to meet the international standard for identification.
Spanish Health Travel Form
Every passenger entering Spain is required to fill out the Spanish Health Travel Form, which you can access here.
Remember that you can only fill in the Spanish Health Form in the 48 hours before arriving in Spain.
Make sure you set aside time to fill this out as it is quite extensive and will take 10-15 minutes per person.
This process is explained below.
Step 1: Setting Up the Form
The first thing you need to do is set up a new form. You can do this for an individual or for a group of people.
Remember that even if you select the ‘group’ option, you will still have to fill in individual information for everyone in your travelling party.
You will be asked to fill in some personal details as well as an email address. Make sure you can access this email address as, once you’ve completed this section, you will be sent an email to continue onto the next stage.
Once you’ve completed this section, head to your inbox and you should have received an email from Spain Travel Health.
Included in this email is an FCS Form Code for your trip as well as a link to access the next part of the form. Click on that link to continue filling in your health form.
Step 2: Travel & Health Details
In the second part of the Spain Travel Health Form, you will be asked for all your travel and health details.
In terms of travel details, have the following information at hand:
- Passport details (number, date of expiry, country of issue etc.)
- Airline details (airline, flight code, airports you are travelling to and from, date and time of flight, seat number etc.)
- Address of where you’ll be staying in Spain
Once you’ve filled in your travel details, you will be asked about your vaccination status.
In terms of proving that you’re fully vaccinated, you will need to enter the following details from your proof of vaccination document:
- Vaccine Type (this is listed as Vaccine Product on your proof of vaccination document e.g. Vaxzevria)
- Date of your vaccination doses
PLEASE NOTE: the vaccine type is not referring to the names of the vaccines we all know (e.g. AstraZeneca, Pfizer). Make sure you fill in the field with the ‘vaccine product’ as shown on your NHS proof of vaccination document.
The system will then check that your details are correct and should confirm that your vaccination status has been accepted within a few seconds.
Once your proof of vaccination has been accepted, you will move on to the final section of the form, which is the Declaration of Health.
This section asks you to confirm a number of things, including that you haven’t been in contact with anyone who has subsequently tested positive for coronavirus within the last 14 days, and that you agree to self-isolate in Spain if contacted and told to do so.
After ticking these boxes, your form is complete. Click to confirm that you want to send your form, and then you will receive an email and a text message with links to download your QR code.
Step 3: Download your QR Code
You will need to download the QR code generated as a result of you filling out the Spanish Health Form to show upon arrival in Spain.
The document with your QR code is attached to the email you receive from Spain Travel Health after completing your form. The email and text message also contain a clickable link to download your document.
As with the proof of vaccination, we printed and downloaded our QR code document to our phone.
Once you have your proof of vaccination (or negative test result if unvaccinated), your Spanish Travel Health QR Code and you have booked your day 2 (and day 8 if unvaccinated) test, you are ready to travel to Spain.
Manchester Airport (Outbound Journey)
Before this trip, we hadn’t been to Manchester Airport for over a year, and so we didn’t know what to expect in terms of changes to the check-in, security and boarding processes.
To be honest, the airport experience was very similar to pre-pandemic times.
The only difference is that, when we went to Easyjet bag drop off, we were asked to show our proof of vaccination and Spanish Health Form.
If you are only taking cabin baggage, your documents will be checked at the departure gate.
So, in summary, make sure that you have the following documents ready at check-in, bag drop and at the gate before boarding the plane:
- Boarding Pass
- Proof of Vaccination (or Negative Test)
- Spanish Health Form
It is also important to note that at Manchester Airport, and on board Easyjet flights, masks are still mandatory, except when eating and drinking. So don’t forget to bring your mask with you too.
Arriving at Barcelona Airport
When we landed at Barcelona Airport Terminal 2B, we headed straight to passport control.
This part of the arrival process was the same as before, with the border force officers just checking and stamping our passports at this stage.
Your proof of vaccination and Spanish Health Form are checked at a separate desk, which you go to after collecting your hold luggage.
The whole processes of checking documents was very quick for us. In fact, we seemed to get through the airport quicker than ever. To give you an idea, we were in a taxi on the way to our hotel within 20 minutes of landing.
Please Note: the time you wait and the exact document checks you experience may vary depending on which airport and terminal you land at in Spain.
During Our Trip
COVID Measures in Spain
We had an amazing holiday at the Golden Taurus Aquapark in Pineda de Mar, Spain, which you can read about in more detail here.
However, it is important to remember that, when travelling to another country, the COVID rules in place are different to those that apply in the UK.
The most significant difference when visiting Spain is the rules on mask wearing.
Masks must be worn indoors at all times, except when eating or drinking.
Masks must also be worn outdoors where social distancing of 1.5m is not possible. In our case, this meant that masks were mandatory when playing animation team games at our hotel.
The rules in place in Spain did not affect our enjoyment of the holiday in any way. In fact, it made us feel safer knowing that everyone had to wear masks inside and when in close contact with us outside.
Preparing to Come Home
No one wants to think about coming home when they’re enjoying their holiday, but there are a few steps you need to take during your trip to prepare for your return to the UK.
Book Your Pre-Departure Test
Everyone wanting to enter the UK has to present a pre-departure test on arrival. This test must have been carried out in the 72 hours before you travel back to the UK.
Depending on how long you’re staying in Spain, you may have to think about booking your test at the beginning of your holiday.
We booked our tests a week in advance to make sure that we could get tested on the right date.
Our hotel was very helpful and actually booked the tests for us. We were staying in the town of Pineda de Mar but we ended up going to the nearby town of Calella for our tests.
4 PCR tests cost us approximately €320, so come prepared with enough money to pay for your tests.
One thing to bear in mind when thinking about booking your tests is which day of the week you need to get tested. Some smaller clinics offering PCR tests may not be open on weekends and/or bank holidays. In our case, the Friday we wanted to get tested was a public holiday in Pineda de Mar, so we had to go to Calella instead as the testing centre closest to our hotel was closed.
Go for Your Pre-Departure Test
When the day comes for you to actually take your PCR test, make sure that you bring your passport with you as the clinic will need to see it for both proof of identification and for the documentation they fill out when sending your test to the lab.
Make sure to arrive at the clinic in plenty of time so that you don’t miss your appointment and you have time to sort out payment at the front desk.
Although the test itself takes mere seconds, all the paperwork that comes with it can take a while to fill out.
So, for us, the entire testing process took around 10 minutes per person.
Each member of our party was given a separate sheet of paper with a website link and two codes on it: a sample code and an access code.
Make sure to keep this paper safe as you will need the access code to check your results online the next day. It is also a good idea to write each person’s name on the top of their sheet of paper (if it isn’t already printed onto it) so that you know whose result is whose.
Access Your Test Results
Please Note: the details in this section may vary depending on where you get your test. This is just an account of our experience.
Your test results should be available online 24 hours later. However, this may vary depending on which clinic you visit and the exact type of test you take.
When you’re ready to access your results, make sure you have a secure internet connection and the following documents at hand:
- Piece of Paper from the Clinic
Type in the website link from the clinic and then navigate to the ‘Access Results’ section. The clinic should provide you with instructions on how to access your results.
You will be then prompted to create an account, which involves entering personal information (name, surname, date of birth etc.), passport details, an email address and creating a password.
Once you’ve filled in all this information, you will be instructed to check your emails and click the link in the activation email. You will not be able to access your results unless you activate your new account in this way.
The link in your email will then take you to a login page, where you will have to enter your passport number and the password you created for your account.
After you log in, you should be able to access your results in the form of a PDF document.
Our results were provided in both Spanish and English, but this may vary depending on the clinic you use for your test.
However, the most important things to check are that:
- You tested negative for coronavirus
- Your PDF document with your results has a QR code
If this is all correct, you can go ahead and download and/or print your test results.
Filling in Your UK Passenger Locator Form
Once you’ve received your negative test result, it’s time to fill in your UK Passenger Locator Form. Remember that can only fill this in in the 48 hours before arriving back in the UK.
As with the Spanish Health Travel Form you filled out for your outbound journey, filling in the UK Passenger Locator Form is quite a lengthy process.
When you’re ready to fill in your form, make sure you have the following documents ready:
- Return Flight Details
- Day 2 Test Code
- Vaccination Details
To complete the form, you will need to enter:
- Personal Details (name, surname, date of birth, email, phone number etc.)
- Passport Details (number, expiry date, country of issue etc.)
- Date and approximate time you arrived in Spain
- Date and approximate time you will leave Spain
- Date and approximate time you will arrive in the UK
- Flight Details (airline, seat number, flight code etc.)
- Any other countries you have visited in the 14 days before arriving in the UK
- Address you will be staying at in the 10 days following your return to the UK (you need to fill this in even if you are fully vaccinated and don’t have to self-isolate)
- Vaccination status and details (type of vaccine, when you had your doses etc.)
- Day 2 Test Code (and Day 8 if you aren’t fully vaccinated)
Each member of your party must fill in a separate passenger locator form.
Once filled in, you can click on the link to download a PDF version of your form, which you can then save to your phone and/or print.
Note that this document should also have a QR code.
Although you want to enjoy your holiday, it is important that you remember to complete all these steps so that you can travel home to the UK as planned.
In addition to your Negative Test Result Document and your UK Passenger Locator Form, you will need to have your Proof of Vaccination Document on hand when preparing to travel home as this proves that you don’t need to self-isolate when returning to the UK from an amber-list country. As long as the document hasn’t expired since your outbound journey, you can reuse this document from your outbound flight.
At Barcelona Airport
On the way home, the process at Barcelona Airport was the same as we experienced at Manchester for our outbound journey.
Easyjet checked our proof of vaccination, negative test result and Passenger Locator Form at bag drop.
Once again, if you aren’t taking any hold luggage, your documents will still be checked, but at the departure gate just before boarding.
Arriving Back at Manchester Airport
We had heard stories of people waiting hours and hours at UK Border Force in recent weeks, and so we didn’t know what to expect when we landed back in Manchester.
However, we got through customs very quickly, thanks to being able to use the e-gates. If you are travelling with children, you can’t use the e-gates and therefore may be in for a longer wait at the border.
Unlike at Barcelona, we didn’t have to show any of our health documents when using the e-gates. We just scanned our passports as normal and were allowed to go through.
However, remember that Easyjet did check all our documents before boarding the plane in Barcelona.
After Returning Home
Your holiday might be over, but there are still a few more steps you need to take once you arrive home.
Take Your Day 2 Test
Whether you are vaccinated or not, you still need to take a day 2 coronavirus test after you arrive back in the UK.
Despite this being called a Day 2 Test, you can actually take it any time UP TO day 2 after your return, with the day you fly home counting as Day 0.
Our Day 2 Tests from Boots had already arrived before our trip and were waiting for us at home.
Each person had a separate testing package, with the swab kit and appropriate labels to send it back to the lab for testing.
The exact process to follow when taking your day 2 test will depend on who you ordered it from but, with Boots, we had to log in to an online portal (our account was created when we ordered the tests).
From there, we could select each person’s individual test and activate it by typing in which barcode (shown on the test tube) belonged to which person.
Make sure you take your tests one by one and only activate each person’s test right before they take it, so that you don’t mix up the barcodes. Once you’ve taken your test, package it up as per the instructions in your pack and take it to the drop off location. For us, this was a local Post Office Depot.
Receiving Your Day 2 Test Results
The time it takes to process your day 2 tests will vary greatly but, for us, it took around 48 hours from the time we posted them to receiving the results online.
With Boots, you log in to your account (the same account you used to order and activate the tests) to check if your results are ready.
Although we’d heard stories about people waiting a long time for their day 2 test results, the process seemed to go very smoothly for us, and thankfully, we all tested negative.
If you’re fully vaccinated, once you’ve received your Day 2 Test results, you’re done.
Remember that if you’re not fully vaccinated, you will need to take a Day 8 Test AND self-isolate for 10 days after you arrive back in the UK.
Was it Worth It?
As you can see, there are a lot of steps you need to take to be able to travel to Spain from the UK in 2021.
All these processes are relatively new and it’s certainly going to take some time to get used to the new way of travelling but, the big question is: was it worth it?
We had an incredible holiday in Spain and having to take these extra steps before, during and after our trip didn’t affect the enjoyment of our time there one bit.
All in all, the approximate breakdown of the time we took filling out forms/ordering tests for 4 people was:
- 1 hour before travel (ordering day 2 tests, downloading proof of vaccination and filling out Spanish Health Form)
- 30 minutes taking the PCR test in Spain (+10-15 minutes travel time each way)
- 1 hour checking test results and filling out UK Passenger Locator Form
- 30 minutes taking the Day 2 test and checking results once back in the UK
So, in summary, we had to spend around 3.5 hours extra preparing travel documentation than we would have before the pandemic.
Although there is a lot to remember, if you follow the instructions given to you at all stages of the process, you should have no problems complying with all the required documentation to travel to and from Spain.
We would not hesitate to go through the process again and we had an amazing time in Barcelona.
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