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Spain travel rules: UK and EU travellers still face different rules at the border

Tourists have been returning to Barcelona one of Spain's most vibrant cities.
Tourists have been returning to Barcelona one of Spain's most vibrant cities.   -   Copyright  Pixabay
By Lottie Limb  & Hannah Brown

Spain is the only European country that still has COVID restrictions in place for non-EU travellers this month.

The popular destination dropped all entry rules for anyone arriving from the EU or Schengen area.

But UK, US and other tourists need to show proof of full vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, a negative antigen test result (taken in the 24 hours before departure) or a negative PCR test (taken in the 72 hours before departure).

Health screening is in place at all Spanish airports and ports to ensure passengers comply with these rules, which are set to stay until at least 15 November.

With its sunny beaches, rich architectural heritage and delicious food, there are plenty of reasons why the Mediterranean nation was the world’s second-most visited country pre-pandemic. And, of course, the long-running favourite of British holidaymakers.

Unlike other European nations - including Luxembourg most recently - Spain has not scrapped its travel restrictions entirely. So if you’re one of the many tourists on their way to Spain, here’s what you need to know.

What are the latest travel rules for Spain?

Joan Mateu/AP
A couple pose for a picture in front of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona.Joan Mateu/AP

Tourists from within the EU or Schengen area no longer need to show any COVID-19 documents in order to enter the country. 

Visitors from outside the EU however, still need to show proof of vaccination, a recovery certificate or a negative test through the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) or another valid document.

Previously, if you did not have a EUDCC certificate (or another EU equivalent) you had to manually fill in Spain’s Health Control Form with these details, receiving a QR code to get through the airports. As of 20 September 2022, this system has been abolished. 

Spain is now accepting all certificates so long as they meet the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Either a PCR or rapid antigen test - taken within 72 or 48 hours before arrival, respectively - will also be accepted. 

What counts as fully vaccinated in Spain?

In order to be considered fully vaccinated by the Spanish government, all travellers must have received their second jab at least 14 days prior to their trip.

You must be vaccinated with a complete course of a vaccine approved by the WHO or EMA.

And, in line with other EU countries, Spain has set an expiration date of 270 days on vaccine passports. This means booster jabs will be required if your second jab was more than nine months ago.

But there is no requirement for 14 days to have passed since getting any further booster jabs and entering Spain, and there is currently no expiration date for booster jabs.

What are Spain's vaccine and COVID test rules for UK travellers?

UK citizens who have not had a coronavirus vaccine are now free to travel to Spain - provided they can prove they don't have the virus.

As with EU travellers, one of the three following certificates is required:

  • A negative test certificate - either a PCR taken within 72 hours of departure or an antigen test taken within 24 hours
  • A vaccination certificate
  • Certificate of recovery at least 11 days after testing positive (valid for six months)
Joan Mateu/AP
Summer 2021 saw Barcelona's beaches packed again, and the Spanish tourism sector is expected to regain even more of its pre-pandemic size this year.Joan Mateu/AP

The Spanish authorities will accept the NHS COVID Pass as proof of vaccination, either digitally or printed out.

Tests are not required from double-jabbed Brits, but the UK Foreign Office notes that all travellers may be subject to additional checks at the point of entry.

Spain’s Border Health Controls page suggests that if, for example, an airport temperature check raises concerns, tourists could be contacted and required to take a PCR test at any point up to 48 hours after their arrival.

Unvaccinated Brits no longer need to fill out the Health Control Form, but they must show proof of recent recovery or a negative test.

What are the rules for children and teenagers?

Children under 12 years old do not need to show proof of vaccination or undergo any tests. This rule applies to the whole of Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearics.

Those aged between aged 12 to 17 no longer have to be fully vaccinated and can get into Spain with a negative PCR (or other NAAT) test result taken within 72 hours before arrival. Antigen tests are now also being accepted and must be taken at most 24 hours before departure. 

Alternatively, fully vaccinated British children aged 12 to 15 are able to prove their immunity with a NHS COVID Pass letter for international travel. 

Are masks required in Spain?

Manu Fernandez/AP
Masks are no longer required in indoor settings.Manu Fernandez/AP

By royal decree, masks are no longer mandatory in the vast majority of settings - from bars and cafes to museums and cinemas.

Public transport is one key exception, however, as face coverings are still required on airplanes, buses, trains, metros and taxis - as well as ferries if a 1.5 metre distance can’t be maintained indoors.

It follows the scrapping of Spain’s strict outdoor mask wearing rule earlier this year.

However, domestic rules can vary from region to region, so it’s important to check the exact requirements for where you’re headed. The Spanish Tourist Board’s Travel Safe website has more guidance on this, with a breakdown of rules for each of Spain's 17 autonomous regions on its interactive map.