Spain is lifting its travel ban on UK arrivals at the end of March - what it means for holidays
Spain has announced it will lift its entry restrictions for travellers from the UK at the end of the month following a three month ban.
The ban was first imposed in December amid concerns over a British strain of Covid-19, but the Spanish government will now remove the restriction from 30 March thanks to the success of the UK’s vaccination rollout.
However, the news was announced just hours after the UK government set out new coronavirus regulations, including a ban on travelling abroad.
So what are the rules on travelling to Spain from the UK? Here’s what you need to know.
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What are the UK rules on travel?
Under new Covid-19 laws in England and Wales, it will be illegal to leave the UK without a reasonable excuse from 29 March.
As such, this means you cannot travel abroad to Spain for a holiday, despite the country lifting its restrictions for UK travellers from 30 March.
The new legislation means that people living in England and Wales face an official ban on foreign holidays in law from Monday, and risk being issued with a £5,000 fine for breaking the rules.
The law now states that no-one may leave England to travel to a destination outside of the UK UK, “or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom” without a reasonable excuse.
As well as a fine of up to £5,000 for flouting the rules, there is also a £200 fixed penalty notice for failing to fill in a travel declaration form, which includes providing personal details and reason for travel, for those planning to leave the UK.
The travel ban does not apply to those going to the common travel area of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland, unless that is not the final destination.
Exemptions apply for those who need to travel:
- For work
- For study
- For legal obligations
- To vote
- For moving, selling or renting property
- For some childcare reasons
- To be present at a birth
- To visit a dying relative or close friend
- To attend a funeral
- To get married or to attend the wedding of a close relative
- For medical appointments
- To escape a risk of harm
MPs will vote on the new laws, which are officially titled the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021, on Thursday (25 March).
If these are approved, they will come into effect from Monday 29 March.
In Scotland, it is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes. The Scottish government has said that foreign travel will not be possible before 17 May and maybe for some time after.
Similarly, in Northern Ireland it is illegal to travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland (ROI), Isle of Man and Channel Islands), unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.
Rules state that you can only travel abroad if you have an essential reason to do so and you must not travel abroad on holiday.
What has Spain said about travel?
The Spanish government announced on Tuesday (23 March) that entry restrictions for arrivals from the UK will be lifted on 30 March.
However, travel restrictions will remain in pace until 13 April for travellers from Brazil and South Africa, in an effort to contain the spread of new coronavirus strains.
Spain has also revealed that tourists could use vaccine passports to prove they have been inoculated against the virus as early as May, which would permit them entry into the country.
Spain's tourism minister Reyes Maroto has said that the country may start using the vaccine passport in May, when the international tourism fair FITUR is due to take place in Madrid.
However, despite the lifting of restrictions on UK arrivals, holidays abroad will be banned in England and Wales by law from 29 March, meaning people cannot travel to Spain without a reasonable excuse.
When could foreign holidays be allowed?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is “too early to say” whether foreign holidays will be allowed this summer, but rising cases in Europe mean that “things certainly look difficult for the time being”.
Mr Johnson said he hoped to give more information about foreign travel on 5 April, a week before the Government’s global travel task force is due to report.
He said: “A lot of people do want to know about what’s going to happen on the holiday front and I know there’s a great deal of curiosity and interest.
“All I can say is it’s just too early to say and my advice is to everybody to wait for the global travel task force to report.
“We’ve heard already that there are other European countries where the disease is now rising so things certainly look difficult for the time being but we will be able to say more we hope in a few days’ time, I certainly hope to say more by April 5.”
Under the current road map for easing restrictions, the earliest possible date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be 17 May.
This date is being considered by ministers for allowing foreign travel without a reasonable excuse.
While the new coronavirus laws will not expire until 30 June, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested that foreign holidays could be allowed before this date.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “The questions of whether people will be able to travel abroad this summer are going to be addressed by the Global Travel Taskforce, which is reporting around 12 April.
"The roadmap sets out the earliest date by which we will allow for international travel - without one of the clear reasons you need now - is 17 May.
"That has not changed. The way we're putting that into law is as part of these roadmap regulations that will be voted on on Thursday.
"They come to an end as a whole at the end of June. But that doesn't change the timings for these questions on international travel."
However, he warned that it was still "too early to say” what the taskforce would decide on foreign holidays, due to a recent surge in Covid-19 infections across Europe.
As such, scientists have advised that people should plan to holiday in the UK this summer as the risk for coronavirus variants in other countries is currently still too high.