Canary Islands holidays: What are the latest travel rules and do you need a Covid test?

Qin Xie
·8-min read
The Canary Islands are back on the travel corridors list (Getty Images)
The Canary Islands are back on the travel corridors list (Getty Images)

While mainland Spain remains firmly off the UK government’s safe list, the country has re-established travel corridors to the Canary Islands.

It means travellers from the UK can now venture to the holiday isles off the coast of west Africa without having to self-isolate on their return. And as they’ve also returned to the Foreign Office’s (FCDO) list of destinations exempt from its blanket advisory against non-essential international travel, any existing travel insurance will be valid when you visit.

With eight main islands to choose from – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa – and balmy weather well into winter, there’s plenty of reasons to book a last-minute getaway now.

But what are the rules for entry? And do you need to take a Covid test before you go?

Here’s what you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to the Canary Islands from the UK?

For the time being, yes.

The Canary Islands are on the FCDO’s safe list, which means you can travel there without invalidating your travel insurance.

However, as of 5 November, new lockdown restrictions in the UK means you won’t be able to travel anywhere unless you have an “essential” reason for doing so. This will apply to those living in England until 2 December.

The essential reasons are work and education, or “other legally permitted reasons” – although the government has yet to clarify what the latter constitutes.

Wales, which just ended its “fire-break” lockdown, has an indefinite “non-essential travel” ban in place. The Welsh government said: “Travel out of Wales is only allowed under limited circumstances, such as for work or education.”

Northern Ireland, which recently ended its “circuit-breaker”, is a bit more ambiguous. The government advice says “you should avoid all unnecessary travel” but does not outright ban it.

It also advised: “You should carefully consider your holiday and travel options, in light of the continuing COVID-19 threat. A 'staycation' is one way of mitigating the risks – while also supporting the local economy. If you're holidaying abroad, you may have to self-isolate for a period of 14 days on your return home – depending on which country you have visited.”

In Scotland, the rules depend on where you live and what your local Covid-19 rates are like. For those living in tiers 0 to 2, there is no advisory against travel, but those living in tiers 3 and 4 are told not to travel outside of the area except for essential purposes such as work or caring responsibilities.

How can you get there

There are currently direct flights from the UK to Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote with either British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair or Wizz Air. Tui and Jet2 are also offering flight-inclusive package holidays.

La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro can be reached via connecting flights or boats from other islands, but La Graciosa is only accessible by boat from Lanzarote.

However, given the second lockdown, some airlines may be cancelling some flights so you should double check with your airline.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Yes, Spain’s borders are open to the UK.

However, you need to fill in the Spanish government’s health form within 48 hours of travel. This will include your contact details as well as your history of exposure to Covid-19. Once you’ve completed the form, you will be sent a QR code, which you will need to show on arrival.

Once you get to Spain, you will also be temperature checked and undergo a visual health assessment. Those presenting with coronavirus symptoms will have to see a health professional.

Will I have to take a Covid-19 PCR test?

Yes. As of 14 November, anyone over the age of six planning to stay in tourist accommodation including hotels and resorts will need to take a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of travel. The negative results will need to be presented to your accommodation on arrival.

The type of Covid-19 test has not been specified but the Canary Islands tourism organisation says you need: “A diagnostic test for active infection to show that you have not tested positive as a transmitter of COVID-19. The test must be approved by the healthcare authorities of your own country or of the European Union."

It has provided a list of suitable testing facilities in the UK.

In addition, “You need a paper or digital certificate to prove that you have had a diagnostic test. This must include the date and time that the test was administered, the person's identifying data, the authorised verification centre and the negative test result. The certificate should preferably be in English or Spanish.”

If you’re not planning on staying in tourist accommodation, for example if you are staying in your own home, or with friends or family, then you don’t need to have a test for the time being.

However, from 23 November, the Spanish government will require all passengers (including children) travelling to Spanish airports and ports from “risk” countries, including the UK, to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test. This must be taken within 72 hours of arrival.

The new requirements will supersede the local requirements in the Canary Islands once they come into force.

The Foreign Office says that visitors are also required to download the local Radar Covid app for use on the islands and for 15 days after you return home.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

No, Spain does not require travellers arriving from the UK to quarantine. If you’re travelling from elsewhere, double check with the local embassy.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

While you still need to quarantine if you return to the UK from other parts of Spain, you no longer have to quarantine after returning from the Canary Islands.

Can I travel between the islands?

Although some areas of Spain are currently subject to additional entry and exit restrictions, the Canary Islands are not affected at present, which means you can travel between the islands without any issues.

Are hotels open?

Yes, but you should double check. While hotels have been permitted to open since mid-May, some will have closed after a quieter summer season.

However, as the Canary Islands are very much an all-year destination, many will still be open through the winter months.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Like hotels, many restaurants, shops and attractions will still be open, but not all.

There are additional restrictions in place, however.

In restaurants, the tables will be more spread out, and there’s a limit of 10 people per table. No customers will be admitted after 11pm, with all establishments closed by 12am.

Only bars with an outdoor space are open, with a 75 per cent capacity limit in place, and drinks are table-service only – so you can’t congregate around the bar, for example. And as dance floors remain closed, there are no nightclubs. As with restaurants, customers won’t be allowed in after 11pm and the premises must close by 12am.

If you’re hoping to visit an attraction, you will need to pre-book as there are now additional limits on capacity in place. Many will also have introduced one-way systems to allow social distancing and manage crowds.

As for cultural spaces such as cinemas and theatres, you may find that you’ll be assigned a seat rather than getting to choose.

What rules are in place?

Spain has made the wearing of face coverings mandatory for anyone over the age of six on public transport and in many indoor and outdoor public spaces. The only exceptions are for those who are disabled or have a respiratory condition, or when you’re eating and drinking or exercising.

You must wear masks when entering beaches, swimming pools or outdoor areas, and when you’re moving around. However, you can take off your mask when you’re swimming, or when you’re sitting or lying in one spot with at least 1.5 metres between you and people outside of your group. All of these areas will also have additional capacity restrictions in place.

What if you get sick?

If you experience any coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate at your accommodation and call 900 112 061 for instructions. They will put you in touch with the most appropriate medical centre.

In order to boost tourism, the Canary Islands are also offering free medical insurance for tourists, which covers medical expenses, medical repatriation and your stay if you need to quarantine on the islands for 15 days.

The policy is offered to all tourists visiting the Canary Islands who test positive for coronavirus during their stay at “any regulated establishment”, as well as their accompanying relatives, even when the latter have not tested positive for Covid-19.

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