Wondering what it’s like to travel overseas during the pandemic? ABTA’s Sean Tipton tells us about his recent holiday to Ibiza and what you need to know about travelling to Spain.
For the first time in almost a year, I was looking forward to going overseas on holiday, in this case for a week in Ibiza. While the pandemic has made getting ready for your holiday a little more complicated, as long as you make the right preparations, travel can be remarkably stress free. If you would like some additional guidance for your next trip, it’s a good idea to book with an ABTA Member travel provider who can guide you through each step of your journey and make sure you have the most up-to-date information and advice.
The first thing to do is to check the Entry Requirements section of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for the country you are visiting (in my case, Spain) which will tell you everything you need to know about getting into the destination.
I and my partner have both been double jabbed and Spain requires proof of that on departure and on arrival, but otherwise no extra testing is needed. You can prove your vaccination status using the NHS Covid Pass, which is available via the NHS app if you’re travelling from England, and I chose to take a paper copy too. You also need to download the Spain Travel Health app, where you input information such as where you’ll be staying and your vaccination status, in order to get a QR code. We also pre-ordered a PCR test each for day two of our return to the UK, as we needed to add the booking reference number on to our Passenger Locator Forms when we came back to the UK.
Our flight was from Stansted, which was surprisingly busy but still quieter than normal considering it was the first weekend of most schools starting the summer holidays. An important thing to bear in mind is that even though it is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in public spaces, airports and airlines still require it. This is something that I would strongly recommend you comply with - out of consideration to other travellers and also to airport and airline staff.
At the boarding gate the ground handling staff will as usual, check your passport and ticket, but also in our case, proof of double vaccination and the QR code from the Spanish Travel Health app. So, it’s important to have all of this to hand to get on board with as little hassle as possible.
On board, moving around the aircraft is discouraged and if you need to use the toilet, avoid joining a queue. Once again, wear your face covering unless eating or drinking. Once the plane lands people disembark by rows, so there isn’t the ritual mad scrum to grab your bags and then stand in the aisle for 20 minutes.
In Ibiza airport, face covering on again, there were plenty of staff on hand to check our documentation and passports and we were on our transfer bus to Santa Eulalia 40 minutes after landing. Santa Eulalia is only a 20-minute drive from the airport and at the hotel we had our temperatures taken, via a hand scanner.
The hotel we stayed in had three pools, all well spread out, so there were no fights for the sun loungers! The hotel’s eating area was open air and with temperatures consistently in the late twenties, it was perfect for al fresco dining. Most of the other guests were happy to stay by the pool, but as we had been to this hotel before, we were keen to explore the lovely beaches a short scenic walk away along low, red clay cliffs.
The town itself is very attractive and nearly all the bars and restaurants have a lot of outside seating so we never had to eat or drink indoors, although there are measures in place to make it safe to do so. It’s still a requirement to wear a face covering in all enclosed public areas in Spain, which everyone abides by, so we made sure to take face coverings with us to use whenever we needed them.
We spent the last night in Ibiza town which is quite a place, ideal for people watching. The Old Town is the main tourist area, but one of the many advantages of having a Spanish girlfriend is that she took me to a succession of local tapas and pinxtos (very posh sandwich) bars in less touristy parts of town. Whilst we were in Ibiza, the local curfew meant bars and restaurants had to shut at 1am, very early by Spanish standards, but quite late enough for me! One thing I would recommend is to book in advance if you are going to one of the more popular restaurants.
The holiday was exceptional, so the only bad thing about it was that it went so quickly and before we knew it, we were taking our antigen tests, booked with and provided by our hotel for the princely sum of 30 Euros each. Two hours later we received our emails confirming our negative status.
The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was downloading and completing the UK Government Passenger Locator form. Importantly, you will need to enter your PCR test booking reference for day two to complete the form.
The flight back to the UK went very smoothly and on arrival at Gatwick we were met by a well-staffed Border Control and as our documentation had already been checked by the airline’s staff, we were able to use the E-Gates and were out of the airport on the train home in very short time.
After a week of amazing weather, great food and idyllic beaches, we returned to days of grey skies and torrential rain in the UK. Roll on September and our trip to Napflion on the Greek mainland!