Travelling safely during COVID-19: How to explore Spain’s hidden secrets

Spain gets ready for tourism

After 3 months of lockdowns and restrictions, Spain’s State of Emergency officially ended on the 21st of June. Travel restrictions have been eased and the sun-drenched Mediterranean country is getting back on track to being a firm favourite for holiday-makers. Tourists have once again started to travel to Spain to enjoy all it has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to Spain during the Coronavirus pandemic, we have created a guide to help you prepare yourself.

Map of Spain

Who can visit?

As with many other European countries, Spain has two types of entry requirements; rules for people visiting from within the European Union, and other rules for countries outside the EU. If you’re planning on visiting Spain from another European country, the restrictions are more lax, however it is still possible to visit Spain from a handful of non-European countries. If you want to know which other countries are open for tourism, check out our guide. Let’s take a look at who can visit Spain, so that you can soak up a little sun and sample some local queso manchego, or jamón serrano, if that’s more your style, before the winter arrives.

Are you visiting from within the EU?

Spain’s borders are open to you if you are visiting from other member states of the EU. So what does this mean? Well, if you’re coming from any EU country, you can enter without restrictions. Don’t worry, if you’re from the following countries, you can also get into the country; Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Republic of San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and last but not least, the Vatican City. That’s great news if you’re considering jetting off to top up your tan.

Which other countries can travel to Spain?

The Spanish Government has a reciprocal agreement with a handful of countries outside the EU, which means that if you live in one of the following countries, you can also visit Spain:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Rwanda
  • China
  • South Korea
  • Georgia
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Tunisia
  • Morocco
  • Uruguay

At the time of doing our research and writing this guide, this was the current list of countries that the Spanish Government allowed to travel to Spain. As we’ve seen over the last few months, the situation can change rapidly, so we always suggest that you keep up-to-date with the travel restrictions of your home country. You can also take a look at the Official Tourism website of Spain for updates.

Wherever you are travelling from, we want you to travel as safely as possible. As we mentioned in our previous blog post about Travelling in Portugal, we suggest that you always take out comprehensive travel insurance and check to see if it includes COVID-19 insurance.

Are there entry requirements when I arrive?

The current entry requirements are pretty straightforward for travelling to Spain. If you are visiting Spain from a European country or a country mentioned above outside the EU, it’s fairly easy to visit Spain. All you have to do is have your temperature taken when you touch down by plane or arrive by boat. You should be prepared to have your temperature checked by a member of airport staff. Your temperature must register 37.5 degrees celsius to be allowed entry.

Everybody who arrives in Spain must also fill out the Health Control Form. You can download the form directly here or download the app. The Spanish Government requires that you fill in the form 48 hours before your flight, so that you can receive your QR code and present it when you arrive. 

How is Spain keeping people safe during the pandemic?

Spain is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that you can travel around the country and enjoy all that is on offer as safely as possible. With safety in mind, there are a number of precautions being taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially within the tourism sector. Here are some ways that Spain is keeping people safe:

  • Limited capacity in enclosed spaces, and attractions.
  • Using disposable items in the restaurant industry.
  • Limiting the amount of people to 10 when dining at the same table.
  • Visitors must sign a notice when visiting museums and other sights, to accept the implemented health measures.
  • People must comply with the 1.5 metre social distancing requirement at bars.
  • Compulsory use of masks on the beach at times including in Andalucía, Galicia and the Canary Islands.

These are a few of the safety measures that have been put into place around the country. There is an emphasis on social distancing, wearing masks, and increasing cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces. Whenever you travel on public transport, you must wear a face mask.

What happens if you experience COVID-19 symptoms while in Spain?

If you do happen to fall ill or experience COVID-19 symptoms when you are in Spain, you can inform the local healthcare authority via the information helpline. Of course, if you do experience symptoms, you should also avoid all physical contact with other people and isolate yourself. As each autonomous community has their own information helpline, you can access the list depending on where you are in Spain, in addition to instructions on how to proceed here. 

Where to visit?

Spain really does offer something for everyone’s vacation taste, and budget! From the wind-swept and rugged scenery of the majestic north, to the lively south, characterized by sweltering summer temperatures, you are in for a treat in Spain. Of course, the hustle and bustle of the two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, have countless sights to visit. But if you get out of the two big metropolises, you will be pleasantly surprised by what’s on offer. Bus travel connects Spain very well, so no matter where you go, you’ll get there safe and sound.

Brush up on your Basque in Bilbao

Bilbao is located in the extreme north of Spain and is part of the Basque Country. The culture here is unique and you will hear a mix of basque and Spanish being spoken by the locals. Did you know that Basque is one of the oldest languages in the world? If you’re good at tongue twisters, then you’ll love Basque. Why not try immersing yourself in the local way of life and impress the locals by picking up some Basque phrases here. Zorte on! (Good luck!)

For starters, you can admire the architecture on offer around the city by taking advantage of a free tour of the old city. Since COVID, they are only offering tours in Spanish, but even if you don’t know Spanish, you can still get a feel of Basque architecture on this tour.

Bilbao, Spain

Marvel at the museum scene

This is a museum city, and while it is home to the world-renowned Guggenheim museum (which is definitely a must-see!), our top pick is the Euskal Museoa. If you’re looking for something a little different, plan a couple of hours to dive into the history of the Basque people and learn about this unique culture and its people as you travel through time and trace the history of one of the oldest cultures in Europe. If you’re on a budget, this museum is great as it’s only €3 to enter. If you’re in town on a Thursday, then it’s free.

Feed your soul at the market

If museums aren’t your thing, Bilbao’s food scene is a sure way to win you over. Did you know that Bilbao is home to Europe’s largest indoor food market? The Mercado de la Ribera is a great choice to wander around and whet your appetite. You can have your fill of traditional pintxos (Basque style tapas) while soaking up the atmosphere amongst the labyrinth of local produce, enticing vendors, and delicious restaurants. This is definitely one to add to your bucket list if you’re a foodie!

Pintxos in Bilbao

How to get to Bilbao

If you’re coming from Madrid, you can take a bus between Madrid and Bilbao (it’s around 5 hours) and the average price is €38. So that’s just enough time for you to take in some great views on your way up north. There are several departures daily, so you can travel at a time that best suits your schedule. Journey times are a little longer if you’re coming from Barcelona (about 8 hours), however you can book a bus between Barcelona and Bilbao and average prices around €43. There are 4 daily departures which means you can decide to leave based on if you’re an early bird or a night owl.

Discover Spain’s sensual south in Córdoba

Córdoba is one of Spain’s most charming cities, and is overflowing with historical importance. You can get a feel for its Moorish past just by looking at the beautiful architecture, especially the Mezquita de Córdoba. If you want to walk around a city and feel like you have been transported back in time to a different era, Córdoba is sure to not disappoint. Why not take a break in one of Spain’s most stunning southern cities?

Mezquita in Córdoba

Meander through the historic centre

It’s official, Córdoba has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other city in the world! Pretty impressive, right? One of the most picturesque parts of the city that we suggest taking a stroll through is La Judería (The old Jewish quarter) where you can marvel at buildings such as the old Synagogue of Córdoba (free if you’re from the EU, or €0.30 if you’re not), and get a true sense of the city’s historic past. While you’re in the area, why not sample some traditional Andalusian-Sephardic food at Casa Mazal? If typical Judeo-Spanish dishes such as veal-stuffed eggplant or spicy harissa chicken with couscous get your taste buds tingling, this is one place to add to your list!

Visit the medieval Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

This ancient fortress and gardens is breathtaking, and it offers you a glimpse into the life of old royalty. Ever heard of Queen Isabella I of Castilla and King Ferdinand II of Aragón? Well, they used to live in this beautiful palace overlooking the Guadalquivir river (also worth a trip to snap a few pictures) back in the day. This is a place to stroll around on a sunny afternoon and imagine what life was like for Spanish royalty back in the 14th and 15th centuries. You can almost smell the history in the air. It’s only €5 to enter (€2.50 if you’re a student aged 26 and under) and you can even take a virtual tour online if that’s more your style.

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

Brave the bullfighting museum

Bullfighting is a long-standing tradition throughout Spain, and while it’s illegal in Catalonia, that’s not the case in Andalucía. While it’s a very controversial pastime, the Museo Taurino de Córdoba is an excellent museum for anybody is interested in learning about the history, traditions and peculiarities of the much debated sport. It’s a bargain at only €4 for standard admission or €2 for students. Even if you don’t agree with the practice of bullfighting, this museum is a very informative and interesting experience that you’re unlikely to come across in most places.

How to get to Córdoba

Córdoba is easily accessible from most Spanish cities. If you’re in the south of Spain, you can hop on a bus from Seville to Córdoba with average prices around €17. With 3 departures available daily, and a travel time of just over 2 hours, you can easily include a trip to Córdoba in your stay. You can also reach Córdoba easily if you are coming from Málaga. Buses from Málaga to Córdoba run 5 times a day and prices average around €17. Journey times are around 2.5 hours, so whether you are thinking of a day-trip or an overnight adventure, Córdoba will not disappoint you.

How about you? Are you more in love with north or south Spain?

Tell us how you’d vacation in Spain!