The UK government has removed the Canary Islands from its “safe” list, starting 4am on Saturday 12 December.
It means travellers from the UK can’t venture to the Spanish holiday isles off the coast of west Africa without having to self-isolate on their return.
Still, 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, you may have booked a getaway despite the rule change.
But what are the rules for entry now there’s a new tier 4 and a new mutation of coronavirus? 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?
Whether you’re allowed to travel to the Canary Islands will depend on where you live. But whether you’ll be allowed in or not will depend on your nationality or residency status
From England, international travel is permitted in tiers 1, 2 and 3. Although the government has advised everyone to consider whether they need to travel right now.
Those living in tier 4 have been banned from international travel unless for an essential reason such as work.
However, the rules are different from the devolved nations
Wales has banned international leisure travel until January 2021, with the ban being kept under review. It is still permissible to travel for essential reasons such as education or work.
Northern Ireland does not forbid international travel. The government advice says: “Everyone is asked to be mindful of the risks of spreading the virus by travel and should use their judgement when deciding whether or not to undertake a journey based on the individual circumstances."
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 international 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.
“Going on holiday, including abroad, is not a reasonable excuse to leave a level 3 or 4 area,” reads the guidance
How can you get there
There are currently direct flights from the UK to Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote with British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
Tui and Jet2 are also offering flight-inclusive package holidays. As the Foreign Office hasn’t updated its travel advice for the Canary Islands, the two operators are still running trips as normal. However, some customers who do not wish to travel due to the need to quarantine on return may be able to move their holiday to another time.
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.
Will they let me in when I arrive?
This depends on your nationality and your residency status.
In response to the new variant of coronavirus, Spain has banned almost all arrivals from the UK. The only exceptions are Spanish citizens and those with residency status in Spain.
Those who only hold UK passports, for example, would not be allowed to enter any Spanish regions if they’re not normally resident in Spain, even if they’re intending to travel for work.
If you are allowed to enter, you will 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.
You will also need to download the RadarCOVID app for use on the islands.
Will I have to take a Covid-19 PCR test?
No, other tests are now also acceptible.
Since 23 November, the Spanish government has required all passengers (including children) travelling to Spanish airports and ports from “risk” countries, such as the UK, to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test. This must be taken within 72 hours of arrival.
However, the Canary Islands announced that antigen tests are also permitted, contrary to the advice from the Spanish government.
Now the Canary Islands advises: "You need to have diagnostic test for active SARS-COV-2 infection with a negative result. The tests that are allowed are PCR (RT-PCR for COVID-19), and antigen tests that detect SARS-COV-2 antigens with an accuracy of 97 per cent and a sensitivity of over 80 per cent as defined in their supporting documentation.
“The test must come with a printed or digital certificate that contains the following information: name, surnames and ID number of the person tested, name of the health organisation or authority that does the test, contact details of the medical centre, brand and health authorisation of the test, date and time of the test, and the test result. In the case of antigen tests, the certificate must include the accuracy and sensitivity of the test. It is preferable if the test certificate is in English or Spanish.”
It would allow British holidaymakers heading for Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and the other islands to take a test on the way to the airport rather than visit a test clinic two or three days before departure.
Mainland Spain has also since updated its requirements. The Foreign Office said: “From 10 December, a TMA (Transcription-Mediated Amplification) swab test or a LAMP (Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification) test are also accepted by Spanish authorities, again taken within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.”
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands have issued a list of approved testing centres in the UK.
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?
Yes - as of 4am on Saturday 12 December, all arrivals from the Canaries into the UK will need to quarantine for up to 10 days.
From 15 December, travellers who live in England may opt to leave self-isolation early by paying for a Lamp test five days after they leave a country that’s not on the travel corridors list. If it is negative, they can stop self-isolating. So if you leave Tenerife on Saturday 12 December, you can take a test from 17 December onwards.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not signed up for this.
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 six people for all social gatherings. 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.