26th October 2021
Coronavirus sign for passengers arriving at Heathrow, London. (Heathrow Airport)
Living & Lifestyle Opinion Travel & Tourism Valencia Lifestyle

PCRs and quarantine … an experience of travelling from Spain back to the UK

Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (10 June)

I imagine there are plenty of British nationals living in the Valencia region and elsewhere across Spain who, like me, haven’t seen their families since 2019. While going back to the UK last summer would have been possible, we took the sensible option and stayed away, not wanting to risk infecting my parents who were being very careful.

After all, we thought, things will be better by December so we’ll see them at Christmas. And we all know how that turned out.

Looking ahead to summer 2021, by which time both my husband and I will be fully vaccinated, and all the adult members of my family in the UK will also have had both doses, it seems a bit daft if we can’t get together. My daughters are in danger of forgetting who their grandparents are at this rate. Zoom is fine for a chat, but it’s not the same as a hug or sitting around playing Cluedo and eating Granny’s cakes, going for muddy walks in the woods or snuggling down, listening to one of grandad’s bedtime stories.

So while Spain remains well and truly on the UK’s ‘amber’ list, our hopes of a summer holiday in the UK are fading. Not because of the quarantine which would in fact be quite relaxing, 10 days in a cottage in deepest Dorset. Instead, it’s the cost of so many PCR tests we would need that make it prohibitive at the moment.

A friend of mine from l’Eliana, Tara West, got back from the UK last week, after going to help her sister while her nephew was in hospital. I spoke to her to get the lowdown and see just how possible my summer holiday in Hardy country is looking.

Coronavirus sign for passengers arriving at Heathrow, London. (Heathrow Airport)
Coronavirus sign for passengers arriving in London. (Archive)

What was the experience like?

The experience was rather surreal, as on arrival to Valencia airport, it was deserted. Once check-in was open, it was a quick and easy process.  

What were the airports like?

I travelled from Valencia to LGW [Gatwick] and I was astounded by how deserted everything was. Many shops were closed and it was eerily quiet.

How were things on the plane?  

Outgoing it was half empty. I had a row to myself, the adjacent row was empty, as were the rows behind. The plane was full coming back. I assume this was in part due to the change in travel regulations while I was there.

Did you feel safe?

Completely. The cabin staff all wore FFP2 masks, and also gloves. They handed out wipes on boarding the plane in order to wipe down the seating area, should we wish.

I’m guessing they asked for documents … did any passengers not have them?  

As far as I noticed on the outgoing trip, everyone seemed to have all paperwork in order. They request a negative PCR (within 72 hours), and a completed passenger locator form. It is worth noting that on the passenger location form, they do ask for the reference to your PCR tests in the UK, so you would have had to organise that prior to departure. You cannot complete your Passenger Locator Form without this reference number.

At your sister’s house, did they check up on you? How often?

On arrival in the UK, I had to quarantine for 10 days. I received daily phone calls from immigration, basically repeating the same thing, asking about the tests, and reiterating what I would need to do should I develop symptoms. My situation was slightly different as I was leaving the UK after seven days, so I did not complete the 10 day quarantine. This is why I requested the day 5 test to release. I’m not sure if it was necessary, but I wanted to be on the safe side.  

How did you do the PCR tests in the UK? At home or did you go out to a health centre?

I ordered the PCR tests online in order to receive them on arrival in the UK. My pack consisted of 3 tests (day 2, day 5 test to release, and day 8). The day 5 is not obligatory. The whole package came to £297. I had to do the test myself, which meant taking a sample with a swab at the back of the mouth and then up the nose. I was provided with test-tube with a liquid in which I had to place my swab. It was then sealed in an envelope and I had to send it off to the lab. The lab would then email me to say once they received the sample, and results usually were through within an hour or so. The lab also provided a link to find out which were priority post-boxes for sending off your sample.

PCR testing kit.
PCR testing kit. (Tara West)

How much did you spend on tests?

My tests came to £297 for the three, but I do think you can shop around and get them cheaper.

Coming back to Spain, did you need any more tests?  

I was quite lucky as I returned to Spain on 24 May, when it had just been announced that a negative PCR test was not required for entry to Spain. However, you have to complete a pre-travel declaration form to obtain a QR Code which is required. You can get the form from: https://www.spth.gob.es. The only problem I encountered is it required your seat number in order to complete the form. I could not check in online, so could not complete prior to check in. The airport on the UK side were fine with this, and just informed me I would need to finalise it prior to arriving in Spain. I did notice that some people were held back on arrival to Spain, I think perhaps they had not completed the form, but it did not seem to be a problem as they could fill it in on arrival.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I made a point of arriving at the airports well ahead of time as I was unsure how the procedures would work, and whether there would be any problems with the paperwork. Check-in and security control went so smoothly and quickly due to there being so few people. So it was completely unnecessary to arrive so early as I ended up hanging around for ages.

Overall the trip was a pleasant experience, the transition through passport control was quick. When I arrived at LGW, I disembarked and was waiting for my taxi within 15 minutes – a record for Gatwick!

I did travel with my residency certificate as I had heard that some travellers encountered problems on re-entry to Spain. I wasn’t asked for it and entered without a problem.

Click here for all our reports related to Travel

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ALSO READ: EU to allow vaccinated US tourists to visit this summer

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