It’s no surprise that one the worst things to happen in 2020 is ruining people’s livelihoods and plans running into beyond the new year. But here in Spain things haven’t been impossible for the most part, and travel to some extent has flexed up and down with restrictions. There are some things brits should know about travelling during these testing times. I live in Córdoba at the moment, and I know people’s experiences will vary depending on the region.
Madrid has been and very likely will continue to be one of the main problems areas for travel. The first outbreak of the 2nd wave in Córdoba was traced from a group of people travelling from the capital, making it one of the riskiest trips, not for fear of getting infected, but because your stay may have more restrictions than anywhere else. Madrid has closed its borders to other comunidades autónomas during the Christmas period, and has had various zones cut off when there has been a spike in cases. Unless you have permission, you can’t visit or leave, unless you have a connecting journey to another region. Even when restrictions are lifted, either get a last minute deal, or don’t plan to visit at all.
Services still go ahead regardless
You might be wondering who could possibly be on a train or a bus during restrictions? Why haven’t they cancelled the service? The truth simply is this; the government subsidises the companies responsible to keep things moving, and there are people who do have permission to travel. Train companies like Renfe and Feve cannot deny people’s entry into a restricted area, though now they might ask for ID, which wasn’t required before. The responsibility of entry falls on the police and security forces in position at the stations, which has led to people questioning how risky it is to travel if they aren’t allowed.
The simple fact is that the staff in the train/ bus station do not know whether you can legally travel or not to restricted areas. I went to there recently to enquire about travel to Valencia (which I had booked when I knew we could travel) about the new restrictions in place, and they told me that they can only give you information about the services that are running and availability of tickets. THEY CANNOT tell you about whether you can legally travel or not. I went to customer service and they said the same thing, though they also said that occasionally a policeman may be stationed in the office to answer such questions.
The only ways you can definitively find out about restrictions is via the government website, going to the police station and asking a member of staff like I did, and calling one of the services the Ayuntamiento provides. Going to the police station is the best way in my opinion, as you can explain your personal situation and they can tell you whether you can travel or not. In the case of Valencia, it was a no go for me and my other half on this occasion. Andalusia, among many regions have opened their borders to allow travel over the festive season, and some may remain open depending on the how well the virus is contained.
While most Bus and rail services have continued, many time tables have been reduced, and it isn’t certain when they will resume if at all once the pandemic eases. Some timetables however have been left completely unchanged, so my advice is to check online for any announcements of service alterations. The main cancellations occur at either the very early morning or late night journeys due to curfews in place. That isn’t always the case though, I travelled from Huelva to Córdoba back in September at 22:00 and arrived at 1:00, but that bus is still running, so it’s purely pot luck. Rail services have less services too, but unless you are a frequent traveler, you may not have noticed. Many companies post a modified time table in the stations and online to help clear the confusion.
Getting Tested before you travel
The worst affected regions in Spain have different requirements for entry as mentioned before, but some places like the Baleares have asked for negative PCR tests to be taken a maximum of 72 hours before your departure. However, the most common requirements for such a test are when flying, even nationally. The chances are you will need to pay for two tests to enter and leave the region if you are flying or unless the local government requires you to do so.
Air travel, is it worth it?
The big issue with travelling around Spain by air is the lack of updated information given about the rules, is that it takes time for the official AENA website to update any new changes, and it changes almost daily. Airlines operate on the same level as Renfe, meaning that they have rules but won’t deny you access to flying unless the security and border control say otherwise. The information and rules as you may know by now are subject to change fairly frequently, so it’s advisable to check news websites or government website ahead of any other source of information.
The upside is that flights are likely to reduce in prices compared to any other public transport, though not guaranteed. That may not be worth the hassle and cost of getting two tests done, unless you know you are saving a fortune. I wouldn’t travel by air unless it was absolutely necessary. It might be the lowest risk of getting infected, but all the other risks of actually getting there trouble- free is greatly reduced.
Accommodation always available.
While many hostels and hotels may be shut depending on the situation of restrictions, but it is almost certain and every reasonably-sized town will have some places open, especially during the weekend. Hotels and hostels are very good at communicating any changes and new guidelines to guests, and measures are usually taken to protect you during your stay. Prices don’t really change all that much compared to normal, so you aren’t guaranteed to save much unless you book during a time when there usually is a festival that’s been subsequently cancelled. I think on the whole you are safe.
That’s my experience so far about travel in Spain during COVID. My advice is principally to check the news and with the local authorities before making any arrangements to travel long distances. Make sure you can legally travel and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Spain is still open, and while the experience may be unusual, people will still try and accommodate you the best they can, and there is always a way to discover new places and try new things. Proceed with caution and take care.