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How travellers from Spain to the UK can book that ‘cheaper’ Day 2 test

The UK government has published its list of 'cheaper Covid travel tests' for arrivals into the UK from countries including Spain, but don't get too excited...

A passenger wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, arrives at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport in northern England.  (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

Since removing Spain from its ‘amber plus’ list, the UK has also relaxed the rules on testing, meaning that fully vaccinated arrivals from Spain no longer need to take a pre-departure Covid test.

Travellers do, however, still need ‘Day 2’ tests on arrival – but from October 24th these can be antigen tests (known in the UK as lateral flow tests) rather than PCR tests, with the new tests on sale from Friday, October 22nd.

Travellers have been complaining for months about the extortionate prices and terrible service afforded by the Day 2 testing system, and the switch to lateral flow tests should make these cheaper – in theory.

You do still, however, have to use a test provider from the list of approved government suppliers and the test must be booked and paid for before you leave Spain.

While broadly similar, Covid-19 travel, quarantine and testing rules are slightly different if you’re heading to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

What it means

All passengers, including children, have to take a test on or before ‘Day Two’ after their arrival in England. But – crucially – this Day Two test must be booked before you leave Spain.

The passenger locator form, required for all arrivals into England, cannot be completed without a reference number from a test, booked through one of the UK government’s approved list of suppliers.

For fully vaccinated travellers, the Day Two test marks the end of their Covid travel requirements, assuming it comes back negative.

It is important to note that for test and quarantine purposes, the day of arrival is counted as Day Zero. The following day is Day One, the day after that Day Two, and so on.

Proof of purchase of the second test must be included on the passenger locator form, which everyone over age 18 must complete and submit within the 48 hours before they travel. Anyone who fails to take this Day Two test faces a fine of up to £2,000.

How to book a test

Tests must be booked from a company on the government’s list of test providers in England and Northern Ireland here.

Before October 24th

The test must be a PCR test, but PCR tests in the UK may be carried out at home, or by going to a clinic. Prices vary based on how many tests you require and how quickly you need the results – and many clinics offer a range of packages.

According to the government website, you’ll have a wait of 24 to 36 hours to get your test result.

However social media and the British media are awash with stories of people waiting considerably longer than that, never receiving their results or never receiving the tests in the first place.

On or after October 24th

From this date, the test can be a rapid-result antigen test, known as a lateral flow test in the UK, which travellers do at home with no need to send the sample to a lab.

However, this must still be booked in advance and from one of the approved government suppliers.

The UK government published its updated list including lateral flow tests on Friday, October 22nd and initially this looked good, with several tests listed at £20 or under.

However when we tried to book one on Friday lunchtime, none of the sites listing tests at or around £20 were actually selling them at that price – some sites said they had no tests available, while others only listed options to purchase the considerably more expensive PCR tests.

It remains unclear whether this will change in the days to come.

The new system should, however, eliminate the problem of long waits for results.

Companies

The world of Day 2 testing is an infuriating one.

You’ll find the companies offer packages depending on the status of the country you are travelling from, in other words green or amber. Even though the tests are the same. Some companies confusingly list products only for “UK vaccinated”.

Some we found appear to have minimum spends so even if you find a cheap test you can’t buy it, while others seem cheap, but once you get through the final ordering stage extra charges bump up the total.

The UK government says that it does not endorse companies on its list, and some firms have been removed for failing to provide a reasonable standard of service. However, many remain on the list despite being the subject of multiple complaints.

You also have to book individually for each passenger who requires a test – so if you’re travelling as a family of four you will have to go through the booking process four times.

Short stays

So, what if you’re staying in the UK for less than two days? You still need the Day 2 test, because the passenger locator form cannot be completed without the booking reference, and you cannot enter England without the form.

So you must pay for a test even if you will no longer be in England when the time comes to use it.

Fully vaccinated

Also be aware that the UK government’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is not the same as the Spanish government’s.

You need to have been vaccinated with a UK approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson – and be at least 14 days from your final dose.

After much confusion, the UK has finally agreed to recognise as vaccinated people who had a ‘mixed dose’ – ie one AstraZeneca and one Pfizer.

In Spain people who previously had Covid are counted as fully vaccinated after a single dose of the vaccine, this is not the case in the UK

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TRAVEL

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

In welcome news for tourists and travellers in Spain, holidaymakers will be eligible to take advantage of Spain's 100% discounts on train travel later in the year.

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

Tourists will be eligible for Spain’s free train ticket scheme that will be phased in later on this year, as confirmed to the Spanish press by sources in Spain’s Ministry of Transport this week.

“If a foreign tourist is a frequent user of the [train] network, he can make use of this subscription. If they want to complete the trips, they will not be asked for any type of card,” the source said.

Additionally, in further news of particular interest for British and American travellers, no differentiation will be made between tourists nor between EU and non-EU nationals for the discounts. Free train travel will be available to all tourists, regardless of where they’re from.

It is hoped that the free train travel will entice more visitors to Spain and continue the sector’s post-pandemic recovery, which for the first six months of the year exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 1.1 percent, according to figures from the association of Spanish tourism companies, Exceltur.

Tourism experts expect Spain to surpass the number of foreign visitors in the last four months of 2019 – over 20 million tourists – despite upwards inflationary pressures on the cost of flights and accommodation.

But like everything in life, there are terms and conditions. You won’t be able to waltz on any train in Spain for free, and it isn’t year-round.

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Free train travel

The 100 percent discount scheme, which will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, will only be valid on certain lines and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said when announcing the scheme in the Spanish Congress.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

The Spanish government are yet to announce in detail how exactly the discounts will work, or how to apply for them.

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