After an almost two year hiatus from international travel, I am newly home from a 10 day trip to Spain. Here’s my experience of traveling from the United States to Spain in 2021 and back again.
Traveling from the United States to Spain in 2021 – What’s required
How to travel, where to travel or even if one should travel are hot button topics right now. In an environment where everything seems to change on a dime, current travel diaries and first-person perspectives are more valuable than ever. In today’s pandemic environment, it’s no longer as simple as buying a ticket and making sure your passport isn’t expired.
Updated as of 9/15/2021:
Shortly after I returned from Spain, additional travel restrictions were put into place. The following information is still correct, however, as of 9/06/2021, travelers from the U.S.A. entering Spain must show proof of vaccination. Source: U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Spain and Andorra.
The basics and a little disclaimer
These are my experiences based on the rules in place at the time I traveled. The rules may change or may be enforced differently so while I hope this helps you, please don’t let my first-person experience replace doing your own legwork or reading current directives and advisories.
I traveled from San Antonio to Madrid and back in August 2021 on Delta Airlines. I also took a Spanish domestic flight, which I booked separately on Iberia Airlines. I’m a U.S. citizen with a valid passport and I received the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine earlier this year.
Spain requires no proof of vaccine, no quarantine and no COVID test for travelers flying from the United States. If you are not a U.S. citizen or if your travel begins somewhere that’s not the United States, this information may not be valid.
The United States requires a negative PCR test within three days of departure for all travelers over the age of two regardless of vaccination status.
From the United States to Spain – The Spanish Health Travel Form
All travelers entering Spain must fill out the Spanish Travel Health Form. You can do this via their app or their website.
The website says the app is the preferred method, however, I found the app to be very glitchy and decided to use the website. I found that to be much easier and user-friendly.
I traveled solo so I used the individual form. There’s also a family form if you’re traveling as a family group.
Before you start filling out the form you will need:
- The address and phone number of where you will be staying in Spain
- Your complete flight info
- Your personal info, including your passport number and expiration date
You can begin the form at any time after your flight is booked but you cannot finish it until you are within 48 hours of your arrival in Spain. You can start the form but you can’t get past a certain point until you’re within that 48 hours. I got a notification via the app and via email when I was within 48 hours, although I had a reminder set so I wouldn’t forget.
Since I was not sure how much info would be required just prior to travel, I was a little nervous and wanted to make sure I had ample time to finish it. As it turns out, the portion of the form you finish just prior to your flight takes about a minute. There are a few questions about whether you’ve been exposed to someone with the virus or whether you’ve had symptoms.
Your forms are trip and date specific. If your flight is delayed or changed, you’ll have to start a new form. My initial flight got cancelled due to weather and I left a day later than I’d planned. You cannot go back in and edit the form after you list your flight info – the form will alert you when you’re about to input answers you cannot go back and change – so you’ll have to start over with a new form.
I did my second form in the airport as my flight was being rebooked and it took about 15 minutes from start to finish.
Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll get a confirmation email and a form with a QR code you can print or save to your phone.
Who inspects your Spanish Travel Health Form?
Before you depart:
You will be asked for your Spanish Travel Health From when you check in for your departing flight. Do not expect the airline personnel to know anything about the form, other than that you need a form to enter Spain.
I have the unique experience of checking in for two flights on two different carriers with two different Spanish Travel Health Forms. Believe me, I didn’t plan it that way but that is how it worked out.
The person at the American Airlines check in counter just wanted to know if I had the form. He said he did not need to see it. When I checked in the following day for my Delta flight I’d booked after my other flight was cancelled, the agent scrutinized my form and asked several questions about it. I had to explain the basic process of getting the form and the QR code. She also wanted to see my negative PCR test, and I had to explain that wasn’t an entry requirement for Americans traveling from the United States to Spain.
The takeaway here is that every country has their own entry requirement and that those requirements can change with no notice. International travel is just starting to pick up again and airline employees are working to try and familiarize themselves with all kinds of new info and policies. Make sure you know what you’re supposed to have. The person at the airline check in counter is not who you should be relying on to know these tings.
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Once you are in Spain, you’ll be directed to show your QR code shortly after you deplane. In Madrid, I went through the checkpoint to show my QR code before I went through passport control. I was required to show my QR code once to get in line and again to another person who scanned my code. There were temperature screenings in place at the same location where my code was scanned. The entire process, including standing in line, took less than five minutes.
I received an email after my code was scanned that contained basic health and safety information as well as regional numbers to contact should I experience symptoms of COVID-19.
And that was it! I was a little bit stressed about this process before my trip but there was absolutely nothing to it. Since I wasn’t sure what the rest of the form would look like or how many wickets it would need to go through within that 48-hour window before my arrival, I didn’t know what, if anything, I’d need to do to prepare. As it turns out, that portion of the form took less than a minute and I got my QR code via email almost immediately after I submitted the form.
Note: Madrid Barajas Airport has decent free WiFi so you shouldn’t have any trouble pulling up the QR code via email or the app. You can also screenshot the code, which is what I did as a just in case.
From Spain to the United States – Negative COVID-19 test required
Although you don’t need to prove you don’t have COVID-19 to enter Spain, you do need this to return back to the United States.
Per the CDC website, all passengers arriving in the United States via air, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 viral test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.
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For other recommendations and info, you can check out the CDCs website and your airline’s health and safety page.
Your airline will also be a great source of information. I was aware of the requirements to re-enter the United States as I planned my trip but I got several reminders from Delta about the testing requirements as well as locations you can utilize. There’s absolutely no way to miss that this is a requirement.
Delta can also facilitate at home tests and provide a hub to load your results so you can enjoy your trip with minimal interruptions. I did not do this although if I’d have read about this option a little further in advance, I may have opted to try it. Since I was traveling overseas to visit family, I had my daughter help me find a testing location and we built getting my test into our plans for the week.
I was asked if I had a COVID-19 test when I got in line to check in but the airline employee did not ask to see it. The agent who checked me in and gave me my boarding pass briefly looked at my negative test printout.
I was not asked for my test result or vaccination card by the U.S. immigration officer who welcomed me back home. I saw several people in line at immigration who had their cards and their test results out, so I’m not sure if others were asked for this information. My experience with immigration is that your mileage will vary widely. Sometimes, I’m asked several questions about my trip and other times, non at all. This particular agent wanted to know how long I’d been out of the country and whether or not I’d brought any agricultural products back with me.
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Traveling from the United States to Spain in 2021 – Parting thoughts
The extra wickets I had to go through made me really uneasy as I was getting ready for my trip. Looking back, filling out the Spain Travel Health Form and getting a negative PCR test for my flight home were non issues.
Like with anything else in life, the unknown can be stressful. I think the biggest “What if” for international travelers is for right now is what happens if you test positive for COVID-19 abroad. I was staying with family and a had changeable ticket should I have tested positive.
International travel is still possible and definitely still happening. Travel might look different and there are certainly extra steps and safety precautions involved but if the full flights and the airports being at what I’d call a typical level of busy are any indication, people that have the desire and the means to get out and travel are doing so.