Holiday ‘back door’ into Europe from ‘green list’ Portugal left open

There’s NOTHING to stop British tourists travelling from ‘green list’ Portugal across Europe and then lying about where they’ve been to avoid quarantine on their return to UK

  • Britons wanting to go on holiday in most of Europe currently face at least two tests and 10 days of home isolation under ‘amber’ restrictions
  • But Portugal is on the ‘green’ list, meaning only one test and no isolation 
  • Land border between Portugal and Spain is open even for non-essential travel 
  • And guards have told MailOnline that no checks are being carried out for tourists, leaving a ‘back door’ to European holidays wide open 

Guards at the border between Spain and Portugal are not carrying out Covid checks on travellers and have revealed that no rules are in place to stop British holidaymakers from crossing over. 

It means a ‘back door’ into Europe has been left wide open, allowing sun-seeking Britons to skirt ‘amber’ travel restrictions in place across much of Europe by flying to ‘green list’ Portugal and then simply driving across the border.  

Under current UK regulations, most of Europe is on the amber list, which requires British travellers to take two Covid tests once they arrive back and self-isolate at home for ten days, although that time can be reduced with an additional test.

But Portugal, which shares Europe’s longest land border with Spain, is on the green list – meaning Brits travelling there do not need to self-isolate and only have to undergo one Covid test two days after returning home. 

And guards at the Guadiana International Bridge, one of the main crossing points between the two countries located in the southern Algarve, told MailOnline that they have no plans to stop Brits making the crossing. 

Portugal is just one of three European countries on Britain’s travel green list, and the only one where unrestricted land travel into mainland Europe is possible

Holiday 'back door' into Europe from 'green list' Portugal left open

Guards at the border between Portugal and Spain say they have no plans to stop Britons crossing, leaving a back door to quarantine-free holidays in Europe wide open

Inspector Rui Pereira of Portugal’s GNR paramilitary police said: ‘British tourists are free to travel into Spain. We are not carrying out any checks and have not been given any special guidance on how to deal with them.

‘The border is fully open. There is nothing stopping a British tourist from flying into Portugal, hiring a car and crossing over into Spain. 

‘This is an internal border, and we will not be carrying out any specific Coronavirus checks, just routine ones if we suspect that a traveller is breaking the law.’

The border post is run jointly by Portuguese and Spanish police and immigration officials and is only a two-hour drive from the beaches of southern Spain, popular with many Brits.

Inspector Pereira’s counterpart from the Spanish national police, who did not want to give his name, added: ‘We know that British tourists love coming to Spain and we are expecting a lot of them to use this loophole of flying into Portugal and visiting our country.

‘There are no security checks at the border, people are free to cross it as much as they like. To be honest, we are not checking for any particular nationalities because this is an internal border and is not subject to the same checks that you get at ports and airports.’ 

Non-essential travel to Portugal resumed earlier this week and there is expected to be a huge influx of British tourists over the coming weeks.

Traffic was light at the Guadiana International Bridge when MailOnline visited, with just a handful of cars crossing between Portugal and Spain without any checks taking place.

But Inspector Pereira admitted: ‘We’re expecting it to be a lot busier very soon as more tourists arrive from Britain and other parts of Northern Europe.

‘You could say that it’s crazy that we are not carrying out any checks. But those are the rules that we have been given. 

‘If a British tourist wants to go over into Spain but it breaches their government’s Covid rules, then it’s up to them. It’s got nothing to do with us.’

Spain and Portugal reopened their land border in early May, allowing non-essential travel between the two countries for the first time since January.

Prior to the reopening, drivers had to show paperwork proving a ‘compelling reason’ to cross the border, but from May 1 that requirement was dropped.

All other arrivals in Spain, even from EU countries, have to present a negative Covid test taken 72 hours before departure and fill out a health certificate with their contact information in case they are needed by track and trace.

Holiday 'back door' into Europe from 'green list' Portugal left open

Spain and Portugal reopened their land border on May 1, allowing non-essential travel to resume – and guards say they have not been told to check for tourists in the traffic

Holiday 'back door' into Europe from 'green list' Portugal left open

Spanish and Portuguese border guards both confirmed to MailOnline that there are no plans to stop tourists from crossing the land border

Non-essential travel from countries outside the EU is currently banned, though the EU has put forward recommendations for reopening borders.

Under the EU’s plans, vaccinated travellers would be allowed into the bloc no matter their country of origin provided they have been full vaccinated against Covid and received their last dose at least two weeks before their flight.

Unvaccinated travellers from a ‘white list’ of countries with low infections would also be allowed in, provided they can provide a negative test result or evidence of a previous infection.

Diplomats revealed on Wednesday that countries will be considered ‘low infection’ if they have a case rate below 75 per 100,000 – with Britain currently on 44.

The list is due to be published this week, but negotiators in Brussels have warned the UK could be left off it for now amid fears over the Indian variant.

However, the plan is merely a ‘recommendation’ and as such is not legally binding, meaning member states could choose to ignore it and implement their own rules.

Several countries have already taken that step, with Greece, Cyprus, Iceland, Croatia and Turkey welcoming foreign arrivals. 

Which European countries are welcoming UK tourists back? 

Overseas travel is restarting in Europe as vaccine drives gather pace and Covid infections fall.

Britons are now allowed to holiday abroad after the government repealed a law banning non-essential travel abroad.

The UK is using a traffic light system to determine who has to quarantine when they get home, but that is only part of the puzzle – holiday-makers will also have to find a country willing to let them in.

So, where in Europe is allowing UK tourists to visit?

Portugal

A favourite destination of UK sun-seekers, Portugal also has the distinction of being one of a few countries included on the government’s travel ‘green list’ meaning people do not have to quarantine after arriving home.

After some flip-flopping on the issue, Portugal agreed to allow British arrivals into the country starting on Monday.  

All arrivals will have to take a PCR test no more than 72 hours beforehand, and bring the negative results with them to be allowed into the country.

Iceland

Visitors from any foreign nation are being allowed into the country provided they can show proof of vaccination or a previous Covid infection.

Tourists then have to take a PCR test on arrival and wait in their hotel for the results, but border authorities say this will be no longer than 24 hours and is usually over in five or six hours.

There is a complicated list of exemptions for those who are not vaccinated, but it is unlikely that most people will qualify.

Iceland also has the benefit of being on the UK’s green list, meaning you won’t need to quarantine after arriving home.

Greece 

Since April, Greece’s borders have been open to foreign arrivals provided they can show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure or that they have been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved Covid jab.

Arrivals also need to complete a passenger locator form including details of where they have travelled and where they are staying so it can be used by test and trace authorities in the case of an outbreak.

Croatia

Tourists are welcome to travel provided they have taken a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure, have evidence of previous infection, or are fully vaccinated.

Arrivals will also need to provide evidence that they have paid for accommodation within the country – which can include campsites – or own property there.

Travellers are also required to complete a form, which can either be done on arrival or in advance online.

Cyprus

The Mediterranean island is welcoming tourists provided they have been fully vaccinated, can show evidence of a previous infection or have taken a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure.

Travellers also need to register for a flight pass no later than 24 hours before departure.

For those using a PCR test to get into the country, details of the test will need to be entered into the online form, meaning they will have to plan the timing of the test carefully.

Turkey

Despite the country being in almost-total lockdown, Turkey is allowing tourists in without a PCR test or evidence of vaccination.

Tourists are largely exempt from the lockdown rules – which have confined Turks to their homes for weeks – while hotels and other businesses involved directly in tourism have been allowed to remain open.

However, many other businesses – such as shops and restaurants – remain closed. City streets are also deserted, which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your idea of a good holiday.

Other major European tourist destinations have also begun laying out plans to let tourists back in, though have not finalised them yet. They are…

Italy

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week that Italy plans to run its own ‘green pass scheme’ which would allow tourists in from any country provided they are vaccinated, have previously been infected, or have tested negative.

Mr Draghi said the scheme would be in place by ‘mid-May’, raising hopes that it might be ready in time for Britain’s rules to relax on May 17.

But since his initial announcement, no further details have been published leading to frustration and confusion among those hoping to travel. 

France

Currently, France is allowing people into the country for non-essential reasons provided they have a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival. 

However, all UK arrivals must also self-isolate for seven days after arriving or face a £1,000 fine – ruling out a large amount of tourist travel.

Plans are in the works to drop the self isolation requirement, with Emmanuel Macron giving a date of June 9 for the rules to change.  

Under the new plans, all visitors would have to obtain a Pass Sanitaire, essentially a green certificate with evidence of a negative Covid test or vaccination required to qualify.

Like the UK’s roadmap, France’s unlocking requires infections to be falling in order to progress, meaning it could be called off or delayed. 

Cases are currently declining in the country, though at a very gradual pace. 

Spain

Fernando Valdes, Spain’s tourism minister, laid out his plans for reopening the tourist economy last month and predicted the country will be ready to welcome back foreign arrivals in June.

Like other countries, entry would be dependent on some kind of green pass scheme requiring evidence of vaccination, a past infection, or negative test taken shortly before travel.

Valdes said a pilot scheme would run throughout May and that Spain would be ‘ready to receive visitors in June’.

No further details have been given. 

Other European nations are currently not allowing tourists in, and have not announced plans to allow it. 

This includes Germany, which has made it illegal for companies to transport people there for non-essential purposes. 

Others nations which ban non-essential travel include the likes of Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.   

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