What it’s like to go on holiday in the Canaries in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic

A familiar pang of anxiety grew in my stomach. It was the evening before I was due to fly out to Tenerife, and the government had just announced another travel restriction.

Holidaymakers returning to the UK now needed to provide a negative Covid test before flying home.

Since booking the holiday fewer than five weeks previously, the rules had already changed a number of times.

It went from needing a Day 2 lateral flow test once back in the UK, to needing a Day 2 PCR test and having to self-isolate, to now also needing a negative PCR or Lateral Flow Test (LFT) to fly back.

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Spain had not long ago tightened their own travel restrictions, meaning only fully-vaccinated people could enter the country.

As myself, and my boyfriend who was coming on holiday with me, were both jabbed-up, this didn’t worry me.

If anything, it made me feel safer knowing everyone on our plane – and the fellow tourists we’d come into contact with – were also fully vaccinated.

But this new return test came very last minute.

© Ellie Kemp Landing in Tenerife

We had already ordered some private LTFs as a Day 2 test when we originally booked the holiday. They had arrived weeks ago and sat in my bedroom for safe keeping, untouched.

At around 10pm the night the restrictions were announced, I rang the company I’d booked the tests through – Vivo Clinic – and checked if we could take them on holiday to use as Fit To Fly tests.

Thankfully their phone lines operate 24/7, and the clinic assured us we could take the LFTs with us.

We would be able to send off for a digital Fit to Fly certificate through them if we tested negative.

That was a relief – and it meant we hadn’t wasted £30 on two LFTs.

That morning, after about 30 minute’s sleep, I jolted awake to my alarm. The usual pre-holiday buzz was still overtaken by that anxiety in my stomach.

Worries of having to quarantine in a government facility for two weeks in Spain or having our holiday cut short due to ever-changing rules danced around my mind.

But really, I had nothing to fret about.

To my boyfriend’s dismay, we arrived at the airport extra early. It was like a ghost town. Consequently, we whizzed through check-in and security.

It took mere seconds for staff to scan our health control forms for Spain, which we’d filled out a few days earlier.

The airport was decorated with Christmas trees and ornaments – and signage reminding people to keep their distance, wear a mask and wash their hands.

When it was time to board, I watched as excited holidaymakers took their seats, every single person clad in a mask.

The four-and-a-half hour flight was like any other, and my nerves began to settle.

Stepping off the plane and into the Tenerife sun was incredible; there were only a few tiny clouds in the sky and it was around 24 degrees.

After checking into our hotel, the four-star Be Live Experience La Niña in Costa Adeje, we decided to go for a wander.

It didn’t take long to notice the sea of people wearing masks wherever we went – in shops, restaurants, inside the hotel and in any outdoor space where you couldn’t socially distance, like the hotel’s poolside bar.

Staff and customers wore them alike – young children even wore brightly-coloured face coverings without complaint.

I joked to my boyfriend that I felt safer out and about in Tenerife than I did in the UK.

I was looking forward to spending my holiday soaking up the sun, exploring on long walks and going out for meals in the evening.

Costa Adeje has a lot to offer, from its many sports bars and Tapas restaurants to steakhouses and cocktail bars.

One restaurant in particular caught our attention on the first night; Restaurante La Farola Del Mar.

© Ellie Kemp A birdseye view of our table, with a plate of pizza, a plate of ribs and noodles, a side dish of gyoza and a jug of sangria

It had received the best restaurant award from TripAdvisor for something like seven years in a row.

We tried it out and it was easy to see how it had earned so many accolades.

I had the pepperoni pizza – something I’d been craving all day – while my boyfriend opted for the Korean ribs.

But it was their Sangria that really hit the spot; their take on the red wine beverage was sweet, smooth and fruity, not slightly acidic as some can taste.

© Ellie Kemp The sangria from Restaurante La Farola Del Mar.

Later that night, we went to a beachfront bar, El Gran Sol, for some cocktails. It was around €8 per cocktail – not too different from the prices in the UK.

But we were in for a shock when we decided to order a gin and lemonade.

One single and one double gin and sprite cost us a whopping €35 – despite us having just bought four cocktails from the same bar for less.

That became the barometer for the rest of the holiday; when our lunch the next day cost us €25 altogether, we noted how much cheaper it was than our two extortionate gins.

One day, we decided to walk into Playa de las Americas – the tourist heart of Tenerife’s southwest coast.

© Ellie Kemp Torviscas beach in the centre of Costa Adeje

The 40-minute walk took us past beautiful beaches including the serene Playa de El Bobo and the choppy waves of Playa de las Americas.

We explored the nearby shopping centre and paid a visit to the Hard Rock Café, finishing our daytrip with a game of mini golf.

Just as I was starting to forget all about Covid, it was time to take our Fit to Fly tests.

They were like any other LFT and thankfully both of ours came back negative.

After snapping a photo of our results next to our passports, we had to fill in some information online to get our Fit to Fly certificates.

But there was an issue – we couldn’t register our tests as Fit to Fly, only as Day 2.

© Ellie Kemp At El Gran Sol, smiling before being charged €35 for two gin and Sprites

I began to panic, thinking that things had been going suspiciously too well.

But another quick call to Vivo Clinic later and it was sorted. We were able to carry on filling out our form as usual, and we received our Fit to Fly certificates digitally within minutes.

But even if we hadn’t taken our own LFTs with us, it wouldn’t have been a problem; we could have gone to a clinic to have our LFTs done, which would have cost us €35 each.

We saw the clinics advertised at the hotel desk and even saw people queuing outside one of them on our daily walks. It was reassuring to know a test would’ve been so accessible – and somewhat reasonably priced – at such short notice.

As our six-night getaway drew to a close, the weather became cloudier and slightly more mild.

Braving the hotel pool, a couple shouted over to us, ‘at least it’s still warmer here than at home!’

It was busy when we entered the airport for our flight home.

At the check-in desk, we had our boarding passes, our UK passenger locator forms (which – you guessed it – we filled out a few days prior) and our Fit to Fly certificates scanned.

© Ellie Kemp Christmas lights at Playa de las Americas

It added another five minutes to our check-in, but it was worth it to know we were being safe.

We had plenty of time to get through security and have a snoop around Duty Free.

Trying to hold on to the last few hours of our holiday, I bought an expensive chorizo and cheese sandwich on fancy bread for lunch.

While eating, I scrolled through news reports of ‘queues and major disruption’ at Spanish airports. I looked around at the orderly chaos of the Tenerife South airport and considered how lucky I was not to be caught up any delays.

The flight home was nice and easy, as were the Day 2 PCR tests we took.

© Ellie Kemp Puerto Colón harbour, not far from La Nina

Our results – both negative – came back within less than 24 hours of sending them off.

The holiday was a significant reminder for me that, although there is so much worry and chaos regarding Covid, things are still ‘normal’ to some extent for many people. It’s still possible to appreciate what’s around you and to enjoy yourself.

And despite the added effort (and cost) of the tests – in total it was an extra £57 each per person – it was worth it to know we were keeping ourselves and others safe.

We followed all the rules, and there truly was nothing to worry about.

At the time of publishing, the entry requirements for Spain have not changed.