I’ve just returned from a trip to Lanzarote, an island located on the Canary Islands of Spain.
After self-isolation in Llandudno, North Wales for three months due to coronavirus, COVID-19, I was ready to travel again once it was safe to do so.
On Monday 6th of July, the Welsh Government lifted the 5-mile stay local rule, and I could finally travel outside of my local community again.
At this point, I would like to highlight that everything mentioned within this blog post is based on my personal experience, and you should seek government advice from the correct sources.
The reason why I mention this is because the rules are changing all the time and I wanted to share how my trip went to help paint a picture of what your trip could be like so you can make an informed opinion on if you should travel at the moment.
Why did I choose Lanzarote, Canary Islands
At my time of flying, Spain was on the list of countries you could fly to from the UK without the need to isolate for two weeks after returning from your trip.
Of course, this could change, but this was one of the reasons why I choose Spain.
I didn’t fancy flying to a Spanish city due to crowds, but Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands has direct flights from the UK and felt like a better option due to the current situation.
Plus the sound of the stunning volcanic landscape, hiking trails, sunny sandy beaches and locally sourced food all tempted me to visit the island of Lanzarote. It was just what I was looking for after being at home for so long.
With my bags packed and passport in hand (don’t forget your passport, it’s been a while!) I was ready to travel and explore the Canary Islands.
Around Lanzarote, not all businesses were open for tourism as visitor numbers are still operating on low capacity.
However, businesses are slowly opening up again for tourism, and many restaurants, visitor attractions, rental cars and a select number of resorts were open for visitors on the island.
You should book travel insurance before you travel around Europe
Please make sure you arrange suitable travel insurance for your trip before you depart. Some travel insurance providers have changed their policy to adapt to coronavirus COVID-19 so please read the small print and make sure that you have a cover.
Proper guidance is to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for up to date travel advice for UK travellers, and typically your travel insurance will follow along the lines of the FCO. So, if the FCO says not to travel, then your travel insurance usually is not valid, so please check the FCO website frequently for the latest travel advice.
Also, for those within the EU, make sure that your E111 card is up to date before you depart. For those within the UK, you can still travel and use your E111 card until the end of December. Remember that the E111 doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it’s good to have it with you at all times when travelling around the EU, especially at the moment.
Do you have to wear a face mask in Spain at all times?
Do you have to wear a mask all the time? This was a question I had before travelling to Lanzarote.
Of course, this advice will differ from other countries in Europe. But in Spain and on the Canary Islands, the simple answer is yes. You do have to wear your mask at all times.
After gathering some local advice, wearing a mask is not only to protect yourself from spreading germs but as a courtesy to protecting others.
Any situation where you’re unable to keep your social distance is when you should wear your mask in Spain.
This would be any place where social distancing is challenging, such as within shops, restaurants and public transport.
You can remove your mask when you sit down to eat or have a drink. You can withdraw your face cover while on the beach or when going for a swim in Spain, as long as you can keep your social distance.
Within your hotel room or rental car, you can remove your mask. If you’re going to the hotel breakfast buffet, you should wear your face mask.
I hope the above information clears up some questions you might have.
What is it like to fly at the moment?
It was a bizarre feeling only seeing five flights on the departure board of Heathrow terminal 5, usually the busiest airport in Europe. It did come as a shock.
Heathrow felt like a ghost town with limited passenger numbers flying on the day.
Throughout Heathrow, you will have to wear a facemask at all times from the entrance until you’ve exited at your arrival destination. It’s advised to swap your face mask every few hours, so you should pack a selection to use throughout your travels.
My temperature was checked as I entered Heathrow airport and I found hand sanitizer located all around the airport.
Check-in was rather swift, and many airlines are allowing free baggage check-in to free up space in the cabin, which is worth taking advantage of.
Security has never felt so fast; it was a swift experience and didn’t take much time at all.
Once airside, in regard to places to eat, I could only find one Pret open, which was enough to grab a coffee and a bite to eat before the flight.
Most airlines are not allowing food and drink service at the moment.
I did notice that a passenger requested a cup of water which was allowed but generally, nothing will be served on the flight unless you’re travelling business.
At the boarding gate, passengers were boarding individually based on row numbers, starting from the back of the aircraft towards the front.
At the check-in desk, the staff said to allow an extra hour due to additional boarding time. Be patient as it will take more time to board the flight, but you could always book your seat at the back if you wish to board sooner.
Once on the flight, cabin crew informed us that the aircraft used an advanced air flow filtration system that kills most germs. This, combined with a face mask and limited contact, helps to reduce the risk.
Once I was at my seat, I noticed that the airline had used empty seats to keep travellers at a safe distance from each other as best as they could.
They also blocked off and limited access to the number of toilets you could use. You can still use them but not as many so you might have to wait.
Generally, I found the flying experience rather relaxing and pleasant, indeed longer than usual, but the additional steps gave me reassurance rather than worry.
I wouldn’t want to take a flight with a connection due to the extra time it takes to board and go through the airport, but one direct flight wouldn’t be an issue.
What was your hotel resort like in Lanzarote?
I stayed at the Sands Beach resort located in Costa Teguise on the island of Lanzarote.
They had self-catering options for families with a large selection of swimming pools to choose from, which was great for social distance swimming.
Swimming is one of the things I missed the most, so it was a much-welcomed joy to have a few laps in the pool each morning.
The breakfast buffet was open, and you had to order each item individually. This will take some additional time, so be sure to arrive early to allow your choices to be accommodated.
I would visit the local supermarket and stock up on breakfast items to make in your room so you can relax in the morning and take the stress out of breakfast.
Not all resorts are open yet in Lanzarote, and some have chosen to stay closed until September so your choices will be limited.
The Sands Beach Resort chose to open early to learn about the extra steps needed to open up. The Spanish government have issued rules that resorts must follow to remain open to meet the health guidelines and create a safe environment for guests.
Another issue is staff. The resort is running at low capacity and it’s been tough getting the team back to work as some have chosen to wait until it’s safer to return to work while others are happy to get back to work again.
Rooms are required to undergo additional cleaning after each guest which is why I would recommend staying for 1-2 weeks.
Also, the stock has been an issue as the supply chain for resorts has not been open on the island since lockdown and resorts are having to use supermarkets to purchase items they need to operate.
It will take some time for resorts to open up again but those that have chosen to open up as soon as possible will learn from the experience and adapt to the guidelines, which will take time for some resorts to adjust to.
What is it like going to a restaurant on the Canary Islands?
After cooking for myself for three months, I’ve simply run out of hot pot recipes and I’m also getting a bit bored of baking banana bread.
Being allowed to visit restaurants again and not have to do the washing up was one of the most enjoyable moments from the trip.
Getting to taste the local flavours again was an absolute pleasure. Enjoying fresh seafood and a glass of white wine that’s made on the island was pure joy.
If you wish to dine out, it’s best to call in advance to book a table as space within the premise is limited due to schedules and social distance.
I noticed that temperature checks took place before entering the restaurant, and hand sanitizer was always found at the entrance.
You must wear a facemask until you have taken a seat at your table, then you can take it off to enjoy your food and drink.
Also, I noticed that the menu could typically be found by using a QR code to access on your smartphone. Make sure you have your Roam Like at Home data turned on while travelling around the EU as it will come in handy.
If you can pay for your meal by using contactless payment, this would be the best method rather than using cash.
Do you need to fill out health forms before you travel?
Spain requires you to fill in a health form before you arrive. Once the form is completed online, you will get a QR code which will be scanned on arrival.
You must be checked into your flight and have your seat number before you fill out the form. This information helps with track and trace, and you will be contacted if needed.
Also, when returning to the UK, you must fill in a form explaining where you’ve been and where you will be going to in the UK.
After filling in the UK form and placing my address in Wales where I will be, I instantly got an email from the Welsh government asking me to quarantine and stay at home for two weeks. I was not aware that the rules in Wales required two weeks quarantine, but not a problem as I have been home for the past two weeks and will follow the guidelines as instructed. Something to think about as I was also aware that those from Scotland had been advised not to travel to Spain altogether. So, the rules are different depending on where you live.
Did I enjoy my trip to Lanzarote, Canary Islands?
The most important question. Did I have a great time going to Lanzarote? Were all the extra steps worth it?
My answer is for the most part yes. I do have mixed opinions about it though, as I enjoyed the trip, but travel is no longer normal like it used to be and some fun has been sucked out the experience.
But I do understand that this is for my own and others’ safety to allow tourism to open up again so I would say that it was worth it.
My issue was the length of the trip; I wish I could have stayed longer to justify the extra time you need to go through all the additional safety steps.
So, If I were staying in Lanzarote for two weeks, I would have said that it was worth it.
My advice at the moment to make travel safer during COVID-19
I would recommend only taking one direct flight to reach your destination. Avoid having to take connection flights as this increases your risk of a possible infection.
Stay in one resort and try to find a self-catering option so you can prepare breakfast and lunch from your room as buffets are not a safe environment at the moment.
Book ahead to reserve your table if you wish to dine out at a local restaurant.
Book a rental car to explore your surroundings and avoid public transport.
Use contactless payment and avoid cash when possible.
Stay for 1-2 weeks. Travel to your destination will take more time so you should allocate this time into your holiday to make it more rewarding.
Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your holiday. You will have to go through many additional steps to make your holiday safe so please have patience, remain calm and take your time.
For this reason, a weekend city escape might not be ideal at the moment as you won’t have enough time to enjoy the actual holiday.
Thank you for reading my blog post about my trip to Lanzarote
I hope all the above information helps you understand what travel and tourism are currently like in Europe at this moment in time, and I wish you a pleasant future trip!
This blog post was put together in collaboration with the UNWTO and the Canary Islands as part of the #RestartTourism campaign to help tourism recovery on the islands. I hope you’ve found this blog post informative.
Travel tip shared by Dave