The Return to Travel

Spanish newspaper, El Pais, has a great sister edition – El Pais in English which republishes the most important Spanish news stories in English. (They also host a very entertaining English language podcast called Qué for those interested in Spanish current affairs.) Today’s headline concerns the reopening of borders with other EU states as of 21st June 2020, as long as there is a reciprocal agreement in place for travel to that country for Spanish residents, and only if the pandemic is deemed to be sufficiently under control in that country. We have yet to see what the official qualifications will be for deciding the current epidemiological status of each EU member country but these will no doubt be clarified in a BOE issued by the Spanish government in the next few days. Borders open to non-EU member state countries from 1st July 2020.

Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has also confirmed there will be no quarantine which will be welcome news for many would be travellers. One confirmed exception to the rule so far is the border between Spain and Portugal which is to be officially opened in a ceremony attended by the King of Spain and Prime Minister of Portugal on 1st July 2020.

England is also ringing in change this week with the reopening of non-essential shops from Monday. The rules are different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and I confess to not knowing what they are) but in England they are preparing shopping centres with markings to help people stay 2m apart from each other, observe one-way systems around larger stores and keep safe with hand sanitizer stations at entrances to shops and malls.

Perhaps the most marked difference between Spain and England when you read about progress towards the new normal is the language they use: the English public are being “encouraged” to use hand sanitizer and keep their distance on escalators, and “discouraged” from touching products in stores. In Spain, we are told what we MUST and MUST NOT do and these rules are backed up by fines for non-compliance and largely respected. Money talks!

When you visit Spain you will see that (at the time of writing on 14th June 2020 at least) it is MANDATORY for everyone 6 years or older to wear a mask (or in UK speak “face covering”) whenever on public transport, in an enclosed space that is open to the public (so that includes shopping centres, shops, supermarkets, banks, offices and real estate agencies!) or walking in an area where there is a risk that people will pass within 2m of you. This applies whatever your nationality or beliefs (ie. conspiracy theorists included!) The only exceptions are those for whom it is medically dangerous (you need to carry proof of this) and those under 6 years old (although it is encouraged in children 3 and over). If you are exercising or playing sport, you do not have to wear a mask while playing/exercising.

Shops and offices are allowed to open at 50% capacity so there may be a system of entry and exit that you’re not used to or a security guard there to tell you when you can go in. Please respect these people who are there for your safety after all, and just doing their job.

Some shops will ask you to walk over a disinfectant soaked mat as you enter; others will take your temperature and most will provide you with gloves to wear. All will have hand sanitiser at the door that you MUST use, even if you have to wait in a socially distanced line to do so! If you are wearing your own gloves, you still have to use their sanitiser, even if you’ve just put on a new pair or used your own sanitising gel five minutes before! Some of the supermarkets, particularly Carrefour in Estepona, have sanitised trolleys ready for you to use at the entrance to the store. Others, for example Mercadona, supply paper towels and disinfectant for you to clean them yourselves on entry. In all shops, supermarkets and restaurants, payment by card is encouraged, contactless if possible.

There are no test products in cosmetic and perfume departments but some of the larger brands are introducing interactive screens to help you see how makeup colours will look on you! Technology is going to become even more important in our future shopping habits and QR codes could be about to take over!

In clothes shops, changing rooms have to be cleaned and disinfected after use and are generally open to only one person at a time. Items you try but don’t buy have to be cleaned and disinfected then removed from the shop floor for up to three days. Shoe shops are issuing plastic socks and bookshop staff have to hand customers the book they are interested in and again, these books will have to be quarantined if you decide not to buy. Basically, everything you touch has to be cleaned and disinfected so avoid touching clothes, curtains in changing rooms, magazines etc and know that you definitely want something before you handle it. It’s a different experience for many but something that we will have to get used to for now.

Markets have also opened but at reduced capacity – you will probably find one-way systems in place and guards or police controlling entry and exit.

Restaurants are open but with reduced capacity. Their tables must be set 2m apart and although you may now stand at the bar to eat or drink, you must still observe social distancing protocol. Likewise, bars and nightclubs have permission to open but dancing is not permitted. It is likely that some outdoor concerts will be able to go ahead over the summer but with vastly reduced crowds sitting on seats placed at acceptable distances from each other. Cinemas, amphitheatres, theatres and open-air venues are all allowed to open but must strictly observe new rules and regulations. Zoos and aquariums are about to open and it’s worth noting that many have special offers ongoing through the summer to entice visitors. Although some hotels are already open, many were due to open their doors from 1st July but this may change with today’s news. In any case, similarly to restaurants, they are working to reduced capacity, especially in their communal areas.

Perhaps the most welcome difference to English travellers will be that our hairdressers have been open for quite a while so you will be able to get your colour done while you are here! Hairdressers wear masks, as do their customers, and they are having to follow very strict guidelines on cleanliness and disinfection between clients. They will have rules as to how many people are allowed in their salons at a time and will likely take your temperature on entry.

Homeworking is still recommended and schools are not reopening until September so you may find that “in person” working hours are reduced. Best to check and make an appointment rather than have a wasted journey.

At Paraiso Real Estate we are currently in the office from Monday to Thursday 10am – 2pm (unless on viewings). We are available at other times by appointment for viewings or listings, and of course by telephone, whatsapp and email. Where possible we are trying to conduct out of office appointments at those times the office is closed.

Workers in all shops, restaurants and offices have to follow a rigorous cleaning schedule to keep themselves and visitors safe. After you leave our office, we clean everything you have touched including chairs, door handles, desks. You are required to wear a mask in our office and stand or sit behind the line marked on our floor as we don’t have screens protecting us on our desks. We will wear masks when you are in the office and ask that you use the sanitising hand gel and optional gloves provided on entry. As our office is small, only one person per household should enter and please wait outside if we are already with a customer.

You are only able to view a property with us if you are wearing a mask and sanitise your hands upon entry to the property. We will open all doors, shutters and so on – please avoid touching anything unless absolutely necessary. Many of our vendors in El Paraiso are high risk due to age and/or underlying health issues and we want to make sure we do our best to protect them. Viewings by video are always possible so please ask if this option suits you best.

As mentioned in our last blog beaches are open subject to some new rules. Likewise pools in some communities are now available to use but following very strict protocols put in place by administration teams. Please respect these and do your best to encourage others to do the same. Make sure your rental tenants understand the rules also – communities are liable for very high fines in case of any breach in protocol.

We can’t wait to start welcoming you back to your villas and apartments in El Paraiso and hope we have made the rules and regulations slightly easier to follow! See you soon!