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Sun spots: 7 European favourites you can visit from July 19 – and all you need to know to travel there

Sun-kissed golden sands, shared meals by the Mediterranean, the soft pop of southern French wines... it’s all opening up tomorrow






Hotel Splendid Palace on Lake Garda

Hotel Splendid Palace on Lake Garda

Valletta Waterfront Malta

Valletta Waterfront Malta

Santa Lucía de Tirajana in Gran Canaria

Santa Lucía de Tirajana in Gran Canaria

Celebrity Apex

Celebrity Apex







It’s beginning to look a lot like summer, as international travel opens up from Ireland tomorrow (July 19) with the Digital Covid Cert finally coming into use.

We can expect an Indian summer as tour operators and tourist boards look to extend the season. We can also expect a travel scenario that keeps on changing.

Fully vaccinated empty nesters, holiday-home owners, couples and solo travellers have been at the front of the queue when it comes to booking familiar European destinations for August and late summer.

They’re sticking to Ireland’s favourite sun spots with the expectation that bucket-list long-haul travel will take longer to resume.

We look at some of Ireland’s favourite overseas hot spots and the current requirements for getting there...

1 Majorca, Balearic islands, Spain

Whether you want to live a little in Magaluf or follow in the footsteps of artist Joan Miró in Palma, Majorca offers something for everyone with gorgeous coves and cultural landmarks.

TUI Holidays has many packages available, such as seven nights half-board in a four-star hotel from €889 per person, departing July 31; Tuiholidays.ie

The Balearics are covered by Spain’s entry requirements – you must complete a health control form online (you’ll find them at spthm.puertos.es) before boarding your departing flight from Ireland.

For those not fully vaccinated, Spain will accept rapid antigen tests taken within 48 hours prior to travel and PCR tests taken within 72 hours of travel.

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There are no test or quarantine requirements for children under the age of 12.

For comprehensive information about travel to Spain, go to travelsafe.spain.info. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs (dfa.ie) offers comprehensive info on entry requirements for all countries.

2 The Algarve, Portugal

There’s so much happening in the Algarve this year, with a new W hotel due to open near Albufeira in the autumn, the Via Algarviana route for hikers – and of course, the country’s 372 Blue Flag beaches.

Sunway Travel (sunway.ie) has a wide range of packages to the Algarve, with prices from €556 per person for seven nights in a self-catered studio apartment, to approximately €2,000 for a deluxe stay.

If you’re not yet vaccinated, Portugal will accept PCR tests (within 72 hours) or antigen (within 48 hours). Children under the age of 12 do not need to have a test.

All passengers must complete a passenger locator card (available on portugalcleanandsafe.pt or on dfa.ie). For more info, go to visitportugal.com.

3 Lake Garda, Italy

If you’re travelling with children later this summer, check out the new Legoland water park at the Gardaland resort, complete with interactive water games and themed slides (gardaland.it).

Topflight Holidays (topflight.ie) offer a seven-night stay at the four-star Hotel Splendid Palace in Limone from €836 per person on October 9, including Covid protection policy. Their travel advice page is also worth checking out.

For non-vaccinated visitors, Italy accepts PCR or antigen tests (within 48 hours of travel). If you don’t have a digital health form, there’s a self-declaration form that can be printed out at esteri.it – or go to dfa.ie for links to the necessary documents.

If you arrive in Italy without a test, you will have to self-isolate for ten days and then take a test at the end of that period.

4 Malta

For diving, dining, Unesco heritage sites and outdoor culture, Malta is a firm favourite with Irish holidaymakers. It also claims it’s the first country in Europe to have reached herd immunity, with over 70pc of the population fully vaccinated.

Check out the new Village Boutique & Spa hotel in Naxxar which boasts a rooftop patio and is near Valletta and Mdina. Contact them at villagehotelmalta.com.

This summer, the island is a good bet for couples and singletons – but families may find it trickier to get there. The island is playing it safe, and updated entry rules issued last Wednesday state that they are currently only accepting fully vaccinated visitors. Children aged 5-11 need a negative test result, while those aged 12-17 need to be fully vaccinated (which rules out travel for unvaccinated children in this age group).

Visitors must complete a passenger locator form, and more info is available from visitmalta.com or from dfa.ie.

5 Côte d’Azur, France

One way of feeling super secure about foreign travel is to take an escorted tour to glamorous spots in the south of France. And that’s where The Travel Department (thetraveldepartment.ie) comes in.

They are offering a seven-night tour (taking in Monaco and Grasse) from €949 per person B&B, including all transfers. There’s also a five-night French Riviera tour, including Nice and Monte Carlo visits, from €859 per person sharing.

Visitors who are not fully vaccinated can provide a PCR or antigen test (within 72 hours), and non-vaccinated guests must carry a signed sworn statement known as a ‘statement of honour’ – how very French!

Children under 11 are exempt from testing and quarantine. For more info, go to gouvernement.fr or intereur.gouv.fr or dfa.ie for links to all necessary documents.

6 Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Look ahead to autumn and winter on Gran Canaria – but that doesn’t have to mean lazing around on the beach. This is a Holy Year, so if you’re a Camino de Santiago fan, it’s the perfect time to walk a 66km route on the island.

Galdar is the first location outside of mainland Spain to be established as a holy site on the Camino. The Way is steeped in heritage – particularly the island’s aboriginal history – and takes you through the stunning Maspalomas dunes and the Fataga ravine.

The Canary Islands continue to offer a Covid protection policy to all visitors. Entry requirements are the same as mainland Spain, so you must complete a health control form online (spthm.puertos.es) before boarding your departing flight from Ireland.

For those not fully vaccinated, Spain will accept rapid antigen tests taken within 48 hours prior to travel and PCR tests taken within 72 hours of travel and there are no test or quarantine requirements for children under 12. See hellocanaryislands.com or spain.info or our own dfa.ie.

7 Greek Islands and Cyprus by sea

Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship Celebrity Apex has been operating a seven-night itinerary from Athens since June, taking in Mykonos, Santorini, Limassol and Rhodes along the way.

Sailing on September 4, a seven-night trip costs from €1,679 for an interior cabin (€2,329 for a balcony cabin) with all meals included, a drinks package and optional excursions (booking through clickandgo.com).

If you’re concerned about cruise safety, the company’s protocols should assuage any fears; all crew are fully vaccinated and from August 1, all passengers over the age of 12 must be fully vaccinated. All passengers – regardless of vaccination status – must take a free antigen test before boarding the ship and must complete a health questionnaire.

Passengers must also comply with entry requirements for Greece – and it’s worth noting that regardless of vaccination status/digital Covid cert, random tests will be carried out on passengers arriving into Greece. Passengers who test positive will face mandatory quarantine, paid for by the Greek state.

For further info, go to travel.gov.gr or our friends at dfa.ie.

For any queries or updates on quarantine regulations when you return home, log onto reopen.europa.eu; gov.ie; dfa.ie

How to get your digital cert

  • If you were vaccinated at a test centre, you should receive your cert by email. If you were vaccinated at a GP’s surgery, you should receive it in the post. If you are unvaccinated but can prove that you have recovered from the virus in the last six months, you need to contact a national call centre to request a certificate (call centre number has not yet been made public).
  • The Irish government has said that those without a DCC will be able to travel on holiday, once they have documents to prove they have been vaccinated/have a negative test result or have recently recovered from the virus.
  • The DAA advises arriving at Dublin Airport two hours before a short haul flight and three hours before long haul, to allow for lengthier checks.
  • Check reopen.europa.eu which provides info on measures in different member states.

Before you book

  • Things are still constantly changing. Countries are updating entry requirements and restrictions on an ongoing basis. For example, the passenger locator form needed to return to Ireland is now online only and must be presented before boarding your flight home.
  • Children aged 12 and up need a negative PCR test (within 72 hours of travel) to re-enter Ireland.
  • Each country has exceptions, eg, if you can’t complete a digital form. Go to dfa.ie for full info.
  • Booking with a tour operator or travel agent such as cassidytravel.ie will ensure that you are guided through necessary documents/entry requirements and can avail of Covid insurance.
  • Many destinations in Spain are offering free Covid insurance to visitors.
  • Remember to buy travel insurance.
  • If not booking through an agent, avoid booking flights, accommodation or transport that has cancellation fees or no flexibility on refunds.
  • Other things have changed since you last travelled, for example, Aer Lingus is now charging to bring 10kg bags into the cabin.
  • Do your research – tour operator websites like TUI and Topflight have comprehensive advice pages.
  • If you haven’t been on holiday since summer 2019, check that your passport is in date.

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