Many of us already know that the mere notion of actually getting to Portugal (or to anywhere else for that matter) has recently conjured up the possibility of opening some hefty cans of bureaucratic worms. Travel has been arduous because of constantly moving goalposts. Of course, the goalposts were moved as the trajectory of the pandemic itself constantly ebbed and flowed. In fairness, no one really had any experience of dealing with anything quite like Covid-19. It became a nightmare scenario unfolding before our very eyes in real time. Various authorities struggled to keep ahead of it all, producing a plethora of mixed messages which only served to muddy the waters.
But I can hereby declare, with a fair degree of certainty, that the following details were correct at the time of writing. However, I will earnestly suggest that it's a good idea to double check these sorts of things for yourself before embarking on any trips.
I am, however, particularly sure of my onions in this instance. That's because I'm typing some of this whilst enjoying an ice cold beer under the shady parasols of Bar Habana on the gloriously sun-drenched seafront of Praia da Luz. So it worked out for me at least. I'm here in Portugal, hence, my air of confidence!
There are still a few hoops to jump through
It's pretty important for any would-be travellers to realise that there are still a few of these dreaded hoops remaining. It's by no means a case of entirely plain sailing despite some extensive relaxation of key Covid-19 rules. However, it must be said, the number of hoops are gradually diminishing and life for travellers is slowly but surely edging back towards some degree of normality.
No tests (either PCR or the lateral flow variety) are currently required before travelling into Portugal from the UK. However, this only applies if you're fully vaccinated (as in having received both initial jabs). Relevant proof will still need to be presented in the form of an official NHS vaccination certificate before anyone is allowed to travel. You'll definitely need to have these documents to hand when you arrive at an airport check-in. It's best to have the tangible paper variety opposed to a digital example. That's because digital versions actually have an expiry date whereas the paper ones don't.
The other one is; you'll need to fill out and print a copy of Portugal's 'passenger locator form'. This can be done online. There are links to follow on the GOV.UK website.
So, in summary, amidst all the usual paraphernalia that's default applicable with any outbound flights to Portugal, you'll now need your NHS vaccination certificate and your Portuguese passenger locator form. This applies to each adult travelling. These documents WILL be requested by airport staff when you check in for your flight.
Returning to the UK
In order to get back to the UK, you'll need to fill in the UK passenger locator form (I know, please bear with me!). This UK form can also be accessed and filled in online. However, there's a sting in the tale because you won't be able to complete this UK form until 48 hours before your return flight!
It's important not to forget to complete this UK passenger locator form before heading to the airport for the homebound leg of the trip. Again, this must be completed by every travelling adult within a family or group.
I personally started the process of filling in my own details before even leaving the UK. The information I provided was securely saved on the online platform and can easily be accessed at a later date in order to complete the process. This simply means less fiddling whilst abroad.
Naturally, all these additional requirements means that Internet access will be required during your time away. No problem for most of us these days of course but a modern smartphone or access to a tablet/laptop will be essential gizmos in this instance.
Finally, it's mandatory to book and pay for a privately sourced lateral flow test kit before leaving the UK. This is currently required for returning to the UK. You cannot use the free NHS kits for any travel purposes. They will not be counted nor will they be considered valid.
The remaining test that's still required
And it's a fairly cheap lateral flow test. I booked mine by finding the relevant details via my chosen airline's website. The test cost me £25 (per person) and only ONE test is required.
This lateral flow test must be carried out on DAY-2 after returning to the UK. The test involves the usual swabbing (most of us will be entirely familiar with that process nowadays). Then it's a case of scanning the QR code and photographing the flow test unit before reporting it all back to the laboratory from where it was purchased (Randox in my case). All the instructions will be provided in each test pack. Randox has an app which must be downloaded beforehand.
Before concluding this section, I think it's fair to suggest that life tends to be a whole lot easier for tech-savvy travellers these days. I confess that I relied quite heavily on my kids to help me out with a few of these things. But, I got here - and that's what counts.
Please note that children under the age of 12, i.e. "up to and including 11," are currently exempt from the above rules. Please check before embarking on any trip as rules tend to change quite regularly.
Autumn on the Algarve
Having completed all the above, I must confess that I found the Algarvian autumn vastly preferable to the winter woollens, the mittens and the inevitable cracking of Guy Fawkes fireworks on those ever lengthening and increasing dank evenings which inevitably prelude an impending British winter.
Here on the Algarve, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many places remain open for business. The balmy Algarvian sunshine still draws in plenty of eager travellers. After all, the days are still as warm as the finest British summer's days.
From bathers in Burgau to sunsets in Sagres - the crowds just keep on being drawn in by the unique allure of the Algarve. Although fewer in number than during the peak summer months, the late season tourists still help create that distinctive Algarvian vibe. A vibe that was absolutely captured when I visited Cape St Vincent on the 4 November to witness yet another one of its fabled sunsets.
So despite all the additional efforts required to secure safe passage to and from Portugal, these efforts are duly rewarded when we arrive on Portuguese shores.
The moral of the story. Don't be out off by a bit of box ticking.