We’ve been chatting to people down on the beach here in Bude and it seems that the chopping and changing of guidelines around travel are as confusing as the one-way system here in town, so we took some time out from our surf lessons to get the lowdown on the best places to head for some Autumn surfing abroad this year.

We won’t lie – if you really need some sun on your face and to ride some waves then you are going to have to jump through a few hoops to do so. It is a whole lot easier to navigate if you have both vaccinations. To avoid quarantine or multiple tests once you are back in the UK you need to be vaccinated and have the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS app. You’ll also need proof of a negative test in some cases before you go and before you return. If you only have one vaccine or had a second less than 14 days before travel, you’ll possibly still need to isolate on return.

It is also worth checking not only if your home country is allowing travel to the country of your choice but also what that destination expects of UK citizens. 

Put simply whilst Bozza may have said we can pack a bag & board and head off to sunshine and sangria, the country we want to go to may not be so keen to see us right now and even if they are today, they may well change their minds.

Now more than ever it is best to book with an ABTA approved company and check their cancellation policy. Especially if you are planning a trip to an amber or red list country. If you book flights and accommodation separately it is worth checking if you can move your booking if you can’t travel for any reason.

Still with us? Great! – lets look at where you can (probably) head* and what you need to do before you go and whilst you are away.

What do the different colours mean?

Red = don’t go or if you must, for essential travel, you will need to spend up to 14 days in a government approved quarantine hotel on your return and may also need to quarantine on arrival in a red list country.

Amber = go if you are vaccinated and follow the rules for that country once you are there and the UK requires you to do a Covid test on or before day two.

Amber if not fully vaccinated: you can still travel but quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

Green = After arrival in England you must take a COVID-19 test on or before day two.

You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

Note: Watch out for transit stops or layovers in red or amber countries as these could catch you out!

Where best to go

Sadly, it looks like Australasia is going to be a no-go for 2021 as are some of the best surfing hot spots of Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The latter are on the UK red list currently and as it stands at the moment Australia and New Zealand won’t let British residents in – with Australia saying it is going to stay that way until at least the end of the year.

But there are still loads of places to find the perfect wave here are some of our favourites:

Spain (Amber UK rules apply)

Spain is packed with great surf but why not head for Zarautz and the areas around San Sebastien.

The Spanish government requires all arrivals to Spain from the UK to present on entry a pre-travel declaration form and one of the following: a negative COVID-19 test; or proof of vaccination.

The Spanish government requires all arrivals to Spain from the UK (excluding children under the age of 12 years old) to present on entry one of the following:

  1. documentation certifying that you have undertaken a COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT – e.g., PCR, TMA, LAMP or NEAR) within 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain and tested negative. Antigen tests can only be used in certain limited circumstances (as outlined in section ‘k’ of the ‘Entry requirements for entry in Spain from third countries’ on the Spanish Ministry of Health ‘Travel and COVID-19’ page) and are not accepted if you are travelling from the UK to Spain for tourism purposes (see Reason for travel to Spain below for further information).
  2. proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival in Spain (date(s) of vaccination must be specified), with a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency or by the World Health Organisation.

Spain will accept the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Morocco (Amber UK rules apply… atm!)

If you love the surf of California, then Morocco is a country for you – head for Tangier or other southern points.

On 15 June, direct flights between the UK and Morocco resumed. You will need to provide proof that you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the second dose administered at least two weeks prior to travel, or a negative PCR test result before boarding your flight or ferry to Morocco. The result must show that the PCR test itself was undertaken no more than 72 hours before boarding. For travel by ferry, you will also need to take a COVID-19 test during the journey. Children under the age of 11 years old are exempt from the PCR testing requirement for entry into Morocco.

Morocco has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID vaccination status. You should follow guidance for alternative entry requirements. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.

Ireland (Classed as UK rules)

Head on over to Ireland and straight to Donegal for some amazing surf all year around. All travellers to Ireland will need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form. Failure to complete this form is an offence

No travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary for travellers from Great Britain with valid proof of full vaccination

If you do not have valid proof of vaccination and are travelling from Great Britain, you will need to:

  1. present evidence of a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country
  2. self-quarantine
  3. undergo post-arrival testing

France (Amber UK rules apply)

There are scores of amazing places to surf in France, depending on ability and time of year but Lacanau, less than an hour from Bordeaux gets our hat tip.

The UK is currently on France’s amber list. Please see the section below on all the requirements for travelling to France from an amber country.

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test from a private coronavirus testing provider.

Travellers who are fully vaccinated do not need an essential reason to travel to France and do not need to self-isolate on arrival. From 18 July, fully vaccinated adults no longer need to present evidence of a negative test result before travel. Fully vaccinated travellers will need to present the following documents:

  1. a completed ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight. This can be found on the French government’s website
  2. proof of vaccination status

If you are not fully vaccinated, you still need to have an essential reason to travel to France from the UK.

Iceland (Amber UK rules apply)

Yep, Iceland has some great surf, and you can combine it with a trip to Reykjavik. The best time to go is October to March.

You will be asked to provide proof of vaccination which must contain the specific COVID information Iceland requires.

Iceland will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Certificates of previous infection must be a PCR test or antibody test and meet Iceland’s criteria.


Barbados (on UK Green but flagged to possibly move to Amber)

Barbados is one for the laid-back surfer who maybe also wants to do some diving and chill out on the miles of white sandy beaches. That said as it is part of the Winward Islands you can expect all-year-round surf, with the best swell late October – March.

All travellers from the UK must present on arrival a valid COVID-19 PCR negative test result taken no more than 3 days in advance of your flight’s arrival. Please note that the test can be taken at any time during the day 3 days prior to the date of your arrival in Barbados. (For example, if your flight arrives at 10pm on Saturday, you can take a test at any time on the Wednesday prior to this.) You should check the protocols to confirm and understand all requirements. Relevant test accrediting bodies and standards authorities include ISO 15189, CAP, UKAS or the equivalent.

All passengers are also required to submit an Embarkation/Disembarkation (ED) card 24 hours prior to travel, to which they should upload their negative test result via Travel Form. The BIMSafe app can also be used.

If you arrive in Barbados from the UK without a valid negative PCR test, you may be denied entry to the country. You should arrange to take a private test. On arrival all passengers are also subject to a health screen.

Barbados will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

One to watch

Sadly, despite the US Government relaxing rules for US citizen to now travel to the UK, at the time of writing that isn’t being reciprocated but if it changes then the US goes on the list for sure.

USA (UK Amber list)

When you think of the USA and surfing you think of surf mecca California, Big Sur and the Beach Boys but that is only part of the scene in the USA. As you might expect from a country of its size there are scores of options, and we’d love to check out Maine – probably the most underrated surf of the US.

It is not possible for most British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days.

The small print.

All guidance has been given based on you travelling direct from the UK to the country and not then hopping on somewhere, there are often different guidance rules depending which countries you stopover in so please check before you go.

Also, if you test positive during your stay in some countries, say Barbados, you will have to stay in a government isolation facility and may mean a mandatory stay longer than your holiday – and at your expense. SO do read all the small print. You can still catch Covid-19 even if you are vaccinated.

We all know that travelling with a surf board, fins and wetsuit can be a bit complex so you might wat to check out one of our blogs from last year: https://freewavesurfacademy.co.uk/6-airline-surfboard-fees-how-to-pack-your-surfboard-and-know-your-baggage-rights/

Useful sites

General travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-abroad-from-england-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Where you can travel: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

NHS APP: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-pass/

*Lil disclaimer

This information was correct at time of uploading, please do your homework – see point one – to make sure the guidance hasn’t changed again.