Portugal’s tourism minister has announced “everything is open” for British tourists when borders open on Monday.
Restaurants, coffee shops and bars have been opened up in time for an expected influx of holidaymakers next week, Rita Marques revealed this morning.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We have been working hard to tackle the pandemic, as I said, so restaurants and coffee shops and shops and everything is open as from May 1.”
The country had been expected to lift its ban on European tourists entering – including Britons – from Sunday, but on Thursday it emerged that this might not be until May 30.
Then yesterday afternoon, the country’s foreign ministry confirmed that it would revoke the ‘essential travel’ restrictions after all – meaning Britons can visit from Monday.
And holidaymakers will not have to wear masks on the beach, but face coverings are compulsory everywhere else – whether inside or outside.
It comes as photographs showed revellers enjoying a night out in Barcelona after all curfews and the state of alarm was lifted in Spain.
Of Portugal’s continuing coronavirus lockdown rules, Ms Marques added: “Some restrictions apply, of course, so you have to wear a mask, you have to maintain social distancing. I guess, at the end of the day, the experience will be great.”
She said masks are worn “indoors and outdoors”, adding: “Masks need to be used all day long, except when you are on the beach, of course.
Meanwhile, huge price reductions have been seen this week with flights to Faro and Porto with Ryanair from London Stansted down by more than 70 per cent since Monday.
Following 24 hours of confusion over the situation, a Visit Portugal spokesman said yesterday: ‘The Portuguese minister of state for foreign affairs announced today that British tourists will be allowed to enter Portugal as of 00:00 of May 17, next Monday.
“This decision will revoke the essential travel restrictions that is in place until the 16th of May. Any person entering Portugal will have, in any case, to have an RT-PCR test done 72 hours before departure.”
They added: “People from the United Kingdom have visited Portugal and celebrated our culture, traditions, landmarks, history, and enjoyed our warm hospitality for decades. We look forward to welcome all travellers coming from the UK.”
All visitors must present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours of their flight departing, with many now facing a rush to sort this over the weekend.
But the news will come as a relief to UK tourists who had been concerned that all holidays booked to Portugal next week – to coincide with the UK’s own travel ban being lifted on Monday – would have to be cancelled.
The move would also have blocked thousands of football fans with tickets for the Champions League final in Porto between Chelsea and Manchester City on May 29.
Reacting to today’s announcement by Portugal, Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy PC Agency, told Mail Online: “It’s green for go from Monday.
“Overseas travel will restart as scheduled in the Prime Minister’s roadmap and well done to Portugal for making it happen.”
He added: “Travel can be done safely and responsibly. We now need to see a wider green list from the start of June.”
Among those who had concerns over an upcoming holiday were Sue and Sean Flynn, both 55 and from Leeds – hoping to fly to Faro with Ryanair next Friday.
Flights to Portugal drop 74% in four days with returns to Faro and Porto for just £17
Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK’s ‘green list’ in three days’ time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return.
There have been huge price reductions this week with flights to both destinations down by more than 70 per cent since Monday.
Flights to Lisbon have also fallen by more than 40 percent in four days to £39 return, when travelling with Ryanair on May 17 and coming back a week later.
There has also been a fall of 86 per cent in one week after the cheapest return to Lisbon when checked last Friday before the ‘green list’ announcement was £282 with TAP Portugal.
Over the weekend Ryanair launched a flurry of new flights to Portugal, with Lisbon initially priced at £67 return on Monday.
As for Faro, a return from Stansted is now £17, having been £63 on Monday – down 73 percent in four days.
And Porto has dropped by a similar level, 74 percent, from £66 on Monday to £17 today.
However, as for the other main warm weather destination on Britain’s “green list”, Gibraltar, prices have shot up over the past week.
Last Friday, the cheapest return was with WizzAir from Luton at £76, but this has gone up to £147 today – a rise of 93 per ent in a week.
Before Portugal announced it was letting in British tourists, Mrs Flynn told BBC Breakfast this morning: “We’ve booked with Ryanair to go on a flight and we’ve booked the accommodation as well, my husband and I.
“We’ve been trying since last year really to get away. We have a holiday business in Kalkan in Turkey, and we’ve not been able to get there since October.
“We’ve had four flights cancelled, and when we thought that Portugal was going on the green list, we thought, well, we’ll change to there.
“But unfortunately this has come along, to throw a curveball, and here we are again looking at potentially cancelled flights – it’s really frustrating.”
Mrs Flynn said she and her husband have both had their two COVID-19 vaccines and are ‘very, very careful’ having been shielding for much of the pandemic.
She added: “We’ve been used to taking our own precautions and looking after ourselves. The flight, I believe, is as safe as a flight can be.
“We have self-catering accommodation. So as far as I’m concerned we can look after ourselves. But I do understand the overall concerns for everyone flopping off to a holiday.”
Mrs Flynn continued: “I think we’ve all got used to not knowing, and it really takes away the shine off going on holiday and being able to look forward to it.
“Instead you’re worrying and wondering – is it actually going to happen?
“It may or it may not, and we’ll just have to live with that if it doesn’t unfortunately, and try and get refunds from the operators that we’ve booked with.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that as of May 17 the ‘stay in the UK’ restriction will lift, meaning people will be able to travel to green list countries such as Portugal without self-isolating on their return.
But guidance published on the Portuguese government’s website on Thursday stated that ministers had approved a move to continue the current level of lockdown.
Then yesterday, Visit Portugal confirmed British tourists will be allowed in from next Monday.
UK holidaymakers are currently prohibited from entering the European Union, but holiday firms have reported huge demand for trips to Portugal following the publication of the green list.
EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seat to its flights serving green tier destinations, while Tui plans to use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.
The Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is open for tourism.
Thousands of British football fans are hoping to travel to Porto in mainland Portugal for the all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea on May 29.
The final had previously been due to be held in Istanbul but was moved to Portugal following talks between UK ministers and UEFA organisers after Turkey was added to England’s travel red list.
Uefa previously confirmed that 6,000 tickets would be made available to each of the finalists, with the final capacity limit at the Estadio do Dragao still to be fixed.
However, officials in Lisbon suggested the Portuguese cabinet talks about COVID concerned extending the country’s official “state of calamity” and would not change the lifting of the travel ban.
All arrivals will have to take a PCR test no more than 72 hours beforehand, and bring the negative results with them to be allowed into the country – with those having tickets now in a rush to get the tests sorted.
- Top Feature Photo: A Eurowings Airbus takes off from the Humberto Delgado International Airport