‘I went to Barcelona during coronavirus – and the experience was very different’

The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot in a matter of months.

And when it comes to travel, things certainly won't be the same for a long while.

Airlines have social distancing measures in place to keep flight attendants and passengers safe.

As for holidays abroad, it's likely that most places will enforce face masks around the country.

So what's it like travelling to Barcelona during the ongoing pandemic?

Estel Farell Roig, a senior reporter at Bristol Post, recently flew to the city in Spain – and here's what happened…

Have you been abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic? Tell us your experiences in the comments section…

With its stunning architecture, delicious restaurants and beautiful beaches, Barcelona is a holiday destination on many people's list.

However, for me, catching a flight back to the city on the Mediterranean coast is a regular occurrence.

Not so much about visiting tourist hot spots, I fly back to Barcelona several times a year to visit my friends and family since I moved to the UK back in 2013.

Visiting in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic wasn't an easy decision for me to make but, not having seen my family since Christmas, I was anxious to travel in case more restrictions come into force in the near future, rather than less.

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I knew the experience would be very different to what I am used to, but I wasn't expecting to see as many disparities with the way the pandemic is being handled in the UK.

The moment I stepped outside the airport and I was greeted by my mum, she hurriedly told me to put my face mask on. In Spain, people are expected to wear face coverings on the street and, from what I saw, there was a high level of compliance.

It was commonplace to see people wearing their masks below their chin on the street, quickly putting it back on the moment someone walked near them, but overall it was rare to see someone not carrying one at all.

One of the main differences I spotted was the lack of a track and trace system in place. I went to several cafes and restaurants throughout the week and we were never asked for contact details.

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British media have previously reported how contract tracing is falling short in the country, but I don't believe this is part of the Spanish government's approach to tackling the crisis at this stage, which they are calling "the new normal". Instead, the focus seems to be on social distancing (1,5m in Spain), hand washing and mask wearing.

I can not comment on what tourists destinations are like at the moment, but shops, restaurants and the streets in general are busy. I come from a small town just outside Barcelona and, apart from the face masks, it very much felt business as usual.

People were going on about their day while stopping for a chat with acquaintances on the streets, groups of elderly people were sat on benches to discuss what was going on while everyone flocked to outside seating areas to have a drink.

I thought the coronavirus crisis may force cultural changes back home, with touching, hugging and kissing no longer being a key part of the way people interact with each other.

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Apparently, that was the case earlier on in the year but I got the impression the craving for human contact is becoming harder to resist.

Going clothes shopping is a highlight of any trip back home for me normally, especially right now when the sales are on. I get to have different clothes while bringing a piece of Barcelona with me.

However, this time it felt strange and I was worried about trying clothes on or touching too many things. It just wasn't the same when you have to keep sanitising your hands and I only came back with some new sandals and a new T-shirt.

Visiting in August, I would normally have spent a weekend by the beach with a couple of friends or gone to the local swimming pool to sunbathe.

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Nevertheless, this time I chose not to do so in attempt to try to keep my family safe and I got the impression many people are being cautious about visiting crowded places, despite the heat.

The main challenge for a trip to Spain right now is the need to self-isolate for 14 days when returning to the UK and this means a trip there won't be an option for many people.

From my experience, a trip to the country feels different, even strange, right now; with face masks, social distancing and all the other measures required to stop the spread of coronavirus, how could it not?

However, I was pleasantly surprised by how the country is managing to keep its essence – warm and welcoming – alive.

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