The Pandemic Travel Hotspot Marrying U.S. Visitors In The Mediterranean

John Lennon married Yoko Ono there in 1969 because he said it was “quiet, friendly and British.” It has the only wild monkey population on the entire continent and there are no rivers and streams. And interestingly for somewhere undergoing a tourist revival for marrying Americans, it has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, per square capita.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on a small peninsular in Spain that juts out into the entrance of the Mediterranean sea. It is 3 miles (5 km) long and 0.75 mile (1.2 km) wide with 30,000 residents living under British control. It’s a tiny place, with only 29 km of roads.

It’s also become something of a pandemic hotspot for American and British travelers, lured by the accessibility, the warm Mediterranean temperatures and lighter travel restrictions for U.S. visitors.

For travelers arriving from the U.K., there is an air travel corridor in operation, meaning that travel is allowed between the two countries and there is no need for proof of a negative Covid PCR test upon arrival or quarantine.

As reported in The New York Times, many Americans traveled there to get married over the summer –in part, because as borders continued to close over the summer with a U.S. travel ban in place, Gibraltar remained open, and as countries limited the number of people allowed to gather in one place, many couples headed out to Gibraltar for a quiet and romantic elopement.

It has always been known as a place with limited wedding bureaucracy; it’s one of the reasons that John Lennon married there, because France required couples to be in the country for two weeks before the wedding.

Gibraltar, however, only requires couples to present their passports and birth certificates, and stay in the territory overnight, either before or after their wedding. Conveniently, they receive their wedding certificate in the mail within three weeks and it is recognised worldwide. It’s also one of the most economical places to marry as there are direct flight connections.

Many couples remain in Gibraltar to honeymoon. It has Unesco protected sea caves, underwater reefs and great dive sights. It also has impressive tunnels blasted into “the rock” (as it is known) by the British to carry arms up to the ledge overlooking the French and Spanish would-be conquering forces. Couples can hike up to view Mount Sidi Musa on the northern tip of Morocco, which is one of the pillars of Hercules in Greek mythology.

It’s a controversial place to some–Hitler held talks with General Franco over the idea of giving the small peninsular to Germany; the plan was called Operation Felix.

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and Spain has had issues with Britain still claiming sovereignty over it; an issue which reignited with the U.K.’s departure from the EU. As reported by the FT, about 15,000 people cross the Spanish border to work in Gibraltar every day and both governments are currently in Brexit talks to work out how the border will work when the U.K. leaves the EU on 31 December.

Who can get into Gibraltar?

Anyone, with the right travel documents. All air restrictions were lifted on 21 June 2020.

Lots of nationalities can still enter without any restrictions

Anyone from the U.K., an EU country, plus Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

Anyone on the current list of countries allowed into the EU is also allowed to visit unrestrictedly–at the moment, this is Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China.

Anyone who has been in a ‘relevant area’ in the past 14 days, has some travel restrictions:

(a ‘relevant area’ is any country not listed above)

1) travelers must report to the Gibraltar Borders and Coastguard Agency (if arriving by land or sea) or Gibraltar Port Authority (if arriving by sea).

2) travelers must only book taxis with the Gibraltar Taxi Association and are required to inform them that they have arrived from a ‘relevant’ area.

3) travelers must quarantine for five days. If they are staying in a hotel, you must remain in your room and not use any of the public areas.

4) travelers must call the Gibraltar Health Line on 111 as soon as they arrive at their hotel in quarantine.

5) travelers must be swabbed on days 1 and 5.

All arrivals must complete a Passenger Locator and Relevant Area Form.

Clearly, these travel restrictions do not take into consideration the travel restrictions in origin countries. For example, whilst U.K. arrivals are allowed in, people theoretically, shouldn’t be leaving the U.K.–the U.K. is currently under a lockdown and until 2 December, traveling is restricted from England except for essential work and education requirements.

You also have to get there first. It has one of the strangest runways in that a very busy road, Winston Churchill Avenue, crosses the tarmac and has to be closed when a plane lands or takes off. It’s also a challenge for pilots in that the runway heads out to the sea, can be rather windy and is very short.

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