TPG reader question: Do I need printed copies of my COVID-19 documents for travel?

Oct 10, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column to answer your credit card, points and miles and general travel questions. If you’d like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguyuk, message us on Facebook or email us at tips@thepointsguy.co.uk.


The pandemic has made travel somewhat more complicated. Rather than booking spontaneous weekends away where you head to the airport at a moment’s notice, you now need to be aware of the COVID-19 entry requirements for each country (including returning to the United Kingdom).

These can range from the requirement to provide a negative test, which could be specified as lateral flow, or PCR. If you’re vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 you may be able to use that for entry, rather than a negative test.

Related: Traffic light system scrapped and testing simplified for UK travel

Many countries also require you to complete a health declaration form before arriving, providing your details in case there is a positive case on your flight, and certifying you are not suffering symptoms when you travel.

While travel apps are becoming more and more sophisticated eliminating the need to carry around physical documents with you beyond a passport, all these new pandemic health documents don’t enjoy the same sophistication.

Sign up to receive the daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips.

This brings us to this week’s TPG reader question of the week.

I know which COVID-19 documents I need to show to travel to Spain right now, but do I need to print these documents, or can I just show them on my phone or laptop?

Christine, TPG reader

I visited Spain last month to shoot our latest YouTube video so can tell you the experience on entry.

Related: Watch TPG UK fly all 3 Iberia cabins on the same flight

As I was fully vaccinated, I was required to provide my vaccination certificate, as well as a pre-completed health form to enter Spain. As I returned to the United Kingdom before the 4 October rule change kicked in, I was required to show a negative pre-departure test as well as a U.K. Passenger Locator Form to board my flight from Spain back to the United Kingdom (the pre-departure test is no longer required from 4 October).

This summer I have also been in and out of Greece, Portugal, Iceland and France so have spent plenty of time at check-in desks having my documents checked and watching others do the same!

Related: What it’s like visiting the Greek islands right now

You do not need to print out most of your COVID-19 documents unless you really want to for your convenience. I didn’t print out any for any trips and had absolutely no issues showing staff the docs on my phone. Some health forms provide a giant QR code for scanning and all the staff need to do is scan the code which they can do easily on a phone.

If you struggle to find downloads and screenshots and NHS app certificates quickly, especially if travelling with family it may be much easier if you have everything printed out.

What I would recommend printing out is any doctors letters evidencing recovery from covid/mask exemptions/vaccine exemption. This will be a bespoke document that staff may not have seen before (compared with a mass vaccination certificate) and be hard to read on a small device.

You might be uncomfortable from a hygiene perspective that a strange is touching your device – in my experience they might need to hold it to bring it closer to their face and use their fingers to zoom into on dates and names. In that case, printing copies might be a better idea though unless you are giving away a copy each time they are checked they will be touching the papers and then handing them back too.

If you have a printer at home, or are back in the office each week it can be handy to have printed documents but as I have no easy access to a printer and visiting London print shops/internet cafes is an expensive pain, I’m going to keep using digital copies for the time being.

Featured image by Sven Hansche/EyeEm/Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.