When will Australia open the borders to allow international travel?
Each state will reopen their border for international travel at different dates based on vaccination rates and the decisions made by the Premier of that state. NSW with reopen with no quarantine requirement for both returning residents and visitors from 1 November 2021.
According to the federal plan, once 80% of the population over age 16 are fully vaccinated (two jabs) against COVID-19, states will allow residents to travel freely, regardless of the destination. Each state may also have different requirements initially with regards to who exactly can travel (e.g., strictly citizens and permanent residents vs anyone). Consult your state government’s COVID-19 web page to learn more.
According to SmartTraveller: “It’s anticipated that states and territories that are ready to do so will establish seven-day home quarantine for Australian citizens and permanent residents. This will only be available to those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved for use in Australia or ‘recognised’ by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).”
You will still be required to abide by the rules relating to quarantine and vaccination in your destination. For up-to-date international travel information, you can find your destination on the FCTG Travel News page.
The federal government’s four phase plan can be viewed here.
Where can we go once the borders open?
Presently, it seems that no destination will be off-limits. However, the government had previously been eyeing “green lanes” to specific countries. As such, the airlines had planned to relaunch flights to specific destinations, outlined in the phases below.
We expect that the following destinations will be the most accessible initially as airlines rebuild their capacity. However, that is also reliant on those countries opening their borders to international visitors. As it stands, the USA and UK are looking to be the most likely options in November.
- New Zealand
- The Philippines
- South Africa
What if I need to travel before the borders open?
Currently, you will need to get an exemption to leave Australia. The federal government has outlined criteria and an application must be submitted and granted prior to departure. You can find more information about that here and speak to your travel agent if you need help navigating the process.
Will I still be allowed to travel if I get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
YES! There have been a lot of rumours flying around about the Astra Zeneca vaccine not being accepted in other countries if it was produced in Australia (as most of our doses were). The reason for this was purely an approvals process – the formula for the vaccine is exactly the same as other nations and Astra Zeneca is the most widely accepted COVID-19 vaccine for international travel.
Earlier in the year, there were some issues with vaccines produced in other countries not being accepted in certain European countries. As a result, there is now a coordinated effort taking place to rebrand Astra Zeneca as Vaxzevria, which will facilitate to travel to Europe.
What are the rules for travel if I am unvaccinated?
According to the Prime Minister’s announcement, international travel will initially be open to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents, as well as those with a medical exemption and children under 12 years of age. Unvaccinated Australians without a medical exemption will be able to travel in Phase B of the reopening plan, but will be subject to 14 day hotel quarantine upon return to Australia at their own expense.
Without a vaccination or medical exemption, you’ll also be subject to the requirements of the airline, hotel company, tour company, and more. There is a growing trend amongst businesses in all industries to require proof of vaccination or exemption, such as this announcement from Qantas Airways.
Generally speaking, with a medical exemption we expect the rules to be similar to those who have been vaccinated. The Conversation reports that there is “a very narrow set of criteria for exemption and can be lodged only by specific medical practitioners.” If you think you’re eligible for a medical exemption, please speak with your GP.
Will I have to quarantine when I return?
Not in NSW. However, there is a possibility that if you reside in another state you will have to quarantine. Home quarantine trials are in progress. Once complete, the expected quarantine arrangements are as follows:
- Seven day home quarantine for Australian citizens and permanent residents fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved for use in Australia or ‘recognised’ by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
- 14-day managed quarantine for anyone not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not approved or recognised by the TGA.
PLEASE NOTE: This situation is evolving and many state premiers have not firmly stated the reopening dates and quarantine requirements they will impose. We will update this page as those announcements are made.
According to the Prime Minister’s announcement, “Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated – for example if they are under 12 or have a medical condition – will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel.”
Eventually, this requirement to be phased out but the timeline for that is unclear.
For most destinations, you’ll also need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR (rapid) test taken 72 hours or less before your scheduled departure when you return to Australia.
What are vaccine passports and how do I get one?
Once you are fully vaccinated, your records will be automatically updated and available through your MyGov account. The Australian government is currently working the development of travel declarations, which will include the travellers vaccination status and replace incoming passenger cards.
The system will allow Australians to use MyGov to upload proof of vaccination to a QR code linked to their passport. It can take up to 72 hours for proof of full vaccination to appear in your MyGov account. More detailed information about these digital passes can be found here.
You’ll also need to provide a negative result from a COVID test completed within 48 hours prior to departure. Details have yet to be confirmed, but this will likely be a rapid test you can do at home and will be at your own expense.
Does my travel insurance cover COVID-related issues?
Some travel insurance plans and providers do now cover COVID-related expenses. Talk to your travel agent about securing a for a plan that covers COVID-related trip cancellation and medical expenses.
Some airlines are also included COVID insurance, bundled into their price. Currently, Etihad and Emirates have these programs in place, and it’s likely we’ll see more airlines follow this trend.
Keen to learn more?
Our sister company, Flight Centre, has shared this article with lots of great information about vaccine passports. Please note that information is changing very quickly so some of these details have already been clarified or updated by the government.
For more information about vaccines, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has excellent resources and information on their FAQ page.
Want to check out global stats around COVID-19 vaccination rates, which vaccinations are being used and more? Check out this page by Our World in Data.