Your COVID-19 Travel Questions Answered

When will Australia open the borders to allow international travel?

The Australian border officially opened on 1 November 2021 and individuals are no longer be required to obtain an exemption from the government to leave Australia. Currently, this only applies to citizens and permanent residents of Australia. 

However, there will still be a quarantine requirement upon return for most states, determined by the Premier of that state. NSW, VIC and QLD (from 22 January 2022) do not require vaccinated travellers to isolate upon arrival. 

Due to the recent concerns relating to the Omicron variant, passengers returning from nine African countries, as well as unvaccinated passengers, must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days. 

According to the federal plan, once 80% of the population over age 16 are fully vaccinated (two jabs) against COVID-19, Australian residents can travel freely, regardless of the destination. However, states are still imposing varying restrictions with regards to who exactly can travel (e.g., strictly citizens and permanent residents vs anyone, regardless of visa status). 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 and quarantine requirements upon returning home to Australia will not change based on where you have travelled. However, airlines significantly cut routes as a result of border closures. Connectivity and frequency of flights will gradually build back up over time as we begin to travel more regularly. 

To find out which destinations are allowing Australians to enter without quarantine and the requirements are for a specific destination, please get in touch with your travel agent. If you don’t already have an existing relationship with a travel agent, please visit our Find an Agent page.

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

All vaccines recognised by the Australian government are listed here.

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?

Restrictions vary depending on the state and where you are travelling from. Check out your state’s department of health website or speak to a travel agent to learn more.

14-day managed hotel quarantine will be required for anyone not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not approved or recognised by the TGA (all approved vaccines listed again here). 

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, the government are hoping to phase out all quarantine requirements, but the timeline for that is unclear.  

What do I need to do before I depart Australia?

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. Talk to your travel agent about the testing requirements in your destination and booking your pre-departure test.

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 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.

Once your vaccination record has been updated, you can request your International COVID-19 vaccination certificate through the Medicare app or in your account online. You will need to have your passport details handy so you can enter them in and link your records. Directions and more information can be found here. 

Do I need to have a proof of a negative test if I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes, and the rules are a bit different. You cannot use the tests you’d receive at a testing clinic. If you present this at the airport, it will not be accepted and you will be denied boarding.

The current requirement for Australian travellers is to provide evidence of a negative PCR (rapid) test from a laboratory taken 72 hours or less before scheduled departure. This is necessary even if you are fully vaccinated.

PCR testing is the only accepted form of testing for travellers and is the gold standard worldwide, accepted by all airlines and governments.

Tests have to be taken 72 hours (or less) prior to departure and can cost up to $150. Your travel agent can book a pre-departure test for you to ensure the correct timing and give you one less thing to worry about.

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 including 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?

The federal Department of Health has provided a detailed overview regarding international travel, which you can review here.

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.