Unlocking the World

Travel to Australia during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 16th April 2021
Australia's tough border controls have worked in its favor during the pandemic.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on April 16.
(CNN) — If you're planning a trip to Australia, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

As one of the countries to have performed better in the pandemic, Australia's borders are still closed. However, there is hope that visitors may be allowed to trickle in by the end of 2021. A travel bubble with New Zealand will commence April 18.

What's on offer

Are you looking for wild open spaces? World-class beaches? A thrumming food and drinks scene? Australia has all of that in spades. From Uluru to the Sydney Opera House, its icons span the Outback to the cities, sacred spaces to cultural centers. Plus, of course, there's laidback, beach-driven lifestyle in spades.

Who can go

Until April 18, only Australian citizens and returning permanent residents, their immediate family, and travelers with exemptions can enter. Those claiming exemptions must apply to the Australia authorities. Transit passengers are allowed, if connecting from the same airport. If your transit includes an overnight, you will be put up at a designated quarantine facility and must remain there until your next flight. You may need a visa for transits of more than eight hours.
There's also a one-way travel bubble from certain "green zone" areas in New Zealand to select destinations in Australia. On April 6, it was announced that a full travel bubble with New Zealand will commence April 18, with the whole country classed as a green zone. It is not indefinite, however -- regional outbreaks could see the bubble curtailed.
On April 16, Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested that the priority would be to allow vaccinated Australians to fly in and out of the country.
But he added that even a partial border opening was still some time away, and would not be considered until the vulnerable have been vaccinated.
Easing the restrictions could see 1,000 cases a week, he said.

What are the restrictions?

All arrivals and transit passengers must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure, before boarding. On arrival, all travelers must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility -- including Australian citizens. This may be at your own expense -- it depends on the state or territory. Charges are already in place in New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. It is likely other areas will follow.
Passengers from some destinations in the Pacific may present a test taken within 96 hours of departure.
The exception is for those arriving on "green safe travel zone" flights from New Zealand. These passengers do not need to take a test before departure or quarantine on arrival. Not all New Zealand is covered by the scheme, however -- you should check your flight before departure to check if it's been designated a green or a red zone. If it's red, you must take a test. Additionally, travelers who have been in Auckland during the last 14 days cannot use green-zone flights.
On April 6, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the details of the long-awaited full travel bubble between the two countries.
Under the new rules, travelers won't be allowed to travel if they had a positive Covid-19 test in the previous 14 days or present flu-like symptoms. The prime minister also said travel "will not be what it was pre-Covid," explaining flights could be suspended again in a case of a new outbreak or travelers might be asked to take a PCR test or quarantine upon arrival, depending on the nature and origin of the infections.
Previously, she had warned New Zealanders that they could get "stuck" if sudden lockdowns are imposed while they are traveling.

What's the Covid situation?

Australia has seen fewer than 30,000 cases and just 910 deaths during the pandemic as of April 16, thanks to its swift border closures. Sporadic regional rises in cases are followed by restrictions, which have so far brought numbers down again.
The Greater Brisbane area entered an immediate three-day lockdown on March 29 when a cluster of cases thought to be linked to hospital workers emerged.
Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales, warned residents that more cases are expected, after a bachelorette party in seaside town Byron Bay became a superspreader event. As well as local hospital workers, visitors from Queensland were infected at the party -- apparently with the more infectious UK strain.
However, the case numbers seemed to fizzle out with the lockdown.

What can visitors expect?

Things are relatively normal, although snap restrictions are brought in when case numbers rise (see the Brisbane lockdown, above). Masks are only required or recommended when there is a significant flare up of cases, on a state by state basis. Currently in Melbourne, face masks must be worn on public transport and in taxis, in hospitals and care facilities, and in shopping malls, markets and stalls. Restaurants and bars must take records of their visitors and are limiting the number of customers.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

Australia is a country of superlatives. Start with our list of essential places to go, or check out what we think are the most beautiful places in Australia. Are you really into Instagram? You'll want to visit Perth, and its specially designated Instagram shed.