Everything you need to know about international travel
Fully-vaccinated Australians are finally free to leave the country after one of the strictest COVID-19 travel bans in the world ended.
Aussies have been restricted from leaving and coming in for 590 days, since March 20, 2020.
Travellers are allowed visit any country but there are many rules in place depending on where you are going.
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Some nations have mandatory quarantine periods, others require negative COVID-19 tests — which could add up to hundreds of dollars for a family — and of course having both jabs is a must.
NSW, Victoria and the ACT have removed quarantine for all, although getting into other states remains difficult, so their residents will largely remain stuck in Australia.
The end of the ban also means some Aussies who have been trying to get home for months — 46,800 are currently registered with authorities as trying to return — can finally fly into Sydney and Melbourne without the need to do mandatory hotel quarantine.
READ MORE: The borders open but many Australians still can’t get home
The first quarantine-free flight which landed in Sydney was a Singapore Airlines plane, which arrived a few minutes before QF12, a Qantas flight from Los Angeles.
What are the rules on travel?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the end of the travel ban — in place since March 2020 — a few weeks ago, and made it official a few weeks later.
It means fully vaccinated Aussies and permanent residents from any part of the country are now free to leave, with the rule beginning on November 1.
Previously, everybody needed an exemption if they wanted to leave, which could be hard to get and was only issued for compassionate reasons and later for travel over three months.
Returning was hard due to the flight caps imposed to limit numbers in hotel quarantine. For many states, and for unvaccinated Aussies, restrictions remain.
READ MORE: Travel ban officially ends on November 1
“From 1 November 2021, Australian citizens and permanent residents aged 12 and over who have received two doses of an approved or recognised vaccine will be able to leave Australia without needing an outwards travel exemption,” the official rules say.
“Children under 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will also be able to travel overseas without an exemption.”
Each destination country has different rules in place for testing and quarantine, while each state and territory in Australia has different rules on returning.
For now, travel is only easy from NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
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Do I need a COVID-19 test before flying out of Australia?
It depends on the country you are travelling to.
Special COVID-19 PCR tests for travel — costing around $150 each — are needed for many places.
These must be done at private clinics, rather than the free testing sites, so you can get a certificate with your details, rather than a text message.
READ MORE: NSW makes shock move to scrap hotel quarantine
There is no official government list, Home Affairs told 9News, but there is an official page with guidance.
Some airlines do have guides.
For example, Qantas lists places to get the tests accepted here, and Emirates has a list of labs doing tests for entry to Dubai.
Some of the private labs which test around Australia include Healius, Sonic Travel Testing and Safework.
If you’ve had COVID recently, you’ll need a medical certificate from a doctor.
What about getting tested on arrival?
Some nations need more tests on arrival.
In the UK, for example, you don’t need one before flying but you need a $40 rapid flow test two days after arriving, arranged through the UK government.
Bali in Indonesia, which is not yet open to Aussies but could be by the end of the year, demands a negative test before flying, even if vaccinated, according to the official website.
READ MORE: How to get your international travel vaccine passport
Fiji, which reopens to tourists on December 1, also wants a negative test before departing for your holiday, and is restricting tourists to an approved resort for the first three nights.
They must do a rapid test after 48 hours.
New Zealand also requires a negative test before flying in, as does Thailand.
Check the official government website of the place you are heading for the latest details, or ask your travel agent.
Do I need an exemption to leave Australia?
Not anymore, if you are a citizen or permanent resident and you are fully vaccinated.
You’ll need to provide evidence of your vaccination status when you check in at the airport.
If you’re not fully vaccinated, you still need to apply for an exemption to leave Australia, unless you want to go to New Zealand.
People living in Australia on temporary visas, who have always been allowed to leave without permission, will still require permission to return so cannot yet travel freely.
What are Australia’s approved vaccines?
TGA approved vaccines are Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca, (Vaxzevria), Janssen-Cilag (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen), Moderna (Spikevax), Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India).
Covaxin and BBIBP-CorV vaccines have also just been added to the list.
Australia says children over 12 need to be vaccinated.
If you were vaccinated overseas you can check how to get your jabs recognised here.
Mixed jabs given overseas are also now recognised by the Australian government.
Where can I travel?
You can go anywhere. Unlike some nations, Australia is not classifying countries.
Do I need an international travel vaccine passport?
Yes, it’s the best way to prove your vaccination status. You can find out how to get one here.
Do I have to quarantine outside of Australia?
It depends where you’re travelling.
For example, Fiji visitors must book an approved hotel for three days, and return a negative test after 48 hours.
You can find the details here.
Bali, which is not yet allowing Aussies but soon might, is sending tourists to a quarantine hotel for five days.
READ MORE: How to get your COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate
The UK has no quarantine for vaccinated arrivals.
The USA, which has never banned Aussies from travelling there unlike most other nations, has announced new travel rules.
There won’t be quarantine, but people will need to prove vaccination as the nation reopens to the world on November 8.
Singapore will allow quarantine-free travel for vaccinated Aussies from November 8.
Thailand is now allowing vaccinated travellers from Australia, but there are many rules.
Tourists must show proof of insurance that covers treatment for COVID-19 up to the cost of US$50,000, a ‘Thailand pass’, and a negative PCR test taken within three days of departure and another on arrival.
Other places with no quarantine include Italy, Greece, Germany, South Africa and Canada, but travellers should check government sites for the latest requirements.
Returning to Australia
Do I need a COVID-19 test before travelling back to Australia?
Yes. You won’t be allowed on the plane home without a negative test from a lab which does PCR tests for travel.
It has to be done fewer than three days before your flight.
And you’ll have to pay for it, from around $150 in the UK to over $200 in Fiji.
The Australian government says the test result can be digital, such as in an email, or on paper.
It must state your full name, date of birth or passport number, plus the result, testing method and date and time it was collected. It must also be in English or be a certified, translated copy.
Qantas has suggestions for testing centres here.
Of course, travel insurance is a must, in case you do test positive, or become sick with COVID-19 or anything else.
You will also need to get a COVID-19 test when you arrive back in Australia.
READ MORE: Aussies could travel to Bali by Christmas, Qantas CEO says
Do I need to quarantine after arriving in Australia?
Not if you’re vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine and landing in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
You are considered fully vaccinated if you have had the second jab a week before travel.
NSW was the first to confirm the scrapping of all quarantine for vaccinated travellers in a landmark announcement a few weeks ago.
Victoria soon followed, and the ACT said it would replicate the rules in NSW.
Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have recently revealed their reopening plans but currently either have quarantine requirements, or a hard border closure until vaccination rates increase.
This means travel into those states and territories will remain hard for months to come.
Visit SmartTraveller for the latest government guidance on travel.
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Do I need to be vaccinated?
To return to Australia without quarantine for those states which allow it, you must be vaccinated.
Proof of vaccination must be shown in English via a “national or state/provincial-level authority or an accredited vaccination provider”, Home Affairs says.
The easiest thing for Aussies to do is set up an international vaccine passport before leaving.
READ MORE: No way home for stranded Aussies with unrecognised vaccines
Passengers also need to fill out a declaration.
Quarantine rules for returning travellers remain up to individual states, with only NSW, Victoria and the ACT not requiring any quarantine for vaccinated people from Monday.
READ MORE: What international travel will look like once borders open
Who can visit Australia?
Currently, only citizens and permanent residents and their immediate family — which now includes parents — can come into Australia. Tourists, students and others are still barred.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has flagged easing restrictions on other visitors soon.
“Before the end of the year, we anticipate welcoming fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students,” she said this week.