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Is it safe to travel?

Thinking of going somewhere? We can help you mitigate the risks you may face while travelling.

The world is slowly opening up again, but as many restrictions loosen across the world, it’s not always easy to know what you can and can’t do. It’s not enough to know whether it’s safe to fly, or whether hotels are accepting guests. Travellers want to know if it is safe to travel, full stop.

We’ve carefully pulled through all the information we could find to give you the most up-to-date COVID-19 travel guide. This way, you can get to where you need to be, or venture on that long dreamed-of holiday, as safely as possible.

Is it safe to travel?

Illustration of family at the airport
Stay safe while travelling

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.

This article was last updated on 29 September 2020. To discover what borders are open internationally, check out our global map of travel restrictions.

What resources should I check before I decide if it is safe to travel?

The latest science on COVID-19 transmission

The virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted through close contact, indirect contact, and direct contact. Direct contact is when COVID-19 is spread from person to person. For example, when a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks, respiratory droplets containing the virus may infect others nearby. This is why maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres between others and wearing a mask helps curb transmission.

Indirect contact happens when someone comes in contact with a contaminated surface with COVID-19 particles and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. To help counter indirect transmission, it’s best to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently as well as avoiding touching high-contact surfaces like cash machines, kiosks, and door handles.

Is it safe to travel overseas?

The first port of call you need to make before booking any overseas travel is to the Smart Traveller website. This site is run by the Australian Foreign Office and is dedicated to releasing the most current safety information guidelines and latest government advice regarding travel to any country in the world. At the moment, there are many COVID-19 outbreaks around the globe to be aware of. Your travel insurance may not cover your trip if you travel overseas and become infected.

As of September 2020, there is still an international travel ban with the Australian government stating this ban may be in place until at least 17 December 2020. To leave Australia, you must request an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs. It is not possible to travel overseas for tourism purposes.

Australia may form a safe travel bubble with nations that have low or no COVID-19 cases. However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce speculates that Australia likely won’t open its borders widely to nations with high numbers of COVID-19 cases until a vaccine is available. While there are multiple vaccines currently making their way through rigorous trial phases, none have yet to be approved by the Australian Department of Health.

Is it safe to travel domestically?

Please be aware there are some domestic travel restrictions in place. These are subject to change, so check with the Australian Department of Health for information on where you can safely travel in Australia.

Some states and territories have published their own restrictions and recommendations on where you can and cannot travel. For example, many regional communities are closed to domestic travellers, even those coming within the state.

New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have implemented movement restrictions within their borders. If you are feeling unwell, you may be discouraged or banned from travelling into any other state or territory.

Currently, all parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and some parts of Queensland are considered COVID-19 hotspots. You can find a more specific list of current COVID-19 hotspots published by the government of Queensland. Travel from these destinations to other domestic destinations may be restricted.

Is it safe to fly?

Airplane at sunset
Mitigate the risks while flying

The question of everyone’s lips at the moment is whether or not it is safe to fly. According to the World Health Organisation, if everyone follows official guidelines the risk is dramatically reduced. So what are the guidelines? Well, you need to wear a protective face covering, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and stay at least 1-2 metres away from other people. Full guidelines can be found here.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the risk of transmission aboard a plane is low. This is because face-to-face interaction is limited, the seatbacks create natural barriers between passengers, and there’s very little mixing as most people are sitting in place for hours at a time.

Dr. Powell, the medical advisor for the IATA, points out that the airflow characteristics onboard the plane also help reduce transmission: “Airflow is less conducive to droplet spread than other indoor environments: flow rates are high, directed in a controlled manner (from ceiling to floor), to limit mixing, and the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air filters ensures that the air supply is pure.”

Many airlines and airports in Australia have enacted increased safety measures to comply with the Domestic Passenger Journey Protocol to minimise risk when flying. like more frequent cleanings, hand sanitising stations, and are giving travellers hygiene packs that come with sanitising wipes. Many airports also allow passengers to check in online rather than at a kiosk or desk. Some airport shops and restaurants are currently closed to scale back person to person interaction to help keep travellers safe.

Things to ask when booking a flight:

  • Are staff adequately equipped with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)?
  • Are the aircraft cleaned thoroughly between flights?
  • Are there protocols in place to ensure passengers from different households are at least 1 metre away from one another?

Things you can do to help ensure your own safety while flying:

  • Opt for as little contact as possible. Check in online and use self check-in for your bags, too.
  • Wear a mask at all times, including as you move through through the airport.
  • Carry hand sanitiser with you (less than 100ml so you can take it onboard).
  • Be meticulous with hand washing and hygiene.
  • Use digital pay methods or payment cards if possible.
  • Bring your own filled water bottle.
  • Avoid using public restrooms, but if need be, wait 60 seconds after someone leaves the bathroom before entering, sanitise the surfaces, close the toilet lid before flushing, and wear a mask.

What are the travel risks at the airport?

International airports often see hundreds–or thousands–of travellers per day, all hailing from different corners of the globe. Under normal circumstances, this makes airports places where you’re likely to pick up a virus. Always wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with high-touch surfaces like check-in kiosks, restroom door handles, security bins, and public seating areas.

While airports often keep to tight cleaning schedules, they’ve really stepped up within the past few months. Many airports now encourage travellers to check in online prior to their arrival, enact social distancing measures, and clean more regularly as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Is it safe to rent a car?

Car key in hand
Reduce your risks of interaction when renting a car

Public transport means interacting with other people. Renting a car is often preferable in order to reduce contact with others. But is it safe to rent a car? According to MIT Medical, the risk of transmission from touching an infected surface inside the car is low.

“First of all, the surface would have to be contaminated with a sufficiently infectious number of viral particles. That’s unlikely, because the virus degrades pretty rapidly on surfaces — its half-life, regardless of surface type, is measured in hours, not days. But, even assuming there’s a sufficiently contaminated surface in the car, you would still have to come into direct contact with that exact area, transfer a sufficient number of viral particles to your hands, and, finally, use your hands to transfer that virus (again, in a sufficient amount to be infectious) directly to your mucus membranes by touching your mouth or nose (or, possibly, your eyes). Remember, you can’t get the virus just by touching it. You also have to get it from your hands to your respiratory system.”

However, it is advisable to wipe down commonly touched areas within the car before you use it, and to limit travel to just people from your current household. You’ll want to pack extra food and water to cut down the number of stops you need to make during your road trip.

If you are dropping off the car at a different location than you rented it from, you’ll want to double check on the rental office’s opening hours and border restrictions before you go.

Things to ask before booking a rental car:

  • How much time is there between car bookings?
  • Are the companies engaging in stringent cleaning protocols between car bookings?

Things you can do to help ensure your own safety while renting a car:

  • Sanitise the hard surfaces within the car. Pay special attention to the steering wheel, the transmission, and console board.
  • Roll down the window for the first few minutes while driving in order to replace stale air.
  • When driving, especially if you are travelling with others, keep the window open to ensure healthy air flow.
  • Make sure you do not leave your hand sanitiser (if you bring one) in the car – hand sanitiser is flammable.
  • Discover more of our top tips for staying safe on a road trip during COVID-19.

Is it safe to travel on public transport?

Many Australians need public transport to go about their daily lives, especially in major cities like Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne. Any type of shared travel or circumstance increases the risk of transmission. In COVID-19 hotspot areas, the local government may ban or restrict access to public transport.

Increased hygiene procedures and open windows help make travel on public transport safer. However, not all public transport options are equal when it comes to cleanliness and safety. Transmission risks depend on how frequently and thoroughly the bus, metro, or train is cleaned. Crowd levels and fresh air flow also play a role.

Things to help ensure your own safety when travelling on public transport

  • Try to take the most direct route possible to cut down on surfaces you may need to touch, like check-in kiosks, ticket scanners, and hand railings, while in transit.
  • Opt for an uncrowded area or sit by an open window when possible.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after your trip is finished, and use hand sanitiser in between.
  • If you are in or near a hotspot area, it’s worth cleaning your seat and surroundings with sanitising wipes.
  • Wear a face covering during your trip to help reduce the spread.

Is it safe to stay in hotels?

Traveller with suitcase in elevator
Avoid using elevators when staying in hotels

Hotels are stepping up their response to COVID-19, but it’s important to check what protocols they have put in place to ensure your safety. Are they cleaning high-touch surface areas regularly, and if so, how regularly? Are they following the WHO’s regulations and using recommended cleaning materials with regards to disinfecting rooms?

Some hotels and chains, such as the Avani Hotel Group, are leaving a resting periodof up to 24 hoursafter cleaning. This means the room remains free in order to ensure there are no infected surfaces by the time a new guest checks in.

However, Dr. Russo, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences advises wearing a mask in all public areas, because interaction with others is the primary concern. Dr Russo says, “The closer you are to someone, and the longer you’re close to someone that’s infectious, the more likely you are to get infected.”

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer in Australia, Nick Coatsworth, advises that one of the best ways to stay safe when leaving your home is to wear a mask. The novel coronavirus spreads from person to person. The most at-risk areas are lobbies, bars, elevators, and restaurants. Practicing social distancing as well as wearing a mask in the high-flow areas of a hotel is the best way to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 or infecting others.

Things to ask before booking a hotel:

  • How much time does the hotel allow between bookings?
  • Does the hotel thoroughly disinfect the room between guests?
  • Is check-in contactless? Are you able to get to your room or into your self-catering accommodation without interacting with staff?
  • If you do have to interact with staff, are they provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Things you can do to help ensure your own safety while staying in a hotel:

  • Avoid using the elevators.
  • Avoid public restrooms.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Always wear a mask.
  • Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly if you come in contact with high-touch surface areas, such as door handles.
  • Open the windows in your room to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Request contactless delivery of food if you are ordering to your room.
  • Sanitise high contact areas like door handles, entertainment remotes, coffee makers and window openings.

Common questions about travel safety during COVID-19

Should I avoid travelling internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Consult Smart Traveller before planning an overseas trip. There is a current travel ban that is likely to be in place until December 2020, though this may be extended. Any travellers attempting to go overseas will need to secure an exemption from the Australian Department of Home Affairs. Many countries around the world have closed their borders to international travellers. Restrictions can be put in place at any time and without notice.

Do I need to quarantine after returning from overseas?

Yes, you will need to quarantine if returning from overseas. There are designated quarantine facilities throughout Australia. You may be required to pay for part or all costs associated with your quarantine.

Can I travel within Australia?

Each state and territory has its own guidelines and restrictions. Some states and territories may have closed borders or require quarantine on arrival. For the latest domestic travel restrictions, check out official state and territory government advice:
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

What precautions should I take while travelling during COVID-19?

According to the WHO, travellers should take a few precautions during their trip. Travellers are recommended to wear a mask, avoid close or direct contact with others, wash hands frequently, disinfect high touch surfaces, and refrain from entering known COVID-19 hotspots.

How should I travel to home isolation from the airport?

The Australian Department of Health advises travellers to drive home from the airport using a personal form of transportation, like a car, to reduce contact with others.

Discover where it is safe to travel from Australia

Are you making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map. Sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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