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When can Australians travel again? Latest border reopening news

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.

We’ve all been spending a bit more time at home lately, but this doesn’t mean our wanderlust has dimmed. If you’re sitting there wondering ‘when can I travel again?’ you’re not alone. Globetrotters throughout the country are all patiently waiting for the day when Australia’s borders will open.

We’ve compiled and sorted all the information you need from official government sources, and answer your burning travel questions. That way, you’ll be equipped to figure out where and when you can travel from Australia.

Family travel with masks

Australia has started relaxing some restrictions and re-opening travel to domestic destinations. The time is ripe for exploring your own state or discovering some of Australia’s most iconic attractions.

This guide was accurate as of 22 October 2020. Please note that travel restrictions and government recommendations may change quickly and without notice.

When can Australians travel interstate?

sea turtle in Queensland

The government has released a three-step plan on how they plan to open up the country. Because of an uptick in cases recently, states and territories will enact their own plans to reopen citywide or statewide before the international border opens again.

There is a cap on how many passengers can come into Australia from overseas in an effort to ease quarantine facilities. As of March 2020, all overseas travel has been prohibited but it looks like some states and territories are allowing their residents to go on a hallowed staycation.

This is great news, but keep in mind that each state and territory are making their own calls on how many of the restrictions they are lifting. So, it’s important to check conditions before booking anything. It’s also wise to book accommodations that offer free date changes or cancellations just in case borders close or restrictions are enacted without notice.

Please be aware that some states are restricting travel or are closed to interstate travel. You can find the latest information on travel within your state, and advise on inter-state travel at the following government websites:

Some states with no or low case numbers are in talks of opening up to one another. Note that state and territory border openings may only be one way. This means that you might be able to enter another state or territory, but you may not be able to return.

When can I hire a car?

Many Australians are exploring their backyard on a road trip. You can currently hire a car, but restrictions vary from state to state if you want to go on a road trip. It’s essential to check with the local and state authorities on how far you can travel and whether you can cross state borders. Keep in mind that a car hire centre may be open in one destination for pick-up, but the office you intend to drop the car off at may be closed due to cut hours or lockdown measures.

When will Australia’s borders open?

Currently, there’s a travel ban in place for all overseas travel from Australia. There are no definitive plans to lift this ban as of yet. According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, the Australian overseas travel ban is expected to be in place until at least 17 December 2020. This ban also restricts the entry of cruise ships into Australia. However, because this pandemic is unpredictable, this date may change without notice–and the date may be extended.

The travel ban means you cannot leave Australia for non-essential reasons (i.e. a holiday). If you do have an essential reason, you must obtain permission from the Department of Home Affairs.

When will the proposed travel bubbles from Australia form?

“Travel bubbles” are destinations with borders that allow travel between one another while remaining closed to other destinations. When the pandemic first arose, there was frequent talk of forming a travel bubble between New Zealand, Indonesia, Fiji, and many South Pacific nations. However, forming these bubbles requires both destinations to be open to one another.

On 16 October 2020, the first “travel bubble” opened between Australia and New Zealand. Travellers from New Zealand who have spent time outside of designated hotspots will be able to enter Australia without quarantining. Prime Minister Ardern states that New Zealand will consider opening to Australians only after Australia has gone 28 days without a community transmitted case of COVID-19.

Alternatively, the Australian government may decide to ease restrictions based on the country of travel. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently advocated for a ‘hotspot’ approach, where destinations outside of hotspots can open to one another. For example, countries with low numbers of cases may have quarantine-free travel between them. Travel to and from countries with a medium level of cases may require quarantine or self-isolation, while travel to countries with high cases may be banned altogether.

What does non-essential travel mean?

Non-essential travel isn’t outlined by the government as being necessary. To be able to travel overseas you must meet one of the following requirements, and provide evidence of your claims:

  • your travel is a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic, which includes providing aid.
  • your travel is essential to critical business industries
  • you need medical treatment that is not accessible or available in Australia
  • you need to travel on urgent (and unpreventable) personal business
  • you need to travel on compassionate or humanitarian grounds 
  • your need to travel is in Australia’s national interest.

What if I need to travel back to Australia from overseas?

Australian passport holders, residents and immediate family members are allowed fly back to Australia. However, it’s imperative to check with the local authorities and the airlines first. This is to ensure flights are still available, and to check the rules around using this mode of transport. If you are based in New Zealand, you will be allowed into Australia as part of the semi travel bubble that has opened recently.

Some states in Australia have set a daily cap on how many people can fly into the territory, so services are limited. Currently, about 6,000 passengers from overseas are able to enter the country per week (raised from 4,000 passengers per week). Some destinations are closed to anyone who is not an official resident. Because of this cap, many travellers are struggling to find a seat on a plane or an affordable plane ticket.

This cap may not be lifted until Melbourne International Airport is reopened as it is closed due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the state. It is recommended that you contact your nearest embassy or consulate to ensure that you have the most up to date information on restrictions and conditions for returning to Australia. For example, some countries and airlines require a negative COVID-19 test before your departure.

Australians that are overseas will also be subject to restrictions placed by the country they are currently in. It is also important to check whether you can legally enter a country as part of a layover.

When can my overseas family members visit?

Australian citizens, residents, and immediate family members* are permitted to travel to Australia. However, as conditions are subject to change, and can change at short notice, we advise that they contact their nearest Australian consular service for the latest information and advice.

Note that flights may be limited, and anyone entering Australia will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

*To find out who qualifies as an immediate family member, call the Home Affairs Global Service Centre on 131 881.

looking out plane window

Will I have to quarantine if I am travelling from overseas?

If you are entering Australia from overseas (even if you are a citizen or resident) you will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Currently, you will be directed to a designated hotel to quarantine after you pass immigration, customs and health checks. Passengers on quarantine-mandatory flights are separated from passengers on flights that do not need to quarantine. You will need to quarantine at your entry point, and cannot get a connecting flight until after you have completed your quarantine period. Some states and territories are closed to domestic travel, so consider these factors when booking your repatriation flight.

The cost of quarantining in Australia depends on the state or territory you enter into. You may be responsible for paying all or part of the costs associated with your isolation. Prices typically range from $1500 to $3000 AUD per adult and about $1000 for each additional adult in the room. Additional children cost about $500 AUD each.

What can I do to stay safe while travelling?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help stay healthy if you’re going to travel domestically.

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitiser before and after coming into contact with high-touch areas, such as door handles. Also use it before eating and drinking.
  • Stay between 1.5-2 metres away from people who are not in your household.
  • Wear a face mask on transport, in airports, stations, and in busy areas.
  • Do not travel if you are exhibiting any symptoms.

Discover more tips in our guide: Is it safe to travel?

Useful COVID-19 Travel Resources

  • Smart Traveller – Publishes up-to-date travel information and restrictions on overseas destinations.
  • Health Direct – Provides health information and contacts. This website also has a restriction checker for every state and territory in Australia, so you can check what activities you can and can’t do.
  • Department of Home Affairs – Provides support and information for Australian citizens needing to travel or return home.

Discover where you can 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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Common questions about travelling during Coronavirus

Can tourists enter Australia?

Only tourists from New Zealand can currently enter some parts of Australia. Australia’s borders are currently closed for tourism purposes to anyone outside of New Zealand.

When will Australia’s borders open?

There is no definitive date on when Australia’s borders will open to international travellers. However, the Australian Government has enacted the human biosecurity emergency period until 17 December 2020. This restricts overseas travel and the entry of cruise ships.

How far can I travel during lockdown?

Each state has their own restrictions and allowances. We suggest you follow the links we have provided above to see how far within the state you can travel, and whether you can travel across state lines.

How far can I travel from home?

Many states are allowing unrestricted access to residents within the state borders and are encouraging people to go for a staycation this year. Please be aware though, some states have enforced stricter lockdowns because of COVID hotspots, and you will need to check government state pages for the latest information.

Is it recommended to fly?

There is a travel ban across Australia, and all non-essential travel is restricted. If you choose to fly to a domestic destination, restrictions allowing, we advise you follow the World Health Organisation’s safety guidelines.

Can I apply for a quarantine exemption when arriving in Australia?

Yes, you can apply for a quarantine exemption when arriving into Australia. You will need to do this prior to arriving, and this must be cleared with the state or territory government that you want to travel through. Those who are granted quarantine exemption may still be required to isolate at home or in an alternative accommodation.

What is the difference between travel advice and a travel ban?

Currently, the Australian government has issued a travel ban on international travel. This is a mandatory border restriction. The government also issues travel advice, which recommends whether or not Australians should travel to a certain destination. Travel advice is solely a government recommendation and will not be legally enforced.

Skyscanner Australia can help you get back on the travel wagon. Find flights, car hire options, and hotels when you’re ready to travel again. Simply go to our website or use our mobile app.