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When will Australia open its borders? Latest travel news

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

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 Australians will be able to 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.

This guide was accurate as of 2 August 2021. Please note that travel restrictions and government recommendations may change quickly and without notice.

When can Australians travel interstate?

As of March 2020, all overseas travel has largely been prohibited. However, many states and territories have open borders to one another, allowing their residents to enjoy an Australian staycation.

Keep in mind that states and territories 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 flexible 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 may restrict travel or close their borders to interstate travel. You can find the latest information on travel within your state, and advice on inter-state travel at the following government websites:

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 without quarantining.

When can Australians travel overseas?

Currently, there’s a travel ban in place for overseas travel from Australia. On 19 April 2021, quarantine-free travel opened between Australia and New Zealand as part of the Safe Travel Zone. However, the Safe Travel Zone is currently suspended until further notice. This suspension will be reconsidered in mid-September.

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.

On 2 July, the federal government rolled out a four-stage pathway out of the pandemic. Prime Minister Scott Morrison states that Australia is going through phase one, with the goal of administering vaccines and lowering the limit of international arrivals. Phase one is expected to be in place until the end of the year.

In early August, the prime minister said Australia would consider opening its international borders once 80% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. Community vaccination has been underway since early 2021. You can check if you are eligible for the vaccine on the Department of Health website. Quarantines may still be a mandatory prevention measure throughout the year, though some states will lower the 14-day quarantine to 7 days for vaccinated travellers. Some states, like South Australia, are considering home quarantine for vaccinated travellers, with a trial starting in September.

sea turtle in Queensland

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.

The trans-Tasman travel bubble opened on 19 April 2021. This means travellers from Australia and New Zealand can travel between the two countries without needing to quarantine. This bubble is currently suspended due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak.

For more information on the trans-Tasman travel bubble, check out the latest updates on our post, “When can I travel to New Zealand?” Each Australian state and territory makes its own decisions on whether or not it will participate in the bubble.

When can Australians travel to New Zealand?

The trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand formed on 19 April. This means Australians and New Zealand residents can travel freely without needing to quarantine.

However, the travel bubble is currently suspended until at least September, and will then be reconsidered. We’ve compiled the details of this travel arrangement in our article “When can Australians travel to New Zealand?

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.

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 Safe Travel Zone, as long as the Safe Travel Zone is open.

Some states in Australia have set a daily cap on how many people can fly into the territory, so services are limited. Currently, about 3,000 passengers from overseas are able to enter the country per week (down from the normal 6,300 passengers per week due to the recent outbreak within Australia). 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.

All passengers entering Australia will need a negative pre-departure COVID-19 PCT test result, taken within 72 hours of departure, to enter Australia.

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 those overseas fly to Australia?

Tourists, aside from those coming from New Zealand, are not currently allowed to enter Australia. 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, you must complete a 14-day quarantine.

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.

Common questions about travelling during Coronavirus

Are Australia’s borders open to tourists?

No, Australia’s borders are currently closed for tourism purposes to anyone travelling from outside of Australia aside from those coming from New Zealand in the Safe Travel Zone.

When will Australia’s borders open for international travel?

There is no definitive date on when Australia’s borders will open to international travel worldwide. However, government officials have stated they hope Australia will be open to international travel from mid-2022 onwards. There may be border closures in place until the nationwide vaccination program is fully rolled out.

A travel bubble with New Zealand opened on 19 April 2021. However, this travel bubble is suspended due to a COVID-19 outbreak within Australia.

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?

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 enacted by the federal government. 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.

States and territories within Australia can also issue their own travel bans and travel advice.

Where can I find the latest Australia travel advice and travel warnings?

The best place to find the latest travel advice and travel warnings through the Australian Government’s official website, Smartraveller.gov.au. Here, you’ll find the most up to date information about travelling to and from Australia as well as specific travel warnings related to countries all around the world.

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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.