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When can I travel to New Zealand?

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.

Kiwis and Aussies typically enjoy easy transit between Australia and New Zealand, but with the world in flux, and our holidays up in the air, we’re all wondering when things will start up again. If you, like many of us, are thinking ‘when can I travel to New Zealand again?’ then read on. We’ve gone through all the official guidelines to find the answers for you.

couple on holiday wearing masks

This article was last updated on 29 September 2020, and was correct at time of writing. For the latest information, check our travel restrictions page which is updated daily

When can I travel to New Zealand?

Can I travel to New Zealand right now?

At the time of writing, no. Australia has instituted an overseas travel ban and there aren’t any definitive plans to lift it right now. While there are hopes of Australia’s borders opening to New Zealand as soon as possible, we don’t have a set timeline on when this will happen.

Even if Australia’s borders open, we will have to wait for New Zealand’s borders to open as well. Right now, the New Zealand government has also instated a firm travel ban on holidaymakers coming to their country.

wai-o-tapu in new zealand

What does the travel ban mean?

At the moment, the travel ban means you are not allowed to leave Australia for any non-essential reasons like going on a holiday. However, if you do have an essential reason, you will need to apply for permission to travel from the Department of Home Affairs.

If you are granted this exemption, you will also need permission to enter New Zealand if you are not a citizen or resident of New Zealand with valid travel conditions.

What does ‘essential travel’ mean?

You can travel overseas if the government deems your reasons for travelling as necessary. You will also need to provide evidence for these reasons, and your travel will need to align with the below requirements:

  • your travel is a direct response to the COVID-19 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.

When can I travel to New Zealand?

maori sculpture

Many travellers are wondering when New Zealand’s borders will open. The short answer is, we’re not sure. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stated she wants to move cautiously before creating a ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand. Prime Minister Ardern says: “Both sides need to make sure we’re confident we’re not risking each other’s status.”

So far, tourists haven’t really been included when it comes to talks of opening New Zealand borders to outsiders. Prime Minister Ardern and opposition leader Judith Collins state that they are hoping to welcome international visitors, most likely as foreign workers, following the New Zealand general election taking place on 17 October 2020.

When will the Trans Tasman bubble form?

Everyone is keen to get travel flowing in both directions as soon as it is safe to do so, forming a ‘travel bubble.‘ But what is exactly is the travel bubble we keep hearing about? The Trans Tasman or South Pacific bubble is when residents of Australia, New Zealand, and potentially other South Pacific island nations are able to travel without quarantining within each other’s borders.

While there are conversations about travellers coming from New Zealand to non-hotspot parts of Australia and vice versa, no plans have been solidified yet.

Australia’s Department of Health has extended the Australian travel ban until December 2020. So if you are dreaming of a trip to New Zealand, it’s best to book flights and accommodations ahead of this date and ensure your booking has free changes and cancellations–just in case this travel ban is extended even further.

Air New Zealand’s CEO, Greg Foran, speculates that planes won’t be carrying passengers over the Tasman Sea until March 2021. If it is safe to travel to New Zealand from Australia before then, Greg Foran claims he’ll be popping open a bottle of bubbles!

Can I travel to New Zealand if I am a New Zealand citizen or resident?

Yes, New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions do not need to apply to New Zealand’s immigration authorities to travel home. However, if you intend to return to Australia, you will need to obtain a travel exemption from the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Once you arrive in New Zealand, you will be tested for COVID-19 and be subject to a 14-day managed quarantine or isolation when you arrive. You will also be expected to pay for part or all of the cost of quarantine, which is about $3,100 NZD for the first person in a room. Additional adults in the room will cost $950 NZD and children will cost $475 NZD.

What about non citizens?

The border is currently closed to most travellers. To find out if you qualify to apply for entry, you will need to visit Immigration New Zealand’s COVID-19 website.

Anyone who enters New Zealand on a temporary entry visa will need to comply with the health regulations in place to tackle COVID-19. Also, any new resident and temporary visas granted will now have to comply with:

  • any order made under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any order made under section 70 of the Health Act 1956 and listed in schedule 2 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any instruction from a Medical Officer of Health which relates to a notifiable or quarantinable disease. 

New Zealand is also allowing entry for critical workers who meet strict criteria for certain types of health workers, humanitarian, replacement crew and others.

How do I stay safe when travel to New Zealand opens up?

When you’re allowed to travel to New Zealand again, there are ways you can lower your health risks while you travel. The World Health Organisation has released official guidelines to mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission like washing your hands thoroughly and regularly, using hand sanitiser after coming in contact with high-touch surfaces, socially distancing, and wearing a face mask. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, do not travel. Instead, self isolate and get tested.

How are airlines handling flights to New Zealand?

traveller in airport waving

When you can fly to New Zealand, it’ll be some relief to know that the airlines are doing everything they can to reduce the risk of infection. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has specifically written up guidelines for companies to follow, both in the airport and onboard.

Luckily, there are also natural barriers between passengers thanks to the limited rate of mixing, HEPA filters, seatbacks, and reduced face-to-face interaction. The IATA is also requiring all passengers to wear masks while they fly.

Airlines like Air New Zealand are enacting physical distancing measures (families and travel groups can stay together). They are separating self check-in kiosks, encouraging online check-in, and have closed many lounge and valet services. Customers departing from Auckland Airport are mandated to wear masks, as are airline staff members. Expect increased cleanings and limited food options as the airline takes extra measures to decrease in person interaction. Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar have enacted similar health measures onboard their aircraft.

What can I do until it’s time to travel to New Zealand?

In the meantime, download the COVIDSafe app which the Australian government has rolled out. This app allows health officials to get in contact with you quickly. If you do come into contact with anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms you’ll know straight away.

When New Zealand does open up again, you’ll be armed with a mask, sanitiser and the app, and ready to head over the Tasman Sea.

Where can I find out when travel to New Zealand starts up again?

  • Smart Traveller – Run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this website provides users with the latest information and restrictions on overseas destinations.
  • Immigration New Zealand – A resource managed by the New Zealand government that grants visas and offers up-to-date information on travel to and from New Zealand.
  • Immigration New Zealand COVID-19 – A dedicated page within the Immigration New Zealand platform that covers all things to do with COVID-19 and entry into the country.
  • COVID-19 New Zealand Government – This website provides overall information on the pandemic in New Zealand, including travel restrictions currently in place nationally.
  • Department of Home Affairs – A government website that provides support and information for Australian citizens needing to travel or return home.

Other useful COVID-19 travel resources

  • COVIDSafe App – An app that allows the government to identify people affected with the virus and alerts others who those affected may have been in contact with.
  • Coronavirus Australia App – Publishes the latest government advice and information all to your phone.

Common questions about travelling to New Zealand during COVID-19

What is the trans-Tasman bubble?

The trans-Tasman bubble is a concept of Australia and New Zealand opening their borders to one another again. Some destinations, like Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue, and the Cook Islands have also been talked about as being included in this bubble or a South Pacific bubble.

When will the trans-Tasman travel bubble happen?

Currently, Australia has instituted an overseas travel ban until December 2020. This date may be shortened or extended depending on the Australian government’s assessments. We’re not sure when the Trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ that allows travel between Australia and New Zealand will open. There is speculation that the bubble may only open to certain Australian states and territories, though there are no official dates or details.

Is it recommended to fly to New Zealand?

As there is a travel ban, you will only be able to fly domestically. We urge you to check if in-state or inter-state travel is allowed from your origin and destination points. If you are able to fly, we advise you follow the World Health Organisation’s safety guidelines to mitigate risk of transmission.

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