Travel to Australia during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you’re fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on July 28.

(CNN) — If you’re planning a trip to Australia, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

As one of the countries to have performed better in the pandemic, Australia’s borders are still closed. After murmurs that visitors may be allowed to trickle in by the end of 2021, the government is now suggesting it will be 2022 at the earliest. On May 12, Qantas announced it was canceling international flights (other than to New Zealand) until December 20, 2021. A travel bubble with New Zealand started April 19 — although on July 22 it was suspended for eight weeks. Travel from New South Wales is currently paused, and major cities are under lockdown as the country battles the Delta variant which is now taking hold.

What’s on offer

Are you looking for wild open spaces? World-class beaches? A thrumming food and drinks scene? Australia has all of that in spades. From Uluru to the Sydney Opera House, its icons span the Outback to the cities, sacred spaces to cultural centers. Plus, of course, there’s laidback, beach-driven lifestyle in spades.

Who can go

Other than those traveling from New Zealand, only Australian citizens and returning permanent residents, their immediate family, and travelers with exemptions can enter. Those claiming exemptions must apply to the Australia authorities. Transit passengers are allowed, if connecting from the same airport. If your transit includes an overnight, you will be put up at a designated quarantine facility and must remain there until your next flight. You may need a visa for transits of more than eight hours.

The long-awaited “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand began April 19.

It is not indefinite, however — authorities made clear from the start that regional outbreaks could see the bubble curtailed. On July 22, New Zealand announced it was pausing the bubble for eight weeks.

For more information on the bubble, see here.

On June 2, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted that the travel bubble could be widened out to Pacific islands — possibly including Fiji.

But other than that, it looks like Australia will remain pretty closed. On June 1, an Australian court ruled that the stringent travel restrictions were valid. Going forward, on April 16, Morrison suggested that the priority in future would be to allow vaccinated Australians to fly in and out of the country.

But he added that even a partial border opening was still some time away, and would not be considered until the vulnerable have been vaccinated.

On June 10, Australia and Singapore held talks about the possibility of starting a travel bubble. However, the Singapore government has suggested that a majority of both states’ populations would have to be vaccinated before this begun. Currently, under 14% of the population has been vaccinated.

Entry requirements

All arrivals and transit passengers other than those traveling from New Zealand must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure, before boarding. On arrival, all travelers must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility — including Australian citizens. This is likely to be at your own expense — prices depend on the state or territory.

Passengers from some destinations in the Pacific may present a test taken within 96 hours of departure.

The exception is for those arriving from New Zealand, while the bubble is working.

Under the new rules, passengers won’t be allowed to travel if they had a positive Covid-19 test in the previous 14 days or present flu-like symptoms. They must also have spent the 14 days before departure in either Australia or New Zealand.

However on July 22, the scheme was paused for eight weeks.

US CDC Travel Advisory:

Level 1: Low. You should be fully vaccinated before traveling.

Useful links

Covid-19 travel restrictions

Travel exemptions

Travel FAQs

Our recent coverage

Australia is a country of superlatives. Start with our list of essential places to go, or check out what we think are the most beautiful places in Australia. Are you really into Instagram? You’ll want to visit Perth, and its specially designated Instagram shed.

And if you’re feeling sentimental, here’s a story about a couple who met by chance on Byron Bay.

CNN’s Julia Buckley, Sophie Jeong, Mia Alberti and Angus Watson contributed to this report

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