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International travel illustration
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Coronavirus

Explainer

International travel from Australia is returning. Here's where you can go

The Australian government has lifted its ‘do not travel’ advisory for the first time since the nation’s borders closed more than 18 months ago, with international flights returning from 1 November. Here's the current advice and some of the countries allowing quarantine-free entry.

Published Friday 29 October 2021
By Isabelle Lane
Source: SBS News

Fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will soon be able to travel overseas without an exemption for the first time since March 2020.

After nearly two years of pandemic-induced border closures, many Australian residents are keen to visit family and friends overseas, but with COVID-19 rules differing across the world, the Department of Foreign Affairs and travel experts say it’s crucial to check quarantine, testing, vaccination, and other travel requirements for a destination-country before booking a trip. 

Which countries can I travel to? 

Australia’s ban on outbound international travel without an exemption is set to lift for fully-vaccinated citizens and permanent residents from 1 November. The federal government also announced on Thursday that it had lifted its global ‘do not travel’ advice that had been in place since the COVID-19 pandemic caused borders to close in March 2020. 

The warning has now been replaced by country-specific travel advice for 177 countries, which can be found at the government’s Smartraveller website. 

DFAT's global ‘do not travel’ warning has been replaced by country-specific travel advice for 177 destinations.
Source: Getty

“The updated country-specific travel advice will allow Australians planning to travel overseas to assess risks, understand requirements, and prepare to travel safely. It will also help Australians to access travel insurance more readily,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Thursday. 

DFAT’s Smartraveller uses four travel advice levels:

“At this stage, no destination will be set lower than Level 2 - ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ - due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19,” the government body said. 

“And we’ll continue to advise ‘Do not travel’ for some destinations if there are extreme security and safety risks.” 

Search for the country you're hoping to travel to here to read the latest advice. 

Australian Federation of Travel Agents CEO Dean Long welcomed the move and said the industry is already seeing “huge levels of demand” for overseas trips with the international travel ban set to lift. 

“The 'shopping' mentality for travel is back, which is really exciting,” Mr Long said. 

“But we are seeing a little bit of lag in people purchasing their products as they start to [rebuild confidence] about how the travel experience is going to look … all of those machinery-of-government changes that give people confidence are still being undertaken.” 

Will I need to quarantine?

Entry requirements are determined by individual countries, and the onus is therefore on travellers leaving Australia to confirm these arrangements prior to an overseas trip.  

“Every country will have its own quarantine requirements, some countries won't have any requirement for you to quarantine and others will have requirements that will range from self-quarantining to going into a managed quarantine facility like we have in Australia,” University of Queensland travel and tourism expert Pierre Benckendorff said. 

Fully vaccinated Australians will no longer need to apply for an exemption to leave the country.
Source: Pexels / Alexandr Podvalny

Smartraveller warns that “every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. Being allowed to exit Australia “won’t guarantee you entry at your destination”. 

“It’s your responsibility to check well ahead of time what documentation and requirements are needed for overseas travel, including any necessary COVID-19 testing, a valid passport, a visa, any compulsory insurance, and proof of vaccination.” 

Which countries offer quarantine-free travel?  

There are “two major barriers to travel in COVID-endemic settings”, Mr Long said. 

“One is home or hotel quarantine. So the removal of that barrier [by some countries] is monumental in encouraging people to shop for travel.” 

“The second barrier is making sure that you are able to return, and that confidence is going to build as people are travelling and then returning home safely.” 

A growing number of countries are allowing fully-vaccinated Australian travellers to visit without quarantining, or with less-stringent requirements, including: 

  • Thailand 

From 1 November, fully-vaccinated Australian travellers flying into Thailand won’t need to undergo mandatory quarantine. Instead, they will need to test negative to COVID-19 prior to departing Australia, and again upon arrival. Travellers will need to self-isolate in approved accommodation until the test results come through. 

  • Singapore

Singapore’s government this week announced it would open up a new ‘travel lane’ for fully-vaccinated Australian travellers from 8 November. Under the arrangement, fully-vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their family members will be allowed to fly to Singapore and return to Australia without undergoing quarantine, providing they provide the necessary proof of vaccination and have travel insurance. 

Travellers must also test negative for COVID-19 48 hours before departing Australia, and take another COVID-19 test upon landing in Singapore and self-isolate until the results come in. 

Students and business travellers from Singapore are also expected to be able to use the ‘travel lane’ to visit Australia without quarantining, but details of those arrangements are yet to be confirmed. 

  • United Kingdom 

Fully-vaccinated Australian travellers can travel to the UK without quarantining unless they are travelling from one of the UK’s ‘red’ list countries outlined on the gov.uk website

Instead, travellers will be required to take a COVID-19 test on or before day two of their arrival in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. 

Australian travellers who have been in or transited through a ‘red’ list country 10 or fewer days prior to arriving in the UK will be blocked from entering.  

The UK recognises travellers who have had two doses of Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia.

  • United States

From 8 November, the United States will require all travellers over 18 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before their flight. Quarantine requirements are determined by individual states.

  • Fiji 

From 1 December, Australian citizens will be able to visit Fiji but will be required to self-isolate for two days. 

How can I get proof of my vaccinations?

Australian travellers can now get a free government-issued International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate to prove that they are fully vaccinated when travelling overseas. 

“Your international certificate features a secure QR code. It includes all the information you need to prove to airlines and authorities that you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccinations,” Smartraveller says. 

“To get a certificate, you’ll need to have your valid Australian passport with you. Your COVID-19 vaccinations will need to be registered on the Australian Immunisation Register before you can apply.”

Do I need travel insurance?

The removal of the global ‘do not travel’ advisory and reinstatement of specific destination advice is crucial when it comes to travel insurance, Dr Benckendorff said. 

“They needed to do that because insurance companies will often issue insurance on the basis of how countries are categorised [by Smartraveller].” 

 A passenger wearing a facemask outside the International Terminal at Kingsford Smith Airport.
Source: Getty

“Countries that are categorised as high risk are much harder to get travel insurance for.” 

The reinstatement of country-specific travel advice will “make it easier for people to get insurance, or bring down the cost of that insurance in some cases”, he said.