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COVID-19 travel restrictions – Australia  

Where can you go on holiday? Plus, a guide to exemptions, quarantine costs in each state and more.

Postcards from Australia
Last updated: 19 January 2021

Australians are known as avid travellers, but COVID-19 has put most of our travel plans on ice. It can be tricky to keep track of where you can actually go. 

And since you don't want to spend two weeks of your well-earned holiday in an expensive quarantine facility, you need to keep well informed and flexible about changing your travel arrangements as the situation evolves.

Domestic travel within Australia

The restrictions on travel within your state and elsewhere in Australia can change quickly. Check your state's current travel restrictions

Can you have a holiday in your state?

In all states, you can currently visit regional areas and stay in hotels or campgrounds within your own state.

But note, there are some remote communities in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory that restrict access for non-essential visitors.

What is a hotspot?

There is no official definition of an hotspot. Usually states declare certain areas as hotspots, but they may have differing ideas about what defines a hotspot. If you live in an area that another state declares an hotspot you won't be able to travel to that state. For example, in mid-August:

  • ACT required only those NSW residents who have been to specific restaurants or places identified by NSW Health to undergo quarantine
  • NT declared the Greater Sydney region and the NSW city of Newcastle as hotspots
  • Queensland said all of NSW is a hotspot and closed the border to NSW.

How to book 

As we've all seen, things can change very quickly. So here are some tips for making a holiday booking.

  • Consider going to just one place at a time rather than travelling around.
  • Read the terms and conditions before you book.
  • Book flexible tickets for flights. Read more about coronavirus refunds from airlines.
  • Make sure your hotel booking can be cancelled or changed.
  • If you book through a travel agent or booking site, make sure they don't charge an extra cancellation fee. Read more about travel agent cancellations for coronavirus
  • Book at the last minute so you're up to date with the latest travel restrictions.
  • Pay by credit card, as this allows you chargeback in case something goes wrong.
  • Keep on top of the latest travel restrictions. 
  • Check entry and exit requirements. For example, do you need a border entry form?

International travel ban

Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently banned from all overseas travel, unless they're given an exemption.

You can get an exemption on compassionate and essential personal grounds, such as caring for a seriously sick relative or moving overseas permanently. See the information provided by the Department of Home Affairs about leaving Australia during COVID-19 restrictions. 

But exemptions are difficult to get. You'll need to submit supporting documentation and have compelling reasons, or plan to stay overseas for longer than three months. You can apply for an exemption online.

Booking a flight to leave and especially return to Australia can be both difficult and expensive because the number of flights and passengers allowed to enter Australia is capped. You will have to quarantine when you return.

Travel bubbles

So far, only people in WA can enjoy a 'travel bubble'. Since July, people in WA have been able to travel to Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands without quarantine.

But the next travel bubble is on the horizon. Since 16 October 2020, visitors from New Zealand are allowed to fly into Sydney without having to undergo quarantine. 

Currently, the same doesn't apply for Australians wanting to go to New Zealand. But there is hope that once community transmissions have been brought under control, New Zealand will open its borders to some or all Australian states. 

Other countries being considered for travel bubbles with Australia are:

Although these travel bubbles may still be some way off, you can use our travel guides to start making plans for the future when restrictions ease.