How To Travel Around Australia Safely During COVID-19

Hasn’t this whole Coronavirus/COVID-19 thing really changed the way we travel at the moment?

While Australia still has its borders closed internationally (at least as it stands in January 2021). With the exception of arrivals for New Zealand. Travel within Australia is also subject to ever-changing restrictions.

I’ve created this post to help you safely navigate these internal state borders that have been presenting their own challenges while traveling around internally within Australia.

For some people, I’m sure it would just simply be easier just to stay in your local area at the moment, and that’s absolutely understandable. But for me and with my work requirements, I have had to travel around Australia a lot recently.

Australia has done a really good job to contain the virus, but 2020 proved that the state border controls can change extremely quickly as COVID-19 hot spots occasionally pop-up around the country.

So what I thought I would do with this particular blog post is put together some of the tips and advice I’ve picked up during my time traveling around Australia recently to help you make the best decisions for your own travels. Pointing you in the right direction so you can monitor each state’s information and allow you to travel safely around the country.

Full disclaimer – I’m not a medical professional, and I will not provide medical advice, but I would suggest that you monitor the Australian Government Health website for all that latest COVID-19 information.

Travel Advice

Local Government Areas (LGA’s)

In most instances, COVID-19 hotspots are declared by their Local Government Area’s (often referred to as LGA’s) instead of suburbs and towns.

Some of these LGA’s are fairly obvious, but they aren’t typically listed on maps which can make it a little tricky to find out exactly which suburbs these include, especially if you are traveling at the time.

To help make your life a little easier, I’ve listed within the details for each state below where you can find information about their respective LGA’s.

Travelling Around Border Restrictions

I want to lead this off by saying I absolutely do not condone intentional travel through hotspots and or sneaking across borders. That is not what this is about.

That said, each state has its own very broad interpretation of what constitutes a hotspot and its own way that they introduce associated border restrictions. Where one state may restrict movement based on LGA’s others might do so on a statewide basis.

With this in mind, to be able to meet my personal work travel requirements, I have had to relocate myself and extend my stay in places longer really need to be there in order to abide by travel restrictions in place at the time to get to my next job.

The current advice across the country is that 14 days outside of what is considered a hotspot, the current quarantine period in Australia, will allow you to travel more freely.

In order to meet those requirements, all states are quite stringent on providing proof in the form of travel receipts. Typically flight boarding passes, fuel receipts, and/or accommodation receipts/booking confirmations.

Just keep in mind that if you are a resident of a state that is considered a hotspot, you will be placed under more scrutiny than other travelers upon arrival. Be prepared to be patient while passing through border controls while local authorities confirm your details, be that at an airport or road border.

It’s also worthwhile having a credit card statement handy to be able to verify any transactions if questions are raised.

Pro Tip: If you have to quarantine to leave your state and you have the option, head to the Northern Territory to complete it. The Howard Springs facility they have there is really well set up to allow a little more space, freedom and fresh air.

The sparse population of the Northern Territory also means you’ll have fewer issues with it being listed as a hotspot anywhere. Opening up your travel options after you’ve completed your 14 days.

Retroactive Border Restrictions

Please keep in mind that states around Australia have implemented retroactive border restrictions that will apply even if you have already entered the state.

While traveling, make sure you keep an eye on the latest news and state-based travel information so as not to be caught out.

In most cases, retroactive border restrictions require a shelter in place/self-isolation for the duration of the rest of the 14 days since you were last in a deemed hotspot. But it’s always worth checking the latest state-based information.

Airport Transit Through Hotspots

As a very generalized rule… Obviously please check with your destination’s health/travel authority before committing to travel, but airports are exempt from hotspots.

That said, I would recommend where possible, to avoid transiting through an airport that is in a deemed hotspot for your ultimate destination.

Not always possible or feasible, but it will save you an extra headache when you go through the border controls.

Just keep in mind that you will need to complete the associated border permits for each state you transit through (if they have them) even if you have a connecting flight ticket out straight away.

Always make sure you check the latest information for each state, it can change frequently, often on a daily basis. I’ve listed all the links for the most up to date information for each state below.

Air Travel and Masks

The Australian Government recently mandated the wearing of face masks whilst flying both into and around the country.

It’s my understanding that these face mask rules also apply whilst inside Australian airports as well, but I will get clarification about that in the next few days. But better to be safe than sorry and just wear a mask anyway.

Road Transit Through Hotspots

All states and territories recommend against driving through hotspots where possible.

I would strongly recommend checking with your destination state to see if they have an allowance to drive through a hotspot without stopping. Some do in certain circumstances.

Again all the links to find all the current information is listed below by state.

COVID Testing

At the end of the day, use your own best judgment and follow the government advice about how and when to get tested.

The only thing I will say, having completed a couple of tests myself, is they are only mildly uncomfortable in my experience. So no harm in just getting one for a little more peace of mind.

New South Wales

Throughout the whole pandemic, New South Wales has been the most reluctant state to impose border restrictions preventing people from entering

That said, when Melbourne went into lockdown for the second time, New South Wales did close its border to Victoria during that time.

New South Wales has a dedicated website with COVID-19 information, where you can find out more information about current testing and local hotspots to help you make an informed decision about your travel movements into and through the state.

As it stands right now (January 2021), there is no border pass system in place for entry or transit through the state. While specific and up to date information about travel into New South Wales can be found on this government-run website.

If you need more information about New South Wales LGA’s, you can find that here.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The ACT being completely landlocked within New South Wales typically abides by what the larger state is doing.

However, in the case of recent outbreaks within NSW, the ACT has applied some entry restrictions. Although I don’t have any first-hand experience with how those have been enforced.

For the latest COVID-19 travel information for the ACT, visit this website.

Victoria

Victoria had previously been much like New South Wales with its border restrictions. However, following a local outbreak that triggered the second lockdown in Melbourne, the state has taken a much more cautious approach to its borders recently.

Subsequently, the information about COVID-19 based travel restrictions has been changing quite rapidly. It’s always best to check out this Victorian Government website that has set up for all things COVID-19 related.

The travel-based information seems to be a bit of an afterthought on this particular website, but just keep following the travel links to find out about what, if any, restrictions are in place.

It’s worth noting that Victoria uses a zone system that is typically based around LGA’s. Green Zones are permitted to travel, Yellow/Orange require a travel permit prior to arriving in the state, while Red Zones are no travel unless a special exemption has been granted. All the details are explained here.

The information about Victorian LGA’s can be found here.

Queensland

How and when Queensland imposes border restrictions has proved to be a controversial topic.

My best advice for Queensland is to check the Queensland Government’s Health website often so as not to be caught out.

They have a lot of information on the site, some of which can be quite confusing. The important changes are detailed at the top of the page, which is where you’ll hotspot and border pass/quarantine information.

Pro Tip: If you have to transit through Queensland, particularly Brisbane Airport from a listed hotspot, to another state you will need to apply for a quarantine pass the same as if you were entering the hotel quarantine system. That can seem a little concerning, but that’s just the way it is.

It’s also worth noting, at least in my personal experience, that the Queensland’s Police’s implementation of the border controls is more “guilty until proven innocent” approach. I absolutely understand why it is dealt with in that manner, but it can be a little confronting.

For information about Queensland’s internal LGA’s check out their electoral website.

South Australia

South Australia tends to lean on the side of caution with their travel-related restrictions.

That said, they are fairly consistent with how and when they both apply and remove travel restrictions into the state.

South Australia has this dedicated website with all the latest travel information, including restrictions and hotspots. The site is really well set up, informative, and should cover any questions you have about travel to or through the state.

All travelers to the state need to complete a border travel application with the South Australian Police force. Regardless of where they are traveling from.

Details about South Australia’s LGA’s can be found here.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory has proven to be the most adaptable with its border restrictions.

Typically when an LGA is defined as a hotspot, they’ll react quite quickly to apply a restriction to the point where the situation could change mid-flight to Darwin or Alice Springs.

Subsequently, they’ll also act just as quickly to remove restrictions when that hotspot has been deemed to be cleared.

Everyone entering the Northern Territory, regardless of where you are traveling from needs to complete a border entry declaration a week before they depart. In saying that they also have the least confronting border controls when you arrive.

Check the Northern Territory Government website for all the latest information. They’ve also got a handy Google Map with their list of active hotspots which is really useful.

You can find more information about the LGA’s within the Northern Territory here.

Western Australia

Western Australia is its own little eco-system. But then it is isolated enough from the rest of the country that it can be.

The approach taken by Western Australia has tended to be immediately close the border to any state that has a COVID-19 hotspot and retroactively applying restrictions including quarantine.

They also tend to react a little slower in opening the border back up. Better to be safe than sorry I guess.

All the most up to date information about travel to Western Australia and it’s border restrictions can be found here.

While to enter Western Australia, regardless of where you are traveling from, you will need to complete a G2G pass application and download the app.

This is best information I could locate about Western Australia’s LGA’s.

Tasmania

Tasmania is similar its isolation from the rest of the country being an island.

That said, during the most recent round of COVID-19 hotspots, Tasmania tended to stick with the LGA restrictions rather than baring a whole state.

For the most recent information about travel restrictions to Tasmania head to this website.

It’s also worth noting that Tasmania utilizes two-pass systems, most travelers will need to complete a Tas e-Travel declaration prior to arrival, while those who are from deemed high-risk areas (ie those listed as hotspots) will need to use the same G2G pass system as used in Western Australia.

The break up of Tasmania into LGA’s is mapped out here.

I hope this information points you in the right direction to help you in planning your travels. As with all things in this COVID-19 era, you just need to make sure you are patient and adaptable to be able to travel safely around the country.

I would also recommend you purchase a good quality travel insurance package, to cover any losses due to cancellations.

If you’d like to get some more information to help in planning your trip to and around Australia… I’ve got a whole series of blog posts with all sorts of tips and advice for you.

Feel free to share this post with your friends and if you’d like some more general travel tips, head on over to my travel tips page for plenty more tips and tricks.

Keep up to date with all the latest Got Lost! adventures by following along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

And if you have a travel-related question you would like me to answer, head on over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.

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About the Author: Rhys Vandersyde

Traveller, Photographer, Content Creator. I've spent the last 10 years exploring all over the world, but there is still plenty more to see. Find out more about me at vandersyde.com.au

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