For Australian travellers, the international borders are once again open, albeit to a limited number of countries.
After the travel restrictions and lockdowns of the past two years, excited travellers are now grappling with the various requirements to safely and legally visit foreign destinations.
In an effort to simplify the return to travel, we have created a list of considerations as you plan your next international adventure.
Recent research from CHOICE found that only one in four (23 per cent) Australians felt confident about booking flights, accommodation or other travel services in the next 12 months. But with changes in cancellation and insurance policies, reducing COVID-19 case numbers and global vaccination roll outs, sentiment is changing.
When making plans, travellers must be aware that requirements and restrictions are constantly changing – not only for Australia but also for other countries – so it’s important to check government websites regularly prior to departure and while travelling.
The following tips will help you navigate travel as the pandemic evolves and changes:
Check government requirements and documentation
The best place to start is the Australian government travel website, Smartraveller. It details travel requirements for individual countries in relation to COVID-19.
Currently, the Australian Government requires all outbound travellers heading overseas to be vaccinated. Talks of a third vaccine dose are becoming more prominent as some countries focus on the date of your last vaccination. As such, it is advised to check your destination’s government website for specific requirements.
Australians can exit the country using their Australian-issued International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) which you can download via myGov. Note that your ICVC may not be deemed valid in other countries, and you may need to find a way to obtain an equivalent before reaching your destination.
It’s important to be aware that unvaccinated travellers maybe be subject to different requirements, such as applying for an exemption.
Many countries require you to take a PCR test on arrival and these will often be at your own expense. Most airports have on-site testing facilities but it is worth investigating availability in advance and making a booking, if possible.
Some countries may also require you to stay in a certified hotel upon arrival for a number of days, so be sure to check country-specific requirements.
Review your travel insurance and cancellation policies
When booking flights and accommodation, ensure you read the cancellation policy in full and understand how it affects you, especially if you are unable to travel due to changing travel restrictions or if you contract the COVID-19 virus.
Many operators and services have now put in place robust cancellation policies which are available at the time of booking.
Several travel insurance companies have adapted to the pandemic and now offer cover for a range of implications relating to COVID-19. Be sure to do your research and get the right coverage for your travel needs. Shop around for the best value and cover related to your destinations and the activities you plan to undertake.
It goes without saying that it will be useful to have a printed copy of your travel insurance policy on hand, in the event that your digital devices are unreliable while travelling.
Have a contingency plan
It is important to have a plan B for your travels, as restrictions can change at short notice and impact your plans.
Be aware of alternate options including nearby destinations, accommodation, and transport options including flights. This information can make urgent changes to plans less stressful and much quicker to implement.
It might also be worthwhile allowing for a bit of buffer in your travel itinerary. For instance, don’t book your return flight on the day before you have to return to work, as you may need to allow extra days for potential delays.
Be COVID-19 safe while travelling
Ensure you have face masks, hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, basic medications such as paracetamol and throat lozenges, and any other items to keep you safe and healthy.
Pack a few Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) to use if feeling unwell and also to quickly demonstrate your COVID status at any time.
Some destinations require evidence of a negative test to allow entry, either via RAT or PCR test.
Ensure you follow all guidelines provided by airlines and other businesses, including wearing a face mask during flights and in airports, or maintaining social distance at restaurants and shops.
Avid traveller Emma Lovell, of Lovelly Travels, is enthusiastic to recommence travel abroad and has already undertaken a few domestic trips in preparation.
“I travel with multiple masks, hand sanitiser, and I am fully vaccinated. At my destination, I avoid large crowds and minimise my travel on busy public transport. I visit lots of natural outdoor attractions and enjoy cafes and restaurants with outdoor dining options,” she said.
For peace of mind and to ensure that you don’t miss out on desired sightseeing and experiences, it is advised to book ahead.
Currently, some businesses are finding it difficult to meet visitor demand due to staff shortages and capacity limits so booking ahead provides security to both parties.
Fiona Sweetman, owner of Hidden Secrets tours in Melbourne, said that in the first week of borders reopening she had 80 people book within 12 days.
Opting to take a guided tour may be advantageous as they can help you to avoid crowds or guarantee entry into certain venues.
Be prepared and stay informed
Government travel requirements may change quickly so it is best to be prepared for these circumstances.
Monitor the news channels and government platforms, keep phones charged, maintain basic food supplies, keep the car fuelled, passports and ID with you at all times, and ensure you have a mix of payment options including some cash.
Preparation will reduce stress and anxiety if restrictions change rapidly and will help you and your travel companions to stay comfortable and safe.
Being diligent is the key to navigating international travel during these unprecedented times, but with some careful planning and organisation, it is possible to enjoy international travel again.