Coronavirus In Australia: When Can I Travel Locally And Interstate?

The latest on local, interstate and international travel restrictions.
A view of a busy beach at Byron Bay.
A view of a busy beach at Byron Bay.

Australians love to travel. Last year we took 9.8 million overseas trips, and 117 million domestic trips – all brought to a screaming halt by the coronavirus pandemic.

As we self-isolate, it’s hard not to dream of when we’ll be able to take our next trip and see something other than our own neighbourhood.

Here’s what to expect.

When can I travel locally again?

The government has not given a definitive date, although Flight Centre boss Graham Turner predicts Australians could be allowed to travel within their own regions by the end of May, before being allowed to free movement interstate.

“It’s highly likely domestic travel restrictions will be lifted before international travel restrictions - and that the process is likely to be gradual,” Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Philippa Harrison, told HuffPost Australia.

“While people can’t travel right now, they can certainly plan for those holidays in Australia. When we see recovery start, we’ll strongly be encouraging Australians to holiday at home as soon as it is safe to do so.”

From Friday May 15, NSW will allow five adults will be able to visit another household anywhere in NSW and also bring their children into the home. You can go on days trips Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed you must not stay overnight warning “it’s not a holiday.” Airbnb stays and weekends away are also not allowed in Victoria.

Other states have similar rules. In Queensland, as of Friday, you must be within a 50km radius of your home and must carry proof of address to prove it.

“We don’t want to have an avalanche of people on beaches,” Queensland Police Commissioner Katrina Carroll said.

Australian influencers in NSW told followers of their plans to visit family outside of Sydney.

When can I rent a holiday home or go camping?

As soon as the government lifts restrictions you’ll be able to organise trips to holiday homes, hotels or campsites – as long as they are in accordance with social distancing rules.

People will likely start with short local trips predicts Senior Lecturer in Tourism at UTS Business School, Dr David Beirman.

“Initially there will be a significant amount of motor tourism – people driving in cars or caravans to holiday houses or going camping,” he told HuffPost Australia.

“Travelling on trains, coaches or planes could take some time to ramp up again as people will be wary about being in close proximity to others.”

Harrison suggests there will be an appetite for day trips and short overnight stays to start with.

“Last year, Australians spent more than $80 billion on overnight trips and more than $70 billion on day trips,” she said.

“Australia’s vast landscapes provide endless opportunities to explore the open road and discover the many wonders of our country.”

Should I visit regions affected by bushfires?

Yes, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Regions affected by the recent bushfires would love tourists when restrictions are relaxed,” says Dr Beirman.

“The green shoots of recovery were beginning to take hold [for these areas] in January, but then of course the travel industry came to a complete standstill,” says Harrison.

“It’s critical we continue to travel within this great country of ours to support local economies that are reeling from the double impacts of the bushfires and coronavirus.”

New growth is seen in bush in Port Macquarie, the local tourism authority said regeneration of the bushland happened earlier than expected, which was welcome news for wildlife and for when tourists are eventually make a return to the area.  
(Photo by Nathan Edwards/Getty Images)
New growth is seen in bush in Port Macquarie, the local tourism authority said regeneration of the bushland happened earlier than expected, which was welcome news for wildlife and for when tourists are eventually make a return to the area. (Photo by Nathan Edwards/Getty Images)

Liesa Davies, Group Manager Economic and Cultural Development at Port Macquarie-Hastings Council told HuffPost: “The Port Macquarie region is excited to start welcoming visitors back soon, and we’re certainly in a great place to do so.

“As one of the first areas to be affected by bushfires, our land and businesses were badly affected however the recovery we’ve seen here is tremendous – Port Macquarie Koala Hospital releasing 26 koalas into the wild earlier than expected due to recovered habitat is a testament to that. This occasion gave us all reason to hope and look to the future.

“We encourage people to provide support by visiting when it is safe to do so, witnessing the wonderful work our partners such as the Koala Hospital do, and supporting local business recovery.”

Anwen is one of 26 koalas released last month after their original habitat recovered from bushfire damage earlier than expected due to heavy rainfall in the area. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, the facility that cared for the koalas, went viral after volunteers worked around the clock to help save bushfire-affected koalas. When travel restrictions lift, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital will be open to visitors again.
Anwen is one of 26 koalas released last month after their original habitat recovered from bushfire damage earlier than expected due to heavy rainfall in the area. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, the facility that cared for the koalas, went viral after volunteers worked around the clock to help save bushfire-affected koalas. When travel restrictions lift, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital will be open to visitors again.

Will there be good deals on domestic travel?

Good news is: Yes.

“I imagine that many campsites, serviced apartments or holiday homes that have been closed will be offering good prices to stimulate and drive the market when they reopen,” says Dr Beirman.

Expect Airbnb hosts to offer good prices and extended stays in order to fill vacancies too.

When can I travel interstate?

There is no word from the government about when we will be able to travel interstate, although “once there’s been a handle on intrastate travel, I suspect interstate travel might follow quite quickly,” says Dr Beirman.

Currently state borders in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland are all closed.

All non-essential interstate domestic travel is banned, with some exemptions such as health workers, people bringing vital supplies, and on some compassionate grounds.

Will there be good deals on domestic flights?

It depends on what happens within the airline industry.

“Airlines will have to stimulate the market when they start flying again, so there could be some good deals to be had,” says Dr Beirman.

“But if Virgin Australia collapse and Qantas have the monopoly on domestic flights, fares will undoubtedly rise.”

When can I travel internationally?

Definitely not until July – and maybe not until 2021. Border controls will remain in place for at least “three to four months,” and will be the last restriction to be lifted confirmed Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on April 23. “Any relaxation of border measures would be very risky,’’ he said.

The current international travel restrictions, which permit only essential travel such as repatriation, have “played a key role and will continue to play a key role” in keeping Australians safe from coronavirus, according to Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham. “I wouldn’t put any guarantees that you could undertake that overseas trip in December,” he said.

The majority of COVID-19 cases have come from overseas travellers, and everyone who returns from overseas has to spend a mandatory 14 days in a state-run quarantine centre, under police supervision.

Friends ride mountain bikes through the Mount Cook National Park.
Friends ride mountain bikes through the Mount Cook National Park.

When will I be able to travel to New Zealand?

There is a possibility that a “Trans-Tasman” bubble might be possible in the near future, allowing travel between Australia and New Zealand, according Scott Morrison.

“If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand. And we have similar trajectories,’’ he said.

“So if there’s any country where we can look to achieve that, then I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had.”

It’s not known yet whether this ‘bubble’ would include health checks at airports, or any other safety measures.

When should I book?

Any travel booking comes with a risk at the moment. Most travel insurers have suspended the sale of policies, and most airlines won’t cover you for bookings made after March 2020.

Airbnb has the same policy. “I would say to Australians that now is not a time to be making bookings for travel unless you have an iron-clad insurance policy, because we cannot guarantee when you will be able to undertake that travel,” said Birmingham on April 14.

Although it’s looking likely restrictions will be eased for the second half of the year, there are no guarantees.

“Even when travel insurers start to sell policies again, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make claims on anything pandemic related,” says Dr Beirman.