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International travel guide: Pre-departure and return rules

Ready to travel overseas again? Here's everything you need to know from vaccine passports to insurance.

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It has been a slow process but Australia is slowly opening up and reconnecting with the rest of the world though of course, the rules of international travel look different.

There are new things like vaccine passports, COVID-19 travel insurance and for some, quarantine to contend with.

Here's everything you need to consider before booking international travel and jetting off.

1. Do I need to be vaccinated to travel overseas?

Yes, although it depends where you're travelling. Due to the risks of COVID-19, most countries (and some airlines) require travellers to be fully vaccinated in order to travel from Australia.

How do I prove I'm fully vaccinated?

Your first step to restarting international travel is to get proof of your vaccination status. This proof comes in the form of an International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate (ICVC).

It can be accessed via:

  • Your Medicare account through myGov
  • The Medicare Express app
  • The Individual Healthcare Identifier Service through myGov

The certificate is a PDF with a secure QR code that can be stored on your phone. You'll need a copy of it in printed or digital form when travelling to any country (or via airlines) which require proof of vaccination.

It's compatible with other COVID-19 travel apps including the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass.


2. Will I need to quarantine overseas or when I return to Australia?

It depends on the country you're travelling to. The United Kingdom for instance has scrapped quarantine in favour of testing. Other countries including Fiji have rules where you need to stay in accommodation approved for international arrivals for the firt 48 hours of your trip before you're allowed to travel anywhere you like.

In terms of returning to Australia the federal government can advise the states and territories on who can enter Australia without needing to quarantine, but it's up to those jurisdictions to apply those recommendations.

As of 9 February 2022, most states except for Western Australia allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter without needing to quarantine.

Returning to Australia from overseas

Do I have to quarantine when I return to Australia?

Yes, you will need to do some level of quarantine upon arrival back from overseas. However, this depends on which state you're flying into and your vaccination status.

I'm flying back from overseas to:

Do I need proof of a negative test before arrival in Australia from overseas?

Whether you need a negative COVID-19 test result before you arrive in Australia from overseas depends on which state or territory you're travelling to.

I'm flying back from overseas to:


3. Where can I go?

As it did pre-pandemic Smartraveller, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), issues guidance on 177 destinations and ranks the level of risk associated with them.

Most countries are at either level 3 "reconsider your need to travel" or level 2 "exercise a high degree of caution".

It's best practice to always consult the DFAT status warnings before booking a trip, as those warnings can impact travel insurance. While COVID-19 remains an ongoing "global health risk" DFAT has stated it won't be downgrading any countries to level 1 just yet.

According to Skyscanner, more than half (51%) of Australians said they were planning to spend more on travel in 2022, compared to 2019. The top 5 destinations Australians are looking to travel to in 2022 include the United Kingdom, India, United States, Thailand and the Philippines.

See our guide for where you can go from Australia and learn about the entry requirements

Which airlines are flying to and from Australia?

International airlines started to return to Australia over the past few months. All these airlines are selling tickets on some international routes to Australia in 2022. It's expected that as demand ramps up with tourists being allowed to enter Australia that capacity will start to increase slowly.

  • Air Canada
  • Air New Zealand
  • American Airlines
  • ANA
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Cebu Pacific
  • China Eastern
  • Delta Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jetstar
  • Korean Air
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Scoot
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Australia

See our top international flight deals

Singapore AirlinesSingapore Airlines

Flights to Phuket from $684 return

Ends

Air New ZealandAir New Zealand

Flights to Tahiti from $624 each way

Ends

KayakKayak

Philippines flights from $249 return

Ends

Air New ZealandAir New Zealand

New Zealand flights from $316 each way

Ends

When will cruises restart?

Australia has banned cruise ships from operating until 17 April 2022. It remains to be seen if the ban will lift or be extended. When it does lift it will take some months before cruises are able to return to full operation for domestic and international travel. Some cruise lines have sailings available for late in 2022 as well as 2023 and 2024.

If you're keen to get sailing check out our cruise deals. You can always head overseas and book a cruise from an international destination.

Need to buy a rapid antigen test for travel quickly?


4. Who is allowed to travel to and from Australia?

From 21 February 2022 all fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter Australia. Skyscanner saw an immediate spike (+21% increase) in all global visitors to it's site following the announcement on 7th February.

Unvaccinated travellers will still need to apply for an exemption and may have to enter hotel quarantine if approved.

This is the next step in Australia's border reopening process. The timeline of previous significant events is as follows:

  • 15 December: Fully vaccinated eligible visa holders (including student, skilled worker, refugee and working holiday visas) were allowed to enter without applying for an exemption. Fully vaccinated South Korean and Japanese citizens were allowed to enter Australia without seeking an exemption.
  • 21 November: Eligible fully vaccinated citizens of Singapore were allowed to enter Australia without seeking an exemption.
  • 1 November: Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents no longer needed an exemption to leave the country.

5. Do I need travel insurance and does it cover COVID-19?

Just like before the pandemic travel insurance is an option you have to cover yourself if you get sick or injured while overseas.

Finder travel insurance expert Gary Hunter says “Several insurers now offer cover for COVID-19 medical expenses, trip rearrangement costs if you or someone you’re travelling with gets COVID as well as expenses if you're unexpectedly forced into quarantine during your trip."

"This is in addition to all the other protections that travel insurance offered before the pandemic, such as lost luggage, overseas medical cover and repatriation."

"However, policies generally won’t cover you if there’s a government-imposed lockdown or border closure – this is the main exclusion we’re seeing across all providers.”

Which brands provide insurance for international travel?

Here are 23 partner brands that offer policies for overseas trips, and have some cover for COVID-related expenses.

BrandCOVID-19 expensesCooling off periodOverseas medical expensesTheft or damage to luggageStandard excessApply
Medibank Travel Insurance
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$250Get quote
Freely Logo
  • Some cover
21 days
Optional add on$100Get quote
Zoom logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $7,500$200Get quote
Fast Cover Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $15,000$200Get quote
Insure4Less Travel Insurance Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $5,000$200Get quote
Travel Insuranz Travel Insurance Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $7,500$200Get quote
InsureandGo Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $15,000$100Get quote
TIck Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $7,500$200Get quote
World2Cover Logo
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$200Get quote
Covermore logo
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$250Get quote
Southern Cross LogoSCTI
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $25,000$100Get quote
Travel Insurance Saver
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $12,000$250More info
Easy Travel Insurance
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$250More info
1Cover Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $15,000$200More info
ahm life insurance
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $8,000$250More info
Boomers Logoboomers-travel-insurance
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $10,000$200More info
Qantas travel insurance
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$100More info
RACV Travel Insurance Logo
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$250More info
Travel Insurance Direct Logo
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $12,000$250More info
Picture not described
  • Some cover
21 days
Up to $15,000$250More info
Worldcare
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $10,000$200More info
Travel with Kit Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $2,000$100More info
Travel with Jane Logo
  • Some cover
14 days
Up to $2,000$100More info

6. What else do I need to consider before I travel internationally?

Even when you have all your papers in order, things can still go wrong. Here are our tips to help make sure things go smoothly when you head overseas.

Bookings

Using an online travel agent or aggregator such as KAYAK, Skyscanner or Agoda can be a good way to find an international travel deal but you may be left in the lurch if you need to make adjustments to your booking so it's best to book your flights directly with an airline and accommodation directly with the hotel.

If international travel is sounding like more work than it used to be and you want to book with a travel agent such as Flight Centre make sure that your agent or branch is able to offer after-hours support so you aren't left in the lurch in another time zone without help.

Always read the terms and conditions, especially with regard to cancellations and refunds. These can change so print or screenshot a copy for your records in the event of cancellation.

“I booked via a third-party site to see family over the Christmas period back in Scotland. It was considerably cheaper than booking direct but I wouldn’t personally do it again for such a long trip where so much can and did go wrong.”

“Our flights were changed a week before we flew but they didn’t notify the airline and changing from one airline to another wasn’t easy. On top of that, our luggage was lost. Next time, I’ll be booking direct.”

– Finder’s travel insurance writer Gary Hunter

Flexibility

Under Australian consumer law, you're entitled to a refund if your flight is cancelled by the airline.

If you can’t get a refund, some airlines offer flexibility with free date changes, Jetstar for example is offering 1 change for travel up to June 2023.

“Keep a close eye on the flexibility and cancellation terms of your tickets or accommodation. Sometimes it does pay to spend a bit more on your flights or hotels knowing you can cancel or get a refund if you can’t travel. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn that lesson the hard way.”

– Finder’s travel publisher Alex Keshen

Frequent flyer reward flights

During the pandemic many airlines put their partnerships on hold. This included the ability to book reward flights with partners and transfer points between programs. Some programs such as Velocity and Krisflyer are restarting their parterships slowly.

“You get more value from points booking flights than anything else, but that doesn't mean you should book just for the sake of it. For instance, Velocity isn't yet offering premium seats through Singapore Airlines, so I'd be keeping those points until there are more choices. If you're worried about points expiring, look at keeping them active through a frequent flyer credit card or by transferring supermarket points.”

– Finder’s editor-at-large and points guru Angus Kidman

Head to Points Finder for all the latest frequent flyer news, points calculators and program guides.

Credit card chargebacks

An option for peace of mind is to pay for travel with a credit card. You can apply for a credit card chargeback to reverse a transaction if you need to. In some cases, your chargeback may be denied if you can make an insurance claim.

"A chargeback is an extra safety net because it gives you another way to get your money back if you’re entitled to a refund and a business won’t give you one. It’s usually fast to apply for a chargeback but it can take months to be assessed, so it’s more a last resort than a first port of call. It’s usually better to try and get a refund directly and, if that doesn’t happen, you can give your credit card company details of all the steps you’ve taken when you apply for a chargeback."

"You can also lodge a complaint with the ACCC if you think a business is not treating you fairly."

– Finder’s credit card expert Amy Bradney-George

Consider your need to travel

While many people will be itching to get back overseas you should still be mindful that if things go wrong you may end up needing to quarantine while abroad and could face difficulties in returning until you’ve recovered.


Need some inspiration before you get travelling again? See our destination guides for things to do, best times to travel, deals and more.

More guides on Finder

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