The Australia New Zealand Travel Bubble
The information found here is up-to-date as of February 3, 2021 and reflects the current government travel guidelines for both Australia and New Zealand. These guidelines are subject to change at any time. Check for updates and current conditions prior to booking any travel arrangements.
During typical years and during much of 2020, citizens from Australia and New Zealand had fairly open travel policies and were able to fly freely from one country to the other. This is what’s known as a pandemic “travel bubble” since it opens up the general restrictions slightly in order to accommodate another group of people who are also following safety protocols during the pandemic.
Even during some of the spikes of coronavirus in 2020, including the entire holiday season, the Australia New Zealand travel bubble was still operational because virus outbreaks remained relatively under control. From October 2020 through mid-January 2021, Australia had a semi-open travel bubble called the “Safe Travel Zone.” However, this bubble is currently closed, and Australian officials are not predicting changes any time soon.
Current Travel Policies For Australia and New Zealand
At the time of writing, all air travel between Australia and New Zealand has been halted indefinitely. It is likely that this restriction will remain throughout much of 2021. Australians are not able to travel due to the overseas travel ban instituted by the Australian government which was confirmed in a statement issued by Health Minister Secretary Dr. Brendan Murphy.
Although this ban is expected to remain, there are some travel exemptions available which require an application for permission to travel submitted to the Department of Home Affairs in Australia. This would of course have to be exempted upon arrival as well, and New Zealand has issued a firm travel ban on incoming visitors to their country with limited exceptions. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed caution regarding opening the Australia New Zealand travel bubble at this time for those who are not citizens or residents of New Zealand.
Exemptions can be made for travelers whose journey is necessary. Examples include travel in direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic such as providing aid or services, medical emergencies, travel for humanitarian purposes, or to serve Australia’s national interest, et al. In order to receive an exception you will need to provide proof that your travel is deemed essential.
Current Travel Conditions for New Zealand Citizens
Many people are asking if the travel restrictions are in effect for citizens of New Zealand. Fortunately, under the current travel guidelines, New Zealand natives and permanent residents with valid travel conditions are able to fly out of Australia and back to New Zealand without applying to the New Zealand Immigration authorities.
One thing to note is that if New Zealand citizens want to fly back to Australia, they will need to obtain a travel exemption from the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
If you are a non-NZ native and do not currently live there permanently, you will need to check with the New Zealand Immigration office to obtain your travel status. If you have been recently approved to become a full time resident in New Zealand, there are a number of codes that you will need to comply with in order to proceed, but you will likely still be able to gain entry.
Requirements For Travel To New Zealand
If you are able to fly into New Zealand, please note that there are many regulations in place for your protocol upon arrival. You will be tested for COVID-19 and then required to quarantine or remain in isolation for 14 days in a supervised situation. Entrants will be expected to pay for this housing and the food themselves. Estimates for the 2-week stay is $3,100 NZD for the first adult in the room, $950 NZD for each additional adult, and $475 NZD per child. Children under the age of 3 will not be charged.
The Tasman and Other Travel Bubbles
Since the area being discussed has such a large and diverse set of populations, there are a lot of moving parts regarding travel. Some nations are seeing better results due to how they are combatting the pandemic.
A Tasman or South Pacific Travel Bubble is another form of opening up air and sea travel to the region one step at a time. When a nation has the virus under control, they would be good contenders to join the travel bubble. Example countries include Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue and the Cook Islands.
In light of the most recent data on how the coronavirus is spreading thought the entire region, it is possible that Australia or New Zealand could open up a travel bubble with other Pacific nations. If a country or region has the virus under control and could join a travel “bubble” that would enable travelers to continue on to a final destination without quarantining at each stop.
Staying Safe While Traveling
These are the precautions for individuals to take before, during and after air travel to minimize disease transmission. It is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to reduce the spread of the virus. Consider the following:
- Prior to your departure date, limit your exposure to others by practising social distancing and wearing a mask while out in public. Restrict errands to only the most essential, and wash your hands or use hand sanitiser when in contact with high-traffic areas.
- If you are feeling under the weather or symptomatic in any way, do not travel. Potentially exposing additional people in the airport and airplane is a prolific way to increase the spread of the virus. Stay home, self-quarantine, and get tested as soon as possible.
- Follow the guidelines posted at the airport and by the airlines, and wear a mask throughout the duration of your travels.
How Airlines Are Handling Flights During The Pandemic
It is a relief to know that the airlines are also taking every precaution to protect passengers and crew while the pandemic is still underway. Even when people are doing their best to shelter in place until infection rates are under control, some air travel is inevitable and unavoidable. Therefore there are a variety of preventative actions that airlines are taking.
Additionally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has written up very specific guidelines that airline companies need to follow in the airport and on the plane. Please note the following travel conditions:
- Passengers are encouraged to self check-in at kiosk stationed through the terminals when at the airport.
- Many lounge and valet services have been temporarily shuttered to minimise contact.
- Potential pre-screenings for passengers and flight crew prior to boarding regarding virus symptoms or exposure.
- Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of seats, tray tables and other high contact surfaces in between every flight.
- In-flight separation reducing face-to-face contact, the requirement of masks during the entire flight, and HEPA air filters in place.
- Limited in-flight services to reduce contact.
How To Get Future Updates For Travel
It is the traveler’s responsibility to check current conditions before booking any travel arrangements. There are a number of reputable sources available to stay current on the travel policies for the region. Check any of the following for additional information:
- The Smart Traveller website is run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade offers information on overseas travel.
- The Immigration New Zealand website managed by the NZ government shows up-to-date travel information specific to their country. This source also has two Covid-19 specific branches that covers virus-specific guidelines and data.
- The Department of Home Affairs website by the Australian government provides travel regulation data and info.
- The COVIDSafe App and the Coronavirus Australia App – The first is a contact tracing app helping to identify those affected by the virus, and the second posts the latest government information from Australia.