Australian COVID-19
International
Travel Guidelines

Purpose of Guidelines

As Australian can once again leave our shores, travellers must be well prepared before departure.

Before COVID-19, having a passport and ticket were travel necessities. However, since COVID-19, one must be more organised, and up to date with the often-changing rules and regulations of the Australian government, airlines and transit, and destination countries as COVID-19 continues to disrupt the world.

These guidelines are for health professionals to help their travelling patients navigate the changing circumstances.

Pre-travel Consultation

Persons travelling from Australia are recommended to have a routine pre-travel consultation, including information on COVID-19 related issues. Each traveller should consult with a health practitioner experienced in travel medicine. More than one consultation may be required due to the complexity of travel with COVID-19.

Assessment for a travel medicine consultation, including COVID-19 related issues, include:

  1. Individual Factors
    • Age, gender
    • Medical history
    • Pregnancy/breastfeeding/planning pregnancy
    • Immunocompromised (underlying cause, medications, and treatment history)
    • Medication history
    • Allergies
    • Vaccination records, including:
      • COVID vaccination history
      • Vaccine brand, manufacturer, dates, doses of vaccinations and boosters received
    • Adverse reactions to vaccines including COVID vaccines
    • Previous travel history
    • Previous exposure to or infection with SARS-CoV-2 and history of where this occurred (in Australia or overseas), severity and treatment
  2. Destinations and Itinerary
    • Dates of the proposed travel
    • Destination(s) and itinerary including transit/stopovers
    • Urban or rural destination
    • Method of travel – from Australia (air, sea); after leaving Australia (air, road, train, river/ocean)
    • Duration of trip
    • Solo or with others
    • Accommodation
    • Travel activities
  3. Purpose of Trip
    • Tourism/holiday
    • Business
    • Expatriate
    • Missionary
    • Student
    • Backpacking
    • Visiting friends and relatives
  4. Proposed Activities
    • Consider whether any of the proposed activities increase the traveller’s risk of infection with COVID-19 (e.g., working in health care, cruising etc.)

Pre-travel Health Risk Assessment

COVID-19 can be a severe and sometimes fatal infection - each traveller should receive a health risk assessment prior to travel.

COVID-19 poses a health risk not only for the traveller but also for the traveller’s close contacts. Being unvaccinated, increasing age, and underlying health conditions render the traveller more likely to develop a serious infection and death.
  • Certain ethnic groups appear to have a higher risk of serious disease
  • Pregnant women also have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality – as well as the risk of complications for their baby

For a list of those at higher risk of severe disease, see the table below:

High Risk of severe disease *Table adapted from Australian Government, Department of Health.

There are several risk assessment tools developed to assist health professionals to understand the risk of subgroups, these tools are being updated as more research is undertaken:

  • Australian Immunisation Coalition (CoRiCal) - COVID Risk Calculator. For more information on the estimated risk of dying by age, sex and vaccination status, see January 22 table HERE.
  • COVID-Age Medical Risk Assessment
    • Developed by the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors (UK)

Delivering Travel Health Recommendations

Full details of delivering travel health recommendations can be found in Pre-travel Consultation Guidelines (COMING SOON).

For more information on the administration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, please visit HERE

Airline and Country Requirements

Numerous requirements may be needed to board an international flight, and enter another country (transit and/or destination). Evidence of vaccination to enter another country (digital or hard copy) varies between countries and airlines.

Many countries do not allow entry of non-citizens or non-residents, even if fully vaccinated; therefore, travellers must familiarise themselves with the most updated information prior to travel.

Requirements for travel may include the following:

  • Declaration forms (digital or hard copy)
  • Evidence of vaccination and/or exemption
  • Evidence of negative SARS-CoV-2 RAT or PCR test (usually required to have been conducted within a specified time frame before departure)
  • Airport screening and testing
  • Transport from the airport
  • SARS-CoV-2 test on arrival at the destination
  • Quarantine (may be mandatory at destination)
  • Evidence of travel insurance for COVID-19
It is the responsibility of the individual traveller to ensure they are up to date with requirements for each airline they travel with, transit location(s) and the destination country.

As information changes frequently, it is strongly recommended that travellers check multiple resources carefully and repeatedly to ensure they have access to the most up to date information.

This may include information provided by the:

  • Australian Government
  • Airlines
  • Destination country embassy or
  • Country-specific government websites
For more information and links to websites, please visit resources links at the bottom of this guideline.

Declaration Forms

Governments have different requirements for entry. Travellers may be required to complete and submit declaration forms prior to or on arrival in a destination country. Some countries specify when the forms must be completed – not too soon or too late; and these forms can vary from digital to hard copies.

Please note that various countries may also refer to and describe these documents differently, including:

  • Health declaration form
  • Traveller declaration form
  • Medical declaration form
  • Patient locator form

Depending on which country your patient visits they may encounter a variety of questions, including:

  • Presence of COVID-19 symptoms
  • Vaccination history
  • Evidence of previous COVID-19 infections, including results and dates of tests
  • Proposed accommodation and itinerary

Travellers need to be aware of these requirements prior to departing Australia. For access to some country-specific declaration forms, examples of various declaration forms can be found on Cathay Pacific – Health Declaration forms.

For more information on country-specific information with direct links to forms, please visit Smartraveller – Destinations.

Vaccination including exemptions

Leaving Australia

Since July 6, 2022, Australian citizens and residents are no longer required to provide evidence of vaccinations for COVID-19 to leave Australia. However, some airlines, transit and destination countries still require travellers to be vaccinated and therefore travellers must be aware of these regulations prior to travel.

Each country (and airline) will have their own regulations regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. As with Australia, some countries no longer require proof of vaccination to enter the country, however changes are frequent. It is up to each individual to check vaccination requirements for all transit and destination countries prior to departure.

For countries and airlines requiring proof of vaccination, travellers are required to be aware of their regulations, which may include:

  1. type of approved vaccines
  2. number of doses required
  3. interval between doses
  4. interval between last dose and travel time

Vaccination exemptions may be available and can include exemptions for certain age groups, occupations or where vaccinations are contraindicated.

See https://www.australia.gov.au/international-travel for more information.

International COVID-19 vaccine certificate (ICVC)

An International COVID-19 vaccine certificate (ICVC) showing dates and type of vaccine is available to provide proof of vaccination. It is strongly recommended each traveller obtain these certificates for overseas travel as the domestic COVID-19 digital certificate and/or immunisation history statement is not recognised by many airlines and/or countries.

For information on how to obtain this ICVC see https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/international-covid-19-vaccination-certificate-proof-your-covid-19-vaccinations?context=60091

An ICVC can be provided in hard copy (pdf) or digital copy. It is recommended to travel with both, including multiple hard copies.

Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)

For travellers vaccinated overseas, vaccinations recognised by Australia can be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and will appear on all proof of vaccination documents once uploaded to AIR.

For further information on proof of vaccination in Australia see https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/what-types-proof-covid-19-vaccinations-there-are?context=60091.

Proof of vaccination for overseas destination

Countries vary regarding acceptance of proof of vaccination.

Examples of entry requirements to countries include:

  • Verifiable digital or paper record (with QR code)
  • Non verifiable digital (downloaded without QR code) or paper record (from authorised provider)

Details of what is required on vaccination certificates varies between countries, so it is essential to check each destination (including transit countries) to confirm whether they accept Australia’s ICVC and/or whether additional information is required.

Successful entry into a country using Australia’s ICVC may not provide the traveller with the ability to ‘participate’ in the community i.e. the ICVC may be insufficient to be allowed into venues such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas, museums etc. Travellers need to check country-specific information to determine whether they require additional certificates once within the destination country. This may include additional certificates or downloadable phone ‘apps’ required for the country.

Airlines

Airlines may have their own vaccination requirements for carriage; they may also be required to check that the destination country’s requirements are satisfied before allowing boarding.

Travellers need to check with each airline(s) in their itinerary for the latest information (irrespective of Australian government regulations).

Travellers who have previously been infected with COVID-19 may need to present a past positive medical certificate/clearance form such as https://www.qantas.com/content/dam/qantas/pdfs/fly/specific-needs/covid-19-past-positive-medical-clearance-form.pdf.

These may need to be submitted earlier than the date of departure, so it is up to the traveller to confirm with each airline ahead of time.

Airlines may require additional information such as an airline-specific vaccination exemption form e.g. Qantas. See https://www.qantas.com/content/dam/qantas/pdfs/fly/specific-needs/covid-19-vaccination-exemptions-form.pdf.

For more information on COVID-19 specific airline regulations, please visit resources links at the bottom of this guideline.

Testing for SARS-CoV-2

Testing for SARS-CoV-2 is currently not required by the Australian government to leave Australia. However, airlines, transit and destination countries may require proof of negative tests prior to boarding flight(s) and/or entry into other countries.

As the pandemic continues the need for a negative pre-departure test has become less common in some countries and has been replaced with testing on arrival in the days after entry or removed altogether.

Practitioner Note: Where tests are required, the time to have the test prior to departure (or arrival) is often changing and travellers need to check that they satisfy requirements otherwise they may be refused boarding).

For unvaccinated travellers, pre departure tests are likely to continue to be required by some countries. New variants of concern may also lead to pre-departure tests being reintroduced for some airlines and/or destination countries.

Testing for SARS-CoV-2 - Pre-departure Testing

There is significant variation between countries when testing for SARS-CoV-2:

Potential differences in SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests between countries
  • Type and number of SARS-CoV-2 tests that will be accepted
  • Time of test collection and/or reporting
  • Age of traveller
  • Vaccination status
  • Evidence of laboratory accreditation
  • Criteria to be included on the test report
Some countries may require travellers to upload their test results before checking in at the airport.
Practitioner Note: Testing for SARS-CoV-2 is currently not required by the Australian government to leave Australia. However, airlines, transit and destination countries may require proof of negative tests before boarding flight(s) and/or entering the country.

Types of Tests

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

PCR tests (also known as nucleic acid amplification tests, NAAT) for SARS-CoV-2 detect ribonucleic acid sequences of the virus from specimens collected in the upper or lower respiratory tract.

The procedure firstly amplifies any genetic material found in the specimen before then testing for the RNA. There are many different methods to amplify the nucleic acids - countries will accept only approved tests as proof of a negative test.

Practitioner Note: Some patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may persistently test positive in PCR tests despite being non-infectious.
  • Countries may allow travellers entry if the first PCR test is positive more than 14 days but less than 180 days prior to travel
  • Medical certificate stating recovery or clearance may be required from a medical practitioner confirming the traveller is no longer infectious

Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT)

Rapid antigen tests (RATs – also known as lateral flow antigen tests) are now an acceptable alternative to the PCR test in many countries. The time of testing for a RAT may vary from that of PCR – RATs are generally required closer to departure/arrival times than PCR testing.

For example, a RAT result may be required within 24 hours of departure (whereas PCR is often required within 48 to 72 hours).

Travellers must ensure that the type of antigen test they take is acceptable for their designated airline and destination country. Some countries may allow self-testing through approved telehealth.

Practitioner Note: Rapid tests (PCR or antigen) are currently performed by some countries on arrival (at the airport) and/or in the days after entry into the country
  • It is essential that travellers check if they need to prebook or pay for mandatory tests on arrival at their destination country to gain entry.
  • Airlines may also require evidence of tests being booked prior to boarding the plane.

Additional Testing Information

The age of travellers may also affect the requirement of testing – for example, some countries require testing for all persons aged 2 years and over, whereas others may only require testing in those above 4, 5 or 11 years of age.

Practitioner Note: Travellers need to familiarise themselves with airline, transit and destination country requirements for method and timing of pre-departure tests and documentation.
  • Types of tests (PCR or RAT) and time of collection may differ markedly between countries with specifications ranging from 1 to 3 days or 24 to 72 hours prior to departure or arrival.
  • Some countries now require 2 PCR tests from different laboratories prior to entry
Testing requirements are changing rapidly – it is essential for travellers to remain up to date with airline and destination country regulations.
For the most up to date information on details regarding government websites for countries and destinations, please visit Smartraveller Destinations.

Serology

Some countries may require serology testing SARS-CoV-2 (IgM and or IgG) along with PCR testing prior to departure – several laboratories in Australia will provide serological testing.

The traveller’s responsibility is to ensure they find laboratories that will provide tests and results accepted by airlines and destination countries. Some labs and private companies may provide services to help travellers negotiate this process.

Practitioner Note: It is possible that some countries may require IgM N (nucleocapsid) protein to be tested rather than IgM S (spike) protein.
  • The S protein occurs in all who have been vaccinated and N protein in most of those who have had the disease.
  • This may be required in addition to PCR testing prior to departure – several laboratories in Australia will provide serological testing but the practitioner must specifically ask for these tests.

Airport Screening

Screening of incoming arrivals for symptoms may be conducted through a 'health declaration form' – additionally, some countries may screen for raised body temperature through forehead infra-red temperature screening or thermoscan.

Practitioner Note: Countries may require travellers to be tested on arrival at the airport (PCR or RAT) pre-payment of these tests may be needed in some countries, whereas others require payment on arrival.

Transport from Airport

Some countries do not allow travellers to access public transport (including taxis) when leaving the airport after arrival. Travellers need to be aware of their responsibilities on arrival at their destination.

SARS-CoV-2 Tests after arrival at the destination

Testing protocols after arrival are changing regularly in many countries.

Some countries test all arrivals (over a certain age), those who are not vaccinated, and/or those who have spent time in designated high-risk countries in the 14-21 days prior to departure.

Some countries require travellers to pre book and pay for these tests prior to departure.

Practitioner Note: Countries may require travellers to prebook and prepay or pay on site for their test prior to departure (PCR or RAT).

Quarantine

Similar to vaccination and testing requirements, country-specific quarantine regulations are also continually changing and updating – with many countries now allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter the country without mandatory quarantine.

Some countries may require a negative SARS-CoV-2 test (prior to departure and/or on arrival at the airport) to avoid quarantine.


Who might require mandatory quarantine?

Quarantine is still required in many countries for unvaccinated arrivals or those coming from high-risk countries.

There may be a mix of government organised quarantine (hotels or specific quarantine facilities) or home quarantine if the arrivals satisfy certain (or specific) criteria.

The length of time for a quarantine may vary from 1 day (awaiting negative test) to 28 days or even longer – this may be subject to vaccination status, countries visited in the previous 2 to 3 weeks, current circulating variants or other variables.

Practitioner Note: Countries may require travellers to prebook and prepay for quarantine before departing Australia. Travellers must ensure they are appropriately prepared for these situations.

Evidence of Travel Insurance for COVID-19

Some countries require travellers to be insured for COVID-19-related medical expenses including:

  1. Minimum COVID-19 insurance coverage necessary to enter and/or
  2. Government-mandated insurance companies to be used.

Medical care may be more difficult to access, especially if a country is experiencing high infection rates. Emergency evacuation may also be more challenging to obtain.

Travellers should also read their insurance policies carefully to ensure it covers:

  • Overseas medical treatment
  • Cancellations
  • Change of plans

In addition to COVID-19 travel insurance, travellers should be reminded to check and determine whether their current insurance covers BOTH general travel insurance and COVID-19 related claims.

For more information on travel insurance for COVID-19, please visit Smartraveller - Travel Insurance Guide.

Travelling by Boats and Cruises

Travelling to and from Australia via seacraft is now possible. Vaccinations and COVID-19 tests are not required by the federal government to leave or enter Australia however state governments as well as boat and cruise operators will have their own regulations which travellers must adhere to.

Travelling on a cruise is a high-risk activity for SARS-CoV-2 infection due to large numbers of passengers staying in close quarters over a period of time, travellers socialising and being in close proximity with others in areas that are often crowded and where ventilation may be less than adequate.

It is recommended to mitigate risks by socialising in outdoor areas where possible and wearing a mask in closed environments or crowded areas. Testing should be performed if signs or symptoms of COVID-19 develop and where positive, isolation will be required according to operator's guidelines.

Travellers should be aware of COVID-19 protocols and safety plans prior to the cruise.

As with air travel, all transit and destinations may have entry regulations so it is important to be aware of these before embarking on the cruise.

Travel insurance needs to include insurance for sea/boat travel as well as activities at destinations.

Personal Mitigation Measures during Travel

Travellers need to consider their personal risks that could make them more susceptible to severe infection during their travels and the steps to mitigate these risks:

  • Keeping as healthy as possible while travelling, including adequate sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and continuation of regular medicines.
  • Certain activities and destinations may also increase risk of infection (e.g., cruises, singing, dancing, being in large crowds etc.)
Ensure that travellers are educated on modes of transmission (airborne predominant) and how to prevent COVID-19 infection.

Practitioner Note: If a traveller does become infected during travel, it is essential that they follow local COVID-19 management guidelines and have sufficient medications for their use in case their stay is prolonged due to their positive status.

Packing list

  • International COVID-19 vaccine certificate – multiple hard copies and a digital copy
  • Face masks – a well-fitting, valveless mask such as P2/N95
    • Some countries now mandate these types of masks over cloth or surgical masks, which are less efficacious, particularly with more transmissible variants
    • Travellers should endeavour to find the best fitting mask for their face and learn how to fit check their mask for a good seal
    • Adequate supply of masks. At least one mask per day is recommended
  • Alcohol gel sanitisers
  • Rapid antigen tests (RATs)
    • For a list of self-administered tests available for purchase in Australia please visit HERE
  • Extra supplies of usual medications
    • Due to the unexpected nature of COVID-19, ensure that an adequate supply of regular medications (at least 4 weeks extra) is recommended in case of travel delays or COVID-19 infection, prohibiting return travel

Travellers who are at an increased risk of severe disease may also be recommended to take the following items:

  • Portable CO2 Monitor – e.g., ARANET-4
    • CO2 monitors are useful as they can act as a proxy to determine how well ventilated an area is and may help travellers avoid higher risk areas
  • Pulse Oximeter
    • May be particularly useful for individuals with underlying medical conditions and increasing age
    • Travellers should be instructed on how to use the device and interpret results
  • Standby Medication - may be available for high-risk patients in the future

Recommendations to reduce the risk of infection during air travel include:

  • Social distancing and mask-wearing during waiting, embarkation, and disembarkation.
  • Minimise the time in the airbridge as that area maybe be poorly ventilated, and social distancing is less enforced.
  • Consider embarking towards the end of the boarding process to reduce time on the aircraft.
  • Larger planes are fitted with HEPA filters, and fresh air is mixed with filtered air many times per hour. This, therefore, reduces infection risk, but one should still take precautions as listed below.
  • Ensure a tight-fitting mask is worn throughout the flight, including when in toilets.
  • Aircraft may not have ventilation and filtration systems during embarkation and disembarkation; therefore, these times pose a higher risk of being infected if COVID-19 positive patients are on the flight.
  • It is recommended to open and direct the personal vent onto or just in front of one’s face
    • Avoid eating and drinking on short flights where possible where possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
    • For longer flights, or when a mask must be removed, try to do so when others on the aircraft are still masked.
    • Remove masks to eat/drink prior to other passengers where possible.
    • Removing a mask to eat/drink after others have finished eating/drinking would theoretically expose oneself to more viral particles if other travellers were not wearing their mask.
  • Limit movement around the aircraft
  • Avoid touching high touchpoints (toilet door, flush, tap) where possible, and if not possible, perform hand hygiene carefully and regularly

As much as possible preserve social distancing and mask wearing during embarkation and disembarkation.

Some vessels are fitted with MERV or HEPA filters and fresh air may be mixed with filtered air numerous times per hour. Whilst these filters are turned on, the risk of infection is reduced, however one should still take precautions as listed below.

  • Ensure a N95/P2 well-fitting mask is worn whenever you are in areas where it is poorly ventilated, in closed or crowded spaces (e.g. cinemas, hairdressers) and when moving about the vessel.
  • Where possible, socialise and have meals in outdoor areas. Where this is not possible, consider eating earlier than others to avoid large crowds during meal times.
  • Cabins with windows and balconies are safer than those that have no ability to have an outside area ventilate the space.
  • Perform hand hygiene correctly and regularly.

Apart from what has been discussed in the other chapters, there are several measures to undertake to ensure COVID-19 transmission is minimised:

  • Always follow local guidelines (mask, social distancing, testing, and isolation)
  • Choose outdoor activities to minimise exposure to poorly ventilated areas
    • Being outside poses less risks compared to indoors, so where possible, advise travellers to eat, socialise and participate in outdoor activities
    • If this isn't possible, ensure a well fitted mask is worn indoors (even if not mandated) and limit time indoors
  • Avoid large crowds and crowded marketplaces
  • Where possible, walk or drive privately to destinations rather than taking public transport
  • Always follow the local public health regulations
The best way to minimise COVID-19 is to:

  • Stay up to date with vaccinations.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask indoors.
  • Avoid crowded areas.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces.
  • These precautions should remain the gold-standard for all travellers prior to their travels.

Testing Positive to SARS-CoV-2 Outside Australia

If a traveller tests positive overseas, it is essential to follow the local regulations and protocols for managing COVID-19 infection, for example, length of isolation, testing before leaving isolation etc.

If a traveller is unwell and requires medical assessment and/or treatment, they should follow local recommendations and comply with the regulations of their designated insurance company.

Practitioner Note: Travellers should know that symptoms may persist beyond the initial infection and/or return after some period. Symptoms are varied and range from mild to extremely debilitating. Advise travellers to seek medical help if they experience ongoing symptoms

Returning to Australia

Australian citizens and permanent residents returning to Australia no longer need to have a pre-departure SARS-CoV2 test, be fully vaccinated or provide a travel declaration. Unvaccinated visa holders do not need a travel exemption to travel to Australia.

However, travellers must adhere to the regulations of the departure country and airline rules for specific requirements regarding SARSCoV2 testing and vaccination.

All travellers on inbound flights are still required to wear a mask.

For further information on returning to Australia see:

All incoming travellers will need to comply with the testing and quarantine requirements of the state or territory of their arrival, and any other state or territory to which they plan to travel. See https://www.australia.gov.au/states for more details.

Resources

COVID-19 Travel Checklist

Access a printable COVID-19 travel checklist through the following link for your patients - COVID-19 PATIENT CHECKLIST

Download the COVID-19 guidelines

Please click here to download the COVID-19 guidelines.

Australian Government – COVID-19 Information for Travellers

Global – COVID-19 Information for Travellers

Smartraveller – Destinations
Smartraveller – Planning to travel during COVID-19: step by step
Smartraveller – Australia’s biosecurity and border controls
Smarttraveller – Going on a cruise

New Zealand (NZ)

Ministry of Health, New Zealand – COVID-19: Travellers
SafeTravel NZ – COVID-19 and International Travel

Europe (EU)

European Commission – EU Digital COVID Certificate
European Union – Council Recommendation for COVID-19 Travel into the EU
European CDC – COVID-19 Q&A Travelling
European Union – ReOpen App

United States of America (USA)

USA CDC – Requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination for air travel
USA CDC – Required testing before air travel to the US
US Department of State – FAQ COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing for international travel

Canada

Government Canada – Travel Restrictions
Government Canada – Travel Restrictions (Children)

United Kingdom (UK)

UK Government – Travelling to England during COVID-19
TravelHealthPro (UK) – COVID-19 testing and demonstrating status for international travel
Welsh Government (Wales) – International travel to and from Wales: COVID-19
Scottish Government – COVID-19 International Travel
niDirect (Northern Ireland) Govt Services – COVID-19 Travel Advice

Asia

ICA SafeTravel (Singapore) – Travelling to Singapore
AU China Embassy – Travel Restrictions Notice
Japan Travel – COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

List of Country Health Declarations Forms

Cathay Pacific – International Health Declaration Forms

For more information on other destinations, please visit Smartraveller – Destinations.


International Airline/Association COVID-19 Resources/Protocols