Travelers rejoice! With the reopening of Australia’s borders to foreign tourists from February 21, travelers from the US who have had a trip on their bucket list can now head Down Under!
Given that Australia has been closed for just shy of two years, there are a number of things to be aware of if you are planning to visit the country in 2022.
I am basing the advice in this article on information from official government sources, as well as my personal experience during my most recent visit to Australia in early February 2022. (I am originally from Sydney but have been calling Austin, Texas home for the past seven years. I visit Australia once a year, and have visited twice during the pandemic.)
From February 21, 2022, foreign tourists are again able to enter Australia. However, there are four main requirements:
- Be fully vaccinated, defined as having received two doses of an approved vaccine; and
- Receive a negative COVID-19 test result, either a PCR test within three days of departure or a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of departure; and
- Fill out a Digital Passenger Declaration form at least 72 hours before departure; and
- Take a rapid antigen test within the first 24 hours after arrival to Australia and self-isolate until you receive a negative test result (a loosely-regulated requirement for most states and territories)
A couple of extra points:
- There is no mandatory quarantine upon arrival (except for the self-isolation until you receive your negative test result)
- Children aged under 12 years do not need to be vaccinated
- It is recommended that you bring your own rapid tests to Australia for your post-arrival test as well as your return to the US. Australia has experienced a supply shortage of rapid tests, and often has long turnaround times for receiving PCR test results
Expectations of Things Being Open
Businesses and public spaces in Australia are, by and large, open again. However, note that due to a shortage of service workers (which is also the case in the US), wait times at hospitality venues such as restaurants and hotels are currently longer. It would be wise to lower your expectations for these venues.
Do note that, as in the US, many businesses have permanently closed down during the pandemic, so check Google Maps or call the establishment directly for the most up-to-date information.
Major events like Australian Open tennis and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix are now back in force. Most require attendees to provide proof of vaccination and wear a mask, even outdoors.
Mask-Wearing, Vaccine Certificates and Check-ins
You will most likely be required to wear masks in more places than you do at home in the US. While mask-wearing is generally not expected outdoors except at large events, you will see some people doing so.
When entering an establishment, you may be required to check-in using a QR code, provide proof of vaccination (usually a picture of your CDC card on your phone will do) and/or wear a mask. In order to check in properly, it is best to have access to cellular data on your phone whilst traveling within Australia.
Travel Within Australia
As of March 3, 2022, all of Australia’s six states, as well as the Australian Capital Territory (where Canberra is located) and the Northern Territory (home to Uluru and Kakadu), are open to tourists.
Masks are required in airport terminals and on flights, rideshares and all public transport.
Travel to New Zealand
If you’re hoping to combine a trip to Australia and New Zealand, you’ll have to wait until the second half of 2022. New Zealand has taken a more cautious approach to COVID-19 and plans to remain closed to foreign tourists until at least July.
Even then, travelers are expected to complete up to 10 days of self-isolation, and return a negative test result at the end of this period.
Flight and Accommodation Price Trends
Flight prices are looking more expensive than they were pre-pandemic. It is currently cheaper to fly to Australia in the first half of 2022 than in the second, especially if you can depart the US on a Sunday through Wednesday.
Hotels and vacation rentals are a different story. You should be able to snag a good deal now for 2022 and into 2023. Just be aware that prices spike during the Australian school vacations, which happen four times a year:
- Mid-April (two weeks)
- Late June to early July (two weeks)
- Mid-September to early October (two weeks)
- Mid-December to late January (six weeks)
Local Attitudes to COVID
In my opinion, most Australians are wearier of COVID than the average American. This is due to the fact that, until recently, Australia’s isolation resulted in low caseloads and a relatively normal way of life for the majority of the pandemic.
On my first visit to Australia during the pandemic, in December 2020 and January 2021, the people I came into contact with had a very nihilistic view of what would happen if COVID cases rose in Australia.
Omicron changed all of that, and Australia had one of the highest positivity rates of any country in December 2021 throughJanuary 2022. However, that wave has continued to subside, and more than 93% of the population over 12 years of age has now received at least two doses of the vaccine.
As I write this at the end of a two-week visit to Australia in the first half of February, I have noticed a distinct relaxation in the attitude of Australians with regards to COVID. I expect this to continue but, as always with this pandemic, the situation is fluid. Be sure to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and regulations if you’re planning a visit.
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