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Image: Getty Images/Toby Morris
Image: Getty Images/Toby Morris

TravelApril 19, 2021

All your questions about the Australian travel bubble, answered

Image: Getty Images/Toby Morris
Image: Getty Images/Toby Morris

From today, travelling between New Zealand and Australia becomes a little bit easier. Here’s everything you need to know about the new trans-Tasman bubble.

To mark the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble, The Spinoff is casting an eye across the ditch all week – read our Australia Week content here

What’s this bubble all about?

In case you’ve somehow missed this whole Covid-19 crisis, it’s been very hard to travel outside of New Zealand over the past 12 months. It’s not that you can’t, but until now you have been required to spend 14 days in a managed isolation facility upon your return. For most people, that would involve several thousand dollars in addition to being stuck in a hotel for a fortnight. 

From today, the gates are open and you can freely travel to Australia and back just like the good old days. 

So I can go anywhere in Australia, right? Even Perth?

Yes! Until recently, it appeared Western Australia would be, super-cautiously, opting out of the travel bubble. However, about a week ago the state backtracked and announced that like the rest of Australia, travellers from New Zealand will be able to enter without having to quarantine.

So you’re free to walkabout wherever. Visit Sydney, Melbourne, Woolloomooloo, Mount Buggery (all three of them), Manangatang and anywhere else you want! 

But it’s just a bubble with Australia?

Yep, this is the first and, so far, only two-way travel bubble. If you travel to the Cook Islands or Niue you’d have to quarantine on arrival but then could return to New Zealand without entering a managed isolation facility. The Cook Islands prime minister has said New Zealanders are welcome from May.

Will I need to test negative for Covid-19 before travelling?

According to the government’s Covid-19 website, you will not need a negative pre-departure test before you get on a plane across the ditch. 

However, there is some extra advice: “Australia has sometimes introduced requirements for testing on arrival for people travelling from New Zealand. You should regularly check the requirements of the state you’re arriving in.”

What happens if there’s a Covid-19 outbreak while I’m in Australia?

The prime minister has warned that if the Covid-19 situation changes suddenly then the bubble might pop. It’s a case of “flyer beware”, Jacinda Ardern said.

As such, the government recently unveiled a “traffic light” system for how the bubble will operate should a Covid-19 outbreak happen while New Zealanders are prancing about in the outback. Simply put: green equals go, orange equals pause, and red equals suspend.

If Australia is Covid-free then the travel bubble is all go. In fact, even if there is a new case but it is deemed “low risk” (such as a case directly linked to the border), then quarantine-free travel is likely to continue. 

If there is a new case detected that is of unknown origin, but likely linked to the border, then a state may pause international travel. This would mean that you would likely have to stay in Australia for a further 72 hours and may have to self-isolate or even quarantine upon return to New Zealand.

Finally, if there is a sudden outbreak in a particular state, international travel may be suspended for an extended period. 

Will I still need to wear a mask on the flight?

Yup, there are no changes to the current rules around face masks. Even if you’re heading to Australia, you will be required to wear a face mask on the flight and in the airport.

Does anything change if I’ve been vaccinated?

At this stage, the government has said that vaccinated and unvaccinated people will be treated the same for the purposes of international travel.

How much is travelling going to set you back these days?

For the time being, the days of bargain flights across the Tasman are gone. Sadly, for the next wee while, it’s going to be a rather pricey return trip.

As a hypothetical, I checked out the cost of a return trip to Sydney, departing Auckland, in the first week of September. Here’s what that would set you back, at the time of writing:

  • Air New Zealand: $629
  • Jetstar: $542
  • Qantas: $708

Considering in the pre-Covid days you could often get to Hawaii for about that, it may be a while before you can nip to the Gold Coast for a girls’ weekend – unless you’re willing to fork out for it.

Keep going!