Australia's Confusing State Travel Restrictions, Explained

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As Australia begins to re-open, state border restrictions are being eased giving many of us the chance to visit family and friends as well as take some much-needed day trips. With each state and territory announcing their own plans, however, it's gotten a bit complicated as to where you can go and when. Here's a breakdown of the new rules and we'll keep updating it as the situation changes.

In line with federal recommendations to re-open the economy after the coronavirus shutdown, states and territories are slowly opening up borders and letting Australians move around for leisure again.

There are, however, some exceptions. A war of words has been brewing between certain states, such as NSW and Queensland, as leaders decide whether to allow interstate tourists to cross borders, bringing with them the threat of an unseen virus.

Still, for many, the option to leave the house and visit somewhere new in Australia will be a welcome change given overseas travel is off the cards for at least the next six months but likely much longer.

With that in mind, here's where you can travel around Australia, depending on the state or territory you reside in.

How Each State In Australia Is Lifting Coronavirus Restrictions

The federal government announced on 8 May that Australia was on the pathway to easing coronavirus restrictions thanks to a significant decline in cases. While the federal government has its own roadmap, states and territories have opted to move at their own pace depending on their respective local situations. It can be a little confusing to figure out what you can and can't do still so here's a state-by-state breakdown of the announcements.

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Where can I travel interstate now?

New South Wales

Those living in NSW won't be able to visit Queensland or South Australia unless they're deemed essential but crossing the ACT and Victorian borders should present no issues.

NSW's borders were one of the few in the country that did not close to other Australians during the height of the coronavirus outbreak and that remains unchanged for now.

In terms of taking day trips or mini holidays around the state, NSW residents will be able to do so from 1 June when leisure travel restrictions ease and a number of caravan parks and camping grounds re-open.

"I must stress to everyone that, while we want people to enjoy a well-earned holiday, we must do this responsibly and continue to abide by physical distancing measures, as the last thing we want is further outbreaks that will force us to reintroduce restrictions," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, warning residents to take precautions.

Victoria

Similar to NSW, Victorian borders aren't closed so anyone wanting to enter the state can continue to do so. Travelling for leisure around the state, however, is not allowed for now but an announcement is expected within the coming weeks that might give a date on when that could eventually be allowed.

Victorians will be allowed to cross the border into NSW and ACT but South Australia and Tasmania are still off the cards.

Queensland

Queensland has taken a much firmer stance than other states with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirming the state's borders won't be considering a border re-opening until September. The Premier added that her reasoning for this was that states such as NSW and Victoria were still experiencing outbreaks.

While outsiders won't be able to travel to Queensland for leisure purposes, workers living near borders or people wanting to visit family or friends for compassionate reasons can apply for border permits. Those residing in Queensland are free to enter other states and territories but are recommended to quarantine upon their return to the state.

South Australia

South Australian borders are effectively closed to anyone deemed non-essential. People travelling for essential work or who have been given permission on compassionate grounds will be allowed to travel unrestricted.

If you are a non-essential traveller, you will be able to cross the border but you'll need to agree to the following:

  • identify a suitable place of quarantine
  • travel directly to that location
  • self-quarantine at that location for 14 days.

If you're a South Australian, however, you'll be allowed to travel across the state with no restrictions. That means small trips are back on the cards for you.

Tasmania

Tasmania was the first state to announce effective border closures back in March and they're still ongoing to this day meaning if you're not Tasmanian, you'll need to quarantine for 14 days in "government provided accommodation".

Tasmanians are welcome to travel to Victoria, the ACT and NSW but will need to quarantine for 14 days at home once they return to the island state.

Western Australia

Western Australia, being the country's largest state, has more confusing travel restrictions in place for its residents.

Regional travel is permitted between these regions:

  • between the South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Perth-Peel regions
  • between the Mid West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • within the Goldfields-Esperance region (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • within Kimberley local government areas (the Commonwealth’s biosecurity zone remains in place)

That means a Perthite won't be able to travel to Geraldton but they could visit Albany.

The Western Australian government provided a handy map to figure out who can travel where.

Where Western Australians can travel during COVID-19 restrictions. Image: Government of Western Australia

The state borders, however, remain closed to anyone deemed non-essential so South Australians and Northern Territorians will have to put off any road trips for the time-being. Even Western Australians returning from another state or territory will need to apply for an exemption.

Australian Capital Territory

ACT's borders remain open as they have throughout the crisis but the recommendation is still not to travel for leisure.

"Canberrans should only travel outside of the Canberra region to visit family and friends for the purpose of providing care and support. You will need to abide by rules in the jurisdiction you are travelling to," the territory's advice reads.

There are no travel restrictions in place so while you can technically travel for a holiday, the advice recommends you don't for now.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory has also kept strict travel restrictions in place for now given it's largely avoided the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak.

Anyone arriving in the NT by land, sea, air or rail will need to quarantine for 14 days in government-monitored accommodation.

People exempt from this quarantine period include:

  • national and Northern Territory security and governance
  • medical transport and emergency services
  • transport, freight and logistics
  • defence and policing
  • flight crews
  • commercial ship crews
  • people with specialist skills that are critical to maintaining key government services, industries or businesses

But for now, it's safe to say a trip to the Northern Territory is very much off the cards for non-residents. For NT dwellers, you could theoretically travel to NSW, ACT or Victoria but given you'll have to travel through Queensland or South Australia or find a flight to get there, it might not be worth the trouble.

Why You'll Need To Postpone Travel Plans For A While

As the number of coronavirus cases in Australia begin to fall, many of us are hopeful of the crisis meeting a swift end. Some may even be thinking about taking a much-needed holiday in the near future. Unfortunately, here's why you might need to wait a little longer before you give in to the travel bug.

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