The New Zealand government has announced the creation of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. From 19 April 2021 residents will be allowed to travel between the two countries without going into quarantine.
The opening of the international border is welcome news to separated families, businesses and tourists alike.
Here is what you need to know about how the bubble will work.
What is the travel bubble?
The travel bubble is an agreement between New Zealand and Australia allowing travel across the international border without the need to quarantine.
In October 2020 the Australian government created a one way travel bubble allowing New Zealanders to enter Australia without going into mandatory quarantine. However New Zealand did not reciprocate, meaning that Australians and returning New Zealanders had to go into hotel quarantine upon entering New Zealand.
From 19 April 2021, residents of New Zealand and Australia will be able to travel freely between the two countries without being required to quarantine on arrival.
When will the travel bubble start?
The travel bubble will apply to passengers entering New Zealand from 11:59pm on 18 April 2021.
Before the bubble starts, New Zealanders can still enter Australia without going into hotel quarantine under the Australian one way travel bubble. However, Australians and returning New Zealanders will have to go into hotel quarantine in New Zealand if they arrive on or before 18 April 2021.
Who can travel in the travel bubble?
Australian residents can travel quarantine free to New Zealand if they meet Covid-19 eligibility criteria.
Travellers from outside Australia can transit through Australia and on to New Zealand after undergoing hotel quarantine in Australia.
All travellers must meet New Zealand immigration eligibility criteria. This includes holding the appropriate visa or New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA).
Australian citizens do not need to hold a visa or NZeTA to enter New Zealand.
The Australian Federal Government has already amended legislation to allow Australians to travel to New Zealand without needing an exemption from the current international travel ban.
What Covid-19 eligibility criteria must be met to use the travel bubble?
According to the New Zealand government, to travel to New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight you must meet the following criteria:
- Spend the 14 days before you depart in either Australia or New Zealand.
- Not have had a positive COVID-19 test in the 14 days before you depart.
- Not be waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test taken in the past 14 days.
- Complete a travel declaration when you book your flights.
- Answer questions about your health at departure, which includes not being able to travel if you have cold or flu symptoms.
The New Zealand government does not require a negative Covid-19 test for quarantine free entry to New Zealand. However, it has indicated that if there is an outbreak in Australia, this may be required or the travel bubble may be paused.
The New Zealand government also does not require travellers to have been vaccinated to enter New Zealand.
Further information can be found on the New Zealand government’s website here.
How can I enter New Zealand in the travel bubble?
The travel bubble will only apply to commercial flights operating between Australia and New Zealand.
Passengers arriving in New Zealand on private flights or by sea will have to quarantine on arrival in the usual way.
Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar are selling direct flights between Australia and New Zealand. Virgin Australia is not currently operating to New Zealand.
What can I expect when travelling in the bubble?
It will be a requirement for passengers travelling between Australia and New Zealand in the new travel bubble to wear a face mask or covering on the flight and in the airport.
Health professionals will carry out temperature checks and health assessments.
Security, immigration and border controls will operate as normal.
What happens if the Covid-19 situation changes prior to or during my trip?
The New Zealand government has made it clear that travellers intending to use the travel bubble must remember ‘flyer beware’. This means to be alert and prepared for the border situation to change at any time.
If there is an outbreak of Covid-19 in New Zealand or Australia, either government may pause the travel bubble.
If there is a change to the Covid-19 situation while you are in mid air, the government of the country that you are flying to will decide how you will be treated on arrival.
A pause to the travel bubble will mean that travellers may have to stay where they are or enter mandatory quarantine at their own expense. It is therefore important to be prepared for the worst and check what your travel insurance will pay for if your plans are disrupted.
Should I take out travel insurance if I travel in the travel bubble?
I highly recommend taking out travel insurance for any type of travel, and even more so in the current climate.
If there is a Covid-19 outbreak in Australia or New Zealand the travel bubble could be suspended at short notice. This could mean flight cancellations or imposed hotel quarantine at your expense. If you cannot afford these costs, I would recommend that you take out travel insurance that covers Covid-19 related travel disruption.
Are there any plans for further easing of travel restrictions?
The Australian government has identified Singapore as a potential partner for a travel bubble. The countries have been in discussions regarding a potential travel bubble to open in July 2021. No official announcements have yet been made.
The million dollar question (or $5 billion dollar question according to Cruise Lines International Association) is when cruising will resume in Australia. Cruise lines have already begun operating in Singapore and Europe. In the United States, the CDC have also recently issued the next phase of guidance towards resuming cruising.
The Australian ban on international cruise ship operations is currently due to end on 17 June 2021. The opening of the international border with New Zealand is an encouraging signal for a lift in some cruise restrictions. Even if cruises only resume in Australian waters, Australian cruise fans are ready to set sail again.
This article does not comprise legal advice and neither Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers nor the author accepts any responsibility for it. For advice on your specific circumstances, book an appointment with a lawyer.