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Stay home: travelling in Australia has been shut down UPDATED

By Tim Robson, 01 Apr 2020 Car Advice

Travelling in Australia has been all but shut down

Travel plans thrown into chaos as states and territories struggle with border closure policing

The Australian travel plans of thousands of people have been thrown into chaos, as states and territories across the nation shut their borders to all but essential traffic.

travel australia 2020

Most events and workplaces have been cancelled or closed, and people are being strongly advised to stay in place.

Border crossing is now more difficult, while intrastate travel restrictions are being applied in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

MORE Daily rolling blog of current events

Most of Australia is currently at what is deemed stage-three lockdown, unlike the UK and parts of the USA where ‘stay in place’ orders and almost complete societal shutdowns are in place.

However, our restrictions may change at any time with as little as 24 hour’s notice.

travel australia 2020

Airports are virtual ghost towns now

The majority of the country has placed restrictions on cross-border travel, with Queensland closing its borders last. Here are the current travel restrictions state-by-state.


NSW travel restrictions (UPDATED)

As of 30 March, NSW has no restrictions on entry to any of its borders, despite Queensland and South Australia’s actions to close its borders. We’ll update the page if this changes.

Travellers who arrive in NSW by air from overseas destinations (all but closed now) are required to self-isolate for 14 days in government-controlled lockdown, even if they arrive in transit to another state.

Travel restrictions within NSW

The state has applied the following clarifications to travel and visiting, where travel is permitted if you are;

  1. Obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons.

  2. Travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence.

  3. Travelling for the purposes of attending childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare).

  4. Travelling for the purposes of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution if the person attending the school or institution cannot learn from the person’s place of residence.

  5. Exercising (while observing physical distancing rules and the maximum two-person gathering rule).

  6. Obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities.

  7. Attending a wedding or a funeral, providing gathering limits are observed.

  8. Moving to a new place of residence (including a business moving to new premises) or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place of residence.

  9. Providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance.

  10. Donating blood.

  11. Undertaking any legal obligations.

  12. Accessing public services (whether provided by the government, a private provider or a non-government organisation), including social services and employment services, domestic violence services, mental health services, and services provided to victims (including as victims of crime).

  13. For children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings, continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings.

  14. For a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order— going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person.

  15. Avoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm (such as the event of a fire or similar immediate threat to life).

  16. For emergencies or compassionate reasons.


Victoria travel restrictions (updated)

It’s a similar story for Victoria. As of 30 March, all of Victoria’s borders remain open, though it has applied stricter rules around visiting and intra-state travel.

Travel restrictions within Victoria

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, you may leave your home during this period only:

  • to shop for food and other necessary goods and services 
  • To access medical services or provide caregiving. For example, this includes shared parenting obligations or providing care and support to an unwell, disabled, elderly or pregnant friend or relative.
  • to attend work or education (where you can’t do those things remotely) 
  • for exercise
  • You may also leave your home in an emergency or if required by law.
  • You may travel between two owned residences, though it is not recommended.
  • You may collect online shopping parcels.
  • You can shop in large malls.

There are also freedoms around travelling for medical and safety reasons.

Interestingly, you can technically still have a coffee with a friend, if it's takeaway and it's part of your exercise regime.

"I'm not interested in closing our borders, I don't think that makes a lot of sense for us," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on March 23.

Travellers who arrive in Victoria by air from overseas destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days in government-assigned hotels in a lock-down state..

ACT travel restrictions (updated)

No border restrictions for road travel have yet been imposed.

Travel restrictions within ACT

According to the ACT Government website, Canberrans are now required to only leave their homes for the following reasons:

  • shopping for what you need - food and necessary supplies
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely


Queensland travel restrictions (updated)

At the other end of the scale, Queensland has locked down its borders to all non-residents, imposing a 14-day self-isolation timeframe on travellers wanting to enter the state, whether by road or by air.

Currently, roadblocks are in place at key crossing points, as police assess each vehicle (below). It’s understood that Queensland-registered vehicles can travel unhindered, along with freight vehicles.

travel restrictions 2020

Travel restrictions within Queensland

As well, Queensland is following the lead of the other states in restricting people to their homes.

According to Queensland Health, all people must stay in their homes except for:

  • shopping for essentials - food and necessary supplies;
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
  • exercise with no more than one other person (unless from your household);
  • providing care or assistance to an immediate family member;
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

Northern Territory travel restrictions (updated)

It’s a similar story up north, where the NT was one of the first territories to impose travel restrictions.

Anyone who arrives by air or road into the Northern Territory is required to self-isolate for 14 days, or risk fines of up to $62,000 and even imprisonment.

Remote communities have also been sealed off from all but emergency workers and medical staff.

Travellers arriving into the NT are now not only be forced to self-isolate for 14 days, they will by law be placed in quarantine in a hotel, and will also have to pay for food and lodging while there.

Police currently patrol the major crossing points and are taking accommodation details of people crossing into the territory, while the NT Police force says it will survey smaller crossings to catch offenders.


Western Australia travel restrictions (updated)

Western Australia has gone from one of the more relaxed states to the only one with restrictions on intra-state travel, with the state essentially being divided into nine regions.

People who cross into another region within Western Australia without good reason could be fined up to $50,000.

There will be a combination of permanent and mobile vehicle checkpoints to enforce the travel restrictions in WA.

Travel restrictions within WA

Western Australia will further tighten its borders on Sunday night (April 5), turning back all travellers that aren't residents.

"WA is in a unique position, our isolation is our best defence, and we need to use it to our advantage," the state's premier Mark McGowan said.

"While our overall numbers are encouraging, we need to take further steps to protect our state. In effect, we'll be turning Western Australia into an island within an island — our own country."

There are limited exemptions to the border closure rules, including:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Emergency services workers
  • Transport freight and logistics
  • People with specialist skills not available in WA
  • National or state security and governance, and
  • Courts and judicial services

Within the state, travel will be permitted within each of the nine regions on the following grounds;

  • Travelling to work
  • Attending medical appointments
  • Transporting freight
  • Those who do not have access to groceries or supplies within their region
  • Returning to a place of residence
  • Attending school or an educational institution
  • Where necessary, catering for family members
  • Compassionate grounds

Western Australia has also closed its borders to all non-residents, imposing a 14-day quarantine timeframe on travellers wanting to enter the state, whether by road or by air.


South Australia travel restrictions (updated)

Twelve border crossings have been locked down to all non-residents wanting to cross into South Australia, with the state imposing a 14-day self-isolation timeframe on travellers wanting to enter the state, whether by road or by air.

Residents who live in border towns may cross freely as long as no cases have been recorded in their home town. People ar.e recommended to stay home, but no fines so far apply, while social gatherings of up to 10 people are still permitted.


Tasmania travel restrictions (updated)

The island state was the first to impose travel restrictions, with fines of up to $16,800 for people who are caught breaking the 14-day self-isolation period.

Travellers returning to the smallest state are now subject to hotel quarantine for 14 days.

As well, only residents and essential workers are allowed to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry service, with non-residents told they would be turned back if they made the trip.

Stories emerged that the Spirit of Tasmania discharged travellers from the mainland (26/3) with no checks of any kind for disembarking passengers. 

As well, the ship's owners have been accused of increasing prices, according to Tasmanian politicians.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said reports of interstate vehicles still entering the state on the Spirit of Tasmania are causing widespread concern.

“We’ve had reports of people from the mainland still travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania, despite the restrictions on entry,” Ms White said.

“As well, those already in the state are facing long delays of up to two weeks to return to the mainland as instructed.

“The closure of caravan parks at 11.59 pm on Sunday means they will have nowhere to stay even though some can’t get their caravan on the Spirit until 15 April.

“What’s more, we’re hearing that those people who are trying to do the right thing are being charged an additional fee when they change their booking to return to the mainland.

“And Tasmanians trying to return home are being charged fees to change their booking.

“In these extraordinary times, TT-Line should be supporting everyone to comply with these restrictions, not price gouging.

“I implore the Premier to direct TT-Line to get people home and help people exit the state without charging them extra to change their booking."