Post lockdown is a great time to travel across Australia
Australia is opening up again after the COVID-19 lockdowns with the first states beginning to allow local travel and over time interstate and even international travel options will become available. Here are some ideas for travel at this time and how to be safe.
This article is provided as a general guide to travel and safety. As both rules for travel can change over time and new information about the Coronavirus may come to light, it is the responsibility of the reader to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information. In particular, I would encourage readers to check official government websites for this.
Where can you travel
This is going to change over time. At the moment, in the states that you can travel, you are limited to stays within each state. In addition, there are still some restrictions in place in some states. While the state premiers are fighting with each other over this, it will be eased over time, especially in July.
There is even discussion about international travel. It is likely that New Zealand will be the first country that will open itself up to Australian travel, but other regions around the world might also welcome international travellers. Bali has escaped much of the problems that the rest of Indonesia suffered and Vietnam also has regions that they are considering opening up to international visitors. This would mean travelling to restricted zones and returning without mandatory quarantine.
How to travel
The best and safest way to travel will be by car. You are isolated from others and you can leave your home and arrive at your destination with minimal interaction with others and very little exposure to possible infection. It will also help you to get around your destination in the same way.
There is a lot of focus on plane travel. Modern passenger aircraft use clean air from outside the plane and not recycled air like many building use. The air is fed in above your head and exits at your feet. This means that there less chance of viruses floating in the air than most people expect. The biggest danger will be passengers next to you or from surface transmission. But this risk is reduced through the use of passenger screening, face masks, and hand sanitiser.
Of course, there is bus and train travel as well. Trains have the risk from dining cars while buses cramp people together for hours.
Tours are likely to be another risk. Not only do you have lots of people jammed into a bus, but everyone mingles. One infectious person could pass it on to everyone on the tour.
Being safe while on public transportation
There is a lot you can do to reduce the risk of getting Coronavirus or, if you have it, transmitting it to others. First of all, don't travel when you have even mild symptoms. In Australia and any destination that will open up around the world, testing will be widespread. In addition, there will be screening, such as measuring people's temperatures, before being allowed onboard a plane or train.
Australia is one of the few places in the world not recommending face masks, but when you are on transportation, they can be very useful. Remember, surgical masks do provide some protection, but you should change them every hour, and you also need to avoid touching the mask. The N95/P2 masks will be better. I would recommend the disposable ones.
Don't forget your masks and hand sanitiser when you travel
Don't forget to use hand sanitiser or just take any opportunity to wash your hands with soap and water. I have noticed that many people now just walk past the hand sanitiser at the shops, but when travelling it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.
What can you do when you are there
One of the biggest differences in travel at the moment will be what you can do at the destinations. You won't be able to enjoy a buffet breakfast in the hotel, the hotel pool may be closed, concerts and sporting events are not going to be a thing, museums and art galleries will have queues to get in if they open at all, and tours should be avoided even if they are allowed.
That leaves a lot actually. Australia is a place natural beauty, so we can relax on a beach, walk in a national park, get takeaway and eat it in a park, watch the sunrise or sunset from your hotel room, spend time with your family, shop, enjoy natural beauty spots, eat out and much more. More and more venues will open up as both restrictions ease and they put in place COVID-19 plans.
You will need to do a bit of research with your plans to find out what is or is not available. You want to be more self-sufficient and self-organised than you would normally be, with the emphasis on being outdoor and active, but there are plenty of places outdoors where you don't need to be too active.
Also, try and book restaurants and attractions in advance. You will find more and more places requiring that you pre-book. Of course, the top restaurants were always like this, but even some local cafes with limited space now book out quickly. When museums and galleries open, they might ask people to book in advance. At least that has happened in some other countries.
Some Travel Ideas
Focus on lots of short local trips rather than long holidays. Don't save up your days off to travel for a week or more, instead, take a day off here and there for long weekends away. This can be used for both local trips as well as when you can get cheap flights to other destinations.
Road trips will be cool again. Draw up a list of destinations or just explore an area. You don't even need to book ahead, just stop when you find a nice place or are tired. Tourists spend a week or two driving between Brisbane and Sydney or Sydney and Melbourne. There is no reason why you can't do that too.
Think of the places international tourists flock to, but locals don't visit. Many Australians have yet to visit Uluru or Cairns, others haven't checked out Darwin or even thought of going to Broome. What about driving across the Nullarbor Plain?
Explore your local area. Even driving an hour or so from the centre of any city in Australia you will discover amazing places. Country cafes serving giant steaks at cheap prices sit next to expensive fine dining establishments and wineries rub shoulders with breweries. You will find shopping, museums, botanic gardens, temples, waterfalls, views, and historic sites. Many times people drive past them without knowing that they are there.
The are lots of great dining options in the countryside
Look for deals. As things open up, airlines, hotels, and attraction operators will be hoping to attract people paying higher prices, but are likely to discount heavily to get cashflow. I was looking at some flight prices, and they range from $700 to $70 to the same destination depending on the day you fly and when you book.
For people in outer suburbs or nearby areas, think of city weekends. 4-star hotel rooms in the Sydney CBD can be found for $99 at the moment. I am sure other cities are similar.
Family and friends escapes can be a great option. Find a place with self-catering options and book them out for a great escape. You can all be in a single large AirBnB rental or find a place out in nature with separate cabins for more privacy.
Escape to the countryside with family and friends with lots of isolated cabins you can book out
Of course, many people are struggling financially, and camping is a great budget option that gets you outdoors. The biggest expense is usually a tent, and you can often pick up one for very little money. Choose a spot to camp near lots of tourist attractions, and you can be on a winner, or find an isolated natural spot to just relax.
Don't forget your hobby-related holidays. During lockdown, many people took up new hobbies. Based on the queue outside my local bicycle shop, lots of people have taken upcycling. That doesn't mean you are going to go on a cycling holiday as you can drive to a destination which is fun to cycle around. Then there is photography, hiking, or even dog-friendly holidays for the new puppy you adopted.
The are lots of cycle adventure opportunities across Australia
You should also keep an eye open for events. As restrictions ease, there will be opportunities to watch sport, go to certain types of concerts and possibly even festivals. Of course, social distancing rules are likely to be in place. It won't be packed stadiums or crowded concerts, so we will have to see what they will be like.
Many readers will be concerned about the dangers of travel while Coronavirus is still in the community. State leaders are similarly concerned and carefully easing restrictions while also monitoring the situation.
One danger is the return of travel restrictions. You pop across the border for a quick weekend away, there is an outbreak, and now you are being asked to spend 2 weeks in self-isolation. This is going to be a bigger concern for international travel than travelling in Australia, but it is something to be concerned about.
The main issue is just exposure to Coronavirus. This means, is your hotel properly cleaned after the last guest left, are restaurants enforcing social distancing, are you being exposed to crowds, are you sharing public facilities with people with Coronavirus and many other factors.
Keeping safe is a combination of choosing the right destination, travelling the right away, and being COVID safe. We shouldn't be panicking, but we should also take the dangers seriously.
Pack plenty of masks and hand sanitiser. Now that the peak of the crisis is over, they are in abundant supply for both healthcare professionals and the public.
Don't forget to take cleaning supplies. While hotels might promise that you that they have thoroughly cleaned the room and public spaces, they are struggling financially, so they might not give their cleaning staff with enough time to do a full clean. When you arrive at your room, you might give all surfaces, including remote controls, a good clean.
The bigger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne as well as popular tourist spots like the Gold Coast are more likely to be crowded with visitors from across Australia as well as locals.
For me the ideal destination will be one in the countryside or smaller towns. You can rent cabins, stay in small hotels, go camping and avoid others.
Whether you choose a popular spot or an isolated one, it also matters what you do. Even in bigger cities, there are plenty of lesser-known and seldom visited spots. Anyone who has travelled the world knows that it doesn't take much effort to escape the crowds who go to the same famous attractions as everyone else.
Don't forget your travel insurance. This should cover both changes in travel plans as well as healthcare costs. A lot of insurers will have policies that don't provide COVID-19 cover, so please check before you buy.
Ultimately it is about being COVID-19 smart. This means choosing where you go, what you do, and adapting to the situation. If that beach, pub, restaurant, museum etc looks crowded, then do go in.
Should you travel
One of the questions that has to be answered is, should you travel at all? I like a good day trip and can easily switch my thinking to staycation mode. So I don't need to travel to experience the joys of travel.
Yet many tourist zones are really struggling. This includes country areas that have experienced first drought, then fire, some even had floods, and now the lack of tourists has hit those regions badly. Tourist hot spots, such as the Gold Coast, are really hurting. Responsible visitors could bring much-needed income to struggling regions.
The decision to travel has to be based on government policies and rules, and is ultimately up to each person. I think the real question isn't so much whether you travel but which type of travel you choose to do.
Now as more people have the option to travel and this will be continuing to open up over time, we have the opportunity to get out and experience our own country and maybe visit a few others. Many tourist destinations in Australia really need visitors to help their economies. Where you travel, how you travel and what you do at the destination will all determine how safe you and the community remain at this time.