Life is about the journey - some roads are not always what they seem but you sure learn a great deal from them!
Published May 11th 2022
COVID-19 has changed almost everything in our lives including travel. For a period of time, travelling anywhere was forbidden. The travel industry, which was booming two years ago, came to a screeching halt almost within seconds. This had a rippling effect on almost everyone and every business.
Recently, travel restrictions have almost been completely rescinded. Airports, that have been freakishly quiet, are slowly coming back to life. However, travel now has several caveats which are under heavy regulations.
Unfortunately, my travel to New Zealand (NZ) was not one of pleasure. I went to see a family member that was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I would argue that I am one of the lucky ones who can travel. I am aware of many other people that were not so lucky and who could not visit their families despite medical emergencies.
Travel requires more than just booking a ticket, presenting a passport and going through security. It now requires several layers of documentation and tests. This process of collection can be extremely stressful and could impact your travel. This article will walk you through the stages I went through to travel to and from New Zealand.
It is important to ensure you are aware of the COVID regulations for the country you plan to visit. New Zealand requires that individuals must have a negative PCR test result which was completed within 48 hours before the flight, and at least one dose of a recognised COVID vaccine. Other countries may have other requirements, so it would be wise to do your research before booking your flight.
A travel PCR test currently costs $145.00. Not all COVID testing locations offer this service. I completed my travel PCR testing with Sonic Travel Testing. They have several drive-through locations and will email you the results. It is highly recommended that your print out these results as they will be required during check-in.
Some countries require that you fill out a travel declaration. As I required a PCR test, I could only complete the NZ travel declaration the day before checking in. Once again, it is recommended that you print out the declaration which will be required at both check-in and border control.
Lastly, you will need a copy of your vaccination certificate. If you do not have a certificate, I recommend you contact a travel agent to help you with this process. There may be extra costs to your travel depending on the country you visit.
It is recommended to arrive at least 3 hours before your flight. Due to the additional paperwork, the check-in process is longer and requires staff to confirm you have all the required documentation.
For those that are privacy-focused, staff do not collect or retain the information that you supply. From my observation, it was a confirmation of whether you had completed all the necessary paperwork.
Inside the Airport
All airports that I travelled through required travellers to wear a mask at all times, except when drinking or eating. While many have different viewpoints on this requirement, airports have adopted this regulation to reduce risk. As such, you may wish to reconsider your flight options if there is a long layover. I spent a good time at Brisbane International Airport. On reflection of my choices, I would have strongly considered paying more for a direct flight.
Most of the stores inside the airport are currently closed. Due to my long layover, I was not able to check through security and wait at the gate. This may change in coming days, however, it is something to consider if you have a long layover.
All passengers are required to wear a mask during the flight unless they are eating or drinking. No more than 2 persons are allowed to occupy the aisle while waiting to use the toilet. Lastly, no one is allowed to change seats even if there is a row of seats unoccupied.
On a side note, I flew with Qantas. I was extremely surprised at their level of service. Food was supplied on all flights and there was either access to movies behind each seat or access to an iPad. The staff were extremely pleasant and helpful which made the flight less stressful.
Arriving at the destination
Apart from your passport, there is a likelihood that border control will request sighting of your COVID-19 travel documentation. This includes sighting your current vaccine certification, your PCR testing results and your declaration.
In addition to this, New Zealand requires visitors to complete a Rapid Antigen Test on day 1 and 5 of their visit. The results must be entered into a special link which is emailed to you. It is important that you supply an email that you can access and have access to wifi to complete the questionnaire.
Returning back to Australia
Every state has different COVID-19 regulations. Therefore, it is important to confirm the requirements before departing the country you visited.
Initially, Western Australia requested all travellers to fill out a G2G pass. However, this has changed. Travellers no longer need to have a COVID-19 test before flying. They must have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. Any person without a certificate must quarantine in a hotel at their own cost. These rules are changing consistently, and therefore it is important to check the latest requirements.
Other things to consider
As experienced over the past 2 years, things can change quickly. As a result, travel insurance should be strongly considered within your travel plans. Insurance should not only cover tickets, in the event that you need to cancel at the last minute but also cover any costs if you are stuck in a country and are unable to return home. Additionall,y insurance should cover any medical costs, in the event that you fall ill.
With all the different COVID-19 requirements, which differ from country to country and state to state, I was left feeling very stressed about whether I had completed all the necessary forms.
I also discovered that international airports were eerily quiet. It was disturbing to see a majority of the shops boarded up with closed signs. Personally, it felt like I was on a cast for an "End of Days" movie set. Unfortunately, with limited choice, I found myself spending more on food and drinks.
If I was to change anything, I would book my flights through a travel agent. Arguably, this may add to the cost of your travel, however, travel agents will do most of the groundwork for you.
Overall, however, it was most definitely one of the more interesting events I have experienced. It will be interesting to see the travel industry recover from the last two years of isolation. Arguably, travel will never be the same again and all of us will need to adjust and adapt.
Disclaimer: Lastly, this article was written in May 2022. It is based on a personal experience and should not be considered as a legal advice for travel. If you are planning to travel interstate or overseas, you must ensure you must seek proper travel advice from travel or governmental agencies.