US, yes; Japan, no: Where you can (and can’t) travel to now borders are open

Freedom! Sweet, sweet freedom. As of this week, the Australian government’s ban on its citizens departing the country has been lifted, thus allowing us access to the wider world.

Though, not the wider world in its entirety, as some countries remain closed to tourists. So here’s an important question: where can you actually go? Where can Australians visit as tourists now and in the near future? And will you enjoy the experience when you get there?

The following is by no means an exhaustive list – it’s more a snapshot of traditionally popular destinations – but it will give some idea of the options available. (Though it’s worth noting that restrictions and conditions are constantly evolving, and you should check all relevant government sources before booking a trip.)



One of Australia’s all-time favourite destinations is open for business, and with direct flights from Darwin to London (plus via Singapore and the Middle East), it’s likely to be popular again. While travellers won’t have any restrictions to observe in the UK, upon arrival Australians will have to take a PCR test at their own expense, and another PCR test to return to Australia. With COVID-19 cases spiking at around 40,000 per day in the UK right now, the risk of a disrupted return is real.


New York, USA - February 19, 2011: The Wollman Rink is a public ice rink in Central Park, New York City. The rink was opened in 1949 with $600,000 in funds donated by Kate Wollman.  The ice skating rink is currently open from October to April and, during summer months, hosts the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. Photo: iStock

New York City is ready for visitors (though it might be a bit cold). Photo: iStock

Return a negative PCR test for COVID-19 before departure (at your own expense – about $150) and you can sail on in to the Land of the Free right now. The USA is open for tourism, with few restrictions on movement, or basic requirements such as masks etcetera in country. Some may see that as a good thing or a bad thing.


Like the USA, Canada is now open to Australian tourists who are double-vaccinated and test negative to COVID-19 before departure. Air Canada is resuming direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver in December, and Canadian COVID-19 case numbers are relatively low, which means that that winter trip to Whistler could be on. Within Canada, the government has banned unvaccinated travellers from planes and trains.


Australians – those who have been in Australia for the past 21 days, and who have a travel insurance policy that covers COVID-19 – can now enter Thailand quarantine-free. The country’s COVID-19 case numbers are steadily dropping, direct flights are available from Australia, and the Land of Smiles is looking forward to a boost from visitors. Note that the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website still lists Thailand as “Reconsider your need to travel” – a Level 3 warning. Check that your insurance covers destinations at this warning level.

Spain, Italy, Portugal

I’ve listed these southern European countries together, as their situations are much the same: double-vaccinated Australians can enter as tourists without the need to quarantine (though with varying testing requirements pre-departure); the countries’ COVID-19 case numbers are low, their vaccination rates are high, and restrictions on movement are minimal. All are great options for a “new normal” holiday.


You’ll only need proof of vaccination to enter Germany – or a negative PCR Test – if you’re travelling from Australia, which is great news. The country is serviced by plenty of airlines flying via the Middle East and Singapore, although rising COVID-19 case numbers (18,000 per day) could be cause for concern.


Singapore skyline cityscape at night.

Photo: iStock

It seems odd to still be talking about “bubbles”, but here we go: from next Monday we will have a bubble with Singapore. Or a “travel corridor”. Or something like that. Anyway, vaccinated Australians will be able to enter Singapore quarantine-free, though with the requirement to take three separate PCR tests – pre-departure, on arrival and within 72 hours of arrival – at their own expense, plus yet another to get home, which means a visit may not be all that enticing for now.

Argentina and Chile

As of this week, Argentina and Chile are open for business (though Chile is still rated ‘Reconsider’ by Smart Traveller). The Latin American countries are both highly vaxxed and ready to go, and as long as you, too, are vaccinated and can present a negative PCR test on arrival you’ll be allowed access to these amazing countries, with few restrictions on the ground. Flights, however, are limited at this stage.



Dravuni Island, Fiji. Beach on the tropical islandand clear turquoise water. Fiji travel iStock

Photo: iStock

If you’re Australian you’re probably already aware of this, given the surge of interest in holidays to Fiji. The island nature has got itself all vaxxed up and will be opening to vaccinated, PCR-tested international tourists from December 1, which is great, great news. The downside: to get home you’ll need to take another PCR test, which at the moment in Fiji costs about $225 per test.


Australians are desperate to get back to Bali, and can already enter provided they quarantine for five days. Talks are happening right now to open a vaccinated travel lane between Australia and Indonesia, so for those who can’t commit to a quarantine period, watch this space. It’s likely to happen soon.

South Korea

South Korea is currently not open to Australian tourists, though that is set to change on November 15, when the country opens a “vaccinated travel lane” with Singapore – something Australian travellers will be able to use, and enter South Korea for tourism without quarantine. It’s not clear at this stage whether there will be restrictions on movement within the country, though you will need to be PCR-tested before departure.



Kagawa, Japan - July 22, 2016: A view from a hill in Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu city, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. Ritsurin Garden is one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan. satfeb1japan japan botanica apt ; text by sarah maguire ; iStock *** REUSE PERMITTED *** 

Photo: iStock

Japan has been cautious with any plans to reopen to international tourists, having so publicly been affected by a COVID-19 wave during the Olympic Games. Though that wave is well and truly under control and vaccination rates are high, I wouldn’t expect to see quarantine-free access to Japan until early 2022.


Here’s another country that was hit hard by COVID-19, but is steadily recovering (around 15,000 new cases daily in a country of more than a billion people), and looks set to restart its international tourism industry early in 2022. Right now there is no easy way to travel to India, but that will change as restrictions ease.


New Zealand

Somewhat oddly, given our close relationship and previous bubble arrangement, Australians are unlikely to be taking a holiday in New Zealand for quite some time, with the country flagging a move to home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals by 2022. Unrestricted access will follow, though there’s no indication of when.


Despite being the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, China is also one of the few countries still pursuing a zero-COVID strategy, which means its international borders are closed to tourists and will likely remain so for a long time.

Western Australia

Here’s another recalcitrant fiefdom yet to release a plan to open to the world. The latest intel appears to be that Western Australia will soften its border restrictions (domestic and international) in February next year, though Premier Mark McGowan is yet to confirm.

Where will you be travelling to next? Are you happy to stay in Australia for a while, or is the lure of international travel too strong? Is there anywhere on this list you wouldn’t visit? What are your concerns?




See also: You can travel overseas again – but you probably shouldn’t

See also: Do you need to be vaccinated? Comparing each airline’s new travel rules

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