The age of international travel is arriving in Australia once again. As we (or at least our readers in Sydney) take our first tentative steps towards open borders, we still have plenty of questions about the travel experience.

One important thing to consider? The vaccination and testing requirements of the country you’re travelling to. That, and also your preferred airline’s policy.

For example, Qantas will only allow fully-vaccinated (or exempt) individuals onboard its international flights. Virgin Australia has not yet implemented a broad vaccination requirement for its upcoming international flights.

Virgin Australia will continue to work with governments on vaccination and quarantine requirements for returning Australians and other visitors in order to re-open Australia to the world. We will continue to cooperate with the Government and agencies on aviation-specific initiatives and are committed to doing our part to help drive vaccination rates across the country. 

– Virgin Australia spokesperson, 18 October 2021
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Vaccination and testing requirements for overseas travel

Last updated: 29 October 2021

Are you heading overseas? To avoid quarantine, you should be fully vaccinated and follow testing rules. Exemptions might apply to children under 12 years old, as well as those with medical reasons.

Based on publicly-available information, here are the vaccination and testing requirements for major airlines that service Australia, as well as the home countries:

AirlineAirline policyCountry arrivals policy
QantasFully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccineAustralia: Return a negative PCR COVID test 72 hours before departure of your flight to Australia. Full vaccination is required for reduced or no quarantine (starting with NSW, VIC). Victoria also requires a second on-arrival COVID test within 24 hours of international arrival.
Virgin AustraliaNot yet mandatoryAs above
Air New ZealandFully vaccinated on flights from 1 February 2022New Zealand Requires a negative test (including PCR, RT-PCR) within 72 hours of your flight to New Zealand. Non-NZ citizens required to be fully vaccinated from 1 Nov 2021.
Singapore AirlinesFully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine to travel on VTL (safe) flightsSingapore: Requires a negative PCR COVID test up to 48 hours before departure on your flight to Singapore. Travellers must be fully vaccinated to travel on VTL (safe) flights.
Cathay PacificNot yet mandatoryHong Kong: Requires a negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours before departure of your flight to Hong Kong. Travellers must be fully vaccinated for a reduced quarantine period.
EmiratesNot yet mandatoryDubai: Requires a negative RT-PCR test no more than 72 hours before departure of your flight to Dubai. No particular requirements on vaccination status.
Qatar AirwaysNot yet mandatoryDoha: Requires a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours before departure, for visitors. Travellers from 'green countries' must be fully vaccinated to avoid a quarantine period.
EtihadNot yet mandatoryAbu Dhabi: For visitors, Abu Dhabi requires a negative PCR test before departure (timeframes vary). No quarantine required for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Fiji AirwaysFully vaccinated for Fiji Airways and Fiji Link flightsFiji: Requires a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours before departure of your flight to Fiji. Fully vaccinated travellers from Australia can enter Fiji without quarantine.
Air CanadaNot yet mandatoryCanada: Requires a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours before departure of your flight to Canada. Fully vaccinated travellers from Australia can enter Canada without quarantine.
British AirwaysNot yet mandatoryUnited Kingdom: Requires you to book and pay for a COVID test on or before Day 2 of arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers from Australia can enter the UK without quarantine, as long as Australia is not on the red list. For England only, you can now book a cheaper rapid 'lateral flow' test for your Day 2 test.
American Airlines

Not yet mandatoryUnited States: Starting 'early November 2021', the USA requires a negative test no more than 72 hours before departure. Fully vaccinated Australian residents can enter the US without quarantine from that time. Acceptable tests include PCR, rapid antigen and more.
DeltaNot yet mandatoryAs above
United Not yet mandatoryAs above

Vaccinations are the key to smooth travel

At this stage, most airlines are not mandating COVID vaccinations or testing before international flights. However, most destinations are enforcing pre-departure testing and will only allow quarantine-free entry for vaccinated travellers.

There are some limited cases where unvaccinated travellers may be able to travel, such as flying Emirates from Australia to London with a short transit in Dubai. For example:

  • You don’t have to be fully vaccinated or be tested to fly on Emirates.
  • Dubai doesn’t require you to take a test during a transit from Australia.
  • The UK doesn’t require you to take a test before departure from Australia. However, you would need to undergo quarantine for 10 days and take two COVID tests upon arrival.

In this instance, you wouldn’t be able to fly Qantas to the United Kingdom, as Qantas will only let fully-vaccinated travellers on board unless you’re under 12 years old or medically exempt.

Summing up

The next few months will get messy as we work through the different entry and travel requirements of each country and airline. Most countries won’t accept basic COVID tests that only give you results by SMS. However, the UK and US are accepting cheaper and quicker tests as an alternative to PCR.

If you do need to take a PCR or RT-PCR test, this will cost about $150 a pop in Australia. It can be even more overseas, depending on the currency.

Hopefully, as time goes on, we’ll reach a milestone where enough of the community is protected from the worst effects of the virus. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of hurdles with travelling and to keep associated costs down.

International travel – how we’ve missed you!

Vaccination requirements for international travel was last modified: August 25th, 2023 by Brandon Loo