Border bingo: should you book a trip in 2020?
With Victoria's coronavirus outbreak far from over, NSW travellers wanting to head interstate have reason to be cautious.
On Tuesday, Queensland announced it will open its borders on Friday to all Australians bar Victorians, just hours after South Australia rescinded plans to welcome back domestic travellers.
By the afternoon, Victoria had locked down 10 Melbourne postcodes until at least the end of July and today, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned NSW residents who visit those hot spots could cop an $11,000 fine and a prison stint.
Welcome to domestic travel in 2020.
Shifting border restrictions are likely to continue as outbreaks ebb and flow, so if you're planning a trip or a visit to family or friends, here's what you need to know.
READ THE FINE PRINT
Choice travel expert Jodi Bird said people should check terms and conditions when booking accommodation and flight, as COVID-19 outbreaks and shutdowns are events out of the control of both businesses and travellers.
"Try and envision what happens if where you're travelling to is shut off, or where you're visiting is shut off and you're not allowed to leave, and what will happen in that circumstance, how can you rebook, or get a credit or get a refund," Mr Bird said.
Look for booking cancellation fees, to ensure they meet 'reasonable costs' of the business making the cancellation.
If you're putting down a deposit on accommodation or prepaying in full, find out what happens to that money if you have to change your plans.
Large online booking sites aren't necessarily a safer bet, either.
"If your trying to contact a call centre overseas that may themselves have been locked down, you could have a lot of trouble trying to organise or rebook a cancellation," he said.
"Where as some small businesses may be great at dealing with cancellations, others might not be."
Check reviews of businesses to see how they handle cancellations, as many would have been down that road when the pandemic hit.
WHERE YOU CAN AND CAN'T GO
NSW residents can currently travel anywhere in their state.
They can also visit Canberra and Victoria however are urged to avoid Melbourne, where about 30 suburbs are in stage three lockdown until at least July 29.
South Australia has abandoned the July 20 date to lift quarantine measures for Victoria, NSW and the ACT due to Victoria's coronavirus outbreak.
It will consider dates for NSW and the ACT separately on Friday
Queensland will reopen to everyone except Victorians from July 10.
All visitors, including returning Queenslanders, must declare they have not been in Victoria in the 14 days prior to entering the state. A $4000 fine awaits those making a false declaration.
Victorians must quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for 14 days on entry.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned the border could close again if there are more outbreaks.
The Northern Territory opens to domestic visitors from July 17 however arrivals from a suburb or local government area declared a coronavirus hot spot must undertake mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days in private or commercial accommodation at their own cost.
Check the NT Government website for changes.
Tasmania will begin accepting non-essential travellers from July 24 - however, check the Tasmanian Government website as health advice is being reviewed weekly and could affect border restrictions.
If you are not a Tasmanian resident or an essential traveller, the advice is don't book travel from Victoria to Tasmania at this stage. The Spirit of Tasmania is reviewing all bookings and cancellations and refunds may occur.
Western Australia's hard border closure remains in place to all states and territories.
Read the terms and conditions before booking accommodation.
Booking an option with free cancellation is your best bet.
If you don't book a flexible rate, you may not be entitled to a refund.
Cancellation requests will be handled by properties based on their policy and consumer law.
Many Air BnB properties have extra cancellation flexibility, and if you fall ill with COVID-19 you can cancel regardless of booking conditions.
If your flights were booked through a travel agency or third-party website, contact these companies directly for assistance.
Qantas will contact customers booked on flights if they are cancelled or changed and won't charge cancellation fees.
If you cancel a domestic Qantas flight yourself, you may be charged a cancellation fee in accordance with fare rules.
To change or cancel flights booked on or before 31 October 2020, you can cancel your booking and retain the full value as a flight credit to be used by 31 December 2022. However you will need to cover a change fee and any fare increases.
If your original booking was made before 30 April 2020 for travel on a Qantas flight between 31 January and 31 October 2020, you're eligible to use your flight credit for multiple bookings before 31 December 2022.
Flights after 31 October 2020: You can change, cancel or request a flight credit. See terms and conditions on the Qantas website.
Change fees for Jetstar flights booked between May 21 and July 27 will be waived if travellers change flights, although they will need to cover fare differences when rebooking.
This offer applies for travel between 12 June and 31 October 2020 on any Jetstar Airways domestic flights within Australia.
Choice travel expert Jodi Bird said if consumers have forked out a lot of money for a high-value trip, or are taking a lot of equipment, like scuba or ski gear, domestic travel insurance can be worth it, especially in the case of natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.
"But you certainly shouldn't buy travel insurance assuming you'll be covered for state border closures or suburb closures that have arisen as a result of coronavirus because basically it's a known event, they're not going to cover it."
Originally published as Border bingo: should you book a trip in 2020?