Update 26th March
The Australian Government has confirmed that the final date for travellers arriving with the negative pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement will be 17th April 2022, so the first date travellers can arrive without the test will be 18th April 2022.
If you’re heading to Australia next month, you should find a more relaxed testing regime awaits for your trip, with the country axing its requirement for overseas travellers to provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to their flight departure from 18th April 2022 onwards.
This coincides with the end of Australia’s current biosecurity emergency period, which will not be extended.
The new ruling will apply equally to visitors and returning Australian citizens. It comes as entry test and quarantine requirements are being progressively dropped across the Asia-Pacific region, with countries now trying to lure fully vaccinated visitors back with simplified travel protocols, as their Omicron waves subside.
Australia has required pre-departure PCR testing since early 2021, but relaxed the requirement to include the option of an ART test in late January 2022, giving many travellers significant cost savings in the last couple of months.
Current PDT requirements
For those arriving in Australia on an international flight on or before 17th April 2022, the existing pre-entry test requirement remains in force, comprising either:
- a PCR test within 3 days of departure; or
- an ART test within 24 hours of departure.
Departure refers to the timing of your flight to Australia, or the first flight in a series of flights to Australia booked as a single ticket with en-route connections (e.g. for LHR-SIN-SYD, it applies before your LHR flight departs).
For example, if you are flying to Sydney non-stop from Singapore on SQ241 departing at 7.15am on a Thursday, your pre-departure test would have to be taken:
- PCR: Anytime on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
- ART: At or after 7.15am on Wednesday
Those aged 4 or below based on date of birth are exempt from the pre-departure test (PDT) when travelling to Australia.
New PDT requirements
For fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Australia on an international flight on or after 18th April 2022, there will no longer be a requirement to have a pre-departure test. Note that the page of official requirements has not yet been updated to reflect this.
Travellers will still have to be fully vaccinated to fly to Australia, and wear masks on flights.
They will also need to complete the Digital Passenger Declaration within 72 hours of departure.
Some Australian states still enforce on-arrival testing, which will not necessarily cease once the federal requirement for pre-departure testing ends (indeed we have no indication that any of these rules will change at the time of writing).
You can therefore still expect to have to comply with the following requirements on arrival, depending on your entry point in Australia.
|State / City||On-arrival testing|
|Test Type||Test Deadline|
|New South Wales
|ART||Within 24 hours|
Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast
|ART||Within 24 hours|
|PCR||Within 24 hours|
|ART||Within 24 hours|
|ART||Within 12 hours|
In the case of ART tests, these are self-swabs using rapid antigen kits approved for use in Australia. Note that these are referred to as “RATs” in Australia.
In all cases you must self-isolate at home or in suitable accommodation (e.g. hotel room) until a negative test result is received, with the exception of South Australia, where you only need to isolate until your PCR test is taken.
Interestingly for Queensland, a PCR on-arrival test may become mandated from 18th April 2022, since the state’s current policy is that international arrivals from countries exempt from PDT requirements must have a PCR test after they land (all countries will become exempt on 18th April, so let’s see what happens here!).
What about the ACT and Tasmania?
There are currently no international flights to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) or Tasmania, so you will have to fly to another city (probably Melbourne or Sydney), then follow the relevant state entry requirements for testing and isolation, then take a domestic flight to Canberra or Tasmania, with no further testing required.
If you did not undergo an on-arrival test in a different state before travelling to the ACT (e.g. in Darwin), you must take an ART test on arrival there, within 24 hours.
Singapore – Australia testing costs
With Singapore adopting its simplified Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF) process for fully vaccinated arriving travellers from 1st April 2022, there will already be one less test for travellers returning to the Lion City at the end of their Australia trip, so this upcoming removal of pre-departure testing when flying to Australia means two fewer tests overall.
Here are the estimated testing costs per fully vaccinated traveller for a Singapore – Sydney – Singapore trip example, based on the new testing requirements from 18th April 2022.
|NSW on-arrival (self-ART)||~S$5|
|Australia pre-departure (ART)||~S$60|
Singapore is also set to drop its own pre-departure test requirement for inbound travellers (i.e. those returning from Australia in this case), possibly within the next two to four weeks, which may therefore coincide closely with Australia’s PDT relaxation, for a total of just one self-test on arrival in certain Australian states (and none in others).
Let’s hope for some good news on that front soon, since it would bring Aussie trips almost completely back to the pre-COVID process.
In the meantime, travellers now have the option of taking a self-swab Video ART in Australia with a provider based in Singapore to satisfy the pre-departure test requirement within two days of heading back to Changi, starting from just S$12 plus the cost of an approved test kit.
This is likely to me a lot more convenient than seeking out those expensive S$60 clinic tests in Sydney, for example!
Testing requirements before departure for fully vaccinated travellers are fast being dropped around the world, with a recent rush in the Asia-Pacific region now including Thailand, Cambodia, Australia and soon Singapore itself.
Over in Europe, the Netherlands was the last major country to remove pre-departure testing earlier this week. Only travellers heading from outside the EU to Poland are still required to have a PDT, with all other European countries having ditched the requirement (even Italy!).
These relaxations including this latest one from Australia will significantly simplify trips for travellers from both a cost and convenience perspective, as travel gradually returns to pre-COVID-style around most of the world.
Hat-tip to Executive Traveller
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)