To give you some back story, we moved to Australia in December of 2019. I’m originally from here but my wife, Danielle is an American so this is her first time living down-under. We deliberately didn’t put down any roots (like getting an apartment or car) as we wanted to get jobs first.
We assumed this might take a month or two, but then the bushfires came, followed by COVID-19.
Fast forward five months, we were still staying with family but thankfully I got offered a job. The catch, it was based in Queensland which was two state borders away. Travel in Australia was pretty much non existent, and numerous states have closed their borders to non residents.
On top of that, much of the tourism industry was shut down. Relocating to Queensland for my new job was certainly set to be a challenge.
Finding A Rental Car
We had been living in Mount Beauty, which is a great place to self isolate. Unfortunately, there are no hire car companies nearby. Albury/Wodonga was the nearest hub, but all their rental outlets we closed. We had to travel all the way to Melbourne to pick up our rental car. Thankfully we got a great deal with East Coast Car Rentals. Fuel was also cheaper than usual, so that helped reduce expenses.
Searching for Accommodation
We weren’t sure if we were going to have to self isolate after crossing the Queensland border so we wanted to try and find an apartment so we had something to move straight into the day we arrived in Queensland. We could have gone into quarantine in a hotel but then we would only have one week after that to get settled before starting work.
Thankfully we were able to find a great apartment and sign the contract in less than we a week. The realtor was super helpful and agreed to meet us on a Sunday to let us in to our new apartment.
We also had to book accommodation for the journey up the coast through NSW. Knowing most of the hot spots for COVID-19 were Sydney and south, we planned to knock that section of the drive out in the first day. We booked stopovers in Newcastle and Port Macquarie using Agoda which gave us the cheapest rates.
The week before we left was when the COVID-19 breakouts occurred at McDonalds in Victoria, so we knew we wanted to steer clear of fast food restaurants.
Danielle prepared a range of snacks and wraps for us to take so we could minimise populated service centres along the freeway. It also allowed us to enjoy some lunch stops off the beaten track.
That said, we still wanted to support local businesses and NSW had just opened up dining with restrictions to 10 people or less for dine in. This allowed us to eat out for dinner. We just had to answer a questionnaire, and leave our details on a sheet. The restaurant in Newcastle also took our temperature.
Obtaining A Queensland Border Pass
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to cross the Queensland border. I had read on the Queensland Government’s website that those relocating from another state would have to quarantine for 14 days. I also called in on their hotline to confirm. The lady was super helpful and said we would only need to isolate if we were from a hot spot (they had a list of hot spots on the Qld Governments website). Thankfully Mount Beauty hadn’t had a case of COVID-19, but the lady did say it was up to the staff at the border so there was still a chance we would have to isolate.
We had to register on the Queensland Government Website to obtain an Amber Border Pass basically stating that we were a local resident (or resident permanently relocating to Queensland). Each of us had to apply for a pass. We entered our details and moments later were both emailed passes. The passes had to be printed out along with other evidence that we were relocating for work and we put them in a folder for easy access.
Crossing the Queensland Border
When we got to Tweed Heads, just south of the Queensland border, a lot of cars had these passes taped to the windscreen. But they were printed on A4 sheets. I wasn’t prepared to lose that much windscreen real estate. When it came time to cross the border, I just held the folder to the window. The police officer held up 2 fingers, to indicate that there were two of us. We needed two passes. I flipped the page and showed her the second pass and she waved us through. That was it. So simple!
I think it also helped that our rental car had Queensland plates. If we had Victorian or NSW plates they probably would have pulled us over and conducted a more thorough investigation.
The one confusing part of the border crossing is that they blocked off a lot of the streets in Tweed Heads. I assume this was to stop people from sneaking through and to push all the traffic through one check point. The GPS didn’t know about these barriers, so we had to drive around for a while before we found the checkpoint.
We took plenty of hand sanitiser and wipes for our journey and washed our hands at every opportunity. After being isolated for a long time, I was hyper vigilant and conscious of every elevator button, door handle and petrol pump that I touched. My hands actually started to dry out from all the times I used hand sanitiser but it was worth it. Having asthma, I’m in a higher risk category.
Once we got to Queensland, we actually felt a lot safer knowing the border is closed and that there are so few cases here. Now we are enjoying the warmer weather and exploring much to the envy of our friends and family down South.
Have you had to travel during COVID-19? What was your experience?
Since this post was written, the border restrictions for NSW and Queensland have changed. With few exceptions Victorians cannot enter NSW or Queensland at this time and Queensland residents returning from NSW, ACT or Victoria must enter hotel quarantine for a period of 14 days. Please check with the relevant state authorities before arranging any travel.