Australian Government: do not travel overseas, to any country

For the first time in history, Smartraveller is upgrading its advice for every destination in the world to "do not travel".

By Chris Chamberlin, March 18 2020
Australian Government: do not travel overseas, to any country

The Australian Government’s Smartraveller service is progressively updating its travel advice for every country in the world to “do not travel”, following last week’s escalation to “reconsider your need to travel”.

Australians already overseas who want to come home are also advised to make those travel arrangements as soon as possible, as flight options are becoming increasingly limited and countries around the world are closing borders or restricting movements.

Speaking to media this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that “we are upgrading the travel ‘ban’ on Australians to level 4 for the entire world. The travel advice to every Australian is 'Do not travel abroad': do not go overseas. That is very clear that instruction.”

“This is the first time this has ever happened in Australia's history,” the PM added.

The revised ‘do not travel’ advice level has already been applied to many countries popular with Australian visitors including New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the USA and Canada, and will apply to all others when updates to the Smartraveller website are complete. Here's a preview:

“That is an indefinite ban,” continued the Prime Minister, although Smartraveller highlights that it can’t actually issue a full “ban” on travel. “This is advice only,” Smartraveller clarified in a tweet.

Passengers will not be physically prevented from boarding international flights departing from Australia as a result of this update – but are strongly advised not to.

Domestic air travel remains "low risk", confirms the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The implications of “do not travel”

As the highest warning level Smartraveller can apply to a country, “do not travel” is normally reserved for destinations like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, where the risks to visitors are the most severe.

“At level 4 (‘do not travel’), your health and safety is at extreme risk,” the Smartraveller service outlines. “Understand that you could die. Have robust risk management measures in place: this includes a detailed emergency management plan.”

But ultimately, “you should not travel to this location. If you are already in a 'do not travel' area, you should consider leaving.”

That advice is particularly relevant for Australians visiting destinations which don’t have direct flights back to Australia, requiring a transit en route: something that’s becoming increasingly difficult as airlines reduce flights and countries clamp down on border controls.

What “do not travel” means for travel insurance

When a destination is zoned as ‘do not travel’ by Smartraveller, Australians who ignore that advice and venture there anyway may not be covered by travel insurance for any claims: even minor issues like delayed baggage.

However, by classifying every overseas country as a ‘do not travel’ destination, those with imminent travel plans may be eligible to claim for cancellation costs they incur as a result of following that government advice and choosing not to travel.

To confirm what your policy covers, and what procedures must be followed before submitting a claim, contact your travel insurer.

Many insurers also require travellers to minimise their losses before submitting a claim, such as by cancelling their own bookings and obtaining refunds wherever possible.

For the latest travel advice, visit the Smartraveller website.

Also read: Virgin Australia grounds all international flights

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

17 Apr 2016

Total posts 15

Cunard QM2 cancelled our cruise from Fremantle with only 12hrs notice. No cruise to Cape Town! I have return Business Class tickets Cape Town to Perth on 5/4/20......What are my chances of a refund under the Covid 19./ do not travel warnings?

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 27

While I am generally a supporter of the government's moves with regard to covid-19 I cannot agree with this one. Anybody currently overseas now finds themselves without travel insurance. I often travel and live part of the year on a property in Sweden, but if I was there now and had a stroke, broke a leg etc I would be totally without cover and this is not a reasonable situation.

On same basic maths, the chance of catching covid-19 (based in Chinese numbers) is about half that of being killed in a plane crash. And that was catching, not dieing from covid-19. So why is it reasonable to basically shut down most flights because of the former, but not the latter. I do get the political imperative to do something, especially from a government on the backfoot since Hawaii. 14 day quarantine - sure, temperature scanning at airports - there should be more of it. But making the whole world "do not travel" has unintended consequences far beyond the value of the measure.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 243

I'm not so sure that you find yourself without travel insurance - my understanding (please don't take it as advice) is they are still bound by the original agreement which you paid for, regardless of the advice provided.

Hopefully someone with legal knowledge can correct me if I am wrong.

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 27

I'm sure it depends on your policy, so my comments may have been a bit broad. But for example my current policy says "We are not liable for any claim arising out of or related to .... loss, damage or expense incurred as a result of travelling to an area that the Australian government has advised "do not travel".

I don't know if "travelling to" and "remaining in" are the same. But I wouldn't want to chance it.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 50

There will be many who disagree with you but not this commentator. Look beyond the frantic headlines and assess the risk as grown ups based on some sensible facts. I spend roughly half a month away in the US and Europe involved with property funds management. Now the current restrictions are a huge problem but given Europe closing the doors I have no choice. The travel advisory from the government is academic as my ports of call are closed in Europe anyway. Travel aside its the lack of information and communication from the government. This site is about aviation so will leave commentary on politics to other sites

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 21

I can understand the "do not travel" advice to many countries, particularly those far away where transits are necessary in a third country, but to New Zealand, Fiji or Vanuatu......? Really, I do not know why we can not visit to these low risk countries... I know these destinations may have a 14 day isolation period in place as well, such as New Zealand. I am not sure if Fiji, Vanuatu or any other Pacific island would ask travellers to self isolate, but that is a condition of entry relevant to that destination that would have to be observed. Anyhow, it is what it is I suppose. Like everyone else, I am longing for the day when we can travel again.


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