Wentworth Sofitel in Sydney - 33°51'57" S 151°12'41" E

Want or need to go to Australia right now? Here’s what you need to do:
  1. Have a valid reason for going. Australia has restricted the number of people that can fly (or even come by ship) into the country. You may end up waiting months for permission … even as an Australian citizen.

  2. Apply for an exemption for the travel restrictions (if you are not Australian) and prepare to wait weeks for an answer. Oh, and you must be married to an Australian or the answer is no.

  3. Once you get your email with an exemption for the travel restriction, ponder if you still need an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) - you do.

  4. Go onto the Australian Border Force website, find the online application for an ETA, fill it in until you reach the screen that won’t let you continue, saying that no one can apply for ETAs right now due to travel restrictions.

  5. Find and call the number for Australian Border Force, then find out about the unpublished website for applying for an ETA with an exemption.

  6. Fill out secret ETA online form, enter your credit card details.

  7. After 3 or 4 days, get your ETA.

  8. Purchase a return flight, costing at least $5,000 per person.  Melbourne is currently closed to international arrivals so try Sydney.  You’ll need to look for a flight that will not get cancelled or shut down by the ever-changing COVID restrictions, so you’ll need to book one that is leaving in the next couple of days. If you can find one…

  9. Complete the Australian Travel Declaration to determine whether you have to quarantine. Unless you are travelling from New Zealand, the answer is always yes. Be sure you print out the QR Code ‘cause you’ll need it!

  10. Drive all the way to Calgary to get a COVID test, but not until you have less than seventy-two hours before your flight. By the way, you’ve heard about someone that was turned around for having let seventy-SIX hours lapse between test and flight. Yikes.

  11. Remember that you've offered to help your BFFs move into their new house, so you both spend two of your remaining 3 1/2 days in Canada carrying cardboard boxes.  You are honoured to be part of their life-changing day and even going into this commitment, you wouldn't have missed it for anything.

  12. Wait at least a day for the results, knowing that a positive or false-positive test will waste all the previously spent money and effort.

  13. Pass your COVID test.

  14. Print out your travel exemption, your ETA, your COVID test results, your Travel Declaration QR Code, a copy of the memorial service details, a copy of your marriage certificate and take all of them with you

  15. Arrange for your house to be vacant for however long you will be gone. The walk will need to be shoveled; someone will need to be inside your house looking for leaky pipes (etc.) every few days; mail will need to be collected. You’ll need to turn down the hot water tank and the furnace; go through the fridge and cupboards and give away anything that might spoil while you are gone.

  16. Resign from all your volunteer commitments.

  17. Go to the grocery store and load up on enough snacks to last you through the whole trip, as you are likely to not be served on the airplane (COVID restrictions) and travelling through airports that aren’t busy enough for the restaurants and shops in them to stay open and serve you anything.

  18. If you don’t want to pay $18 per day to store your vehicle at the airport, arrange for a ride to the airport with the friend that will be looking after your vehicle.

If you have missed or made a mistake doing ANY of the previous steps, you will need to start again.

  1. When you check in, the airline agent won’t know how to check you through because you are travelling to a country that isn’t allowing non-citizens to go there. Your passport has been red-flagged and they can’t print you a boarding pass.

  2. Produce all your paperwork and explain why you are going.

  3. Bite your nails for an hour while they are on hold with their internal bureaucracy, trying to figure it out.

  4. When given a boarding pass with a seat number, proceed to the gate and hope the flight isn’t cancelled for mechanical or weather issues.

  5. Get to Vancouver and then prepare to connect to the United States.

  6. Go through US Customs in Vancouver and declare the apple you hadn’t yet eaten. Be dragged off to secondary processing. Wait. Watch lots of personal milling around, seemingly chatting about the weekend ball game. Wait a little longer. Does your apple have a sticker? No? Wait some more. Be politely but firmly reprimanded for having an apple in your bag. Get your passport stamped with a huff and be sent on our way.

  7. Hear your name being paged – to report to the gate for "an important message."

  8. Encounter another airline agent who says your boarding passes are invalid, there is a red flag against your passport and they cannot let you on the plane until you have a boarding pass for the flight leaving the United States (and let's just complicate this with a non-Australian entering Australia on an exemption and a dual citizen using one passport to enter the ‘States and a different passport to enter Australia).

  9. Explain your reason for going to Australia, prove you are married to an Australian, produce all your paperwork again, including your checked luggage tag, wait another hour whilst standing at the little booth as all the folks give you the hairy eyeball for taking up the agent’s time and making them wait behind you.

  10. Overhear the second agent radio the baggage guys to hold off loading your suitcase.  Then wonder if your suitcase will get reloaded when/if this issue is cleared up.

  11. Listen as the agent on the phone tries to figure out how to get rid of the red flag against your passports so she can print the boarding passes. Finally get your boarding passes.

  12. Worry whether San Francisco will be fogged in and the flight will get re-routed.

  13. Fly into San Francisco and have a five-hour layover in a terminal that is mostly deserted with not a single restaurant open. Now realized that it has been ten hours since breakfast.

  14. Have a moment of satisfaction because you did a good job of Step 17 (but you wish you'd been able to keep that apple).

  15. Be paged at the gate once again. Provide the agent with all your paperwork – passport, ETA, Exemption, Travel Authority, COVID test certificate, boarding pass. Freak out quietly and hope all your paperwork is in order. Breathe a quiet sigh when an OK is stamped on your boarding pass.

  16. After thirteen hours of traveling, watch as two people get turned away from boarding the flight because they have been vaccinated for COVID but did not think to get a COVID test anyways.

  17. Finally get on a near-deserted plane (twenty-five passengers on a 787 Dreamliner meant to hold three hundred) and revel in having your choice of empty rows.

    Pretty much all that are going to Sydney tonight.

  18. Fly for fourteen hours and try and get some sleep along the way, thanking your deity of choice that you can stretch across three seats.

  19. Finally land. Stay on-board until the previous flight has fully cleared the area.

  20. Deplane and walk and walk and walk until you are corralled by health officials.

  21. Have your temperature taken.

  22. Be interviewed by a health nurse about COVID symptoms.

  23. Shuffle around the corner and have you Customs Declaration ticked with a big, green tick by health officials, as a group, staying 1.5m apart, proceed to Customs.

  24. Provide passport, Travel Declaration QR Code, Exemption and have your passport stamped. Welcome to Australia. Oh and share a laugh with the customs official – you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

  25. Proceed to baggage collection. Pick up bag and join the line-up waiting for everyone to pick up luggage.

  26. Wait. And wait. And wait. Not quite sure why so let’s wait just a little longer.

  27. Proceed to Bio-security. Show declaration and have passport photographed.

  28. Join another line and wait. And wait. Until everyone is cleared. Yes even the lady who decided that home-made meals in Tupperware would be OK to take through Australian Bio-security.

  29. File past an Australian Federal Police officer and show passport.

  30. Be greeted by a friendly NSW police officer who is just there to say hi and direct us down the ramp to the armed forces personal.

  31. Be directed onto a bus by armed forces personnel who load our bags to be driven to your quarantine location.

  32. Wait for your police motorcycle escort.

  33. Get really excited when you hear that the hotel sounds really posh and is in downtown Sydney.

  34. Arrive at hotel and have a friendly NSW police officer board the bus to give you another form to complete and a bit of a briefing on next steps.

  35. Fill out the form and wait while you are called off the bus one by one.

  36. Finally your turn! Leave bus and enter hotel lobby. Point out your bags to the police officer who will carry them to your room.

  37. Hand in a form at a folding desk sporting two police officers and several laptops. Receive a dining menu and your room assignment.

  38. Go to a desk outside the lifts but neither of you can recall why because at this point, you are both super-jetlagged.

  39. Enter lift with friendly officer carrying your bags. Chat as you walk to room 952.

  40. You find your room to be quite large, a suite in fact with a separate bedroom and two bathrooms but you only have a view of other buildings and not the Harbour Bridge or the harbour. (Sigh)

  41. After thirty-two hours of travel, you may now, and ONLY now, take off that fucking mask.

  42. Realize that the reason they didn’t give you a room key when you were checked in (by military personnel wearing gloves, hospital scrubs and face shields) is that you aren’t allowed on the other side of your hotel door. AT ALL.

  43. Contact all of your Australian relatives because you didn’t want to get everyone excited and then crush their hopes because you were tripped on one of the previous steps. Tell them that you aren’t coming to Australia – you are already here.
How we let everyone know we were here was via a cheeky video.

You now have fourteen days to sleep, get over jet lag, arrange for a mobile phone (because you have to be able to communicate here), get any essentials that the hotel isn’t supplying (because they are used to their guests being able to go out and get their own toothpaste and arranging clean underwear for themselves) and figure out how you are getting from your quarantine hotel to your final destination. Wasn’t that easy? By the way, a similar process awaits you to get home.


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