In case you missed the big news, Fiji’s International borders have reopened! But what’s it like travelling to paradise and back from Australia in this new world we live in? And what must you know before you go? Karryon founder Matt Leedham has just returned to download all the deets.
I’ve begrudgingly just returned back to Australia after flying to Nadi on the first Fiji Airways flight to celebrate the reopening of the country’s borders on 1 December, 20 months after being shuttered to tourists due to the pandemic.
Arriving in Fiji for the big day of the reopening was an absolute privilege and life highlight. Witnessing firsthand the joy, pride and relief on the faces of the Fijians at the return of tourists and their beloved travel industry was a moment in time I’ll never forget.
You can read my story about the experience here and watch my video below to get a sense of how big a deal December 1 was for the Pacific nation.
So how easy was the travel process to and from Australia? And what should you expect along the way regarding new rules and restrictions?
Let me say that while this detailed list below may seem exhausting at first glance, the actual travel process is easy – as long as you get yourself prepared beforehand with printed documents and backups online.
And of course, get yourself a good travel advisor to sort all of this out for you and save you some money, time and hassle in the process.
Ok, ready to embrace the Bula spirit? Let’s start ticking off the checklist.
Before you go
- Locate your passport! And ensure you have at least 6 months validity on it.
- Download your International vaccination certificate as a PDF (for free) from mygov.au
- Get your outgoing PCR test done no earlier than 72-hours before your departing flight from Australia. This costs around AUD$150 for everyone over 12 and you’ll need to submit your travel details and pay upfront online before you have the test.
- Private pathology clinics such as Sullivan Nicolaides or Douglas Hanly have a handy online timeline calculator to indicate your ‘testing/collection’ window to match your departing flight and international arrival time so don’t be concerned by the 72 hour rule.
- After having your test, you’ll receive your PCR test result via text with a code for you to download your PDF certificate and print out. I received mine within 24 hours of getting tested and that was in regional NSW so the process worked well.
- You can also get an Express RT-PCR test done at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane International Aiports, which only costs AUD$79 and guarantee your results in 90 minutes. Bear in mind though, that they are open from 0600 to 2330, seven days a week. This wasn’t an option for my FJ flight as it departed at 0630.
- You must have Travel Insurance with COVID-19 cover to travel to Fiji. Most policies cover this now but shop around.
- Print out your hotel booking at a Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) property where you must stay for your first 48 hours in Fiji. Don’t worry! This isn’t quarantine. With this 48 hour timeframe, you can still enjoy using the facilities at your resort, transiting to your CFC-certified resort on another island or booking a daytrip tour as long as you’ve engaged CFC approved and certified tourism operators throughout.
- Print out your pre-booked hotel transfer from the airport with a CFC provider.
- Download the careFIJI App to your phone.
- Essential tips: Print out all of your docs and keep them in a folder and also store them on your smartphone as a back up. Using notes on your phone is a simple way to keep your PDF’s and information at hand.
At the airport and on the plane
- You’ll need to mask up as soon as you arrive at the airport and wear your mask throughout the flight.
- It’s still quiet at Australian International Airports, but allow yourself at least an extra hour than normal to check in (if you are flying economy, longer if you’re in a group).
- My advice would be to arrive 4 hours before your flight. Check-in is a little slower due to more paperwork, people faffing or misplacing some of their documents (don’t let that be you) and check-in kiosks are also not available at the moment so it’s all manual.
- Once it’s your turn, if you’ve got all your paperwork, your check-in will likely be smooth and only add an extra five minutes or so to your travel experience. The ground staff will need to sight all your documents and complete their checklist so have that folder ready.
- Once through immigration (itself far quicker these days thanks to less people) you’ll find that the airport experience is not what it used to be yet. Many shops are still closed down or empty and dependent on your flight time, may not be open at all. The same goes for airline lounges which open infequently. Don’t bank on shopping up a storm at the airport. You may be disappointed.
- Other than that, the in-flight experience is basically no different, other than having to mask up.
Once you’re in Fiji
- Bula! You made it out of Australia and now your holiday can begin.
- Arriving into Nadi airport is not much different to before, aside from the added checks of your extra paperwork at the immigration counter – have your folder ready.
- Once you’re through and have your bags, you’ll be greeted by your transfer and off you go to your accommodation.
- Activate your careFIJI contact tracing app to check in.
- I stayed at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa and arrived on the opening day.
- At your hotel check-in, the staff will explain the new CFC outline to you with a few minor safety and operational changes relevant to your property.
- These include points to note such as not servicing your room for 48 hours for safety reasons (Don’t worry, you can get what you need such as extra water, towels etc. by calling guest services)
- Bear in mind that tourism here is just beginning again, so some patience may be required as services and process get up and running. After being closed for two years, many hotels and resorts are staffing up and training as they go.
- Within 48 hours of your arrival you’ll need to get a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) OR a PCR test if you are staying less than 72 hours. You don’t need to get both UNLESS you are staying for more than 72 hours in Fiji.
- RAT tests in Fiji start from $30FJD, appx AUD$20.
- PCR tests cost around FJD$150, appx AU$100.
- You’ll do this on-site at your hotel and the sample will go off to the lab if a PCR test or be approved on-site once completed if its a RAT test. The staff will let you know how and when you’ll receive your results. I received mine via email.
- As mentioned above, with this 48 hour timeframe, you can still enjoy using the facilities at your resort, transiting to your CFC-certified resort on another island or booking a daytrip tour as long as you’ve engaged CFC approved and certified tourism operators throughout (Most are but check here for clarification).
- Essential tips: Get some cash before you leave the airport as most payments now are contactless. You’ll need cash if you want to go to the markets, tip, or buy souvenirs etc.
Returning home to Australia
- Sigh. Yes, sadly it’s time to leave.
- As mentioned above, anyone aged 12 and above will need to get a PCR test within 72 hours of their departure back to Australia at their own expense – around FJD$150, appx AU$100.
- You can book this in at your hotel or resort and the staff will tell how the process works. Otherwise, there are testing centres around Fiji if you are travelling around.
- The Fijian government have also worked out testing protocols for those staying on the islands or doing a dive trip for example so make sure you ask your CFC-certified tour or accommodation provider before you go.
- Submit your Australian government travel declaration online and your vaccination and travel details. You’ll need to set up an account and this takes around 15 minutes maximum to complete.
- The guidance is to complete this 72 hours before departure but you’ll generally get an approved email immediately once you hit go.
- As part of the declaration, you will need to upload your vaccination certificate and add in all of your jab dates. There’s also an app, but I found it easier and quicker to do on my laptop. Once you have an account, your data will be saved so you don’t have to do it again when you travel overseas which is helpful.
- At Nadi International Airport, you’ll check in as normal and the ground staff will ask to sight your vaccination certificate, and negative PCR test.
- Once you land back in Australia, you’ll go through immigration, except that currently there are no express kiosks or gates operating so it’s back to the old school of queuing up and waiting for an officer to process your passport and arrival.
- Bear in mind that this could take longer if you are connecting onto another domestic flight so make sure you allow extra time just in case. I was only asked to show my vaccination certificate.
- Once you’re home (In NSW/VIC and the ACT), you’ll need to self-iso for 72 hours at home and get a PCR Test done within 24 hours of arrival at a testing clinic. The good news is these are now free on medicare.
- You’ll then need to get another PCR test done between day 5 and 7 depending on where you live which is also free and easy to do at any of the testing centres. Check your local state government site for more information.
- For other states, follow the relevant quarantine guidelines.
And that’s it! As I said above. Don’t let the length of this detail put you off. It’s a simple process, and as long as you have your documentation, it should flow easily.
What you can be assured of is the warmest of welcomes in Fiji and a collective mission to make your trip as unforgettable as possible.
We are all in this together, and achieving the balance of safety while ensuring visitors have the best time is the absolute goal for the Fijian people and the travel industry.
Have an incredible trip.
For the most up to date travel information, head to www.fiji.travel and of course, consult with your travel advisor for complete peace of mind.
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