Australia international borders opening: From Monday, November 1 you can travel overseas - but should you?

This is it: the last week of the old normal. From next Monday, we begin the "new normal" of post-vaccination life, as travel opens up, as Australia opens up to the rest of the world.

From Monday, you can leave this country without requiring permission from Border Force or the federal government. From Monday, you can return from overseas to Victoria or NSW – as long as you're a double-vaccinated Australian citizen or permanent resident – without the nightmare of hotel quarantine, or even the hassle of home lock-up.

Travel is back. The world is back.

The big question now, therefore, is not can you travel – it's should you travel? And strangely enough, the answer right now could be "no".

Look away, now, if you have family or friends overseas that you have been separated from for a few years now. This question isn't for you. For you, there is no question. You should go, be with loved ones, reunite, enjoy.

For leisure travellers, however, those who are just desperate for a holiday, to get out and enjoy the world once again, this is something to ponder. Because travel is back, but it's not what it used to be. And while things will sort themselves out over time, for the next few months or maybe even longer, travel is a risk.

To begin with: as we speak, there's no travel insurance coverage for any country except New Zealand (unless you travel with certain Middle Eastern airlines offering insurance policies included in airfares). As it stands, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade classifies every nation bar our Kiwi neighbours under the banner "do not travel", which renders pretty much any insurance policy bought in Australia useless. Those classifications may change as borders open, but we don't know for sure. (UPDATE: We know now for sure - DFAT has removed its global "do not travel" warning and reverted to its previous four warning levels)

So, right now you're not only liable for COVID-19-related incidents or disruptions on your holiday – with many policies you're not covered for anything at all. So, that's a risk.

Oh, and speaking of COVID-19 – there's COVID-19. We're still mid-pandemic right now, and while you may judge your risk of becoming seriously ill as a double-vaccinated traveller as being pretty low, the possibility of contracting the virus is still there.

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To fly back to Australia, you will need to return a negative PCR test before departure. Should you contract COVID-19 overseas, you will have to stay in that country – in a hotel, or a managed facility, depending on where you are – until you can return a negative test, or prove you have recovered. That could be a few days, or it could be a few weeks. Again, that's a risk, particularly given some of our favourite destinations, in particular the UK and some parts of the USA, have high case numbers.

There are other unknowns to grapple with as well. How will the Australian government – and the NSW and Victorian state governments – react to changing COVID-19 situations overseas?

We would hope that by now an open border means an open border, with vaccination coverage strong enough to make closures unnecessary. However, right now we don't know for sure. Right now we don't know if the international border will be like state borders – open, closed, open, closed – or if it will be far more reliable. It's another unknown, another risk.

Travellers over the next few months should also prepare for extra hassle, too, as COVID-safe processes are introduced and refined across the world: long queues, more paperwork, tougher entry requirements, the expense of testing.

Potential travellers will also have an ethical question to ask themselves in the short-term: namely, if you choose to go on holiday and then return to Australia, will you be taking the place of a "stranded Aussie" still trying to get home?

For the next few months that's a possibility, though it will be closely related to the country you elect to travel to and fly home from. If you're going somewhere like Fiji, it's highly unlikely you will be pinching a spot from someone who is stranded, given most trying to get back to Australia from the island nation will be able to do so in a short space of time.

From major population and travel hubs such as Europe and the US, however, there's a very real possibility of stranded Aussies – as well as those parents and others just trying to get to Australia to reunite with family – having to compete with leisure travellers for a finite number of seats on planes.

That situation won't last forever. The backlog is likely to be cleared, or at least hopefully will be, by the time Christmas holidays roll around. In the short-term, however, it's something to think about.

And that's the point, really. Much of this stuff will be sorted out in the not-too-distant future.

It probably seems strange to hear someone like me advising caution on travel. I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, as I'm sure many others have. But still, I'm not going anywhere in the next few months, because the risks for someone in my situation, with family at home, with responsibilities and commitments, is just too great. I also don't want to take a seat from someone more deserving.

If you assess the risks and decide they're still low enough for you, then by all means, travel. Enjoy it.

But be aware that the experience, for now, just isn't the same.

When do you plan to travel overseas? Will it be for leisure, or to see family, or even do business? Do you think it will be safe to travel from next week?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

Twitter: twitter.com/bengroundwater

​See also: What happens if you catch COVID on holiday

See also: International travel is back: Everything you need to know

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