I'm having a brief flashback to a Russian visa application I once filled out, as I attempt to secure my entry into South Australia. That visa was a laborious process, involving securing a letter of invitation from someone on the ground in Russia, plus filling out reams of paperwork, including listing every country I had visited in the previous 10 years.
Entry into South Australia isn't quite the same as Russia – but still, it's a process. To be allowed to fly from Sydney to Adelaide I have to first fill out the "EntryCheck SA" application form online, for which I have to create a "mySA GOV" account and then supply a whole lot of personal details, including proof that I'm double-vaccinated against COVID-19.
Once I finish that I have to submit it and await approval from South Australian officials. And I get that, too, within half an hour or so.
So that's the first hurdle completed.
This is what it's like to travel interstate in Australia right now, particularly from a state that has COVID-19, such as NSW, to a state that ostensibly does not, such as South Australia (even though, obviously, it does). Travel is possible and Australia is opening up, but it's a process.
Cut to departure day. There are all sorts of things you have to make sure you have ready before you fly interstate now. To get to Adelaide you need the email confirming your EntryCheck SA application was accepted. You need proof of vaccination. You need to have the mySA GOV app on your phone (with your vaccination certificate linked to it), to use to check in to venues while you're in South Australia. You also need another app, HealthCheck SA, in order to provide a daily health report to South Australian authorities while you're in the state.
And, of course, you also need proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test received within 72 hours of arrival in South Australia.
I have all of those things, and surprisingly, no one checks them or asks for them before boarding my flight. Essentially, you're free to jump on a plane to South Australia right now without any of the necessary approvals or documentation – when you arrive without it, presumably, you will be sent straight to hotel quarantine at your own expense.
So, I think I have everything I need. I think. The flight is pretty straightforward – masks on, social distance where you can – and the plane is maybe a third full, which is very much empty for mid-December. We arrive early into Adelaide, file off the aircraft and into the terminal, and this is where it could get interesting.
Except, it doesn't really. We're funnelled into a queue in the departure lounge that leads to a long desk, where officials await to process our details. Do I have ID? Check. Do I have the email from EntryCheck SA? Check. Do I have a COVID-19 test result? Check. Do I have the mySA GOV app downloaded? Check. Do I have the health app downloaded? Check. Have I received a text message with a link to activate that app? Check.
That's everything – phew – so I'm signalled on my way and told I need to have another PCR test within the next 24 hours, and I have to isolate until I've done that. Fortunately, there's a facility right down the front of the airport, where I've been told wait times have been more than an hour recently.
The day I arrive, however, there's only a short queue, and I'm having a stick wobbled around in the back of my throat within 25 minutes or so. Yet another COVID-19 test done, and despite official wording from SA authorities stating entrants from NSW would have to isolate until a negative result is received, I'm told by multiple officials that I'm now free to leave and enjoy the delights of South Australia – which in my case means drinking a lot of wine in the Barossa Valley.
So, this is interstate travel in Australia as it is now. There's no denying it's a hassle, and it's stressful.
There's a lot of time spent making sure you've gone through all of the right processes, and then a lot of worry that you haven't actually done that. There's a fair bit of techy work to be sorted through, from downloading apps to linking services to uploading details – processes not everyone will be comfortable or familiar with. There's also a lot of face-to-face communication involved, which people without a strong command of the English language could find challenging (I pictured doing all of that communication in Spanish, a language I'm partially familiar with, and I would have had no chance).
All things considered, however, if you dedicate time to the research and you can handle the tech and the communication, the hassles involved here are easily worth it for the chance to move freely around the country again. As ridiculous as it sounds, it feels like a genuine privilege to set foot in South Australia and to make my way up to the Barossa and just enjoy freedom of movement in a nation where I always took that for granted.
This is interstate travel in Australia right now, this Christmas, this summer, as long as things remain the same. It's not perfect. It's not always easy. But we'll take it.
Have you travelled interstate since borders began to open? How was the experience? Do you think travel will be like this for a while to come?