New Zealand travel bubble: Loophole means Australians can travel to other countries via NZ

A trans-Tasman travel bubble is set to open on the evening of April 18, but for Australians looking to visit countries beyond New Zealand, a loophole in the agreement will allow them to do so.

While Australians currently require special permission to leave Australia from the federal government's Border Force, New Zealand places no such restrictions on its borders.

This means that from April 19, Australians could fly to New Zealand and then on to a third country without requiring permission from the Australian government.

A spokesperson for Australia's Border Force confirmed the agreement would not see New Zealand authorities preventing Australians from travelling on to other countries.

"Currently, New Zealand does not prevent Australian citizens leaving New Zealand and travelling onwards overseas, however anyone arriving into Australia or New Zealand from any other country must enter into quarantine or mandatory isolation as directed by the relevant government departments and health authorities," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said an exemption would still be required if Australians were transiting through New Zealand to another country, but would not say how the government would define "transit".

If the travellers first entered New Zealand as their initial destination, it is not clear how Border Force could prevent them from then travelling onwards to another country, given New Zealand will not prevent Australians from leaving. When queried, a Border Force statement said it had "nothing further to add" on the matter. 

The New Zealand government currently advises its own citizens not to travel overseas, warning that many countries require travellers to self-isolate on arrival or provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test.  

While the bubble potentially opens up the world to Australian travellers, a return journey is not so easy. In order to enter Australia under the bubble arrangements, a traveller must have spent the previous 14 days in New Zealand. Flying directly into Australia, or returning to New Zealand from a third country, will still mean 14 days of quarantine in either country.

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There's also the difficulty of obtaining a flight home - thousands of Australians remain stranded in foreign countries due to the cap on arrivals. As a result, airlines are flying inbound with limited capacity and many Australians have had their flights cancelled repeatedly.

While there are not a lot of international destinations to choose from for travellers looking to fly out of New Zealand, there are flights to major hubs including Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Kuala Lumpur. From these airports there are connections to cities all over the world.

Singapore itself has been touted as another potential travel bubble with Australia, but the city-state has already lifted restrictions on Australians entering, provided certain conditions are met.

However, many other countries have now closed their borders to foreign tourists, with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation recently reporting that a third of all countries are now closed to international visitors.

See also: 'Flyer beware': Travel bubble or not, a holiday in NZ still risky

See also: The ban on Australians leaving the country is unique, but is it legal?

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