I feel more than a little guilty talking about travel with the human tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine but I have just been to Canada and back and I know there is a genuine interest in how to manage the additional complexities of international travel in the current environment.

I would stress that rules are changing regularly, not just here, but also at your proposed destination so reviewing these as you get closer to a departure date are a must.

In addition, I am a user, not an expert so this is really just my experience and some tips for what to pay attention to.

Some useful links below and I repeat these in the text:

Quick background.  My wife, Nina, and I like skiing – some would say a little obsessive.  Our youngest finished school last year and is now ensconced at UQ with his older sister at a residential college. This means we are ‘empty nesters’ and no longer need to consider school holidays when booking trips. Just by co-incidence we booked a trip for the week after our children had returned to university – bad timing for them as they couldn’t come with us…. Let’s say they didn’t think this was as funny as we did.

We left on the 26th of February and landed back in Oz on the 16thof March.

Travel Agent:

We used a Travel Agent and given how quickly your trip can be disrupted, would recommend it.  We have organised our own trips in the past but any positive Covid tests could totally throw your plans out and having someone to help you reorganise seemed like a very worthwhile investment.

So, trip planned, booked and getting closer back in Feb.

Travel Insurance – a must. 

Read the fine print but they are not that unreasonable about cancellations caused by Covid19 dramas.  They won’t pay if the Australian Government declared your destination a no go zone but if it is just your personal circumstances impacting on your travel – like a positive test – you are insured for the cancellations.

We looked at ‘Cover.More Travel Insurance’ and ‘1Cover Travel Insurance’ and both worked for us but I am sure most have a solid Covid plan.

PCR and departure requirements.

Do I need a PCR test to leave Australia?  No, you need proof of vaccination but the test requirements depend on where you are going.  Canada wanted a PCR test within 72hrs of your scheduled departure.  This makes the travel bit very stressful. Even though we are vaxxed and boosted, we could easily have Covid19 and be asymptomatic so needless to say we had everything crossed when we had our PCR’s.  The problem of course is that if either of you are positive then flights, accommodation, transfers etc all have to be cancelled or moved, hence travel agent and travel insurance.

You also have to pay for a ‘special’ International Travel PCR. You can’t just turn up to any testing site.  You can book online and it was $120 each for us.  This ensures you get the PCR results back in plenty of time.

We used https://www.4cyte.com.au/Travel_Covid.php – instructions in the link.  Once again, check the requirements of your destination before you book this.

International Vaccine Certificate:

You also need an International Vaccine certificate that you can source from your Medicare records and your MyGov account.  You have probably already done this for your domestic vaccine record so it is just another series of steps.  Instructions can be found at international-covid-19-vaccination-certificate-proof-your-covid-19-vaccinations

Canada is a lot like Australia in that you have to show this just about anywhere you go into as far as shops, restaurants, cafes and even to use ski lifts for us.  They go one step further and you have to show your vaccine certificate AND photo ID.  We always had to have our phone and licence or passport on us to get into venues.  They are diligent about it and you get used to it.

Before you leave home!

Take hard copies of everything – you might lose your phone!  Not only that, take two sets – one for each of you, I’ll explain later.

Good news – we were negative.

Now ready to travel:

Masks obviously and we sourced some N95’s which are a lot more comfortable for longer trips and especially sleeping.

Our plane was packed so the days of empty Boeings might be behind us.  We flew Qantas and no complaints – they really looked after us.

Couldn’t get to Vancouver direct from Brisbane, which pre-Covid was the simplest flight via Air Canada so had to Fly GC – Sydney- Vancouver – and finally Kelowna. 

With the right paperwork, we sailed through Australian Customs and then when we got to Vancouver we had to deal with their rules.

Arrival testing:

Even though you have a negative PCR, they ‘randomly’ test arriving passengers at the airport.  You don’t have to wait for the test results but if you come up as a positive you have to have accommodation that will allow you to isolate, order food etc.  If positive, it was 10 days of isolation but I think that is reducing – a little more anxiety here.

I say randomly but I think 50% of the plane was tested.  What we didn’t expect was as we passed this checkpoint, Nina was sent one way and I was sent to testing.  That was fine but Nina had all the paperwork and even though I asked what I needed at that point, they just said ‘My Passport’.

Hence my point above – have two full sets of paperwork.

Luckily, I had electronic screen shots and emails on my phone so I was able to provide everything they needed.

All of this takes extra time so if you have a transfer, like we did to Kelowna, you need a big gap.  We allowed three hours and had 15 minutes to spare.  I had friends do this trip two weeks before us and they missed their connections so we were ready for this.


All said and done, I received an email from the Canadian Government saying I was negative the following day and we then enjoyed two weeks in Canada in balmy -3 to -20 degree conditions – perfect, and we missed the rain here.

They were pretty officious about mask wearing, vaccine certificates and ID but while we were there they dropped the mask mandate for areas other than high risk like hospitals, clinics, airports, etc.

Coming home:

Once again check the rules – both Australia and your state.


Australia will only allow vaccinated travellers in and returning Australians must do a RA Test within 24 hours of returning.  You have to do this at a testing station so your anxiety will pick up again.

If you test positive, you can’t get on your plane and will have to find accommodation to isolate for a period of time – probably at least seven days.

So, we rocked up to Kelowna airport with all our bags and went to the testing station that they have set up in the carpark – a brisk two degrees but we were in the right gear for it and at least it was daylight.

The RA Test is similar to the ones we do ourselves here but you then wait 30 minutes and go back and get the results.  You get a printed verification you are negative (hopefully) and I recommend taking a photo of it just so you have copies of everything.

We could then go into the airport and check in.

But wait there is more!

We flew to Vancouver and then to check on to our Qantas flight to Sydney we also had to show our ‘Digital Passenger Declaration’.  This is another App you download then complete and then receive a confirmation from the Department of Home affairs. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/covid19

I had found this requirement while sitting at Kelowna and checking all the rules so we were ready but a lot of other passengers weren’t so that causes a bit of confusion at the gate.

We then got on the plane masked up and headed home.

As all this paperwork is done, Australian Customs was a breeze and we were back in Oz!!  Easy Peasey……

I think a few of these complexities will be here for a while but hopefully the PCR and RA tests drop out as this can totally destroy your holiday and causes so much uncertainty.  If countries really want travel then they can’t continue to use these barriers to entry as the cancellation costs will stop people moving around.

We loved getting back overseas and Canadians are great people and they have a beautiful country.    They were very pleased to see us and they are suffering severe staff shortages without the influx of Aussie, NZ and South African kids doing their working holidays.  This has led to reduced opening hours and service issues but we have the same problems here and compared to the real issues in the world, not really a blip.

We know many clients desperately want to reunite with family and friends overseas and yes, a lot also simply want to get back out there and travel.  There is added complexity and anxiety but it is doable and I would argue worthwhile.

There are a lot of hoops so you just have to expect it and ‘breath’ through any temptations you might have to offer them advice.  Nina said I was ‘very good’ which means I was better than usual so I will take that.

Don’t worry, my next piece will be back on investments and markets and the odd geopolitical influence.

Safe Travelling!