If you’re returning to Australia from overseas – or travelling interstate from a designated COVID-19 hotspot – there’s a good chance you’ll end up in hotel quarantine.
Since 29 March 2020, anyone arriving in Australia is required to undergo 14 days of managed isolation in a hotel room. This needs to be completed in government-designated hotel in the city where you arrive into the country – even if you normally live in a different state. But what is the Australian hotel quarantine experience really like?
Firstly, of course, everyone’s experience will be different. That’s not only because some people are better able to cope with the physical isolation, but also because you don’t get to choose which hotel you’ll be sent to. You may not even find this out until you arrive at the hotel. Different states may also run their quarantine programs differently, so what’s true in Sydney may not be in Adelaide.
In each Australian city, there are designated quarantine hotels for returned travellers. Hotels within the system must meet minimum standards – state governments may remove hotels from the quarantine program if they don’t – but they are a mixture of mid-range and luxury hotels.
If you arrive in Sydney, you may end up in a 5-star hotel such as the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park. Or, you could end up staying at the 3-star Ibis Hotel in Darling Harbour. You may or may not get a room with windows or a balcony. Unlike in countries like Qatar, there is no option to pay more for a 5-star luxury hotel or less for a 3-star hotel – you’re simply allocated whatever room is available.
If you’re travelling as a couple or a family, you may be able to share a hotel room. In this case, the cost per person is also lower.
The process of arriving in Australia
After landing in Australia, passengers are met by state government health officials for a short interview and a temperature check (similar to the arrangements in place after self-isolation was mandated in March). Only one planeload of passengers can disembark at a time, to ensure social distancing is maintained. After clearing immigration and customs, passengers are escorted onto buses that take them to their assigned hotels.
This was the experience of Ryan747, who recently arrived in Sydney:
The whole process from getting off the plane to getting on the bus was about 2 hours. Once the buses were ready police escorted people out and were asked if they were a single or family. Families and singles/couples were put on seperate busses. Just as the bus took off we were told we were going to the Intercontinental in the CBD. Apparently families went to Adina. The bus pulled up out the front of the hotel and people were asked to leave the bus in groups of approx 4. Check in was done by NSW police who asked a bunch of questions. A random room was assigned and you were given a few documents which explained the process. Once checked in you are escorted to your room.
What services are available during the 14 days of hotel quarantine?
At some Australian quarantine hotels it is not permitted to leave the room during the 14-day isolation period, even for exercise. At other hotels, limited escorted outdoor exercise may be possible. No smoking is allowed in most hotel rooms, but nicotine patches are provided on request.
Three meals are left outside the door each day. Multiple Australian Frequent Flyer members that have been in hotel quarantine have largely praised the quality and variety of the meals…
Breakfast is cereal, milk, popper juice, fruit, Tim Tam and other tiny fruit biscuit. This is delivered with dinner, such as soup every night, bread roll, spaghetti and meatballs/Mongolian beef/seafood mornay/chicken “something” dessert has been fruit salad or cake. Lunch is some type of salad, meat and salad sandwich, fruit, juice, sweet biscuits & savoury snacks. There is no choice of food but can cater for vegetarians or allergies etc. All in all food is plentiful and of good quality.
The food was actually very very good. Breakfast is basic (cereal, apple juice, yoghurt). Lunch has been wraps/sandwiches with a side (salad/rice/crisps etc). Dinner is a hot meal and was very tasty. First night was a cottage pie with a side salad and rice pudding. Second night was a beef chilli with rice, bean salad, corn chips and chocolate. They asked for a credit card on arrival in case you choose to use the mini bar. There is no room service but you can have stuff delivered to your room once a day.
Have 2 recently returned workers (1 from India, 1 from China) both came straight back to Adelaide and couldn’t have been more complimentary of the Pullman and its staff. Both said the food and comfort was fantastic and the extra care they got for their kids was excellent.
In addition to the catering provided, it is possible to order food & alcohol deliveries from the likes of Uber Eats and Dan Murphy’s.
Free wifi internet and Foxtel television is available at most hotels. Rooms are not cleaned by hotel staff during the stay, but some hotels leave clean bed linen at the door once or twice per week.
Interactions with hotel staff & government officials
Most AFF members have praised the staff at their quarantine hotels, saying they were polite and helpful.
Although the procedure varies by state, hotel guests are generally asked to take a COVID-19 test at the start and towards the end of their hotel stay (e.g. on the first and tenth day of quarantine). There are also regular phone calls from health workers checking for symptoms and making sure guests are OK.
Everyone has so far been very polite, respectful and understanding that this isnt nice for anyone. A covid test is done on day 2 and 10. There is no room cleaning and if you need to wash clothes you are told to do this in your bathroom sink. Sheets are left at door at day 7. Rubbish can be left outside room. There is security situated on every floor and the foyers etc are covered by several police and military.
What happens when the quarantine period is over?
Again, this procedure varies by state. In some states, the quarantine period is classified as 14x 24-hour blocks. In NSW, there is a slightly different system. If you arrive before lunchtime, you are able to leave the hotel any time from 4am on the 14th day. If you arrive after lunch, you must stay until at least 4pm on the date of departure.
In some states, including Queensland, you’ll be free to simply walk out of the hotel at the end of your isolation period. In other states, you may be sent directly home (or back to the airport) in a taxi.
All in all, it seems like the hotel quarantine process in Australia is being made as pleasant as it can be under the circumstances.
Numerous returned travellers have described their experiences in detail on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Hotel quarantine experience when returning to Australia